"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Instinct, and Keeping My Kids Close

The past two weeks have been fun ones for the kids, and odd ones for me.  Spencer spent six days up at Mom and Dad's, where he helped around the house, ran errands, went off roading, helped change a flat tire, and just generally enjoyed himself.  He came home on Saturday, and Everett and Paxton went up in his place.  The highlight of their trip, I believe, was the awesome summer storm (and resulting rainbow) that they got to experience while they were there.  We have yet to have any rain in Phoenix this season, and they were thrilled to get the opportunity to play in it in Camp Verde.

They're all home now, and everything is once again right in my world.

I love that they have such a good time there, and I'm so thankful that they have grandparents who are involved in their lives, but I feel so... "off", for lack of a better word, when any of the kids aren't around. It's not so much that I miss them (and of course I DO miss them, terribly) as it is that I feel unsettled, on edge, confused even. I just don't feel right.

As they grow and gain more and more independence, some of those feelings shift and change in response to their own comfort levels. Spencer, I'm pretty sure, could quite happily move in with my parents for good, and as long as he had plenty of food and a comfortable couch to nap on, his thoughts of home would be few and far between. I know that, so it was easier to reconcile his being away to that of Everett, who's only six and still really looks to me for help, comfort, and reassurance.

Still, a mama bear likes to know that all her cubs are nearby.

I count that instinct, that primal gut feeling, as the single most influential key to the way that I parent, and indeed to the way I life my life. We were given instincts for a reason! I will forever fail to understand why anyone would follow the advice of a book, or a friend, or an "expert", even if it goes against their own natural sense of what feels right. Something I hear all the time from new mothers is how much they hate to hear their babies cry it out alone in their cribs, but that they knew they need to do it.

Why? Why do they need to do it? And no, no they don't need to do it so their babies can learn to self-soothe and sleep on their own. I have three boys who were never left alone to cry a day in their lives; boys who are happy and adjusted and have no sleep issues whatsoever. And they slept beside me as infants and toddlers, not because anyone told me they needed to, and not because it was the accepted thing to do (God knows my choices are not popular ones) but because it felt right. They needed to be close to their mom.

And spanking and other forms of punishment, done for the child's "own good?" Does it really, at the end of the day, feel right? For me it does not.

I don't pretend to know what other people feel in their heart of hearts. But I know that for me, any time I have ever regretted a parental decision it's because I listened to something other than my own inner voice. I have never, in thirteen and a half years of being a parent, have had so much as a second thought when I trusted my God-given instinct.. that internal gut feeling that tells us when something is right or wrong.

My hope for my kids, for all my kids, is that they learn to listen to that inner voice as well. Not just in parenting, but in all things.... and that they know - and respond accordingly - that if something just doesn't feel right for them, it's probably not.


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