I have been thinking a lot lately about our gut instincts. You know, that feeling deep inside of us that sometimes we listen to and sometimes we don't but that, in the end, we always wish we had followed. That's the one. The one that told us not to buy the expensive shoes because they would not stretch and would always give us blisters. Which they did. The one that tells us when our little ones are sick even when others think we might be overreacting. I didn't listen to to that feeling soon enough and wound up spending a very long night in the emergency room with a very tired husband and a very dehydrated and sick toddler, all of us in our jammies.
A few years ago, back when we only had one little one to protect I attended a MOPS meeting where the book Protecting the Gift; (Keeping Children and teenagers Safe) was discussed. If you have not heard about this book by Gavin de Becker you should run out and get it. Seriously. Every mother should be reading this book. In the book the author speaks to our mother's intuition, telling us to trust our gut feeling. Which sounds easy, but isn't, at least for me. I was raised to always respect authority and to not question those in positions of expertise. I never saw my mother question the doctor and in our parents' eyes our teachers were always right. Growing up in the 70's and 80's made this outlook on life a little safer to have, I think. There weren't as many "predators" out there and there were only a handful of teaching methods- everyone was pretty much taught the same way, whether it worked for the individual kid or not.
But it is 2012 now and the world has changed. I want my boys to respect authority and to do what they are told, but I also what them to trust their instincts and to question authority, in the right manner, when needed. I struggle with this, as it is not in my nature. I don't question life nearly as much as I should. So I am going to work on that.
But I did question the teaching methods at my son's daycare. It took me over a year, but I finally did it. When my oldest son first started having discipline problems at the daycare I listened to the teachers and we addressed the problem. And then we spent about a year continuing to address the problem. We would get the negative report, which is just what every parent wants to hear after a long day of work, and then we would discuss with our son. We would put consequences in place. It would improve, maybe. Then it would start all over again. I am from a family of teachers and I know better than to ever say "not my kid". I know my kid. I know that he is high energy. He is very smart and gets bored easily. He likes to play rough, as most boys do. I know my oldest son can be challenging. But my gut was telling me that the problem wasn't 100% my son. Half the time he seemed to not even know what he was getting in trouble for. Our attempts at interventions with the teachers didn't work and it was making me so sad. I felt as though we were just killing the free spirit of my precious little boy. And when I saw that my youngest son wasn't getting off on the right foot at this same daycare my first thought was that it was him. He did come to us, after all, with behavior issues. But as the months went on my gut told me otherwise.
And finally I made the move. I did the research, I had open and honest conversations with other daycare and after school care providers and we made a move. And we had three weeks of difficult behavior and I thought, OK, it really is my kid. But then I thought, no, he can do this. And then he started kindergarten and he had a rough first few weeks there as well. And I stopped trusting my gut again. Finally I decided that I was the mother, I was this sweet little boy's first line of defense, and it was my job to trust that gut instinct, which was telling me that he could do this. My gut told me to leave it alone and let him have the time he needed to figure it out.
And now, a month or so in to the new after school program and kindergarten every day he is not only getting his behavior under control but he is truly achieving kindergarten greatness. And I knew he could do it. My gut told me that the problem wasn't just my son but that the teachers' unwillingness to change their habits was also part of the problem. Knowing how to handle each child as the little individuals they are has made all the difference in my son's life. He is no longer fighting me in the morning to get ready- when Daddy wakes him up he hops on over to his tomorrow drawer and gets dressed. He bounces up and down at the end of the day as I take the communication folder out of his backpack to check on his behavior for the day. He beams as I tell him how proud of him I am. He doesn't need consequences. He needs consistency, something he wasn't getting before the big school switch. Not every school or every teacher is a good fit for every child.
And my tiny toddler? He has a teacher he loves. And I know this because he talks about her all the time. He is in a classroom dedicated to potty training, where his teachers are consistent and strict and soft spoken. He has not lashed out once since he moved to this new classroom. I should have listened to what my gut was telling me months before I did. When in my home my boys are being taught how to be people. I am not just keeping them alive- we are making people here. And now I have a partner in that, for when they are not home with me. The old daycare- it was a good place. They loved the kids and took good care of them. But it wasn't the right fit for my family.
This raising kids thing is hard. And it is even harder when we try to be so polite that we don't listen to our gut instinct. I tell my boys that when something inside of them is telling them that whatever they are about to do is not a good idea, that that is their gut instinct. That that is God whispering to their heart to do what's right. And that they need to listen to that whisper. But as adults, we don't always do that. There are so many mine fields as a parent. How and when we discipline. How much TV to let our kids watch. Should they play video games? Should I let him climb that tree? When should we go to the doctor? We need to listen to our gut instincts. It's time to take off the white gloves our parents wore while they raised us and stand up for our children. And my son's smile at the end of the day as he shows me his behavior chart is all the proof I need that my gut was telling me the right path to take.