Special Needs or Not, Best Advice: Follow Your HeartOctober 1st, 2012 | Posted by in Parenting
Photo by Bill Bangham
“Don’t you wish they came with instructions?”
From the time you first swaddled your glorious newborn through the ensuing 12 months to come, how many times did you hear that question or some variation accompanied with a shoulder shrug and a side-to-side head nod from some well-meaning adult? If you’re like me, you heard it seemingly more times than you can count.
But you know what? I think our children DO come with instructions! It’s called your intuition. And everyone has it, for some reason especially mothers, biological or cultural.
Pardon my totally unscientific hypothesis here, but I think our intuition is located in our heart. That’s where I feel it. It’s like my heart feels tugged, maybe by those proverbial heart strings. It draws me not to the “right” answer but the answer that is right — or maybe best – for us. In our judgmental mommy culture, we hear a lot about “the right way” and “the wrong way” to parent our children. In the end, as with so many things in our lives, I believe the optimal decisions we make for our families, and for our ourselves, come down to what is best for us at that given moment.
But this thing of listening to that small inner voice, the calling of our heart-based intuition, is sometimes tricky. And sometimes not easy at all. We are bombarded, as you know, by media messages about what we “should” do. Well-meaning neighbors, friends, mothers and grandmothers, everyone it seems has advice for us in raising our sweet ones. But what is the best thing for our own family unit, right now, right here?
I was fortunate to have mothering mentors through friendships, a breastfeeding-support organization and a mother-child playgroup. These mentors knew this wisdom of going within and served me well when my daughter was a babe and also later at a different stage in my mothering. When my daughter was 3, I would be faced with many “right” and “wrong” choices for childhood early intervention, as she’d just been diagnosed with autism.
Now that was hard. Special needs communities, especially the diverse autism culture, can be very vocal and divisive about recommended treatment methodologies. I was accused more than once of actually abusing my child for not choosing a very rigorous therapy that was purported to “cure” autism. It turned out not to be a cure because there is none. I fretted and furrowed my brow, grit my teeth and lost sleep. I cried and agonized and then I pushed on through to do what I knew was best for my child.
And you know what?
It paid off.
She’s happy and she’s gifted at art. No one in my local community was doing art therapy. (Of course, my daughter also did other necessary forms of intervention, such as speech, occupational and educational therapies.) That was just one of many of the choices I made to go our own way or sometimes to follow the most accepted way. My choices have been based on the data I collect about an intervention or parenting situation, combined with what my heart said.
Mother, you are wise. And your heart knows best and will see you through the parenting maze. In the big and in the small, whether your child has challenges or you’re facing the ordinary challenges of living life.
By author, blogger and speaker Leisa A. Hammett who has navigated the parenting journey with her artist daughter, Grace Goad–much of it traveled as a single mother and 15 years of it with the known diagnosis of her daughter’s “disAbility.”