Jana has a great post up over at Exponent about an experience she had with her son as a baby. At the end she asks these questions:
I am curious what experiences have contributed to your parenting styles/philosophies? Are there incidents that dramatically shaped your approach to nurturing or caregiving?
I wanted to answer these questions, but I didn’t really want to start a vaccine debate (which can get ugly) on someone else’s site, so I decided to post my response here.
The biggest thing that has contributed to and changed my parenting style and philosophies has been my oldest son’s autism. The biggest thing that it has taught me is to be aware of what is going on with my children and with their bodies. It has also taught me that things that are good for many kids are not necessarily good for my kids.
All of my kids have GI issues. They are myriad and long, so I’m going to summarize them, and the conclusions I’ve come to from them.
DS #1 has had various GI issues including persistent reflux for the first 10 months of his life. We finally started figuring out some of his problems and really trying to solve them when he was 2.5. He has autism and some possibly anaphylactic allergies.
DS #2’s GI problems include chronic diarrhea. We started figuring out his problems and trying to solve them when he was 17mo. He has no neurological problems but has multiple food intolerances and is very underweight.
DS #3’s GI problems included horrible gas and reflux that he was choking on. We identified and started intervening in his problems when he was 1mo. He is a happy baby who has no problems so far and is in the 90th percentile in height and 50th in weight.
We are currently diagnosing and treating all three of the kiddos. They are all getting better, and hopefully we’ll be able to figure out everything that’s going on with their little bodies so we can help them even more. But I am much more aware these days of everything that goes into those bodies, and am very observant of any reactions. I am grateful that I have gotten better about identifying reactions so I can keep my children healthier and happier.
Because of my kids’ GI and immune issues, and because of their reactions to many things (including vaccines), I am currently delaying vaccinations for my younger two children. This is not a rash decision; it is one I have considered, studied both sides of, and prayed about. Right now I feel like vaccinating my kiddos would do more harm than good. I don’t think vaccinations are bad. I am grateful for vaccinations and many other advances in medicine that give us the opportunity to make our children healthier.
On the other hand, just because something is good for most people, it is not necessarily good for everyone. Soy is generally considered a pretty healthy food, but it causes DS #2 to break out in blisters all over his legs and bottom. When you see a 6mo with over 100 blisters on the lower half of his little body, one of which has gotten a staph infection, you realize that soy is not at all healthy for him. And cashews — nuts are good for you, right? Except they have the potential to kill DS #1. We no longer have cashews in our house.
This principal holds true in other areas as well. Many parents teach their children to behave in sacrament meeting by not letting them play or do other fun things when they are taken out of the chapel. While it’s a good strategy, this will never work with our oldest. If he gets overstimulated in the chapel, we willingly take him out, and praise him for making it through however long he did. We try to take him back in, but if he can’t handle it we simply sit in the foyer (this happens every week — the only question is how long we make it before we end up in the foyer). There are many great parenting and disciplining strategies that simply won’t work with him because of his unique challenges. I have had to re-think and learn new techniques constantly as I struggle to raise him and our other two children.
I am grateful for my children and the many things they have taught me. I am grateful that I am a more experienced parent and am able to keep my kids happier and healthier all the time. I get upset when people react to my parenting decisions with “instant anger” or consider them “unethical.” I don’t presume to make parenting decisions for other people — I assume that they know their children, and that they have studied the issues and decided what is best for their family. I would simply appreciate the same consideration.
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