One of my boys is AD(H)D. Thankfully he is not hyperactive. He was diagnosed relatively early, at the age of 6, and later on was also diagnosed with some learning disabilities. By the time of his diagnosis I was frustrated with his inability to keep track of his things. I used to joke that things needed to be stapled to him in order for him not to lose them. It was eventually explained to me, that it isn’t because he doesn’t care about his stuff. He does. He has the thought to put the sweater in his school bag, or to put the lunchbox back in the locker, just on his way there he had 143 other thoughts that totally sidetracked him from the task at hand and he lost focus. Having AD(H)D and learning issues severely impacts his self esteem and it’s a tough job to keep him focused and feeling good about himself.
He is different from my other kids, in that he needs a different part of me, but then again they all do. When you start raising your kids you have this idea of the type of parent you will be. You don’t think that each child will need something different from you, that each child has to be parented as a separate entity. That what works with one son, will not necessarily work with a younger sibling. I now believe parenting needs to be tailored to the child not the parent.
If one of my non-ADHD kids loses something, or messes up in school, I feel differently. For them, sometimes, it’s sheer carelessness, or laziness or just plain obnoxiousness. To them I am sure it seems that their ADHD brother gets away with a lot. It’s tough to explain to them, in a way that they will understand, that his brain processes things differently. That if I lose my temper with him and tell him I am angry at what he did, that he will take that as if EVERYTHING he does is wrong, that I think he is stupid and useless and worthless. I have to be extra mindful of the way I talk to him, so that even if he did lose his house key, for example, he needs to know he was wrong, but it doesn’t have to be this huge deal where everyone over-reacts. I have to balance the lesson and the consequence with love and acceptance of who he is. But then again, isn’t that what we need to do with every child?
I was thinking about this the other day. I was so convinced (especially also having been told by others that I let him walk all over me) that I parent him with kid gloves, and am more tough with the others, so I decided to try to observe my own parenting based on each child.
My findings: I am more gentle with him, but I don’t let him have a free pass. He does get disciplined and doesn’t get away with things. His consequences might, however, be different than if another brother had committed the same “crime”. If I ask the others to complete a list of tasks, I am more apt to nag at them to get finished. If I assign the same tasks to him I know I have to remind him step by step what he needs to be doing, so I am more patient. The others have no problem with remaining focused on the task at hand. He gets sidetracked so easily, even when medicated (which is a story in and of itself).
No one warns you when you are pregnant that parenting is a tough gig. That you will doubt yourself at so many points along the way. That if your child has special needs that you will blame yourself and want to give that child the essence of your own soul to make up for his challenges. No one explains what the feeling is like to watch your babies grow up and become real and good people because of the care you have nurtured in them. No one adequately explains the emotional roller coaster that parenting is.
This parenthood thing – it’s so awe inspiring and scary and just plain wonderful. I am so blessed to be mommy to these 4 boys and to see their individual characters develop and grow. I hope and pray that God continues to help me to give them all that they need, and to be the best Ima I could hope to be.