May 24, 2024
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Seeing the Forest Through the Trees

While reading the letter to the editor by Tamar Belote in which she responds to Dr. Wisotsky’s feedback on Sipporah Tracer’s article regarding tethered oral tissue (TOT) (“Watch Your Words” January 28, 2021), the advice “see the forest for the trees” comes to mind. Considering Ms. Belote’s personal experience as a mother to a baby with TOT, her response, which was highly critical, is not that surprising. While I have not dealt with this particular struggle, as a mom I can certainly empathize. I think, however, her experience may have clouded her ability to accurately process Dr. Wisotsky’s message. He seeks to educate by sharing facts and exposing a problem: The dramatic increase in babies being diagnosed with TOT. He fully acknowledges that there is a small percentage of cases in which the procedure is warranted and with Ms. Belote’s description of her daughter, he likely would have guided and supported her in that direction. While I agree with Ms. Belote that parental intuition is a powerful guide, I also believe that hearing from a pediatrician with 45 + years of experience can be very helpful. Honestly, I am baffled by how someone can find fault in Dr. Wisotsky’s approach to TOT, which encourages parents to first problem solve and put forth maximum effort before turning to interventions. As we all know, topics like this as well as many others related to parenting are highly sensitive and can easily hit a nerve. But this should not stand in the way of important information being shared and problems being exposed in order for them to be addressed. As a practicing occupational therapist for over 20 years, I see a growing interventionist mentality that results in rushing to fix our kids’ “issues” rather than patiently allowing them to develop according to their own timetable. This approach has contributed to the shrinking of the parameters of what’s considered “normal,” may negatively impact the parent-child relationship and takes away from the spontaneous delightful side of childhood. As I wrote earlier, my statement will likely strike a nerve but that’s OK because it still needs to be said. As modern-day life (including parenting) gets increasingly complicated, fast-paced and stressful, it is comforting to internalize Dr. Wisotsky’s “see the forest for the trees” message: In earlier generations, most kids generally did quite well with carefree (and intervention-free) childhoods. Trusting in the natural developmental process can decrease the anxiety that we as parents all too frequently feel—a process that works especially well when we step back and allow it to progress without unnecessary pressure. There are of course times that interventions are not only beneficial but are essential, and we are all very grateful that they exist. But by incorporating deliberateness, problem solving skills, calmness and patience into our parenting and decision-making, we set our child up for the most positive outcomes, which of course is what every parent desires.

Rivka Stern
Teaneck
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