I’ve been waking up every day a failure. I’ve started my days with a host of hopes, plans, good intentions and patience. I’ve ended my day’s hopeless, behind on tasks, forlorn and impatient. Why? Because I am a mother. I have 2 young sons who are full of life, big ideas, vibrant energy, questions about the world, frustrations, energy, fears and a little more energy. And one of my boys is different. I remember the first time I read an article in a magazine and it referred to the writer’s situation (the same situation I am in) as raising a child with “disabilities.” I was shocked. I was taking a bath after having put the boys to bed and relishing in having some alone time to read. I had been looking forward to the article on the cover, hoping it might offer some insight or hope for my situation. I ended the article indignant that the author had called my child disabled. Disabled? I had never in my sons 12 years thought of him as disabled. He’s completely normal, all 12 years of awkward teeth coming in, bad haircuts (that he refuses to comb into a good haircut), mismatched clothes and gangly limbs. Normal. But as I sat soaking, I began to think about “normal.” Was he normal? My body lit up and I could feel the shock in my blood, as my mind screamed, “No!” I had goosebumps sitting in the warm water.
My son is different. He is silly and playful like most 12 year old boys, but he does not know when to stop. He sings a song – repeatedly. Again and again and with each iteration, his voice gets louder, shriller, until whomever is nearby harshly demands he stop. Which most times leads him to look up, perplexed and ask, “Stop what?” He does not sit still; constantly moving, shaking his legs, humming – anything that involves the opposite of stillness. He cannot concentrate on most day-to-day tasks like brushing his teeth, homework, cleaning his room, or school. He hyper focuses on other things like television, Lego’s, or the idea of going to buy a new toy. He is unable to sit and listen to a conversation without interrupting, asking questions, making comments or changing the subject. He wants to make people laugh more than anything, but he does not know when to stop. When the laughs stop, he does not. He’s just “too.” Too loud, too fidgety, too silly, too unfocused, too rude, too oblivious for most people. He’s the quintessential square peg in a round world. Jagged edges, hard to grasp and a little clunky.
I am constantly told by people and family, “He just needs more…” Their more translates to rules, discipline, consequences, restrictions, schedules. And I am left feeling like less. Less of a good parent, less of a disciplinarian. Less of a whole person because my son is normal, with disabilities. If they only knew how we have tried those things. Repeatedly and without success. Clamping down just does not work for him.
ADHD is talked about so much these days; everyone has heard of it, everyone has an opinion about it and yet, I am having trouble finding people who understand what it is like to live it. What it is like to watch this little person, who you are responsible for raising into a functioning big person, struggle. Every. Single. Day. To watch them consistently be told they are not doing it right, not doing enough, lacking, and failing, simply because he is himself. To be the parent of someone who you love almost more than your next breath, but who constantly takes from you. Who just by being themselves, leaves you a little less whole. Who requires so much time, energy, constant giving from you, that you end your day as a self-perceived failure. “If only I’d…” and the only’s stack up, daily, and leave you so weighted down, sometimes all you can do is take one single breath at a time and hope it’s enough.
But lately there’s a shift in me. The more I read and experience with my son the more I think I’ve had it all wrong. I lay in bed at night and think back on our day, the week, the whole time I have had the privilege of being my sons mother, it’s hit me, “Disabled my a*&!!” The older he gets the more I find myself hating “normal.” I get to laugh with him and explore this BIG world he lives in and I know – my son is what this world needs. Creativity, a big thinker, someone who is not happy just mooing his way blindly in the herd. Someone who wants and wants BIG. Someone who cares for others in a way that at times, makes me cry with shame. Because he is showing me all the beauty and goodness of him and his world and it’s a world I have not been living in and may not always understand but it’s a glorious world. A world where learning can happen standing, hopping or humming. Where learning history could move beyond writing about it to being an epic movie created on his iPad. Or a drawing complete with a small dragon in the corner because hell, why not?? Where humming while he eats, with his leg up on the chair, does not have to mean he has no class or manners. It could mean he is processing his day and making connections with what he learned and the song he is humming. OR, it could just mean he is humming. But in the end, it does not mean he is lacking.
He shows me the beauty and chaos of being a kid with ADHD, someone who doesn’t always fit in. Someone who challenges the norm. And someone who has so much to offer this world, I get chills thinking of what he could teach ME. What he could teach us. My square peg might not fit in this round world, but he’ll find a way I believe, to make his way. And I am seeing that I should count myself one of the luckiest mother’s in the world to get to watch him and learn from him. He’ll soon make his sharp corners an asset and maybe even, the norm.