What a Mother Knows
As mothers, we have an innate desire to do whatever we can to ensure that our children thrive. In our effort to be the best mom for our children, we worry, fret, wish, and pray. We read books and articles, listen to podcasts and watch television shows on the topic of parenting - all with the hope that there will be parenting nuggets of gold that we can use. We question our every move. Did we read to them often enough? Did we praise their accomplishments - not too much, but in just the right measure? Are they properly nourished? Are we too easy or hard on them? Nor are we immune to the advice or observations of others - particularly those we trust. The problem, though, is that sometimes - in our desire to excel at this parenting journey - we are at risk of ignoring our own advice, our own observations, and our “gut.” Don’t do it!
It is so very important for you to honor and believe that you are “The Expert” on your child. The expertise of others will, in fact, be invaluable to you on this adventure called parenthood. Nevertheless, I am here to tell you that “a mother knows.” She just does. And as a mother, you must trust in yourself. When there are naysayers who question your approach, your judgment, your instinct, listen to them and take what has value for you but never disregard your own intuition or dishonor how you choose to parent. You are capable and no one has your child’s best interests at heart the way you do.
As you can tell, I feel strongly about this and here is why: At the age of 4.5, our son - let's call him “My Guy” - was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (an Autism Spectrum Disorder). He did not get the diagnosis because he missed developmental milestones, was nonverbal, or because he behaved in such a way that a casual observer or even trained eye with little knowledge of him personally would easily conclude that he was on the autism spectrum. This point on his journey came about because a series of clues popped up along the way that led me to research and to solicit the medical system for answers.
In fact, My Guy met all of the milestones. He was engaging and engaged with the world around him very readily. He talked early and learned to read by the age of four. To the casual observer, he was just a strong willed, precocious 4-year-old who would keep his parents busy and challenged. However, remember those clues I mentioned? They wanted attention and I had to give it to them!
Clue 1: Sleep. My Guy had always been difficult to get to sleep - there were times when I literally rocked him for hours. He would begin to drift off and a subtle noise or a light shining briefly through a crack in the curtains would mean he was instantly wide-awake again. It was painful but we survived. Since I also have difficulty getting to sleep, I assumed this was just a characteristic he inherited from me and initially dismissed it.
Clue 2: Busy, busy, busy. My Guy liked to run. Periodically, he would run back and forth, back and forth, with a hop or skipped tossed in for good measure and a beaming smile on his face the whole time. Since my husband and daughter have ADHD, we initially thought that our son was gifted with it as well and his activity was how it was manifesting at the time. Another hint that was shelved temporarily based on available “evidence.”
Clue 3: Comfort - or lack thereof. If My Guy fell and hurt himself, he ran and hid like a hurt animal and fought to get away if you tried to check on his injuries or to comfort him. You just had to wait it out until he calmed enough to let you in. This was a flag but we still did not know what we were dealing with and everything else seemed ok so we just thought it was curios and accepted it as part of who he was.
Clue 4: Frustration. My Guy had zero frustration tolerance. If something did not go as expected, he threw things and, on a few occasions, would hit himself or knock his head against a wall. This was very disconcerting and it definitely raised alarm bells.
Clue 5: Volatility. My Guy’s moods became more and more unpredictable. His reactions were over the top. Moreover, he was defiant at every opportunity. We were convinced that he was not just a temperamental child or that we were failing at parenting him. Something was not connecting and we needed answers.
Now, remember those well-meaning others I mentioned earlier? Both my mother and a preschool teacher expressed opinions about My Guy being out of control and implied that we were not doing our job as parents. Had we listened to them, we might still be working against our son rather than with him. He might still be self-abusive and unable to participate effectively in a classroom. We might still be walking around with blinders on, trying everything except what would work.
Instead, we trusted ourselves more. We knew that we were doing everything we could to provide him the love and guidance he needed to flourish; yet, our efforts failed. Seemingly everything had become a battle and, given the research I was doing, I began to think he may have a mood disorder or autism or ADHD or who knows! They all began to look a lot alike to my untrained eye. That is when we began the journey to an official and specific diagnosis.
It took a series of assessments, medical examinations, multiple practitioners, and even school observations before we got good insight into what all of those clues meant. Finally, we had answers! He had Asperger’s syndrome and sensory processing challenges. We were able to reframe everything we knew about our son and meet him right where he was at. This was life altering for all of us! Especially for My Guy. At the age of 13, he is still engaging, smarter than the rest of us, is a leader among his peers and, at any given moment, looks and behaves like every other 13-year-old boy. This would not be possible were it not for our insistence on looking beyond the surface and getting him the help he needed to blossom and grow along the way.
Therefore, mamas, I leave you with this: You have known your child intimately since the moment they entered your life - whether that be conception, birth, fostering, or adoption. You know them. Their heartbeat is your heartbeat. You share their joys and their sorrows. Listen to your gut. When you have an inkling that something is not right for your child, that something is a bit off, you need to put aside all of the doubts and all of the naysaying, and follow your instinct until you get answers. A mother knows.
Have you ever struggled with feeling like the "expert" on your child? Or doubted your motherly instincts? I think we probably all have at some point in our motherly journey. Please share in the comments below your perspective.