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My young daughter is afraid to wear shorts and today I finally discovered why.

My grandmother constantly insists that my daughter should be dressed in pants and not show her legs, even in the scorching SoCal desert where temperatures can reach 120 degrees in the summer. It’s becoming a real issue as my daughter has started sobbing and having meltdowns whenever I try to dress her in shorts. I initially thought it was a typical toddler phase, but her distress seemed genuine, so I decided to have a conversation with her.

To my surprise, it turns out that my super conservative Catholic mother-in-law (MIL) has been shaming my daughter for not dressing more modestly. She takes care of her three days a week, and when I pick her up, she’s often wearing different clothes, with an explanation that she got wet or dirty while playing outside. It seemed plausible, considering they spend most of their time in the big yard.

However, I’ve now come to suspect that my MIL is actually policing my daughter’s body, and I’m livid about it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the financial means to find alternative childcare at the moment. I know some may suggest not allowing my daughter to go there anymore, but that’s not a feasible option for me right now. I’m actively searching for a second job to be able to afford other care arrangements because the anger I feel is beyond words.

Engaging in a conversation with my MIL about this issue is futile. She tends to dismiss my concerns or pretend to agree, only to continue doing what she was doing before because she knows I have limited options. It’s an incredibly frustrating situation.

My heart breaks for my poor daughter. I can relate to her experience as I was frequently reprimanded in school for dress code violations that I never quite understood. The oppressive heat often made me want to wear a tank top just to cool down, only to be told it was inappropriate and face punishment or undue sexualization. Witnessing the same thing happening to my daughter fills me with an overwhelming desire to challenge the prevailing patriarchy and its harmful norms.

In the meantime, I’m doing my best to navigate this difficult situation and provide support for my daughter within the limitations I currently face. I’m actively pursuing alternative childcare options and hope to find a resolution soon. My daughter deserves to feel comfortable and accepted for who she is, without being subjected to unnecessary judgment and body policing.