Maybe he really is just a typical boy.
Maybe I am too impatient and judgmental, and I needed to fabricate a disorder in my son to assuage my guilt about being a shitty parent.
Right around the time Scary Mommy published a post I wrote about ADHD, one that was shared over 80,000 times, I was going through one of these stages. I didn’t even share the successful post on my personal Facebook page because I was worried my friends and family would think I was being melodramatic.
Honestly, I felt like a fraud.
After all, I hadn’t been getting any behavior notes home from Lucas’ teacher. Only the occasional piece of unfinished work with a note attached requesting that we finish it and turn it in.
No biggie, right?
Then we had our parent-teacher conference.
Yeah… Lucas definitely has ADHD. The whole conference revolved around his lack of focus and how frequently he is off-task.
Then last week I volunteered in Lucas’ classroom three mornings in a row to help out with their Thanksgiving projects.
He is all over the place! They have this morning routine where they all hang up their backpacks and stack their communication folders in a bin for the teacher, then they sit and do a worksheet until morning announcements begin.
The kids are like busy little bees, all buzzing about the hive, each focused on their individual task. Many kids jump right into their worksheet and try to be the first to finish. I understand those kids; that was me as a student.
But… I don’t understand this little lost bee; the one who tosses his backpack on his neighbor’s desk, then wanders over to a colorful display on the side of the room to fiddle with stuff. Or maybe he stands in the middle of the room and spins in circles. Or stares into space humming.
One of the mornings I was there they were working on this math worksheet. They were given a two digit number, say 57, and they have to find how many more to make 100. They have to find how many ones to get to the next tens number (in this case it would be 3) and then how many tens they would need to make it to 100 (they would need 4 tens). Then they add the ones and tens to get their answer: 43.
Lucas has no problem doing this kind of math. Sometimes he gets it so fast it seems like he just guessed correctly. Other kids in his class struggled with the concept, and understandably so; it’s basically counting change for second graders.
But even with his ease of understanding, Lucas was the ONLY ONE IN THE CLASS to not finish the worksheet. He didn’t even get through half of it. It’s pathetic. He only works if you’re standing right over him prompting him the whole time.
All I could think was how in the hell does his teacher get him to accomplish anything, EVER? She must be magical.
This ADHD stuff is heavy on my mind today because I LOST MY SHIZ with Lucas this morning while we were working on his violin music. He’s actually pretty good at violin; but he SUCKS at paying attention…
(Or do I just suck at being patient?)
I don’t even care if he plays the violin well. I just want to see him, for ten minutes, looking at me the way I see other kids look at their parents; hungry for knowledge, respectfully awaiting information. But Lucas is in his own world, always. He looks through me, not at me. When I ask him to repeat something I just played, he looks at me startled, like I just woke him up. He has no idea what I just played.
And then when I speak, he plays over me instead of listening. This makes me lose it.
I mean, REALLY REALLY, OFF THE CHIZZLE, BLOW THE ROOF OFF,
Because okay kid, I know it’s hard for you to focus, but seriously how many times do I have to tell you that when words start coming out of my mouth that you are supposed to be quiet and listen? And even if you have a hard time listening, can you at least just SHUT UP?! CAN YOU AT LEAST GIVE ME THAT MUCH???
I said all that and more. I was mean. I feel like shit.
Anyway, I made him keep working on violin until he was able to focus and listen, and hence play the passage. The lesson took twice as long as it should have, and I was very barky and hissy. Because too many times, when I spoke, he played over me. And so I lost my shiz. Yes, again. I took away all his electronic privileges. (This is worse than spanking for him – he loves watching science videos on his tablet.)
Does he do this to his teacher? When she starts speaking, does he hum over her voice or spin in circles, ignoring her? Oh it makes me crazy. How does she not lose it with him?
Is this ADHD? Is that even relevant? At what point do I stop letting ADHD be an excuse and demand respect? And at what point have I gone too far with the discipline? How do I know if I’m punishing Lucas for something that is out of his control?
Or should I give him harsh consequences anyway, because dammit this is the world we live in and you can’t float through life on a little cloud doing whatever the hell you want, and you have to learn that there are consequences for your actions, ADHD or not. That is life, kid. Get used to it.
I have to teach him that, don’t I?
We are strict parents, any of our friends and family can attest to that. Loving, yes – but we are strict. Can we be more strict? Should we? Should we go military-style, give him extra homework, have Lucas do chores all afternoon and run my finger over everything with a white glove? That would be too much, right?
Or should we just go ahead and drug him? A lot of people, including our own doctor, have suggested that this could help him.
But then I come back to myself. I am too impatient. I unfairly expect Lucas to think like I do.
But… Lucas still has to learn to be respectful, and at least (for the love of all things holy) be quiet when an authority figure is speaking. Right?
I feel like Lucas and I are on different ends of the “paying attention” spectrum. I hyper-focus and over-analyze, while he floats and dreams. I just don’t understand him. I want to understand him, so badly.
I want to help him.
But how can I help him when I feel so helpless and ill-equipped? (This is a job for a patient person.)
Yes, Lucas definitely has ADHD. No, he is not a typical boy. Yes, he definitely still needs to learn to be respectful.
Yes, I am horribly impatient. No, I should not have lost my cool to the extent that I did this morning.
Yes... we’re going to get through this. It is surely at least as difficult for Lucas to focus as it is for me to remain calm when things aren't going my way. I suppose we are both works in progress.
The difference is, I ought to know better.