When my first child was born, I was awash with doubt about “how to parent.” This doubt stood in stark relief to the uber-confidence I displayed during my career in corporate America. I didn’t seem to be able to find my way.
For even the slightest malady in my child, I would consult multiple sources for help. I left no stone unturned: the internet, friends, parents, parenting books – I would literally drown myself in information and feel even more confused about how to help my child than when I’d started.
When my son was about 15 months old, I began to notice that he was not meeting the language milestones that all of the books I’d read told me that he should.
I began to notice that he wouldn’t sit and play with things for more than, quite literally, one second.
I began to notice that his tantrums were off-the-charts extreme compared to my friends’ children of about the same age.
Something was wrong with my son.
Still doubtful of my own instincts, I kept continuing to solicit everyone else’s opinions. My husband told me we shouldn’t worry just yet. My mother-in-law said I was overreacting. My friends said he was “just fine.” My pediatrician told me that “little boys are cavemen until over the age of 3? and to come back in a few months.
I assumed that all of them must be right, and I must be wrong.
Another 3 months passed, and deep in my heart, I knew I needed to get help for my son. I went back to the pediatrician. I again expressed my concerns over his lack of language development and erratic, distracted behavior. He sighed and said, “Well, if it will make you FEEL better, I’ll give you a referral to a speech therapist.”
With one casual comment, he tried to question my instincts as a mother.
“Yes, thank you very much, I WILL take that referral.”
And that’s when I began to realize that no one was going to advocate for my child the way that I could.
And that’s when I began to realize that the powerful instinct I felt inside was the best weapon I had to help my son with whatever problems he had.
Before his second birthday, we had him assessed. He was diagnosed with an extremely severe language delay and sensory processing disorder. We immediately got him enrolled in both speech and occupational therapy.
It was a two-year journey with him, teaching him how to handle his sensory needs that were disorganizing his brain and preventing his language from developing.
He was discharged from all therapy by age 4-and-a-half and went into kindergarten on a mainstream basis. Today, you’d never know that he had had such severe difficulties early on. His therapists credited his progress to how early we had intervened.
If I had ignored what my gut was telling me, and listened to the well-intentioned, but incorrect, people around me, there’s no telling where my son would be today.
My greatest takeaway in parenting was learned from that experience. No matter how incapable or doubtful you feel as a new parent, you have skills and weapons and signals that are wired inside of you to help that child. Your only job is to listen to them, act, and be his or her advocate when no one else will.
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Million Moms Challenge. The opinions and text are all mine. Contest runs November 14 to December 18, 2011. A random winner will be announced by December 20, 2011.