This is a glimpse into our life, and probably the lives of many families. I know there are so many people who have it much worse. I’m grateful for the life we have. Please don’t think I’m trying to garner sympathy. As a friend said, “You never know when someone else is going through it too,” so if someone else reads this and they don’t feel so alone in their struggles, then that makes me happy.
My son is 10, well past the age of knowing what things are and aren’t appropriate to say. But his ADHD keeps him from filtering what comes out of his mouth. Bad words, made-up nonsense words, noises, talking too loudly in public. His biggest problem is impulse control, which many don’t even realize is part of the disorder. It’s not just fidgeting, lack of focus, and lots of energy.
Mornings suck. And I’m not talking “normal” kid stuff.
“Put your shoes on.”
“Put your SHOES ON.”
I hand him his shoes. He throws his shoes. Not out of anger, but just because his brain impulsively told him to. He laughs.
I leave the room and I give him a minute to put on his shoes. I come back in. He’s rolling around on the floor yelling “penis” over and over.
Breakfast and medicine take another 40 minutes.
We are late to school. Again.
We were at McDonald’s once and I got up to get ketchup, a trip that took me 20 seconds max. I came back to find he had shredded his burger wrapper into 1000 pieces. Because he was bored and his brain didn’t stop him.
Writing on the bedroom wall? Oh that was done when he was like two, right? Nope. Last week.
And his mouth. It never stops. If he’s not talking, making squealing noises, or yelling random things, he’s beatboxing. (Which he admittedly is really good at.) And the screeching. Oh my god, the screeching.
Friends, relatives, and even strangers say things like “He sure is wound up,” and “He has a lot of energy, doesn’t he?”
No shit, Sherlock. You should see him off his meds.
I’m constantly saying “Please stop that,” “Put that down,” and “Not appropriate.” I sometimes lose my cool in public.
People probably think I’m awful.
My son probably hates me.
I’m sure some wonder why I correct him over something that they would consider minor.
You see him poke one hole in a styrofoam takeout container. I know that there will be 22 other holes just like it soon. Then he will flip it over and spaghetti sauce will come flying out everywhere. I need to get ahead of his brain.
I know what’s coming. It’s like fucking Groundhog day.
“Let him burn some of that energy off.”
It doesn’t work that way. He could run a marathon and stay up ’til 2 a.m. The only thing that works for him is melatonin.
Did I do this to him? Did I mess up his sleep pattern when he was a baby?
He doesn’t enjoy things that a lot of kids his age do. Reading? Nope. Sports? Nope. Learning to play an instrument? Nope.
“Just sign him up for something and tell him he has to do it.”
Been there. Done that.
Boy Scouts? Check. Baseball? Check. Football? Check. Drawing, painting, chess? Check, check, check.
We plan our days around when meds kick in, when side effects start, and when he will be best behaved. Maybe he’s finally maturing and he won’t do anything embarrassing while we are out.
He gets in trouble in school for calling out, talking, and losing things (I bought him a 24-pack of pencils and they were “lost” in less than two weeks).
“Try a fidget spinner.”
You don’t think we thought of that? He took them all apart and lost the pieces.
Nothing we buy him stays in one piece. Earbuds, video game controllers, water bottles, clothing, backpacks, folders, you name it. He’s drawn on, chewed on, or torn holes into it all. Not because he wants to be destructive. Because his brain doesn’t tell him “That’s not a good idea!” quickly enough.
He says things without thinking. He tries to impress his classmates. He wants them to like him and accept him. He tries to make them laugh. In the process he says something he shouldn’t and gets in trouble. He comes home and tells me that everyone hates him.
I know it doesn’t matter right now, but I don’t hate you.
“Why don’t you just SAY to him …” “Why don’t you just TRY…”
“Why don’t you….”
“Why don’t you…”
Why don’t you just shut up.
Like we haven’t tried any of that.
Typical ways of parenting don’t work on a kid like mine. I know people are trying to be helpful. But they just do not get it. They have NO idea what it’s like.
They have no idea that I cry myself to sleep many nights out of pure frustration and guilt.
Why can’t he just behave? What kind of a mother wishes her kid was different? Maybe I was too hard on him. Or not hard enough.
Or that I lay awake and worry. Will he ever be able to function in normal society? Will he find someone to love him and grow old with? Are we ruining him with the meds we chose to put him on? Will he become addicted?
They have no idea the resentment towards friends and their kids when they brag about their accomplishments.
We made it through the day without my son blurting out something about his balls in public. Yay! Gold star!
They have no idea that shopping at the grocery store is agonizing. That dinner at a restaurant is often embarrassing. A trip to the post office ends in tears for both of us.
They have no idea what it’s like to get stares at the pharmacy because your kid is practically old enough to grow a mustache, but randomly yells things like “dolphin turd” (that’s a favorite of his) because it’s not necessarily obvious that he has ADHD, he just looks like a brat.
Let’s not even talk about birthday parties.
One time my son invited himself to a friend’s house in front of the friend’s parents, I explained to him it’s not polite to do so, but he repeatedly asked to go to their house, all the while the other parents said NOTHING.
Say something! Tell him ‘Maybe some other time, buddy!’ … even if you don’t mean it!
Try explaining to a kid who just wants to play with his friends why the parents wouldn’t respond. Was their silence because they didn’t want him to come over? Because he’s the “weird” kid? Or he’s “bad?”
My kid is not bad. My kid is NOT fucking bad.
My kid is kind. He’s sweet. He’s generous and thoughtful. He’s inquisitive and curious. He’s smart. He’s SO fucking smart.
He’s. Just. Different.
Right now while I write this, he is playing a video game, talking to a friend through his headset, yelling things like “Lizard crap!!” and “I’m a dinosaaaaaurrrr.” But he’s strategizing and leading the other kids to win their game. Will his future bosses see his potential?
Some kids grow out of ADHD, or at least learn to manage it in adulthood, and I’ll be honest: I hope to hell he does.
He often gets angry with himself for acting the way he does. He calls himself idiot and stupid and says he can’t help it. I believe him. Why would anyone act this way on purpose?
But maybe we didn’t discipline him enough. It’s got to be something we did, right?
I try to not let it bother me. The looks. The scoffs and whispers. But it hurts. It hurts me that he will always be looked at this way for something he can’t control.
I try to remember that those people don’t KNOW my son. Either because they’re strangers or they’ve chosen not to take the time to know him.
But if they did, they would know that he’s got the quick wit of a comedian, the brains of an engineer, and a heart bigger than a lot of adults I know. He has a love for animals, beautiful sunsets, and video games.
And when he learns to harness all these things, watch out world. My weird kid is gonna do big things.