Ok, you win…this ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) thing isn’t actually a thing. Your awfully big opinion must mean that you have studied brain imaging, right? Psychology? Trauma? Genetics? ….Anything? Or maybe you’re basing your knowledge on your vast experience with children? I suppose yours were all really well behaved? Really, I’m guessing that you’ve never actually lived with a child who just c.a.n.n.o.t.
Walk through a day with me. It’s 7:55am on Saturday and we have a soccer game to go to in three hours. It’s thirty minutes away and we have to be there twenty minutes early. Actually, let me back up: this morning started for us last Tuesday when I made sure that this child knew about the game, day, and time (along with a reminder about travel time, exact time we’ll need to walk out the door, a discussion about EVERY piece of her uniform- including asking what she thinks that means in terms of her needing to do laundry, making sure she can identify where her bag and water bottle are, and encouraging her to think about where her cleats are). No. I’m not micromanaging. Watch.
Yes, mooooom. I know (Mmmmk, sweet girl).
Thursday. Still working toward Saturday’s game. Have we planned adequate rest time Friday? Will she be in bed by 9:00pm? Do we have a protein rich breakfast that she’ll actually eat? What about a hearty snack she can choose to munch on for the drive?
Nope. Still not helicopter parenting, just making sure we will survive.
It’s 6pm Friday now. One of her brothers has decided he’d rather sit this one out tomorrow. Sure bud. Cue sister meltdown in 3..2..1.
Let’s drop back in on Saturday. Breakfast in progress. Hey sister! Good morning (and lots of hugs)! Yep, you can watch a bit of TV. Please be sure it’s off by 9am for your game. 8:45, hey girl. 15 mins. Ok mom. 9:01. Turn it off, please. MooOom, can’t I finish my show? Nope, we’ve got your game! Come on! Whelp. That did it. We’ve entered stage one of meltdown. Life is so unfair. Daughter, your choice, off now or lose it for the remainder of the day. Cue argument. Whoops you chose no more TV. Go cool off upstairs please. Now she’s yelling so we’ll have to resort to a cool ninja-mom-Psychologist-approved-finger-in-the-armpit-move and take her to her room. She’s screaming. Shoot. Now your door has to be closed until you’re finished with that. She’s entered the bat-sh*t-crazy phase of I don’t cares, you’re the worsts, and I hate yous. Mmmk child. Tell it to your pillow, *closing door. It’s 9:03am.
Are you exhausted yet? We haven’t even gotten to actually eat breakfast, or faced getting on clothes, or any of the other reasonably outlined aspects of a morning routine.
This is life with a child who struggles with ADHD (the kind that doesn’t exist). Her brain is just on fire all.the.time.
“Normal” parenting seems pretty straightforward. You name a simple expectation, give options and consequences, let the child fail a few times and everyone learns a valuable lesson in communication, relationship, success… In our home, though, we name a simple expectation and receive an initial response, followed by a reactionary response, followed by a ratcheting response, and finally materializing into complete chaos. It’s 0-100 in 37 seconds flat. Instituting natural consequences is like calling WWIII.
Parenting always requires a response. On good days, we have the strength to use a calm soothing strong voice. On normal days we experience a heightened awareness and speak as calmly as possible. On bad days with bad responses we’re yelling and dis-regulated, we just add to the crazy. The reaction from the child is pretty much the same: chaos and tantrums that require child to be physically removed from the situation.
So, yes. Please tell me how my lack of parenting has led to my child struggling with impulsivity, racing thoughts, and anxiety. Truly, I haven’t struggled with feeling inadequate enough already. Maybe offer me some great tools I haven’t tried, or disciplines, or how about a look of pity. That always helps.
Seriously though, did we question the validity of PTSD because we didn’t understand the impact of stress or have the imagery of the brain that we do now? Nope. Even when we didn’t collectively have a name for it, the effects of war were evident and validated.
So how do we cope? Well, we’ve been offered very high amounts of medication to take multiple times of day. While it is not my first choice, for our family we have chosen to give the very smallest dose just to make our lives manageable. Occasionally we give a small helper in the evening, but it’s a conversation we have with our child on a daily basis. Our personal outlook on medication is that it is there to help us adapt, not change the child. We also utilize therapy, essential oils, sports, family time, occupational therapy, and especially prayer; because seriously, parenting is HARD.
We have good moments too. Our child is compassionate and artistic. She feels DEEPLY. The things she struggles with now are going to be some of her greatest strengths. She’s persistent, she questions reason, she is articulate. She’s going to be ok. We’re going to be ok. Everyone is going to be ok.
Resources and References too:
ADHD In Children http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/basics/definition/CON-20023647
“Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school. Symptoms sometimes lessen with age. However, some people never completely outgrow their ADHD symptoms. But they can learn strategies to be successful. “
Effects of Physical Activity on Children’s Executive Function: Contributions of Experimental Research on Aerobic Exercise http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3147174/
How Do I Know If My Child Has Executive Functioning Issues? http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2014-4-18-how-know-child-has-executive-function-issues