Happy Father’s Day, Dad (jumping in the deep end)

Father's Day

When I was 3-years-old, my dad threw me into the lake and yelled, “Kick, kick, kick!”  My mom was not pleased (to say the least) as he scooped me out of the water.  He did this to teach me how to swim, to not be scared, and to learn what to do should I find myself in the water again.

When I was five-years-old, my dad pushed me off and ran behind me as I learned to ride my bike without training wheels.  “Peddle!”, he yelled as I excitedly conquered riding on two wheels.

When I was 9-years-old, my dad looked up at me on the diving board of the deep end  and yelled, “You can do it!” as I did a gainer off of the board.

When I was 11-years-old, my dad held my hand as he told me I would never have children.

Waking up from my hysterectomy, in a daze, I saw him and the doctor standing over me.  The courage and strength he must have carried just to mutter those words overwhelms me.  It breaks my heart and fills it with pride all at the same time.  Actually, I do not recall one time waking up in the hospital without him present.  Even as an adult, if I have a serious medical issue come up, he is there.  He has always been there.

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend in the US, the times my dad has told me to “jump” or held my hand when I needed it the most, have flooded my mind.  My dad is not perfect.  He was not as a young father and he is not as a grandfather but he is always there and always giving his two-cents-worth (or more).

I can come up with a thousand words to describe my dad but that would make way too long of a blog post and I’m sure you would get bored with it.  I’ll just say this.  My dad is loyal.  He is opinionated (even when you don’t want to hear it).  He has a soft heart (even if he doesn’t want others to know it).  He is exactly the kind of Earthly dad that I need (even if that irked me as a teenager).

Throughout my life, I have had this notion; this juxtaposition that I need to be careful and brave all at the same time.  I have carried this feeling that life is precious but also worth taking a risk.  I learned this from my parents – especially my dad.

When it has come to making decisions that might elate and break my heart at the same time, I have always tended to go for it, despite the risk.  When it comes to expressing my opinion even if it means being misunderstood or ignored, I have usually leaned towards just stating it.  A big part of this is the faith I have in God; my Heavenly Father, Keeper of my Secrets, Whisperer of my dreams.  Another part, of course, is my Earthly Father; my dad.

As I get older and watch my parents get older, I have come to recognize the full measure of what it is to have a dad (and a mom) who are still active in parenting.  They give me advice.  They help around my house.  They celebrate special events.  They cry when I cry.  They laugh when I laugh.  They worry…just like I suspect I will when my children are adults.  I know our days are numbered.  I know that one day, I will wake up without my parents to call or cry to or just be there.  It is becoming more real as we all traverse this crazy thing called life.  I do not know how many Father’s Days I will have with my dad but I do know that each and every one is special and that I appreciate him more and more as time passes by.

Looking back on life, he has always been there.  When we fostered, he was immediately at my door step the minute we accepted our children into our home.  As a grandparent through adoption, he has never wavered in his love for my kids.  Not once.  Not for a second.  Never.

Back in 1983 when my dad held my hand and whispered truth and encouragement into my ears, I would have never guessed that we would be where we are today…three kids…three lives touched by adoption…three lives influenced by my dad…hearts that were once filled with grief, now at peace.

On this Father’s Day, to my dad, I want to say, “Thank You”.  Thank you for throwing me in the lake at 3-years-old.  Thank you for pushing me off on my bike ride at 5-years-old.  Thank you for yelling “You can do it!” when I was 9-years-old.  Thank you for digging through your own grief and finding the wisdom to tell me at 11-years-old that I would never have biological children.

As an adult, when considering choices in front of me, I usually go with the attitude of “go for it”.  I know this came from my dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Thank you for encouraging me to always jump into the deep end.  

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?