Age & Stage
Mom, you are amazing! You are unique. You can make a difference in your child’s life and the truth is, there has never been a mom exactly like you.
When my daughter was about 11 years old, I noticed an unusual amount of clanging and banging in her bedroom one day. I wondered what was going on in there. She emerged from her ransacked room and came to me with an exasperated expression on her face. “Ok, where are they, Mom?”
Completely confused by her question, I answered, “Where are what?”
“The bugs. I know my room is bugged. Otherwise, how would you be able to figure out everything I’m thinking and doing? Are you a spy?”
I had to hold back my laughter. I looked into her eyes and said, “Honey, I often know what you are thinking because I KNOW you. Really know you. I’ve been watching you and learning about you since the first moment I felt you move in my tummy. I’m very observant, and someday, I hope you’ll have the opportunity to understand how a mom gets to know her children.”
Evidence of that opportunity came a few weeks ago when my daughter’s son said to me, “Nana, I told mom that I didn’t do something that I did. She knew I wasn’t telling the truth! Then I told her the truth and said I was sorry.”
“How do you think your mom knew you weren’t telling the truth?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Moms are just like that,” he said. “I think they’re all spies.”
This time I didn’t hold back the laughter. I giggled and said, “We’ll have to share that comment with your mom!”
Some kids think their moms are mind-readers. Others are convinced they have installed cameras all over the house or hired people to follow them and provide daily updates.
But we moms know that’s not the case. (It’s really because moms are amazing!).
Let’s look at a more detailed explanation of our ability to observe and respond to our children.
One of the first things that makes you an amazing mom is that you have an amazing ability to know your children intimately. Observation occurs on a conscious and subconscious level: Sometimes we’re paying attention to what we’re observing, and sometimes we’re not. Every moment we have with our children is filled with multiple cues and experiences, such as how a child smells, feels, looks, sounds, etc. Those moments get recorded when we make a mental note of what we observe or when our mind takes notes for us.
For example, let’s look at an infant or toddler son who is upset. He will tend to respond with certain facial, verbal, and physical expressions and reactions that may create smells or tastes. When he cries, does he smell a certain way? Can you taste your daughter’s tears as she seeks comfort from you? Do you know when the tears are coming because a wrinkled nose precedes them? Kids tend to respond similarly to the same situations, so we learn over time which behaviors go along with their responses.
Certain behaviors tend to get grouped as responses to a certain scenario. This is what happens when you experience an out-of-place sensation like the desire to walk in the snow in the middle of the summer. When you open a closet in July and smell your winter coat, your mind associates things that go along with the scent, such as being outside in the snow. Similarly, as kids get older, they begin to repeat sensory cue patterns when they feel ashamed, proud, or tell a lie.
Now, to be sure, it’s not just moms who experience these powers of observation. However, moms tend to spend more time with their children than dads, so they often have much more memory of the observations.
It is also normal for kids to seek out their biological moms first when they are looking for encouragement and comfort. They have known their moms longer than their dads. While in the womb, they could hear their mother’s voice, feel and hear her heartbeat, and smell her. In the early years of life, Mom is usually more familiar to her children than dad. And this may be true of adoptive moms as well because they are likely to spend more time with their children than adoptive dads. Therefore, they have more opportunities to observe and get to know their children really well.
With full acknowledgment of the importance of fathers and their unique contributions to their children’s lives, there’s something unique about women that puts us in a position to be better able to connect emotionally with our children than men. It’s one of those things that reminds us that we are, indeed, “fearfully and wonderfully made” as mentioned in Psalm 139. It’s called oxytocin. Put simply:
“Women, compared to men, have higher levels of oxytocin—the hormone responsible for emotional bonding—and oxytocin receptors. Oxytocin serves to calm anxiety, reduce motor activity, and foster an increase in touch.”1
While oxytocin is released during labor and delivery and encourages a healthy emotional connection between a mother and her baby, oxytocin levels also increase when adoptive mothers have skin to skin contact with their babies and older children, and those levels are higher than for adoptive fathers. Did you ever notice that, if given a choice, most children will run to their mothers before their fathers when they are distressed or wanting to celebrate a new achievement? That’s because they’re seeking that emotional connection that comes from a mom’s higher levels of oxytocin as compared to a dad’s.
