When my daughter was getting ready to enter kindergarten, I asked her doctor if she should get the flu shot. He was an older doctor at a time when flu shots for kids were considered optional. He counseled she should go without, because catching the flu would strengthen her immune system. It felt wrong, but I gave into what I thought was the doctor’s wisdom.
Fast forward a few months, and neither my daughter nor I will forget the week long fever followed by several weeks of iffy health when she of course caught the flu. As I watched helplessly while she suffered, I was angry with myself for ignoring “my gut”. If only I had listened to my mother’s intuition, my child would not have gotten sick.
Was that my mother’s intuition which would have saved the day? Perhaps. But what about the many times I have probably long since forgotten when my mother’s intuition didn’t prove to be quite so accurate? Is a mother’s intuition really always right? Should our parenting decisions always follow our gut?
With a now twenty year old child, I have many more years of experience with my mother’s intuition. I have learned that at times, my gut is indeed correct. Sometimes though, my feelings are more about my own fears or desires than actual intuition meant to keep my child from harm.
As a result, I have realized mother’s intuition is best used as a possible early warning system. It’s like those tornado sirens, that warn you to take cover when a tornado may actually never touch down in your area. However, with a few additional steps, you can find out whether your mother’s intuition early warning system is accurate or in need of some minor or major adjustment.
So what are these extra steps?
- Pray for wisdom and discernment. Ask God to give you the information you need to make a wise decision. Be aware though, if you ask for God’s help, you need to be willing to accept the people and information He may send your way – even if it disagrees with what you are feeling. Don’t only consider the things that agree with you to be from God.
- Do your homework. Depending upon the subject of your mother’s intuition, ask your child’s doctor, teacher or other trained professional. Like my doctor, they aren’t perfect, but they do have some additional training you may not have.
- Get a second or third opinion. In my case, I probably should have asked to speak to another doctor in the practice or asked the nurse. If your second and third opinions all agree, there’s a good chance it is standard advice for a reason.
- Ask your mother. Sometimes experienced moms know what works best – even better than parenting “experts” in the media. Anyone can call themselves an expert – there’s not a college degree for “expert” and credentials can vary greatly. Sometimes experience is the best teacher – just be aware this doesn’t usually apply for medical issues in which your child’s doctor should be more up-to-date on the latest research.
- Be aware of “junk” science and online experts. Anyone can claim anything online. I have seen medical advice that terrifies me passed around as “truth” online. The vaccine debate, for example, put many children at risk for dying based on a faulty study which has not only been shown wrong, but also a genetic link has since been proven for autism. Yet, children are still routinely put at risk, as well as their peers with weakened immune systems, because somebody read somewhere vaccines can cause autism.
- Know when to trust your gut. Usually, this is going to apply to circumstances when the person who knows your child the best can make the most accurate assessment or in cases where your child needs help and everyone claims no help exists. Usually, no one can know a child in the same way a mother does. If your child seems ill or depressed and no one will believe you, find another professional who will listen. If your child needs help and everyone claims there is no help, keep looking for help where ever you can. Chances are no one will advocate for your child like you will.
So, the next time your mother’s intuition kicks in, think of it as an early warning system. Don’t just follow your hunches though. Take the extra steps to make sure your mother’s intuition is really in the best interest of your child. It’s worth the extra time and effort to find out what really is best.