“Mom?” asked my sixth grade daughter on the way home from school, “Isn’t it true you should always trust your instincts?”
I stifled a laugh, trying not to let the Diet Coke in my mouth shoot through my nose.
Three responses sprung simultaneously to mind:
- Should you have gone with your instinct to hit your little sister yesterday? Or did that end badly for you?
- Should you go with your bipolar-driven anxiety every time it leads you to mistrust me or others who love you?
- Should you follow every tween urge to eat a candy bar for breakfast, like I caught you doing the other day?
I opted instead for: “What do you think?”
Turns out that was a great instinct on my part, since she had a LOT to say. Enough to fill our time in the car for the next 20 minutes as we drove home.
Do you trust your instincts?
While my hormonal nearly-twelve-year-old daughter may want to think twice about her instincts, can we talk for a minute about how we handle ours as parents of these special kids we’ve got? How much do you trust your gut about your child’s needs or symptoms?
- Do you listen to your instincts?
- Do you semi-listen to them, then research online and maybe elsewhere to discover more about what you suspect is true?
- Have you had friends, family, doctors or therapists dismiss your instincts?
- Do you ignore them after all this time because you’re not even sure you can trust them yourself?
I’ve done all of those over the 9+ years raising two girls with mental health, developmental, and attachment challenges. Because their disabilities aren’t visible to the world initially, I’ve erred strongly toward ignoring my instincts. . . and often even feeling like I’m going nuts or making things up about our experience when talking with others.
How I’m getting my instincts back (and you can too).
The past two years have breathed life back in to my bruised instincts. It began in a psychiatric hospital, the day I said “No, my younger daughter can not come home. Maybe not ever.” It grew this spring, when she was moving home from the facility where she’d lived for a year, as my instincts told me she was still not OK. I wasn’t sure if I could trust them again, but when her school referred me to the same services that had been ineffective before she was admitted to residential, I said “no” again.
That “no” led school staff to think outside the box and come up with a plan that DID work for my child (granted, after 6 hours of IEP meetings!) and lo and behold, my instincts grew stronger still.
This summer my instincts had grown enough backbone to sit in a neurologist’s office (for the second time) to help him see what I believed was a seizure disorder — possibly one that explained some of the more treatment-resistant attention and behavior challenges. When that visit was leaning hard toward him dismissing my daughter’s case, that little word happened again: “No.” That “no” led him to order the EEG that discovered my daughter’s seizures. . . and to the medication that put a stop not only to those, but to some of the symptoms that had been labeled as behavior problems through the years.
I have more of my daughter — mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically — present in my family than I’ve had in the over-nine years I’ve known her. All because I allowed a small word out of my mouth when my instincts were whispering “this is all wrong!”
Can we trust every instinct we have implicitly? Not on this side of heaven. But we’ve got to give our God-given parental instincts a chance. Whether we do that by saying “no” or by some other means, we owe it to our kids to listen to our instincts. At least long enough to know if God’s in that reaction or it’s the stress, fear, or weariness speaking.
How are your instincts doing these days? What would it take to grow your confidence in them?