This article, entitled Agree to Disagree - even if you'd rather punch the person in the throat comes from Nicole Knepper, writer of Moms Who Drink and Swear © on chicagonow.com.
My mother just turned 70. YES! Yes, yes, yes!
I love that I am lucky enough to still have a parent living. And this idea makes me say, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO – there is just no WAY- my mom can be 70! If she is 70, how can I still be in my 20’s with my whole life ahead of me?
Derp. Because I am 42 and a half-ish and so much of my life is behind me. I have seen, done and learned so much in the four decades I’ve been creating a carbon footprint here on planet Earth. And so much of this life has been heavily influenced by the way my mother thinks and lives. I’m lucky to have lived a life where I enjoy being with the woman who raised me, because I cannot imagine raising my own two children without her guidance and influence. But sometimes we disagree, and I always make my own decisions.
I write both from the heart and my experience as a mental health professional and a parent of two nutjob kids who provide me with more material for this nonsense than I could ever use.
Sometimes, her influence has, unintentionally, made me feel quite insecure about myself. She was better than me in some many ways. She didn’t yell – EVER, or swear – EVER, and she calmly took every whack-a-doodle or rebellious thing I did in stride, never reacting with judgment or anger. There was really only one thing she did, well, actually that she didn’t do, as most of the moms of her generation didn’t do.
She didn’t recognize the power she had to help me with my attention and learning problems, because she was told that she didn’t have any power. She believed and did what she was told and what she was told was wrong. Back in the day, moms didn’t have access to Google or any of the numerous and varied information and opinions on all things kids. This is not the case today.
But it’s not always such a good thing that we moms DO have such exposure to information because so very much of this information is WRONG, and if it’s not totally wrong, it’s biased, influenced or merely a matter of opinion, completely unsupported by facts.
In the 70s, the stigma attached to children with problems concerned her more than my academic and behavioral struggles. Such was the norm for people my age. There was also almost no information on food additives, vaccines or any other medications. The 1970s and 80s, parents had the power to choose, but the choices were both limited and not considered something to be concerned with. Even the concerned parents had very little access to information even if they wanted to research their concerns.
So this past Sunday, when my mother and I were chit-chatting about my kids over lunch, I unintentionally almost bit her head off when she said something about how sad it is that kids need to be medicated for behavioral and psychiatric issues.
It was like a flashback to me whining about something silly as a teenager, complete with an eye-roll and pounding of my fists on the table. I tried to shut it down completely, but I just could not do it.
“Mom, if a kid has diabetes or cancer, do you think it sad that a parent choose to give them insulin or chemotherapy? Would you prefer to see a child with ADHD grow too frustrated to continue attending school and drop out? How about a depressed kid who wants to commit suicide, a kid who has begged for help and doctors, teachers and therapists have all agreed that medication needs to be considered? Help me understand what you are saying!” I hissed through clenched teeth at her, barely able to refrain from barking in her face. I was working myself into lather! I do that sometimes when I hear a statement that I believe to be an opinion that is potential dangerous because it defies the facts.
This is such a difficult topic, such a polarizing topic and when I hear it come up in any situation or conversation, I feel like a hot air balloon whose rip cord has been pulled, releasing a powerful burst of hot air! I feel my heart pounding and my fists clenching. Initially it’s an emotional reaction, but these emotions come from years and years of professional experience and careful following of cutting edge research with valid and reliable information on kids and medication. My poor mom didn’t know what hit her. I was on the verge of a meltdown.
Is the almighty dollar ever NOT a factor when it comes to research? Of course it is always a matter of cash. Somebody has to pay the person or organization doing the research. Are there dishonest and unethical just looking to make a buck, not at all concerned that they might not be doing justice to the millions of people who will be affected by the results of their study? Yes.
Is it true that our food supply and medications often cause us physical harm on a cellular level? Yes. Is it true that manufacturers of all things from duct tape to diet soda KNOW that some of the ingredients in their product are potentially unsafe? Yes. Are the additives and side effects in medications possibly the source of discomfort and difficulty in all people, not just sensitive and vulnerable children? YES! And in the world today, moms have not only more power to make choices, but more information with which to help them make positive decisions with regard to their children. THIS IS GOOD! And this is not good at all. So much information is half wrong, total bunk or incomplete!
My initial emotional reaction to my mom was normal, but I was not really angry at her. Not only is this a hot topic, one that I am incredibly passionate about with regard to educating parents, but it is also quite personal to me. I struggled for years with ADHD, un-medicated and frustrated because the stigma and lack of information resulted in my parents NOT taking steps to treat my learning and attention issues.
My story is not uncommon for a person of my generation. My mother has tremendous guilt about this. But she shouldn’t. She just didn’t know enough and she didn’t know who or what could give her the information she needed. That’s why her statement initially confoozled me.
