I remember about 3 days after our children came home from Ethiopia with us an acquaintance at the playground said (to my terrified, jet lagged, overwhelmed self) "Don't worry. Your instincts will kick in."
Well, it took a while, but they did. Five years later I can say that I've finally learned to trust my mom-instincts. ("mom-stincts"! ha! Do I live with a 9 year old boy? Yes, yes I do.) At first I didn't trust myself- I was too busy drowning. Becoming a first time parent to two children, ages 1 and 5, from another country overnight was a little hard. It's still hard.
But I've learned to trust myself. Which is why when this morning, after Daniel said for the 2nd day in a row that he didn't feel well, we went to the pediatrician. Daniel has been sick exactly once in 5 years. In Kindergarten he had a mild fever for one day. All the flus, stomach bugs, coughs, and respiratory infections his sister and his poor parents get every year? Pass him by. He gets a stuffy nose about once every winter. At 5 years old his body fought off, permanently, a virulent case of Hep-C. He is a tough kid.
So after watching him spend a day laying on the couch, we went to the doctor. Sure enough, he's got strep throat. (And he still doesn't have a fever or sore throat - his symptoms were: tired with a mild stomachache.) I knew he must be really sick. Mom-stincts for the win!
I still make plenty of mistakes as a parent. Just ask my kids! They would give you an earful about my yelling, my arbitrary rule creations, my crazy obsession with limiting their screen time. I make plenty of errors due to crankiness and exhaustion. Most of the bigger mistakes, however, are when I don't trust myself. When I take advice from others instead of trusting what I know is best for my family. When I follow our cultural parenting rule book instead of my gut.
So my friend in the park was right- my instincts did kick in. And then I had to learn to trust them.