Tomorrow is a New Day {parenting kids who struggle}

2kpjzs

We walked into the parent-teacher conference today and were greeted with a sweet hello. Soon after, their faces turned grim.

“Has (this child) always been withdrawn?”

“Has (this child) struggled before?”

My husband and I did our best to answer their questions. To be honest, I felt like I was on the defensive. It was awkward. Most of all, it broke my heart. We didn’t have the same challenges that our kids do. We both did well in school, had friends and were active in various sports, etc. I’m sure our parents never had the type of parent-teacher conference that we had.

“It might be best to talk to (child’s) doctor about medication changes.”

“(This child) cannot make eye contact.”

“The issues you are describing can be a much bigger issue than what is known. You really need to talk to the doctor.”

“Has your child always struggled with interacting with others and with grades?”

As a parent to children who struggle, it takes a lot of restraint to NOT scream: “This is NOT all my child is about! My child is kind, wants to help others, and loves (his/her) family!!!”

However, at the end of the day, my husband and I know that our children must fit into this world. The world is not going to fit around them. And, to be honest, that sucks. There, I said it.

The misconception that “if you get a child as an infant, then the child will be okay“, just needs to stop. We got our children as babies. We tended to their needs. We celebrated their milestones and giggled at their curiosities. We did the best we could; like most parents do.

While all that helps, it does not (always) erase the problems that some children have. Instead, my husband and I must do the best we can…at this time…given the circumstances that present themselves.

To be honest, today was just a sad day for me. I wish I could just snap my fingers and all of these Earthly challenges would evaporate. I so wish I could exchange my children’s struggles for my own successes – to give them a life without diagnoses, social challenges and academic strife. Yet, in all of this…in all the daily junk…I know full well that the Lord has given me the exact children I am meant to parent. I know this, even on the hard days.

Parenting looks a whole lot different that I visualized it to be. My husband and I wonder what it would be like to be able to go out in the evening with our kids and not worry about meltdowns. We think about going to parent-teacher conferences and hearing, “You child is just the best student ever.” We long for our children to be given certificates and acknowledgments for being ‘good’. Yet, we also know that this is not the parenting journey that we are on. For me, my faith in Christ is what keeps me going. I know that Jesus hasn’t brought us this far to drop us on our heads. (My friend used to tell me this all of the time.) I believe it.

Today was rough. It’s not like any day is easy. The one hope that a parent with a child who struggles has is for their child to be understood and to have a life-changing breakthrough. When this doesn’t seem to be happening, it can surely dampen the situation, but it can never distinguish the power of parents whose entire world exists to create a better place for their children.

If you know a parent of a child who struggles, the best thing you can do is understand them, love on them and support them. Be a non-judgmental ear for them to pour their angst into. They know you can’t fix the issue, but they also know that just having someone who listens to them is vital. Let them cry to you. Allow them to tell you their story – even if they have to do it time and again.

If you are a parent of a child who struggles, please know that you are not alone. Seek out people who will listen to you. Don’t give up.

Tomorrow is a new day.

 

 

More than ADHD

His 1st art exhibit at a local community center!  (one of his many talents)
His 1st art exhibit at a local community center! (one of his many talents)

A pitiful sounding knock on the front door told me that my son was coming inside a little earlier than expected.  When questioned about the time he had outside, he told the story of being “told” to go home because he didn’t want to play the game the other kids wanted to play.  My heart sunk a little.  I know that he was probably leaving out a few details, and perhaps he was being a little aggressive, selfish, or anything else that a boy can be, but I didn’t really care.  My heart hurts when his heart is hurting.

A few minutes later he got mad at his sister for a trivial thing, erupted into tears, ran to his room, and shut the door.  We gave him his space, but eventually my husband went into his room to console him.  I’m not sure if we ever will know the full story of what happened with the other boys on the street, but obviously my son felt like an outcast.

My maternal, bear-like instincts kicked in immediately.  Truth be told, I wanted to march right across the street, ask what happened, and why my son was the only one not playing outside with them.  I didn’t though.  I stayed in and stewed a minute within myself trying to come up with the right words for him.  I eventually said, “It’s okay if you don’t want to play tag or anything else they want to play.  You don’t have to go along with what they want to do all of the time, and the next time they come over and ask if you if you want to play, it’s okay for you to say no, if that’s what you want to do.”

I don’t know if that was the right response.  It’s hard to teach a child to stick up for himself/herself in this age of “bully-hood”.  I want my children to stand up for themselves, but at the same time, I don’t want their stance to backfire and for them to be labeled.  This is not the first time he has been let down by the kids on the street.  I witnessed a few of them making fun of him and not “allowing” him to play with them.  On that day, I spoke up and said to these boys, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, please don’t say anything at all.”

I have not really ever written about the challenges we have raising a son with ADHD.  A part of me feels as though I’m betraying him a bit by even mentioning it.  Yet, there is another part of me who needs to reach out about parenting a child with it.  Prior to seeing “it” in action, I got caught up in the thinking that “every child is hyper/he’s just a boy”.  I’ve learned through first-hand experience that raising a child with ADHD is difficult.  It causes social problems, potential behavioral problems, and can affect self-esteem.

I know he can be impulsive at times, might not listen with intensity, makes friends and loses them quickly, and always seems to be one step ahead of his peers.  I also know that he gets bored with repeated play and does tend to play by himself a lot.  I’ve heard comments suggesting that he just needs to be disciplined, or he needs to act like other boys, etc.  When things like this are said, it stings a bit.  I’m not excusing any of his social or behavioral challenges because of ADHD, I’m just keenly aware that there are certain symptoms that go along with the diagnosis.  Even I find myself struggling at times with patience in having to redirect him numerous times about the same thing over and over again.

With all of that being said, I also know that he is an incredible child with an inquisitive mind, a tender heart, an artistic streak, and a will as strong as steel.  He’s a unique little guy who loves life and loves his family.  His mind is constantly creating new ways of doing things.  He can make a project out of scraps and comes up with ideas of how to use various items around the house for future pieces of artwork.  In other words, he’s a Super-Boy!

If only others would see him through my eyes, maybe he would be understood a little bit more.  I know all of the reasons why he entered protective services at the age of two-days-old.  I know his history and the history of his biological family.  I know his struggles, his insecurities, and his talents.  I know his desire to have solid friendships as well.  He will never fit into a box that others may want him to, including the box I might desire for him at times.  He is more than ADHD – so much more.

I also wonder if we could all take a look around us and see each other the way our Heavenly Father sees us.  He sees us through eyes of grace.  He knows our past, our insecurities, our struggles, our talents, and our desires.  He also knows that our past does not dictate our future, and our failures do not outweigh our successes.

Who knew the rejection of playtime outside in the middle of America would cause me to think about all of this?!?  It seems that life can throw so many parenting lessons at us, and the Lord’s wisdom abounds in these teachable moments.  It also reminds me that we need to continually build our children up.  We need to be bold enough to tell them just how incredible they are not just because they are children, but because they are diverse and talented with their own set of gifts to offer to the world.

Raising a child with ADHD presents challenges on a day-to-day basis.  It doesn’t just go away over time, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how it will unfold in my son’s life as he grows into adolescence.  One thing I do know is that my love of him pales in comparison to God’s love for him, and that is something I can always be sure of.

Are you parenting a child with ADHD?  If so, what are some strategies you use to increase social skills and reduce any other types of behaviors that come along?