How do you describe your ADHD?
I have four children. I?chose?to have four children. I have ADHD. (Did?not choose that one) I work part time. I am home a lot of the time. I am in school full time, online, which I work on after everyone else is in bed. These are all choices that I have made for myself and for my family. ?I honestly would not choose to do things any differently. I am very fortunate to have the life that I have. However, this does not mean that I am exempt from complaining from time to time. In fact, I think I spend a significant amount of my life on the brink of losing my shit. And sometimes, I can’t help but feel a little bad for myself.
There is a 10 year age difference between my first and second children. I had the last three in under 3 years. ?Our house is in constant chaos. This may be due to the extremely high heritabilty of ADHD, or perhaps it is because my children are the product of a mother with ADHD, lacking the structure and consistency required to understand the concept of routine. In any case, this is not a house of sit down nicely and make a craft, (believe me, I’ve tried) this is a house of constant movement and exploring and climbing. (you know the phrase climbing the walls? My children take that quite literally)
I took a good amount of time off work when baby number 4 came along. I had 3 kids in diapers and a teenager who needed constant transport to games and practices and lessons, etc. ?A few of my friends told me that they wished they had the “luxury” of staying home with their kids.
Those words came to my mind one day a couple years ago as I was wearing the baby, while my soon-to-be?three year old was standing on my desk reaching for the electric stapler, just as the one year old was waking up from his nap and was standing in his crib screaming for me. I coaxed the two year old down from stapling himself to the wall, grabbing him ever so gently so not to smash the baby on my chest, and proceeded to get my one year old from his crib.
I walked downstairs with a child in each arm and a toddler taking his sweet time in front of me. When we (finally) got to the bottom of the stairs, Max (2) says “Eeeww, what’s that smell?”
“Well Max, it appears to be that giant pile of dog poop that you’ve just stepped in.”
This was my fault, because ever since baby number 4 arrived, that poor dog moved right down to the bottom of the totem pole, which in a family of six, is pretty far down there. “Oh my goodness, I didn’t let you outside this morning, did I, boy?”
Still wearing the baby, I attempted to clean Max in the laundry tub. I then cleaned up the mess on the (fortunately) hardwood floors, while thinking to myself. “Right, this is really luxurious!”
I decided that we needed to get out of the house so I spent about 45 minutes getting everyone ready to take a walk outside. Just as we were about to leave, as I opened the door, the damn dog zipped past me and ran like the wind. (Again, he hasn’t been getting the love and attention that he was used to, so he recently decided to take himself on his own walks.)
I wanted to cry, but instead, I put the babies in the stroller and sat Max on the bench and instructed him?not?to move. I ran after the dog and chased him right into the yard across the street. Ha! Trapped! I grabbed him by the collar and walked back home, crouched over to keep hold of him, one hand on his collar and the other on the front of my shirt to prevent myself from exposing the neighborhood to my giant, leaking, postpartum boobs. Perhaps I’d better feed the baby before we venture out down the street.
I get to my front porch and am surprised to see my neighbor standing there. “Oh hi hon!” she says, “I saw that the kids were outside, and I wanted to come see the baby, so I walked over. But then I noticed that they were all alone, so I didn’t want to leave them here by themselves. Is everything OK?”
“Yep, we’re great! Sorry can’t talk. Have to feed the dog and then beat the baby….I mean feed the baby and then beat the dog…..but I’m just kidding, I’m not really going to beat the dog….or the baby. Great seeing you!”
Oh, God. I’m really going to have to get this house clean. No doubt that children’s services are going to show up at some point in the next few days.
So I fed the baby, and then decided to give her a bath in the little baby bath that fits on the kitchen sink. Max pulled up a chair and asked to help. He climbed up, took one look at his sister, and shouted “Oh my God, look! Macy has two butts!” Lovely.
Of course I had not even thought about dinner yet, so I opened the fridge and stared for a good minute, completely zoned out, until Max says “Watcha staring at, Mom?” Oh. Right. Dinner. It looks like we’re going to have to go to the store. This will be fun.
About an hour later, we got out the door and to the store and I put Sam (1) and Max (2) into the double child seat cart, and I put Macy (0) into the cart itself, still in her infant carrier. Not two seconds before I get her into the cart, I heard “Excuse me, Ma’am?”