So I resisted initiating an explosive and angry argument, spewing my opinions with no factual support behind them. My mother is not only a product of her generation, but also a woman with opinions. I love and respect her and owed it to her to chill out and listen to what she had to say. And so I did. I listened.
She explained that although she understood that in some situations, it was necessary and truly dangerous and irresponsible NOT to medicate children, she still felt it to be somewhat sad. Sad because seeing children suffer is just not what any parent or any person who loves children likes to see. Good thing I’m on ADHD meds, because although I am mature now, (sort of) and have learned to keep my temper in check and not to let emotions rule my behavior, the meds help. A LOT.
I took some deep breaths, unclenched my fists and told her that I agreed. It was not fun for me to suffer through school as a child and adolescent, my self-esteem becoming self-loathing and guilt. Why couldn’t I control myself? In college I was evaluated, medicated and went on to complete two Master’s Degrees, maintain friendships, become employed and promoted several times over and feel good about the fact that there was something that could help me. FINALLY!
What I know to be true, based on my professional experience, research and personal experience is that it is very difficult for a parent to know what to believe when it comes to making medical decisions with regard to their children. Some parents experience feelings of confusion, stress, terror and agony when trying to decide whether to medicate their children or vaccinate them. Personally, as a parent myself, I agonize over nothing when it comes to my kids medical care. I leave that to the experts.
When anything involving medical decisions about my children comes up, I do not seek the advice of mom blogs or the mainstream media. I go to the National Institute of Mental Health, The Centers for Disease Control, The American Medical Association or whatever well-researched and respected professional organization I can find that has information on the topic I am interested in. Stories about vaccine injury, stimulant medication breaks or alternative therapies done at all costs to prevent children from taking psychotropic medications make me stabby and emotional, because even if they have some merit, they are often over-generalized.
I realize that I am unusual. Many and most moms get super emotional when it comes to making big decisions about their kids medical and emotional care. Some women get too emotional and end up getting sucked into the story written by a grieving mother about how her son, little Jimmy, became non-verbal after his MMR or some other vaccine or how her adolescent daughter, Mabel’s, depression only worsened on anti-depressants.
I’m not saying that either Jimmy or Mabel’s blog writing mothers are lying. I’m saying that they are the parents of Jimmy and Mabel, NOT the parents of my children or your children. They cannot speak for me and I hope that although they may influence you, you do not let them decide for you, speak for you, or be the source of your information for decision making.
I am asked numerous times a day to share blogs, charities, stories and what not on my blog or Facebook fan page. So much so that if I was to post a fraction of the requests, my voice would be silenced.
Moms who drink and swear© would be a hot mess of confusion and ambiguous blathering crap. If something shared with me contains accurate and well researched information from respectable sources, I will occasionally share it, especially if it is humorous, heartfelt and in keeping with the message of embracing differences of opinion while supporting each other as mothers. I realize that I have the platform to touch a lot of readers and that is why I choose not to become a community type of site. That is a lot of responsibility, yet so is writing my blog and keeping the spirit of it consistent and reliable to the people who rely on me to do so.
I know of a woman blogger who is vehemently anti-vaccine and all about clean eating and organics. She is not flexible about this, not even on Halloween or when her children attend birthday parties: She blogs about it. She doesn’t know that her children will likely sneak treats and candy when on play dates or that other parents talk about their worries with regard to the risks to their own children, especially their infants, who are exposed to these constantly ill kids.
I know of another writer who has a child with severe anxiety, yet she is of the opinion based on her own experience and fear of medication side-effects she decided not to medicate the child, against the advice of doctors, educational professionals and even her child, who indicated interest in the relief medication would provide. This woman’s child continues to decline emotionally, behaviorally and spiritually. Her child self-medicates with drugs and alcohol, shoplifts regularly and seeks out older men at the mall while doing so. This woman has written about the dangers of psychotropic medication. Her opinion is that it is never necessary, that there are other options equally effective and safer.
I disagree with the choices of these mothers, but I agree with their right to make them. Just as I would expect these women to agree with me if I knew them personally and was to say that because their kid isn’t vaccinated or because their kid uses recreational drugs to self-medicate, I won’t allow my kids to be around their kids. It doesn’t matter how much I like their kids, how much I like them or that I respect their choices. And I won’t even be sharing those blogs. EVER!
I have the right and responsibility to do right by my kids, my opinion of right, and if this is seen as not respecting another parent’s choices, so be it. I don’t want to argue, but I love a good dialogue. I crave the exchange of information and ideas among parents and that’s why I’m happy to see it being done responsibly by some larger media outlets or parenting websites that select informative and well-researched blog posts to share with their readers. I hope this trend continues. It’s a trend that I will continue to be encouraged by and respect.
I will also continue my own trend, if you can call it that, of sharing information on important parenting topics in a responsible way, sharing opinions as they relate to factual information and as long as they do not influence people to make choices that I know not to be valid, reliable and fact based.
Read more from Nicole at chicagonow.com/moms-who-drink-and-swear