When my son was born, there were two very different nurses who worked at the hospital. The day nurse was harsh and not at all maternal. The night nurse was super sweet and much more merciful.
I was a brand new mom who had no idea what I was doing. I was panicked they’d even leave me alone with my child. Didn’t they know I wasn’t prepared for this? What if I needed help? What if something went wrong?
What if I wasn’t able to pull off this momma thing?
When the first nurse came in for the third time that day and saw my son was again in my arms, she scolded me. She said that if I didn’t put him down, I’d spoil him.
Her comment terrified me. Was I already spoiling him? Was I 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’s no such thing as too much love.”
These words changed my life.
When my son was 2 years old, screaming every single time I dressed him in socks or put him in the car seat, I was sure I was failing as a parent. I read every toddler training book on the planet. I asked other mommas, hoping they might have an answer. They didn’t. And worse, they also didn’t understand: “Oh, our little Clay sleeps all night long in his own bed.” “I’ve never had that problem with Avery.”
Of course I got tons of advice, but most of it implied I was somehow spoiling him. That I was the one encouraging him to continue the difficult behaviors.
I felt terrible. Ashamed. Worthless as a mom.
And then, every once in a while, I remembered the nurse’s words:
“You can never, ever spoil them with love. There’s no such thing as too much love.”
Her words never failed to comfort me, reminding me I wasn’t totally ruining my child. They made me realize part of loving him was helping him through whatever was going on, no matter what other people said.
My son was diagnosed with autism in the midst of the worst meltdowns of his life. Every single day, sometimes three or four times a day, waves of total frustration and pain washed over my son. Rooms were demolished, walls full of holes, windows broken, electronics bashed in. He was bruised. I was bleeding. We both were crying. There was nothing I could do to stop it.
And it wouldn’t stop.
I was beside myself with worry, shame and fear, sure somehow I had caused this. Terrified that he would go to jail one day for vandalism, or worse, hurting someone in a moment of lost control.
It took months to find someone who understood. It took months to find someone that said, “This happens. He is overloaded and his brain is just shutting down. We can figure this out.”
When our occupational therapist said it, I was so relieved I sobbed.
Later she sent me an email. She said she’d been thinking about my son and me all day and wanted me to know I was doing a good job. She said she couldn’t 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’re 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 never feel bad about that. You’re a mother. You’re designed to love your children in a way that defies all logic. You can second-guess yourself when you give in and take him to the pet store. You can second-guess your decision when you discontinue one therapy to pursue another. You can second-guess whether leaving him at school today was the best decision.
But please, never second-guess love. Never question the love you have for your child.
Because there’s 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 mommas.
And it matters.
A version of this post originally appeared on Not the Former Things.
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