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When it comes to motherly intuition, use it or lose it

Published: Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 4:41 p.m. CDT

It’s time for fresh starts and new beginnings. Our children are growing up and each new school year heralds new opportunities, new challenges and new choices – which basically means that as parents, we’re faced with new opportunities, challenges and choices, too.

I don’t know about you, but there are moments when I’d really like to freeze my kids in a hold-that-thought kind of place while I sit down and ponder what he said. Or what she said. Or did. Or what her teacher or his orthodontist or coach said or did. And maybe Google the subject.

Oh yeah, and what would Mom do? I imagine calling her while my son holds- that-thought a little longer, in a Jim-Carrey-esque pose, his face contorted in an exaggerated expression of teenage angst. Hmm, and what do other parents think about it, I wonder? For a fleeting moment I consider posting my conundrum on Facebook so my “friends” can weigh-in.

I don’t hesitate to get second opinions, but my guiding principle is to never ignore what my own gut says about a situation.

In spite of my kids’ protestations that I should be like their friends’ moms (you know what I mean. “But so-and-so’s mom lets him,” my kid will lament.), I’m not. I’m not Jimmy’s or Johnny’s or even Janie’s Mom. Nope, no siree. I’m Noah and Holly’s mom.

So, while I appreciate and have a lot in common with other moms, that fabulous cocktail of my kids’ strengths and growth-edges – and mine, and my principles, are unique to us. And so, as a result, are the parenting decisions that I must intuit that will best serve them.

Mother’s intuition, that sense of simply knowing what’s needed in a given situation, is often dismissed entirely or written off as excessive worry or paranoia. Even by mothers themselves. We’ve all done it. But remember, because we’ve spent more time with our children than most others concerned (in many cases, though, so has dad), we’re primed to be especially sensitive to their needs or to changes afoot. In other words, this makes us the experts where our children are concerned. Imagine that!

So, sometimes the advice we get, even when we do solicit it, doesn’t sit quite right with us. By no means should we wear blinders and completely ignore others’ observations, suggestions or wisdom, but we would do well to remember that we and our children are the ones who will live with the consequences of our choices – not our pastors, our moms, our kids’ coaches or even our well-meaning friends who’ve been there and done that.

While I’m on the subject, can we please retire this tired cliché?

It may first have been uttered by a well-meaning gal-pal intending to empathize with someone going through something she experienced herself, but I think the effect can actually be somewhat dismissive. It suggests that the one being helped may not actually know best, or might not eventually discern the best solution for herself and her family.

The fact is, though, that no two sets of circumstances are exactly the same. The people living with them are different and so are the resources they have to manage them.

This means that the best course of action might, logically, be different in each circumstance. Do you believe that breast-feeding is best but others push formula? Have a hunch you’ll be a happier – and, perhaps, a better mom – if you work at least part time?

Feel in your gut that all concerned would be better off if you stayed home and raised your children yourself – even if it means buying a smaller house and making do with one car – but you’re feeling pressured to return to work? Bear in mind that sometimes others push because they want affirmation for the choices they made themselves. Heed your own gut feelings, and don’t allow those other voices to grow so loud that you end up talking yourself out of what you intuitively know to be true and right for you and your particular child and family.

Intuition is not based on anxiety or fear. It is a quiet confidence borne of the connection that develops from focused exposure to whatever it is that you wish to know – in this case, your child. If you’ve allowed yourself and your child the opportunity to really get to know each other, don’t worry, you’ve got it. So quiet the voices and Internet authorities and well-meaning grandmothers and put down those self-help books.

For Pete’s sake, just listen to the voices that matter the most, your own and your child’s. The fact is, you’ve always had the greatest parenting resource at your disposal, your intuition. But you know what they say, right? Use it or lose it.

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at jenniferdubose@msn.com.

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