By Mutryce A. Williams
Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s edition focuses on trusting your instincts, and knowing what’s best for you, your child and family. The hope is that this submission would cause you to reflect on your own parenting skills, and make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter, even if it is for one person.
Trusting Your Instincts Because You Know Best
The best parenting advice that I have received to date has been, “despite where the wind may blow or the tide may take you, trust your instincts. This trumps everything.” The friend who gave me this advice said that she was described by her family and friends as “one of those mothers who always ran to the hospital or doctor the second her child sneezed.”
She recounted a story about a dreaded evening when her daughter had a temperature. She said that as she prepared herself to go to the emergency room, family members began discouraging her. They said that her daughter had developed a “little fever.” They described it as nothing serious, and noted that a little Sprite, Phensic and a cold bath would suffice. Feeling the pressure from her family, she informed that she did just as they recommended, however she recalled that there was a pang and a nagging feeling in her stomach.
She said, “I watched my child and she looked limp as if she was slipping away. This didn’t look like any fever. It looked serious, and I had to ask myself why I wasn’t on a bus because I knew it looked like something serious.”
She said, “when I asked myself that question, the answer was because of what my family was saying, but as a mother my heart told me that something was seriously wrong, and I couldn’t be bothered with what they were saying, so I marched right out the door and took a bus to the hospital, on arriving there it was discovered that my daughter had a serious bacterial infection, and had I arrived there a moment later I might have lost my child. She was hospitalized for seven days. I would have never been able to forgive myself. You have to listen to your inner voice, as a mother you know best. You are going to get advice from left, right, and center but the decisions are ultimately yours. People are going to comment on how you raise your child but as long as you trust that you are making the right decisions, and you firmly believe this to be true after you have weighed everything don’t waiver, stand firm, cancel that background noise and forge ahead.”
As parents we are bombarded with so many messages, information, and also advice. Making decisions about what is best for our children may seem daunting and overwhelming. We turn on the news and there are reports, statistics or findings which tell us that the research has shown or proven that “this is correct,” or that “this is wrong,” so we make adjustments or changes. A few months later another report or finding surfaces which contradicts what we were told earlier.
We sit baffled, questioning which course of action to take, wondering if by taking the previous course action whether we had done your child irreparable harm. I have had friends who had gone through this after hearing the reports that vaccines may cause autism, so they chose not to have their children vaccinated. These decisions were taken because the “research said.”
As parents, in order to make informed decisions, we conduct further research and engage in discussions with family, friends and other parents. At times we get opposing views, and also what may be considered sound advice from very strong-minded “expert” parents who try to tell us what is best for us, our children and our family.
The one thing that I have learned these past few years is that as a parent I have to trust my instincts because I know best. I believe that as long as you are coming from a place of love, care and concern, you need to have faith, believe in yourself, and trust that you are capable of making the best decision for everyone concerned. This may mean blocking the background noise, sometimes even going against the research, and the advice of well meaning family, friends, and trusted advisor parents.
At the end of the day when it comes to your children you are the “CEO, the head honcho, the numero uno.” The decision is yours. As parents, especially new parents, we tend to seek advice and this is good, however we have to realize that ultimately that decisions that we take have to be ours, and not someone else’s. We have to live with the decisions we make therefore we ought to be comfortable them.
Staying Above the Fray
I find it uncanny that we tend to associate peer pressure with adolescents, but as adults and parents we too are susceptible to and succumb to peer pressure. I witnessed this the other day whilst observing a group of parents who were discussing the upcoming school year and leisure activities for their children.
As I observed I realized that parents were taking the decision to send their children to schools because their friends or peers were doing it. Parents were taking the decision to enroll their children in activities because their friends or peers were doing it. Parents were switching pediatricians again because their friends or peers were doing it.
I didn’t get the impression that these were informed decisions, because some of the parents had no previous knowledge or information on the schools, facilitators for the activities or even the pediatricians, other than what they had been told in that setting, and a decision was taken.
As I sat, a parent questioned whether or not I would be joining the throng, and I remembered a stellar piece of advice that I had received from a darling old lady friend who reminded me that as a parent that I ought not join the fray. She said, “Remember what your grandmother used to tell you, aint every old pan knock you run behind.
This advice doesn’t only apply to when you are young but it applies to every situation in your life and parenting is no exception. It is not everything you see people do with or to their children you should do to yours, because everybody is different. What work for them or may be good for them may not be good for you. You need to follow not just your heart but your gut, and do what is best for you, your children and your family situation.”
I smiled and informed the parent that decisions were already taken on the aforementioned matters. The parent kept prodding and insisting that the decisions be revisited and that I should enroll my sons in the school that the group of parents was sending their children to, and also to the activities that they had decided to sign their children up for, as it would be “ideal.” Again, I responded that decisions had already been taken and added that none of those choices would be “ideal” for me.
I couldn’t help but wonder whether some of the other parents took the decisions because they wanted to fit in. It could have also been a matter of their trusting the opinions of the other parents and thought the decision to be best for their children and families, but I knew that had I agreed, it would have been a matter of joining the fray, and not because I thought it would have been best. Peer pressure doesn’t escape us, as parents you have to hold your ground and do what’s best for you, your children and family.
Decisions, as it relates to your children should not be taken lightly. This isn’t a case of if or when something goes wrong; you can go back to the person and say, “Well you told me to do it. It was you! It was only because you advised it. I would not have done it otherwise. I blame you.” I am certain we have all experienced this at one point or another. It might have been okay in other situations, but I don’t think parenting should be one of them.
We Are Not Everybody
As we sat on the beach, one of my friend’s lovely daughters kept harassing her, telling her that she was old enough to watch a particular television show. She then added, “But Mommy, everybody in the class watches it, and some of them watch it with their parents.” You could have sworn that this darling child had said something blasphemous. Her mom responded, “And who is everybody? Are you everybody? Are we everybody? How many times have we had this discussion? We are not everybody, and you are not everybody, if other parents let their children watch that show that is fine for them and their households, it is not fine in ours. Do you understand?”
As children we have all heard this quote in one form or another, and I think that oftentimes as parents we forget to pass this on or instill this in our children. It goes back to the issue of following the fray, “You are not everybody! We are not everybody!”
Quotes on Following Your Instincts
Instinct is the nose of the mind. Madame de Girardin
Statistics are no substitute for judgment. Henry Clay
Trust your hunches. ... Hunches are usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level. Warning! Do not confuse your hunches with wishful thinking. This is the road to disaster. Dr Joyce Brothers
Follow your instincts. That's where true wisdom manifests itself. Oprah Winfrey
Nothing reaches the intellect before making its appearance in the senses. Latin proverb
You must train your intuition-you must trust the small voice inside you which tells you exactly what to say, what to decide. Ingrid Bergman
You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every time I've done something that doesn't feel right, it's ended up not being right. Mario Cuomo