An Unexpected Parenting Tip: Take Your Child’s Meds … Just Once

Photo by Kathy H Porter

Listen my children and you shall hear about the time I deliberately yet unthinkingly swallowed my child’s meds one hot summer night while standing in the kitchen talking to my husband as I balanced a tiny pill in the palm of one hand, holding a glass of tepid water in the other … and had an out-of-body experience for the next three days before calling up the pediatric-neurologist to fire her which became my line in the sand; that symbolic place where I dug in my heels as a parent, taking back ownership of my child’s journey until he was old enough to claim it for himself.

There was a moment right after I swallowed it when I looked up in disbelief, horrified at what I’d done even as I mentally took note of that feeling— this was, after all, a medication that was supposed to help my child who casually appeared before me, come to take his pill.

I looked down at him and said, “Guess what I just did?”

He smiled when I told him. Almost immediately afterwards, my hearing magnified a thousand fold as my head felt like it was levitating away from the rest of my body. I began to describe how I was feeling to my son and then asked him, “Has this ever happened to you?”

He was nine years old.

In an instant, we stopped being mother-and-son. Peers, we shared testimony about our respective drug-user experiences. “Yes,” he confirmed, his hearing did indeed become so huge that sounds close to him hurt and far-away sounds were just REALLY LOUD.

This isn’t a rant against medical professionals who prescribe drugs as a part of their treatment protocols. In hindsight, I’m sure that my son’s specialist had the best of intentions when she prescribed that anti-depressant. My point isn’t to insult or in any way belittle her professionalism or expertise. Her medical chops certainly qualified her to recommend what she thought would be best practice for my little boy. In fact, if I’d just kept my mouth shut (literally), I’d never have been in a position to compare my own experience with this drug to my son’s.

But that accidental dose made me think. Well, when I could think rationally, which happened three long days later when I woke up to realize that I was back in my body once more.

I thought about how quickly my husband and I had fallen in line behind all of the acknowledged professional experts who lined up during the first five years after our son’s birth with offers of fixable solutions. The surgeons’ opinions were the easiest to accept without qualms. Hernia repair surgery? Can’t argue with that. There were a few more surgeries before developmental delays surfaced, which is when we found ourselves at the mercy of more experts only because we’d never been through this before and didn’t know what questions we might have asked.

More experts to consult. (Here’s a gentle hint: there will always be experts.) Don’t discount them. But, don’t let them take over your role as the primary expert when it comes to your child. This becomes especially critical if you’re someone who’s parenting into your child’s adult years.

Don’t, as Barry M Prizant, PhD cautions in his book UNIQUELY HUMAN A Different Way of Seeing Autism, be that parent who loses “faith in their own instincts.” (p. 2) He writes:

“ … parents come to perceive their child as so radically different from others that the child’s behavior seems beyond comprehension. They have come to believe that the tools and instincts they would bring to raising any other child just won’t work with a child who has autism. Influenced by some professionals, they see certain behaviors as “autistic” and undesirable and perceive their goal as eliminating these behaviors and somehow fixing their child.” (p. 3–4)
“Autism isn’t an illness. It’s a different way of being human. Children with autism aren’t sick; they are progressing through developmental stages as we all do. To help them, we don’t need to change them or fix them. We need to work to understand them, and then change what we do.” (p.4)

Although Prizant’s book focuses on children, you can easily adapt his message to adults. I read it because a local expert with a national reputation held it up during the middle of her presentation on autism and said, “If you read nothing else this year, read this.”

Uniquely Human book cover; photo by Kathy H Porter

Reading it will make you sit up straighter, smile broadly and exclaim, “Why wasn’t this book written sooner? It’s brilliant.”

If you’ve ever sat in the dark, doubting yourself as a parent, regardless of where you are in that journey, this book will give you back your confidence so that the next time a supposed expert says, “This is how we’ve always done it,” you’ll know exactly how to reply.

Parents. Don’t you just love us? We’re all on similar yet different parenting journeys gathering life lessons along our respective travels. None of us asked for easy. But, we are oh so grateful for insider, practical tips. Occasional inspiration helps. A word to the wise can always be put to good use. As you take your next step, just be careful out there.

Thanks for reading! If you’ve got a parenting tip or two, an expert the rest of us need to google or an “Uh oh. Guess what I just did,” moment, leave it in the comment section.

Excellent resource: UNIQUELY HUMAN — A Different Way Of Seeing Autism, by Barry M. Prizant, PhD with Tom Fields-Meyer (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

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