Love Is Always The Best Treatment Plan
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.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.
I found your blog from HuffPo- and it is great. I think I have already cried a few times. I really love this post because you so perfectly captured the fear of a new Mom. And your advice is important- for parents and caregivers/therapists/teachers, etc. Thanks for this!
Welcome Lauren! I am so glad you are here. Thank you for your kind words and support.
This is wonderful. I’m passing this along to a pregnant friend of mine.
One reason I am such a fan is that I imagine parenting me was not all that different to parenting a milder version of a child with autism. You are gifted in so many ways.
I wish we lived closer, I’d really like to meet you and give you a big hug.
And I would hug you right back, Cassi! Thank you so much.
Shawna, I remember feeling the very same ways you did when my daughter was very young and we didn’t yet know that she had autism. I remember close relatives saying things that they didn’t mean to be hurtful but that implied that it was my fault my daughter wasn’t developing normally or was having tantrums or refusing to obey. In fact, I still sometimes struggle with the feeling that if I had done something differently (or if I did something differently now), Hannah would be better or more functional. I do not enjoy hearing that other moms struggle (or have struggled) with these same things, but I do appreciate your sharing on this topic. I don’t feel so alone, and I’m able to let myself understand that I was not the cause of my daughter’s autism when I know that other moms had many of the same experiences I did. Thank you!
Thank you so much, Wendy! I really appreciate your taking the time to comment. Your kind, knowing words mean so much.
Someone once said to me that some of the most powerful words in the English language are, “Me too.” Sometimes, it’s just encouraging to know we are not alone – and I feel the same way about you and what you have shared.
With much love and respect,
Yep, you made me cry. Thank you for this great post! 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
I love this post. We so often forget that love is what our children need most. If we give it, they benefit. Thanks for adding this to DifferentDream.com’s Tuesday special needs link up.
I had the same type of nurse when I had my first born, she would take my daughter from my arms every time she came in the room. My daughter also hashigh functioning autism. I still struggle with how best to parent my children, even though my eldest is now a college graduate. You have passed on the gift of assurance that night nurse gave you in this post. Even for veteran moms its a great reminder that loving our kids is the most important thing we can do. Thank you
I am so far from being a new mom. My first born is 34 1/2. We have fostered. We have adopted. Our youngest has been with us since he was discharged from NICU. Tomorrow we go to a family holiday feast at his residential treatment center. I hope to have him back home before school gets out. He’s only 10 and he has been gone for two weeks. It took me two years to agree this is necessary. We’ve parented 19 children and he is by far the most challenging. My whole life has trained me to be his mom and I am still guessing and sifting, trying to figure out what he needs and what is best for him. I get tired. I cry. I feel inadequate. I get frustrated. This is HARD. Being far from a first time mom, doesn’t seem to make it any easier.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I needed to hear it today.
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