Photo credit to Poppy Thomas-Hill, http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkpoppyimages/
I was at a party the other night, with a roomful of people I didn’t know. I was listening to a woman talk about her new husband’s children and somehow the topic of ADHD came up. She immediately began to very loudly express her views on ADHD, which were something like this:
“There is no such thing as ADHD or ADD. There’s not! It’s totally made up. It’s a concept made up by teachers who just don’t want to deal with kids. It’s just an easy way out for parents and teachers who just don’t want to deal! What they really need to do is just DO THEIR JOB and parent their kids and DEAL with these kids’ behaviors.”
I nearly choked on my drink as I turned to her, just waiting to hear what more insight this woman had to share. My best friend and I made eye contact over the people in our small circle, and I just sadly shook my head.
One of my children has ADHD. It is not, and I repeat this in the biggest possible letters ever, NOT from a lack of parenting, discipline or teaching. My husband and I have “parented” him relentlessly. My boy has been in time-out so many times in his short life that I’m surprised the carpet isn’t worn out on the stairs where we send him to sit. We have tried charts and redirection and rewards and, yes, turning the other cheek. We’ve counseled, talked, taken things away, grounded him… you name it, we’ve tried it.
ADHD is an ugly, snarling beast. I wish it was something made up, because if it were, I promise you I would have found a way around it. What nerve this woman had, to tell a roomful of people she didn’t know (or not very well, obviously) about how it was due to a lack of parenting. She has no idea.
I promise you, she has never wiped tears away from her child’s face as he cries to her that he “just must be bad.” She has never sat in a roomful of people and watched as a teacher shook her child’s homework at her and spat his name out with frustration and intolerance. She has never tried to explain to her child why it is that he has to take pills every morning, when no one else has to. She has never sat up late at night, worried about how to help her child be successful when he struggles to get through five minutes of homework, let alone eight hours at school. Or interrupted a birthday party sleepover to bring meds, because she is afraid he will never get invited back again if he wakes up and doesn’t have his pills right away.
Or the worst – which is, totally lost her cool and yelled at her child for his inability to brush his teeth, put on his shoes and get his backpack on in the last fifteen minutes before they walk out the door for the day. This is the one that happens the most frequently… and the one we struggle the very most with.
Just put your shoes on. Please! No – don’t look at the TV. Why is the TV even on? I turned it off twice already! I don’t care if the Annoying Orange is almost over. It’s time to go. Shoes. SHOES! … What are you doing NOW? Put down the cat. SHOES. Just shoes!
This is the one that haunts me through my whole day. Because he’s at school and I can’t pull him into my arms and apologize for yelling at him. I can’t try to explain how mama just needs him to please remember to get his shoes on and his teeth brushed because it would make our mornings so much easier. I can’t be sure that he’s not hurting and sad, because the last thing he remembers of his mom that morning was how angry she was. Again.
But here is what I know to be true. This beautiful child, this marvelous boy… this is my son. He was given to ME for a reason. There is a life lesson, something he and I are supposed to learn together, and this is why he is mine. ADHD is a monster, for sure. I hate the fears, tears and pain it has brought into my sweet child’s life. But it’s a monster that for whatever reason, God chose to place in our path. And slay it, we will. One way or another.
For his sake, if I could choose to make it go away, I would. Of course. What mother wouldn’t? I want what all mothers want for their children – for them to be happy, to love and be loved, to choose paths that honor the bright light that is them, and nothing else. ADHD doesn’t change any of that, it just makes the road a bit more thorny than others. There are a few more dips in the road. But dips in the road only make your legs stronger, in the end.
But for me – for me alone, I wouldn’t choose any differently. I have learned so much on this journey. For starters, it put me in my place. It slapped me across the face and showed me that I’m not half the mom I thought I was. And then it yanked me back onto my feet and told me to get working. In the end, who knows? Perhaps I will actually be a better mom for having trudged through this particular forest. It taught me patience, and how to pick my battles. It brought me friends – other moms who have the same fears and frustrations and breaking points.
It also is my real-life story of not judging until you’ve walked a mile in her shoes. Miss Lady At The Party, I really do wish that what you said was true. I wish it were true for every child who truly struggles with ADHD and other learning disabilities, because it would make it so much easier to fix. And you know what? I don’t know what your story is, and maybe you have a personal experience with a teacher that led you to form the belief you did. But for me, and the other mamas out there who fight this with their sons and daughters, please don’t tell us it’s because of a lack of parenting or a lack of discipline.
My sweet child and I are walking through this snarly, bramble-filled path together. And it is exactly because of parenting, that we will be just fine in the end.