I remember two nurses that worked in shifts at the hospital when my son was born.
The day nurse was very harsh, and not at all maternal.
The night nurse was super sweet and merciful.
I was a brand new mom and had NO IDEA what I was doing. I was panicked that they were even leaving me alone with my child – Didn’t they know I wasn’t prepared for this? What if I needed help? What if I did it wrong?
What if I wasn’t able to pull off this momma thing?
The first nurse scolded me when she came in for the third time that day, and saw that my son was again in my arms. She told me I needed to put him down or I would spoil him.
I was terrified. I was already spoiling him? I was already failing as a mother?
When the shifts changed, I confided my fears to the night nurse, not sure who else to turn to.
She came over, sat down on the bed next to me, stroked my son’s precious little head, and said, “You can never, ever spoil them with love. There is no such thing as too much love.”
She smiled and went back to refilling the diaper drawer and changing the bassinet sheets.
She changed my life with her words.
When my son was two years old, and screaming every single time I dressed him in socks, or put him in the car seat, or did exactly the same thing I always did, but today for some reason it just didn’t work anymore, I was sure I was failing.
I read every toddler training book on the planet.
I asked other moms, hoping they might have an answer. They didn’t. In fact, asking made me feel worse because inevitably I would hear, “Oh, our little Clay sleeps all night long, in his own bed,” or “I have never had that problem with Avery.”
I got tons of advice. Of course I did. Most of it centered around me somehow spoiling him and encouraging him to continue the difficult behaviors.
I felt terrible. Ashamed. A bad mom.
And then, every once in a while, I would remember the nurse’s words –
“You can never, ever spoil them with love. There is no such thing as too much love.”
Her words made me feel better. They made me feel like I wasn’t totally ruining my child. They made me feel like part of loving him, was helping him through what ever it was that he was going through, no matter what other people said.
My son was diagnosed with autism in the midst of the worst meltdowns of his life. Rooms were demolished, holes were made in walls, windows broken, electronics bashed in. He was bruised, I was bleeding, we both were crying. And they Would. Not. Stop.
Every single day, sometimes three or four times a day, waves of total frustration and pain would wash over my son, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I was again terrified. I was sure somehow, I had caused this. I was sure I had ruined him and he would go to jail one day for vandalism or worse, hurting someone, in an out of control moment.
I was beside myself with worry and shame and fear.
It took months to find someone who understood. It took months to find someone who said, “This happens. He is overloaded and his brain is just shutting down. We can figure this out.”
When our OT said it, I was so relieved I sobbed.
Later she sent me an email. She had been thinking about me and my son all day, and wanted me to know that I was doing a good job. She said she could not imagine how difficult it must be. She ended her sweet, gracious note with this –
“You are loving him well. I cannot tell you how much I think that matters.”
All too often, I think we are encouraged to focus on all the things we “should” be doing to help our children.
The therapies, the diets, the doctors visits, the medicines, the schooling options, the life skills they need to master, the social skills they lack.
And we do…we need those things.
But it has been my experience that those things never, ever come first.
That what matters most, even in all those appointments and next steps and milestones, is the love you already feel for your child.
Please don’t feel bad about it.
You are a mother. You are designed to love your children in a way that defies all logic.
Love is always the best treatment plan.
You can second guess the decision you made to give in and take him to the pet store. You can second guess if discontinuing one therapy to pursue another was the right thing. You can second guess if leaving him at school today was the best decision.
But please, let me encourage you…
Never second guess the love you have for yours.
Because there is no such thing as spoiling a child with too much love.
Because love is always the best treatment plan.
Because love looks past duty, and bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
We are mothers.
And it matters.