Have you ever heard of Oppositional Defiant Disorder? Yeah, neither had I until I was slapped in the face by it. Okay, not literally slapped, but its effects make you feel like you’ve been sucker punched.
First of all, a disclaimer. I love my son more than anything in the world. He is the syrup to my pancakes. The sprinkles on my ice cream. He’s the light of my life. But we have a very difficult time getting along right now.
It all started pretty simply. A disagreement over laundry. I told him to put it away. He said no. I asked again; another no. There was complete and utter defiance in his tone. This started the first true battle of wills. He wasn’t going to put that laundry away and I wasn’t backing down. We were at a total standstill.
It went from a minor disagreement to a full-blown meltdown. How was this happening? I’m the parent, he’s the child. I tell him to do something, he does it. Except that wasn’t happening at all. Finally I’m yelling out of frustration, he’s crying and the laundry is still in the basket. I walked away and ultimately, he won. Shit!
I thought it was a fluke. He was just having a bad day. Surely it was his age and he was asserting his independence. Yeah, no. It started popping up all the time.
It could’ve been what we were having for dinner, the wrong show on TV, or losing at a video game. He would unleash his rage and immediately start an argument; most of the time, with me. Kids with ODD like to choose a target, and I’m his. In his mind I have wronged him somehow, and he’s going to exact his revenge by fighting with me.
It often started with him telling me that I don’t care about him and quickly morphed into “You hate me and I hate you!” “You don’t love me and I don’t love you!” “I want a new family!” It stung when he told me he hated me. Deep down I know he doesn’t, but he also knows that it bothers me. Sometimes it would be fast, other times it could go on all day. He would reroute our day back to the triggering moment and we were at it again.
I was doing everything in my power not to stay calm, but damn, it’s really hard. When you’re called an evil witch, you just want to slap someone senseless and scream, but I have learned to breathe deeply and excuse myself.
It got so out of control that I knew it was time to seek help. He is treated for ADHD and I started to explain to his doctor what was going on. She immediately said, “This is classic ODD,” and began to explain it to me. Irritability, check. Anger, check. Arguing, double check. Defiance, yep, that one too. Finally, a diagnosis and some suggestions on what to do.
Just because we know it’s ODD doesn’t mean it’s gotten better. It just means I know what to call it. There are still plenty of days that I don’t want to be around him. He still pushes us around and tries to have it all his way. But the difference now is that I have learned to walk away. I am constantly trying not to engage him and swallow my words. God bless America, it’s so hard, but I’m doing it.
Here’s the bottom line. ODD sucks, but it’s not terminal. We’re pretty damn fortunate. At the end of the day, I have a smart, funny and talented kid who lives to challenge his mother. He’ll make a great attorney someday. I don’t hate him, and he doesn’t hate me. They are just words and while those words hurt, I know it’s just frustration. I don’t want him to join a new family. I want him to be happy.
I have to remind myself that he didn’t choose to be this way. His mind is just wired a little differently. I don’t think anyone wakes up and thinks, “I’m going to spend my entire day pissed off and ready to fight. Bring on the frustration, rage and battles.”
Together we are learning to work through our feelings and to treat each other better. He is doing his best to calm himself down and he is making headway. Some days are harder than others, but I am up for this challenge.