Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mom knows best?? WHO knows best??

I have a strange fear that one of my girls, one day, will show signs of being autistic.  This isn't an all-consuming fear, just a small neurosis, which, from time to time, when one of the girls bobs their head one too many times, or sways back and forth for an extended period of time (with or without music), I find myself, at the computer, googling symptoms of autism.  I don't know why, and I know I'd love either one of them just as I do now, but perhaps it's one of the more unimaginable diseases to cope with as a parent.  In any case, I was recently googling some strange head jiggling Poppy was doing, and found the following in a slew of advice for parents of autistic kids:
Parents are usually good at observing, describing and understanding their children. Parents also, of course, need to advocate for their children in school and elsewhere. But even mothers don't always know what will work for their child and often a teacher or therapist will discover a talent, need, ability or challenge that surprises you. In short, maternal instinct is wonderful, but it has its limits. And by insisting that you always know what your child needs, you may limit the options available to him or her.
There are so many websites for parents of "normal" children advocating, the very opposite, that 'the parent knows best', but then, to read the above??...
ACTUALLY??  I think more websites should pass on the above advice to parents.  I'm very tired of hearing that 'only mom knows best' or 'only the parents can decide what is right for their children'.  Why is it that parenting is a job where instincts rule, formal education, training or licensing is not required (even frowned upon) and criticism, input and advice from others can seem intrusive and offensive?  Can you imagine any other job you've held where the above criteria or attitude was OK?  No, you can't, because no one assumes in formal employment, that you  are perfect or were just 'born to do it' (except, maybe, Doogie Howser - but even he had a supervisor)...there is always learning to be done, advice to be taken, mistakes to be made and criticism to be heard.  I have, personally, felt several times since becoming a parent that I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I'M DOING.  During these periods, I do not assume that some 'killer instinct' will kick in and magically I will acquire all the advice and knowledge of every parenting expert, book author or pediatrician out there - no, these are the times where I google, I read, I listen, I spend countless hours poring over parenting advice from experts, friends and family - and not just the ones that share my beliefs...because, really, what gives me the right to barricade my children off from the world and opinions I may not share?  "A person's a person no matter how little" (Dr Seuss), and the last time I checked, you can't own a human being.  So, since I don't own them, yet have great influence over them, I, therefore, have a great responsibility to them.       
"And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.  And he said:  your children are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.  they come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you."  Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.   
Now, I realize that the above is a tad ideological; that my kids will, likely, have many, many traits that Mayu and I have inadvertently passed on through subtle brainwashing, but I'd like to think, that it is my responsibility to bring all sides of the coin into our house, attempt to humble myself, and listen, even try some of those 'expert opinions' on for size.  I want my kids to do well, not just in this family, but in society.  I want them to be better than me.  To perform better, sleep better, be more adventurous eaters (I like nearly everything, but eyeballs, toes, brains and some organs still test my limits) and be happier than me.  I want all things for them, many of which I do not, I remind myself that,  "The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you'll go" again, Dr Seuss. 
Until next time,
Grumpy Old Sarah
"You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself, any direction you choose."  Dr Seuss (WHAT A GUY!)   


  1. Yep. Dr Seuss rules!!! I LOVED this. So well said. Thank you....once again SG.

  2. VERY interesting! I remember lots of people telling me about the mummy instinct they had vs the daddies and me being slightly baffled. If anything Vik was much better at sorting out Jasmine at the beginning because I was sorting out breastfeeding, so he did everything else. I didn't change a nappy until she was two weeks old! The truth is that whoever was spending more time with their baby (usually the mum) ended up being the one who knew them better (obv!) and could read their signals, not necessarily an instinct at all!
    On the other hand I will say that I know what's best for my child as a way to shut people up when they tell me I should be breastfeeding, not using controlled crying and other general judgements. I might not know best, but those things are things that I've made a decision on and that's the way this family's moving, if you know what I mean. But I certainly try and make the most informed decision I can by reading everything on both sides of the coin.

  3. I hope the the girls get finger point dancing brainwashed! mad of my favourite traits of yours.

  4. Yes, Farrah, it was the same in our house with Olive - as Mayu & I split the time at home, we were equally capable of 'observing, describing and understanding' her. And of course, you must act as their advocate. But with Olive, we tried so many things on for size when one thing wouldn't work - from 'No cry sleep solution' to 'Sleep easy' to 'Gina Ford' and lastly 'Ferber' (just one example - we went through just as many 'theories' with food, landing on a, perhaps, old fashioned weaning method - introducing solids by 3 months and drinking milk by 9 months, but that's neither here nor there) - the point is, we tried what we knew, some worked, some didn't, so we read more and tried some other stuff out...we had to...and of course, feel more confident this go around, but not wiser, you know? I remember flailing (still do) and thinking, if someone came into this house and said, 'look, I've got all the answers, but you've got to listen and take my advice, no matter how uncomfortable it might make you' I would have SOOOOO been on board!
    And Ali - we're working on the finger dancing...Olive's mastered the robot, but has yet to get her little fingers up in the air!!

  5. I'm so happy I married such a smart woman! Excellent post!