If you know me, you know a few things about pretty early on; I like pink, I like wine and chocolate and I have 2 boys, one with ADHD. I’ve written about it, talked about it with friends, family and people I meet even more. I’ve researched it, watched videos about it, met with countless Dr.’s about it. I’ve tried some of the things I have heard about like, fidgets (they were MORE distracting), exercise (indoor trampoline), caffeine, removing red dye…I could go on. Some things helped (Lego’s were amazing for channeling energy and sparking creativity) and some didn’t (expensive natural light-bulbs didn’t do a thing).
I’d subconsciously resigned myself to mothering the ADHD more than my son. Meaning, I was spending most of my time trying to combat the ADHD and forgetting about the boy inside. I would have flashes of insight, where I remembered the human being inside the ADHD diagnosis and I would feel such shame that I had let the daily grind of missing homework, forgotten socks, lost papers, and loud noises take center stage. I would cringe with regret once my boys were asleep, because I’d once again let my frustration get the better of me and I spent the evening yelling – the thing my son has told me he hates the most – because sometimes, the yelling seemed to be the ONLY thing that made the madness stop.
Now, I’m here on the cusp of my son turning 14 and I look back and I don’t recognize that woman and that little boy. There were times I was sure he would grow to hate me, because I couldn’t keep my emotions in check. Because I broke down and let exhaustion win. Times when I would admit I didn’t know what to do anymore and that he just HAD to learn how to assimilate better into the world I was used to living in. My biggest fear was that he would grow to say he never felt loved, never felt close to me and that he remembers me always being angry.
I was angry a lot.
Recently, it was just the two of us at home and we were being silly, laughing about something I can’t recall. It was a deep belly laugh that for a moment, steals your breath and fills you with joy, until you regain your air and it comes out in a laugh that shakes your core. He looked at me and said, “Seeing you happy is the best thing in my life.”
You can imagine how that got me.
Those words entered me, burrowing so deeply into my core, that I stopped and had to take a deep breath to make room for being filled up that way. It hit me then – we were on the other side of ADHD. I’m not saying my son no longer exhibits ADHD symptoms, he does, but unless they are him rocking back and forth and slapping the armrest on an airplane (recent happening) or his singing the same line of a song over and over and over…and over again, ADHD hardly has a home with us anymore.
I believe it was because we switched schools and with this switch, my son stopped taking the ADHD meds. I credit this private school, a school full of kids who have been labeled “different, challenged, deficient and maybe even defiant at times” with saving my son. And me. This school is full of teachers who GET these kids, who teach them, in super small classes or often one-on-one, so that each child learns in the way that suits him or her best. My son got to do a report on the planets based on characters from his favorite video game. He had to research the planet’s atmospheres and figure out which character could live on which planet based on that information. He worked with a friend to put together a PowerPoint presentation. He talked about that presentation for weeks and was beside himself with pride the day he got to present it to me and his dad.
I wrote recently about how much my son was hating the ADHD medication he was on and it became a daily argument as to why he had to take it. I said we would try this new school with no meds and see how things worked out. He has been off meds for over a year now. Are things PERFECT? Nope. He still struggles in a class setting, even if it is only a few other kids, so he does most of his classes one-on-one. But, he‘s learning. He’s happy to go to school and recently, as he was trying to tell me who his favorite teachers were, he got so flustered that he stopped and said, “I can’t do this. I like all my teachers. They’re all nice people and good teachers.”
Finding a place for him to fit in, a place where he feels safe, respected, listened to and CAPABLE has made all the difference. I know not everyone has a private school like this near them, and if they do, cost might be an issue. I am not writing this to say all ADHD kids needs to go to private school but this has proven to me, that at least in my son’s case, a majority of OUR issues were the stress of trying to get him to fit into a typical public school. We’re not perfect, but we are so much better.
Now that we have this stress off our shoulders, we get to enjoy each other. We laugh more, we talk about things other than school and I feel closer to him than I ever have. He’s turning into a young man, one who fills me with emotion when I see his compassion, his sense of humor, his desire to make others happy. A young man who is growing into an adult way too quickly but an adult who I am positive will find his way in the world. An adult who will enrich the lives of those who are fortunate enough to cross paths with him. He’ll have struggles, we all do, but I believe he will be ok. I finally believe this.
I’m working to ensure he has more memories of seeing me happy, than seeing me angry (although I’m not claiming perfection yet). I’m enjoying parenting more because now, I parent my son and not the ADHD.