You can watch this amazing difference between women and men when children are in the presence of a group of people. It’s not unusual for children to make the rounds of women — from mom to aunt to grandmother to female neighbor — when looking for comfort and affirmation, before turning to dad or another man.
We’ve probably all experienced a mother’s voice that soothed and comforted us. I remember a friend calling me into the church nursery when my infant daughter was crying and unable to be consoled by the nursery workers. I came up behind her as she wailed in her crib, gently touched her back and quietly and calmly said, “I love you sweetie.” She immediately stopped crying. My voice was able to stop the tears and after a few minutes of stroking and talking, she went right back to sleep.
Moms, God has also made your voice uniquely suited to impact your child’s healthy development. Research has shown that children are most engaged with their mothers’ voices:
“Brain regions that respond more strongly to the mother’s voice extend beyond auditory areas to include those involved in emotion and reward processing, social functions, detection of what is personally relevant and face recognition…” as well as “social communication ability, suggesting that increased brain connectivity between the regions is a neural fingerprint for greater social communication abilities in children.2
My daughter and I were talking about how cute it is that her children always want to snuggle and have their backs scratched and tickled by her, me, or their aunt before they go to bed. She wondered out loud why they don’t make the same requests of their dad, grandfather, and uncle, even though they love to snuggle with them and seek out affection from them in other ways.
I suspect this is because, in general, a woman’s touch is also biologically very different from a man’s. The average mother has fingers that are smaller than the average father. The smaller the fingers, the closer together the sensory receptors are. Women, therefore, are more able to feel changes in the structure of the skin and in the movement of the skin as compared to men. When they touch their children, they are more equipped to feel areas that feel soft or coarse, warm or cold, and whether a child is shivering or trembling. This tells them how to respond with touch.
So, for example, if a mother feels a part of her child’s skin becoming tight and tense, she may focus on rubbing that area to relax it. Or, if she feels her child beginning to shiver, she may begin to rub her more vigorously to warm up the skin or embrace him if the child is trembling out of fear. Over time, her child feels comforted by this and learns that Mom’s touch is more sensitive and likely to soothe and comfort than Dad’s. Moms, even in the tiniest areas of your body, the tips of your fingers, you have the amazing power to provide emotional health to your children.
Finally, while no more important or life-giving than a father’s love, a mother’s love is distinctly different. The most obvious difference is that, in the case of a biological mother, her love for her child is rooted in a strong biological connection that began at the moment of conception. During pregnancy, the baby is sustained by the mother and her heartbeat provides the rhythm of the baby’s life. This lays a foundation for a physical and psychological bond that is profound. She can’t be separated from the baby so as that little life is developing, he or she gets to know Mom intimately — her movement, her voice, and her warmth. This is another thing that makes moms so amazing.
It is significantly different from the bond that begins to build once Dad meets the baby for the first time outside of the womb. The movement of the baby, his or her twists, turns, hiccups, and jabs also give the mother the opportunity to begin learning about her baby long before she gives birth. While a baby cannot be created without the contributions of both the mother and the father, the impact of the baby’s biological connection with the mother is significant. Once the baby is born, if the mother breastfeeds, there is another opportunity for bonding through frequent skin to skin contact that is not possible for the father to experience.
So, are you getting it? Mom, you are amazing. You are unique. You can make a difference in your child’s life through your power of observation, your God-designed ability to connect emotionally, the influence of your voice, and your sensitive touch. Here are some other ways that mothers may significantly impact their children:
…and the truth is, there has never been a mom exactly like you. Embrace that. Celebrate it. Share your unique gifts with your children and give thanks to God for the special qualities he gave you to be an amazing mom.
© 2021 by Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.
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