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Sunday, November 14, 2010

It takes a village . . .

Any parent, particularly parents who have ever needed to advocate for their child, dealt with special needs or just wondered whether there might be something about their child that doctors or other caregivers have missed, has probably heard the adage that "you are the expert on your child -- nobody knows your child like you do."  This wisdom was discussed recently in a guest post on Hartley's Life with 3 Boys (one of my favorite blogs dealing with SPD parenting).  It's something I've heard and read often, and everytime I have the same reaction -- I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this cliche.

On the one hand, it is empowering!  It encourages a "press on" attitude when your mommy instinct tells you something isn't right even when all the "experts" seem to think things are okay.  I'm a firm believer in the power of a mother's instincts on all things relating to one's own child -- while her logic may seem crazy to anyone around her, a mom listening to her gut about her child's experience of the world will always be a trail worth following and will lead to something productive.  (It seems to start in pregnancy, even -- according to this study, women's intuition correctly predicted baby's gener 70% of the time, better than chance and more accurate than any other old wives' tale!)  Following my own mother's intutition has certainly served me well so far in getting Josiah's SPD diagnosed and starting to learn ways to deal with it.

On the other hand, this idea is devastatingly scary!  I can't help but feel sorry for my child that nobody knows him any better than I do because there are so many days I just feel so clueless!  Even though I know SPD probably colors everything he does, I often find it hard to understand what he does and why he does it, let alone how to help him and how to shape his behavior. 

I know parenting feels clueless for a lot of parents -- it's just that I really felt "on top of it" for the most part until we discovered his SPD.  It's like the rug was pulled out from under me, like everything I thought I knew about parenting and about my own child had to be rethunk.  And while I recognize that, as his mother and one who lives with him and spends more time with him than anyone, I probably know more about him than anyone else on the planet, it just feels like I know nothing.  And it is overwhelming to think that it really is all up to me, that whatever there is to know about my child must largely be discovererd, understood, and articulated by me.  The enormity of that terrifies me, and on the days that everything seems to be going wrong and I can't seem to find any rhyme or reason behind what is going on, the thought that nobody else knows better than I do is nearly paralyzing!  All I can think is, "My poor dear child!  If nobody can understand him better than me, and I feel so completely clueless, the little guy is doomed to be misunderstood forever!"

In starting this blog (both in the writing of it and in the reading of other blogs by SPD moms) I'm learning to find the balance in this old adage.  I'm learning how to let go of the feeling that I am completely alone in figuring this all out, that there is a wealth of information on other families' experiences out there to glean insight from for our own situation.  And while it is still a lot of work, and a daunting task to have to sift through it all and study our own family through trial and error to know what works for us and what doesn't, there seems to be some hope and comfort in knowing that there is a community of others with wisdom to share.  Because I hear others struggling and forgiving themselves and persevering, I can give myself some grace for not knowing all the answers (and maybe this will eventually transfer to feeling less defensive when others seem to expect it anyway).  Because I read stories of success (despite struggle) in other families, I am inspired to live and write some stories of my own. 

We've always known that it takes a village to raise a child; I believe more and more that it also takes a village to raise a parent!  So today I am thankful for my village -- for the other moms I know in real-life, for our OT and her staff, for the community of SPD bloggers online and the websites devoted to raising awareness and increasing understanding, I am grateful that I can lean on the insight of others in becoming the expert on my children.

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