As the tail end of this column says, I’ve authored a bunch of books for children. A fresh title published each year my own celebrated a birthday. Till the son blew the candles on his 12th party cake and, grown up and gruff with a throaty new voice, firmly advised: “Stop writing for us, ok. You can’t tell what’s going on in our heads anymore.”
“Of course,” I agreed aloud. To myself I murmured, “But I still have intuition.” I thought that with confidence. Strange, because parenting comes with no handy DIY manual and is a scary space where we’re grateful to grab every scrap of help. Nudging intuition can be that most powerful tool in the parental kit. Dig deep to reap. More than eyes in the back of one’s head, this is 360 degrees x-ray vision. It’s about acting on signs received, the beauty of the unconscious at work.
What’s best, this quality Merriam-Webster defines as ‘quick and ready insight’ doesn’t dim. For all those dire predictions about mothers too foxed to follow the young beyond 12 summers, my now 20-year-old and his 16-year-old sis figure they may be mistaken. Yes, there’s no getting into their lives up close and personal. Yet, intuition proves a protective force, a sensor flashing the light through family fogs.
Intuition sharpens with time spent with kids. How else to explain why we slip into the toddler’s room seconds before she wakes at night crying in pain? Pick up on the football field fight without a scratch on the child who bounces home with a casual ‘Hi mom’? Harbour a hunch that keeps one discreet but alert to the fact that the hunky teen is hurting from a break-up with his girl?
If intuition is the nose of the mind, we could do no better than trust it. And children make us stop leaning to look outside of ourselves for answers embedded inside. Sure, a few might show up wrong, as older kids barely share what they’re up to. Still, wiser to check within than beat yourself up later about missing a signal.
Instinct can be tragically tripped. It did on the evening of the horrific gang-rape in the mill compound. A beer bottle held threatening to slit her throat, the photojournalist couldn’t convey her hell on the phone line. But an internal alarm made her mother sense something amiss enough to call her daughter not once but twice over at that precise moment.
Gopika Kapoor, author of Spiritual Parenting, makes a fine distinction between the twin talents of instinct and intuition: “As parents, especially mums, we have instinct as well as intuition. We need to tap into it. Instinct is a ‘gut’ feeling, a strong emotion that instantly tells us something is right or wrong for our child. Intuition, on the other hand, involves some amount of previous experience or awareness of the child, leading us to arrive at a conclusion.”
Here’s news for fathers worrying they’re excluded from the equation. New York therapist Serge Prengel speaks for men when he wonders if paternal instinct should be seen as less authentic. “We are losing something very real when we feel intimidated by maternal instinct. While we have to learn from mothers about parenting, we also have to listen to our own nurturing side as we explore being fathers from the inside out.”
Friends report entertaining responses from children left both intrigued and reassured by intuitive parents. They range from the adoring “Are you God?” to the more mystified “Huh, I don’t understand...” to the grudgingly admiring “You must be a good witch!” Mine was the privilege of hearing a baffled “But how do you know?” I had to say “Because I just do.”
Meher Marfatia is the author of 10 books for children and two for parents. She has mothered her own kids well past the terrible twos and almost past the troubled
Teens. Reach her at:
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