Thursday, January 29, 2009

ADHD and The Best Day Ever!

It's early for today but my Teenybop has already had her bedtime story, her goodnight kiss, her tuck-in, and her last tantrum of the day when she was denied the second "last drink" of the evening.

But right before that tantrum, she had the last talk of the day, and she told me that today was "the best day ever!" I asked her why, and she told me that it's because she didn't get into trouble and I was feeling well enough to play tonight. We played a little game that she calls parachute, where we put a squishy ball on a blanket and "popcorn" it crazily throughout the living room. And that's all it took to make this the best day ever ... That and the fact that when we went to Chick-Fil-A for dinner, she got to share some of the honey mustard dip that comes with my meal.

"The best day ever" for me is usually one where she and Fiance actually get along and I don't feel like the tug-of-war rope doing double duty as a peacemaker. But for my daughter just after her fifth birthday? "The best day ever" is one where she just gets a little bit of her mommy to herself. Sometimes I forget how simple the mind of a child can be, how little it takes to bring them joy, especially lately.

We've been struggling with the idea that Teenybop most likely has ADHD ... a disorder that creates a wildstorm of chaos in her mind and leaves her running constantly from task to task throughout the day, accomplishing virtually nothing and leaving a huge mess in her wake. At five years old, sitting still long enough to listen to her bedtime story is a struggle, writing is a challenge because it requires time and effort, and simply putting on her shoes and socks for school can take half and hour.

She was never like this before. Her cardiologist was amazed that she was able to keep up with other children as she grew up with ASD, which should have slowed her down noticeably compared to other kids. They also told me that once the defect was repaired in June of last year, her energy levels would soar. And they have. More often than not, my laid back child runs frantically through her days as if someone has tied a cinderblock to the gas pedal in her mind. It frustrates nearly everyone around her, and sometimes she is even a little angry with herself for her increasingly frequent inability to behave appropriately. I think the worst of it for Teenybop is feeling disappointed in herself for letting it affect her at school where she has started to get into trouble for not being able to pay attention in group. This is a child who is eager to please and very sensitive, quick to feel sadness, shame or embarrassment, so the challenge of dealing with her new energy level is exhausting even for her.

The real heartbreak in all of this is Fiance, though. Teenybop's new moods combined with her energy have all but alienated her daddy ... I don't know where I get the patience to deal with her chaotic energy and her somewhat angry mood swings, but Fiance simply doesn't seem to have the patience to deal with her. And it doesn't help that he's incredibly lazy when it comes to her, impatient, demanding and often over-reactive to her antics. They fight and argue constantly and she seems to have mostly lost any care or desire to please or obey him. They rarely play together anymore because she doesn't care to and he can't handle it anyway, and I can see that while he does love her, he is finding it hard to be a joyful parent to her. I don't know what to do about this particular situation as it affects Teenybop ...

But I know that something will have to be done soon. He will have to put out more effort with her, or our little family simply will not survive. Obviously when the new baby comes she will be easy to love as her most challenging times will still be ahead on the horizon. She might cry a lot, she might be sick, and she'll crap her pants a lot ... But she won't sass back yet, and she won't run crazily through the house trying desperately to burn off energy that she doesn't understand. She will be easier for Fiance to deal with, and actually being his blood child will most likely have some play in this too. But while I understand that he might feel somewhat different about this child, he has raised my daughter to think of him as her daddy, he is her hero, and I will not stand for him allowing her to feel like he doesn't love her anymore because she is busy and this baby is not.

And that's how she'll take it if he doesn't put some real effort into strengthening his bond with Teenybop before the baby comes. She'll see his easy affection for the baby who will likely be cute and cuddly, and she will see fault in herself. She will feel that she somehow doesn't add up, that's she's not as good or as worthy as the new baby. She will feel replaced. But I'm not sure I can stay with him if he allows her to do that to herself because of his own lack of effort with her. I made it clear before we even got serious enough to be thinking of having babies that I would not tolerate Teenybop ever being made to feel like the "step" child. Either she is a solid and well-loved part of this family just like every other member ... or there is no family. Maybe that's a strong way to see things ... But if you've read this blog at all, if you know me even a little, or if you've ever lived in a home where you felt less than worthy, you understand why I won't accept that for my daughter.

But I can rest tonight at least, knowing that regardless of the conflict that threatens everything she's ever known about family life, at least today was "the best day ever".

Now? The next thing on the to-do list... Sleep. Rest. And try to do it again tomorrow in spite of all the challenges.