ADHD / ADHD and Kids / Coping Strategies

ADHD & Parenting: Unpacking Our Own Baggage

I’ve been a little quiet for a few days and frankly, it’s not because I don’t have anything to write about. It’s because I have so many things to write about that I’m finding it overwhelming. I’m just going to pick the most immediate issue and I know it’s a very common one in ADHD households, so here goes…

There I was, sitting on a stool at the bookstore, flipping through a little stack of books about parenting my child with ADHD, crying.

It’s safe for you to assume that I don’t spend a lot of time crying bookstores.

I don’t know exactly what it was about the situation that moved me to tears, but as I flipped through these books, and saw bits that either described me, or described my child: Tears. It was just too much. Well almost too much. I’ve never felt that way before. When I was diagnosed with ADHD I felt liberated, and I have generally elected to approach life with ADHD proactively, if not perfectly. I find it empowering and energizing to learn more about it, and see if there might be new ways I can make my life and the lives of the people I live with easier. So this reaction was a surprise to me.

Recently, the school referred our oldest child, Miss Honeybee, for more specialized academic testing. She already has an ADHD diagnosis, and at her school, many tactics that are helpful to students with ADHD are already part of the curriculum and culture of the school. For example, middle schoolers have an advisor that goes over their assignments in their planner with them each day, to make sure they understand what they need to do for the evening, for homework. But teachers felt that despite the fact that her medication does help her, that they see her struggling excessively with issues relating to executive functioning. Mostly organizing herself, and keeping up with information and action in the classroom. Also processing information.

We know that these things are true. I was impatient with the whole process – her issues are actually very obvious in many ways and I didn’t see why she had to go through the testing when we could just take action. But that’s just how I roll. When I get involved in community projects where the group decides to hire a consultant for tens of thousands of dollars to tell us a bunch of stuff we already know about our community, I have the same reaction “let’s just fix it, we already know what we need to do”. Sometimes, in life, too much time can be spent on theory and not enough on action. In this case I finally turned myself down to a simmer. I acknowledged that it was possible that we might learn something new.

Well the did the testing and as far as I can see, it confirmed two things. First, all the stuff we already knew, and second – that Honeybee was either nervous or hamming it up a little or both (she’s passing her classes with low B’s, there’s no way her processing speed is in the 2nd percentile…I mean…yeah, sorry, I’m not buying it). The  numbers and reality just don’t match up and there were discrepancies in the results that did not fit a pattern. Because the evaluator acknowledged independently that she appeared nervous, and that the discrepancies didn’t fit a pattern, I tended to trust her overall evaluation…and it generally sounded like the kid I know.

So NOW, tomorrow morning we can all sit at a table and discuss what to do about all of those things that we already knew were happening before we made the poor kid so nervous with all of the stupid testing.

And now I’M nervous. The last time I was at a parent teacher conference with all parents present was a couple of years ago and I’ll just say that it wasn’t a pleasant experience (though many dynamics in that situation have improved since then). On that note, I will also just add that there are very different parenting approaches in Honeybee’s two houses. I don’t think that it’s disrespectful to simply say that I just don’t agree with many of the choices made at the other house. This is a reality for many blended families. I only bother to note it here, as I said, not to be disrespectful, but to acknowledge that as a layer to this situation. Now we are adding a formal discussion of one child’s learning differences to the mixture of topics that our households must communicate about. I don’t know if the conference will touch on household issues, or just focus on school issues. I know that my conscious choice, going in, is to simply stay in “listen” mode. I’m sure the conference will be interesting and I will be interested to see what interventions the school and the learning specialist are interested in trying out.

But none of this has anything to do with me crying in a bookstore. I think a variety of other factors spilled out of my heart and onto the bookstore carpet. (And it was really ugly carpet.) I know I said I didn’t know what was bothering me and I think what I meant to say what that I can’t pick just one thing. In no particular order:

I know what it is like spending a life trying to figure out what is “wrong” with you. Honeybee has names for what ails her, she has from an early age. Will that leave her better off? I agonized about this whole “testing” process and I worried that another label might freak her out. I know from interacting with her that it did freak her out a little. I put on my best stepmother hat and said “Honeybee, this really isn’t a big deal. The teachers just want to have you take some tests so that they can find ways to help you to be more comfortable at school”. She seemed satisfied with that answer. But was I?

