The last few years, especially, have been some of the roughest years in my life. Many, many days spent extremely perplexed and distraught because I had no idea what to do or what was going on. A child who looks totally out-of-control in behavior and appearance. Restless, constantly in motion, disobedient, inappropriate, meltdowns sometimes all day long.
We were told our discipline needed to be firmer and more consistent. But why were our other two boys responding appropriately? We were told it’s middle-child syndrome (is there such a thing?), but he struggled since birth. I prayed and prayed for wisdom. Finally, through a seemingly endless maze of paths, people and phone calls (otherwise known as God’s guidance) we had an appointment with a psychologist.
ADHD is his diagnosis.
So, we have a diagnosis, now what? The battle has really just begun. A diagnosis, or a label, is what you make it. It can be an excuse or it can be a useful tool.
We have received mixed responses. Some understanding, some judging, some cautioning.
ADHD is often a misunderstood and misused term. Some assume it’s an excuse for bad parenting or a rebellious kid. Others think it only affects the child’s ability to focus; this is only one of the areas. You can reassuringly tell me, “It could be worse.” But you obviously have never experienced this. ADHD is a disorder that can tremendously affect one’s daily life and the lives of those around them. Take a quick peep into our lives if you want to see the struggles.
My responsibility as my four-year-old’s mother isn’t to raise a child who begs for pity or excuses his behavior with a label, but learns to work through his limitations to be a respectful, positive asset to this world. Essentially – as a Christian mom – to train him to be who God designed him to be.
If you approach a ravine, you don’t sit down and give up. You assess the situation. You figure out how big the ravine is. Can you go over it? Can you can go around it? It may take time and a lot of effort, but you find a way to continue despite the complication.
The truth is, we all have limitations. Some are severe, others are minor. We all have struggles, difficulties and weaknesses. Some can be found on the page of a medical dictionary while others cannot. The goal for all of us is to become a blessing to the world around us. To be able to reach beyond ourselves to touch the life of another; to be compassionate and understanding; to learn together; to share God’s love with others. My son should be held to the same standards as any other child. He should be expected to behave the same as his brothers. The difference is how he gets there. The means or method may not look like my other children’s or even your child’s. Discipline is not a one-size-fits-all. It should be tailored to each child, because each child is different. The difficulty is figuring it out.
As I researched ADHD, I discovered something about myself. I too share my son’s struggles. I knew I had difficulties in certain areas, but I just thought I had more quirks or weaknesses than the average person. When discussing these difficulties with the psychologist, he told me ADHD doesn’t “go away” as most may think; it simply changes. As the demands evolve as you reach adulthood, so do the symptoms of ADHD.
Truthfully, I hesitated to share this about myself – I don’t want pity or judgment! – but perhaps through my honesty and vulnerability someone can identify with us or at least offer understanding and patience as our family walks this difficult path.
I understand what my son is feeling and how he struggles. I think back to school. If I wasn’t daydreaming or crash-studying for a test I forgot about or was distracted when it was announced, then I was in trouble for being a chatterbox. If something took too long to learn or wasn’t stimulating enough, I passed it by or gave it up prematurely. These are a few of the things I still struggle with, only they may present themselves a little differently now. I understand how my son’s emotions effortlessly erupt, sometimes fiercely. I understand how easily frustrated he gets; how distracted and forgetful he is. I understand his fine line between boredom and overstimulation. I understand his struggle with transitions. Because I am the same.
Confessions of an ADHD mother raising an ADHD child:
-At the end of time-out, I forget why he was being disciplined (this extends to all my boys).
-We have yelled together and cried together; we have an emotional bond like no other.
-I have had little success with routine charts because I forget to use them.
-I dislike the sameness of routine because I get bored, but I need it, as does my son. And I find myself longing for it when life gets too busy.
-I have a million things on my mind at once and so does he.
-Consistency is a struggle because I get distracted.
No one is ever prepared for parenting. It brings out all the selfishness and sin we thought perhaps we had a better handle on. Amazingly God is greater than our challenges, failures and inconsistencies. His strengths will surpass our weaknesses – and even our strengths – with resounding success and purpose. And He will shine through even in our biggest and worst mistakes.
My son and I both struggle to regulate our emotions. We’ve shared many emotional moments together. We’re learning together. But who better to walk a path with you than someone who understands! Someone who doesn’t judge, because they know what it’s like and someone who can offer grace because they too desperately need it! Being a parent doesn’t mean we automatically know we’re doing, but it offers another opportunity for growth, and bringing alongside someone else…someone who may possess your same eyes and your same temper.
Someone’s opinion, a diagnosis, a label or challenges should never define you. God defines you. So don’t live in their limitations. Live for God.