Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Not the Boss of Me

This morning I read this post on one of the blogs that I follow, and I was shocked and saddened to see how far ADHD had taken hold in this household. I love this blog, and thanks to the authors self-proclaimed obsession with all things ADHD, I have learned many strategies to use in my own house with Teenybop. I have always admired this mothers ability to advocate for her son Luke, and while reading her blog I have often reminded myself on a bad day to regain my perspective. Just as I wrote a few days ago about perspective on men, I believe we need to have healthy perspectives about our children and their gifts as well as their limitations.

There are days when I am really down about having to deal every day with the complicated issues that ADHD brings to my family. There are days when I am glad to have encountered this because of the strengths that ADHD has added to certain aspects of Teenybop's personality. All the same, I struggle each day to remember that it is my job to be a mommy to Teenybop, but it is not my job to be a mommy to ADHD. Sure, she suffers many (actually almost all) of the symptoms of ADHD. She also has ODD which adds a whole new spin on ADHD. But she is not defined by her "disability", because I do not allow it to become her crutch. ADHD/ODD or not, she is still a six-year old child much like every other six year old child.

One of the final points made in the post I read was that ADHD has become the white elephant in every aspect of this family's life, right on down to Luke's older sibling and the relationship between his mother and father. Everyone who knows Luke knows that he is an ADHD child, and there have been many accommodations made for him both at home and at school. Some of them, like special pencils to make writing less of a challenge, I agree with because this is realistic. As an adult, if Luke is more comfortable writing with "golf pencils", that will be an option for him. But the real issue for this family (who is only doing the very best that they can given their circumstances and personalities) is that ADHD has become a wedge between husband and wife because their parenting style differ when it comes to Luke. This is surely confusing to the children and could be adding to the chaos. I believe that the father is parenting his son, and that the mother is often parenting ADHD. When Luke is in trouble for behaviors that are unacceptable in the household, his father will punish him and try to make him behave properly. But the mother will remind the father (possibly in such a way that Luke is aware of it, can hear it, and use it) that Luke "can't help" his behaviors because of his ADHD, especially when his meds have obviously worn off.

I believe that there are several problems with this scenario, and Penny I sincerely hope not to offend if you have chosen to read this, but here is what I see.
  • Insisting that Luke has no control over his behavior undermines Daddy's authority, and teaches Luke that ADHD is a good excuse for misbehaving. This is, in essence, telling Luke that he can choose to not make the effort to control his behaviors because Daddy is not the boss and is not allowed to correct him. Remember that Daddy loves Luke too, just as Mommy does, and that if he is hard on him, it is because he loves his son (just as Mommy does) and wants Luke to learn to control himself. Luke will not be allowed to tell his boss someday that the reason he didn't accomplish the required tasks is that he has ADHD. This is why I am sometimes harder on Teenybop than I would like to be ... I don't want her leaning on ADHD as an easy crutch. This is hard for me as a mother because I want the world to be all candy and roses for her, but I know that it won't, and it is my job to prepare her for adult life. To me, ADHD means that she has trouble controlling her actions, her words, and her impulses. It does not mean that is it impossible for her to control herself, nor does it mean that it is impossible for her learn to control herself. I punish her whether she is medicated or not for "unacceptable" behaviors, because whether she has ADHD or not, I want her to learn to be a productive member of our household. It means more struggles because she has to be punished for the same behaviors over and over ... but as she grows and matures, I am seeing that many of the behaviors are disappearing or at least changing into more age-appropriate behaviors. Most days, I know that it requires much more patience than I have because of the repeated punishments ... but like I said, just because it takes them longer sometimes to learn something, or because they have more trouble with controlling themselves doesn't mean that they simply can't do it.
  • Less focus on the problem. If ADHD is all an ADHD child can think of, if it is what they are always focused on, and if they are convinced that ADHD makes normal life impossible for them, they will stop trying ... in my experience. If a cancer patient thinks of nothing but cancer and how it is steadily eating away at their body and the length of life, that patient will die faster. This is proven. But a positive attitude makes all the difference. Even being optimistic isn't everything though ... Like you said about  focusing on allergies, "Our lives can't be all about ADHD. In fact, they shouldn't be about ADHD at all. If you have seasonal allergies let's say, does your life become all about allergies all the time? Of course not. Allergies are a nuisance. And you have to consider your allergy to all things blooming before taking a hike in the peak of Spring, but you consider them and treat them, you don't let allergies run your life. The same should be said for ADHD." I agree with that wholeheartedly. My daughter knows that she has ADHD, she knows that her medication is there to help her focus and to have more control over herself. But she also knows that she is expected to make an effort even when she is not on her medication, and is able to clearly state whether or not she feels the calming effects of her medicine at any time. One time in the beginning of all this, she referred to her medicine as her "be-good pill", and she was immediately corrected and taught that this medication is to help her mind be more able to focus on her daily tasks, to help her brain slow down so that she has more time to consciously control her actions. She was also taught that this little pill does not cancel out her choice to behave or not. Other than the occasional question after school about whether she still feels like her meds are working (so that I can get a heads-up on dosage changes), we do not talk about her medicine, and we do not talk about ADHD with her or in front of her. We just do it, the same as taking Singulair for allergies. We also do not associate behaviors (in front of her) with ADHD ...
**On a more personal, mother-to-mother note: Penny, I am so sorry that you are having to go through this with your husband. Since you have been the bigger reader on this subject, and since you do know so much about ADHD and it's symptoms/effects, I feel that your husband should listen to you more ... then again, he might be more prone to listen if he wasn't hearing ADHD all the time. You are right that the "obsession" is unhealthy, but not just for him. It is unhealthy for you because you are having to watch not only Luke go through a hard time, but you are seeing the effects of all this on Emma and your husband as well. I am praying for you because I understand, and I hope to read someday soon that things are looking up. And again, I'm sorry if anything I said here offended you, that wasn't the intention ... just my $.02.