Why didn’t they “see” me for who I was, when I was her age? Why did I have to be “rotten banana” girl with the shit crammed in her desk and everyone talking about her? How did I get to be rotten banana girl and it occurred to NOBODY that something was wrong? I understand my parents not noticing, they’re just like me. But my teachers? They would report all of the pieces, but never come to a conclusion more articulate than “bright student/can’t focus”. I’ve said before that it didn’t bother me that they didn’t notice…but now, I guess I feel differently. WHY didn’t they notice? Why was I invisible? I feel like I was a screaming neon sign. I’m thankful that I didn’t fall through even more cracks. As if flunking out of my honors program and failing reading class weren’t cracks enough.

If anyone noticed, would they have been able to help me? Because I’ll tell you right now – I don’t know if anything we are doing will help Honeybee. I have no freaking clue. And that’s one shitty, out of control feeling right there. On top of the fact that I have days where I don’t even know if anything I’m doing for is helping myself (like today…but that might have been the slight hangover talking…I’ll have to blog about that tomorrow…briefly, don’t use beer as a coping tool).

When I stumbled upon a suggestion in one of the books, about keeping a big dry erase calendar, I really started to lose my grip on not-crying. I hate to beat a dead horse but goddamn it, calendaring stresses me out (and yet, for four years, I managed a law office calendar…classic). Just the other day I finally started using Google Calendar again and made a calendar for me AND Sonny. This was huge. I have major calendar stress. I want to do what is needed to help our child succeed but I was overwhelmed thinking about managing another calendar.

There was another suggestion about the important of having accurate clocks in the house. Was that author watching a spy cam in my house? We don’t have any accurate public clocks in our home. One clock died, then there’s daylight savings bullshit to deal with. My husband and I have cell phones to tell time. I felt like an asshole, suddenly, for depriving my child of a clock. Especially when she has two homes and is shuffled back and forth. A clock tells you where you are in time and space. I felt that I’d failed her in a basic, and profound way.

Less specifically, many of the things I was reading were just too real. Usually when I read lists of what to expect in women and girls with ADHD I can’t relate to the list. Well I found a list that I relate to. There I was, described in detail on the page, and it made me feel very fragile.

None of this diminishes the fact that we have done a lot of good things for her, to help her make sense of her life. For example, I helped her reorganize her whole room recently. With one drawer for each type of clothing, and clear drawers for her to “see” what is in them. We created a home for everything. I created a visual cue to help her remember to put her dirty laundry in her own laundry basket and it’s been WORKING. We have a good system of working together where she is an active participant in the organizing process, and I reinforce home bases for items by having her put them away herself. We work well together on homework. Her grandmother came over recently and marveled at the work we had done together. Honeybee and I have been spending more time together, just to bond and enjoy each other – but also because I know it’s important for her to learn from me as a role model who is female and also has ADHD.

But I felt adrift and fragile, sitting there on that stool in the bookstore, flooded with information. Revealed to myself in doses that just then, were a little too high. And metabolizing that infusion is a slow process, apparently.

On a less serious note, the sales person that showed me to the ADHD section of the store also had ADHD. My gawd…we are everywhere. He was a great sales person and wanted to make sure that if there was something in that store that would help me, that I would find it. He was also excited that I was researching a topic that he himself found personally interesting, you could tell. He had recommendations and everything.

I bought two books to add to our ADHD reference collection at the house (I’m not joking) and skimmed them, putting little sticky, colored flags next to the sections and passages that I found interesting and wanted to mark for easy reference. It made me feel good to explore new resources…over time, I’m sure my feelings will work themselves out.

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2 thoughts on “ADHD & Parenting: Unpacking Our Own Baggage

  1. I SO relate to this. I can deal with my stuff, but navigating the world of kids with ADHD is new territory and I’m terrified of screwing up. Sounds like you’re doing a great job. I look forward to reading more.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. For whatever reason, this has all been weighing on me more than usual. I guess it’s probably just a normal part of processing new information. Always nice to have a little weigh-in from someone in a similar situation 😉

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