Ma’am?! She hasn’t even told me what she wants yet, and I’m already ready to fight. ?”Um, I don’t think you’re supposed to put those in the cart. I think it could be dangerous”
Dangerous? How? You think I’m going to suddenly forget I have an infant in there and start pelting cereal boxes at her? Of course I did not say that, I went with the much nicer response of “Then would you like to watch her, while I shop?”
Oh man. She’s surely going to wait until I leave so she can write down my license plate number, making that two calls in one day to child services. “I’m sorry. Bad day. I usually don’t bring them all to the grocery store with me, but we were completely out of food in the house.”
She just looked at me and walked away.
We got our groceries and then in line to check out and get the hell out of there. I realized that we were right behind the shopping cart police woman, so I attempted to sneak out and go to another lane, but it was too late, Another woman walked up in line, behind us. A woman wearing a niqab. (The cloth that is worn by some Muslim women, which covers the entire face, except for the eyes.)
“Oh my God, look!” Max yelled. “A ninja!”
“Oh jeez, I’m sorry. Clearly he doesn’t get out much.”
I am dying inside.
Cart-cop whips her head around and looks at us, appalled.
“He’s two!” I snapped.
After we checked out, I waited inside until I see that the judgy woman has gotten in her car and was out of the parking lot. (Honestly afraid that she was going to report me to some sort of authority figure) We then got in our car and went home to make dinner.
When my husband got home, he sat down to dinner and says. “Wow, am I beat! I think I am going to go right to bed after dinner.” He then takes a look around, clearly noticing the earthquake that surely took place in our house today, and says, “so what did you guys do all day?”
I contemplate stabbing him in the eye with my fork, but I realize that would make?three strikes against me in less than 24 hours, so I told him about my day. At first I was crying as I recounted the details, leaving nothing out, but when I got to the part about Max’s observation of his sisters privates, I see that my husband is trying very hard to look sympathetic and understanding, but is not able to stifle a laugh any longer, and then he just loses it. I actually don’t remember the last time he thought something was?that?funny.
At first, I was upset that he clearly did not understand the magnitude of my frustration and my parental ineptitude, but then for some reason, I started laughing too, but I was still crying. So now I am laugh-crying, while my husband is just laughing, and Max, who now feels like a rock star, stands up on the chair and starts singing, “Macy has two butts, Macy has two two butts!” (to the tune of “I Gotta Feeling” )
Again, the words of my friends come to my mind. “Staying home at home with your kids is a luxury.” Ha! I love those crazy little people that have taken over my home, and I sure am blessed to spend so much time with them every. single. day. ?But let me tell you something. I eventually decided to go back to work, part time. To re-gain a little control over my day. To enjoy some adult conversation. To get away?for a while. ?And that, my friends,?has been luxurious!
Two weeks ago we learned of the tragic death of 13 year old Daniel Fitzpatrick after he took his own life, leaving behind a heartbreaking letter describing the relentless bullying he endured every day at school. We can’t know for sure, what the school did or didn’t do to help Daniel, or what his home life was like. One thing is for certain, Daniel Fitzpatrick desperately wanted a friend, and left this world feeling alone and unheard.
As with all incomprehensible occurrences that leave the nation shocked and confused, we grieve…and then we point fingers. We want to separate ourselves from what happened and we want to believe that it could never happen to us. So we find someone…or something to blame. ?If we can identify the problem, we can fix it, thus preventing it from ever happening to us. It is a coping mechanism.
Some are blaming the school system for not getting involved. Some blame the bullies, themselves, while others blame their parents. Some people are even blaming his parents. We need a villain in this story, and we want to find a way to create some kind of happy ending.
Daniel Fitzpatrick is dead. We can not undo the events that led him to believe that life was too lonely and painful to bear. There is no villain in his story. And there will be no happy ending.
Do I think that his death could have been prevented? Probably. ?But I also think that his school was probably not unlike any of the other schools in this country. I do not think that the teachers, the students, the parents, were any different than those in our own communities.
I think that before we are so quick to judge, to assume, to condemn, the parents, the teachers, or the even the bullies; we need to take a good close look at ourselves. ?What are we?doing to protect the vulnerable children in our communities? What are we?doing to actively prevent these children from being singled out? or left out? ?What are we?teaching our own children about kindness and integrity?
When I was in high school, there was a reclusive little boy named Doug. He sat alone at the end of my lunch table, pretty much, completely unnoticed by the group of girls that I sat with on the other end. No one was mean to Doug. No one bothered him or asked him to kindly leave “our” table. Nobody said anything at all. ever. At first I didn’t say anything either. I talked and laughed with my friends, oblivious to little Doug eating all alone every day.
I mentioned Doug to my mom one day, while we were in the car. “This kid, Doug. He’s so weird. He sits at the end of our lunch table, by himself, and he doesn’t say a word. He just eats his lunch in silence. Every day.” ?My mom looked troubled by this, probably disappointed by my lack of consideration for this boy, who obviously could probably use a friend.
“Well does anyone talk to?him?”?she asked.
“Um. Well. No. I don’t think so. I don’t know.”
Yep. That look. It was definitely disappointment.
“Well, what’s the matter with you?” she said. “You go and sit with him tomorrow, and strike up a conversation. Nobody should have to eat alone. That’s ridiculous!”
“Well, Mom. I think he might?want?to sit by himself. I have never seen him try to talk to anybody, ever.”
“Sit with him tomorrow and talk to him. End of discussion.”
And that was that. The following day I sat next to him and did exactly what my mom had asked. (demanded, actually) I struck up a conversation. It was pretty painful. Like pulling teeth. He wasn’t much of a talker. But I talked. I asked questions. He kind of answered. He seemed like a nice enough kid. Incredibly quiet. But nice.
I wish I could say that eventually Doug and I became friends and he’s been in my life ever since. (we all love our happy endings) But the truth is, I would visit Doug at the end of the table from time to time. We’d have our awkward conversations and that was about it. Most of the time I sat with my friends, but I’d always ask him to come down to our end and join us, and he’d politely decline.
Years later, my brother’s wife was at work and was approached by a young man. It was Doug. He recognized the last name on her badge and he asked if she and I were related. When she told him yes, she was in fact, my sister-in-law, he told her to tell me hello for him and that he hoped I was doing well. He then went on to tell her that I was the only person that was ever nice to him in high school.
While, it was nice to hear that he remembered me, and that it appeared his conversation skills had improved greatly, I mostly felt terrible. Those couple of exchanges of words we had, was the closest thing he had to a “friend” in high school. I regretted that I didn’t do more. I should have tried harder to make him feel comfortable with me, and the rest of our peers.
The point is, that sometimes hurting someone, is not just pushing them around or calling them names. Sometimes it is not doing anything at all. Not standing up for them when someone else is treating them badly. ?Not?trying?to get to know, or understand, the people who may have a harder time fitting in. Or, not even noticing them at all.
As parents, we need to teach our kids, early on, that we must be considerate of the feelings of others. We need to lead by example. We need to ask questions. “Is there someone at school who doesn’t seem to fit in?” ?”Do you know someone who always seems to be left out?” “Are there any kids who are treated badly by other students?” Then encourage them to really think about it. “How do you feel when you see that person all alone on the playground?” “How would you feel if that were you, all by yourself, with nobody to play with?” Teach them to understand those who are different. Teach them that they can make ?an incredible difference in somebody’s life, just by being a friend to them.
As parents, we should know better than to contribute to the isolation of another child. Take birthday parties, for example. If you leave it up to them, they may decide that there are a couple people that they just don’t want to invite. Yes, it is their party. And yes; they are entitled to enjoy their own party. But not if this means leaving out a select few from the class. Children talk. The uninvited ones always find out. And it hurts. Use this as an opportunity to teach compassion. “I understand that you may not want Peter to come to your party, but I bet that would really make him feel sad if he were the only boy that wasn’t invited. I wouldn’t want Peter to feel sad, would you?” I am not saying that you must invite?every?kid to?every?party, but for God’s sake, if there are 20 people in the class, it is not?OK to invite only 15.
Teach them to be brave. To go out of their way and out of their comfort zone, and strike up a conversation with that quiet kid eating all by himself at the end of the lunch table. ?Because it’s quite possible that they may be the only person to ever reach out to that child. And that can make all the difference in the world.