What’s it like having a child with ADHD?

I received an e-mail from my son’s teacher yesterday.

It appears Rhyer has misplaced his agenda again.

“Misplaced” is a word frequently used in our daily conversations. Socks, hats, boots, agendas, homework… It all gets lost. Somewhere between flickers of brief thoughts that come and go through Rhyer’s brain. One minute he has the agenda, he gets distracted by a thought, and very quickly the idea of the agenda goes out the window.

Rhyer has ADHD. Formally diagnosed, though we never really needed a professional’s confirmation. It’s obvious when you meet him that he’s a little… busy.

As a toddler he was what I liked to call a runner. In the driveway, full tilt, me yelling and frantically chasing him. It was a game. The more scared I got, the faster and further he went. I was petrified that he would eventually get hit by a car. 

As a pre-schooler I noticed that I could call his name over and over again, and he wouldn’t respond. You would have to get in his face for him to notice you, often times scaring him when you tapped him because he literally had no idea you were talking to him.

I took him to the doctor for a referral to get his hearing checked. I thought maybe he was going deaf. Turns out his hearing was perfect, if not better than most.

He was obsessed with certain things: hyper focusing on numbers, Pokémon, or LEGO. He would spend HOURS building creations, or speak without taking a breath about Pokémon battles.

In JK we noticed that he was falling behind. He was lacking social skills, and had a hard time staying focused. His teacher would say, “Oh he’s a late baby. Its common for kids born late in the year to seem behind. He’ll catch up.”

In June at the end of SK, I received a referral for an Occupational Therapist to help him out in grade one. Turns out he was behind. And he didn’t catch up…

With every passing year, Rhyer falls further behind in school. His reading is just at level, which a HUGE improvement since the beginning of the year. His writing is barely legible. But we are working on it. Staying on task – a fucking nightmare. Homework is a chore… Tears, hyperventilating, and lots of encouragement and pushing him. But we get it done. He is impulsive. Sometimes he just hits me for no reason and has zero explanation as to why he did it. Punishment doesn’t work, and rewards are futile. Yelling falls on deaf ears.

Praise is our only saving grace. We give lots of hugs, and cuddle on the couch. We point out all the good that he does. His confidence is lacking because being ADHD is like living in a world of negatives. Sit down. Don’t touch that. Stop moving. Don’t do that. Stop it. No you can’t. It’s like his hardwired to just FEEL like he’s a burden because the feedback is constantly “no’s” and “don’ts”

What does it feel like to be a mother of a child with ADHD? Like you’re failing. Like nothing you do is ever enough. It’s frustrating. I feel like a nag. Constantly repeating myself, or asking, “Look at me and tell me what I just said…” It’s a lot of chaos and emotional roller coasters and random noises and sounds. Some days, when I sit down in bed after the kids have gone to sleep, I find that I am exhausted. Because it is indeed exhausting. I feel defeated. With every email from the teacher I’m reminded of my shit parenting.

It’s exhausting, but it’s worth it.

I’m hellbent to see him succeed. For him to be ok with being Rhyer. He can be weird, or nerdy, or loud. He can be cuddly and emotional, and he can feel sadness ten fold. But I’m hellbent on seeing him flourish. ADHD is a gift, not an excuse. It’s not a reason for being mean or agressive. I want him to be ok with bad days, but not let them become excuses for poor behaviour. We all have our faults, but the strongest ones make the best of it. I preach accountability. I preach trying before giving up,

So that’s what I’m doing. Holding it together and making the best of our faults. Mine and his. Some days are bad days, but dang – those good days are great.

The boy

Today is just one of those days where you sit and reflect on purpose, direction, and a potential plan of action. Lately I’ve just been feeling as though I lack something in my life. I’m sitting here drinking a hot cup of coffee, wondering how many grams of sugar are in the creamer I just put in it…

“Maybe I should watch my sugar intake…?”

“No, that’s silly. You do you girl. Just make smarter food choices…” (mentally fist-bumps myself) 

“….but maybe, just maybe… my skin would clear up and the inflammation would subside…?”

This. I just cycle endlessly through seemingly pointless thoughts. Do I need to make changes? Am I over thinking this?

My husband thinks I overthink everything. He’s probably right…

I met with my son’s teacher on Thursday. He’s scoring on the low end of the scale when it comes to reading. His writing output is terrible. Socially, he struggles. And last year we had a time period when he was depressed and talked about suicide on the daily. There was one incident where he pulled a kitchen knife out of the drawer, held it to his throat, and screamed at us that he was going to kill himself. As a mother, it shook me to my core. What am I doing wrong? What could I be doing more of? I wanted to hug him and put his broken heart back together. I went to him, pulled him in tight, and he punched me repeatedly. He didn’t want to be held – he wanted space. He was so angry and sad. All I could do was cry with him.

We saught help from a paediatrician, who ran some tests and diagnosed him as ADHD-IA (inattention) and GAD, which Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Along with this, his bloodwork showed a severe Vitamin D deficiency – this can affect mood. Basically he lacks the attention, and focus, and he feels anxiety when the pressure to perform presents itself. Meaning his self esteem is shot, he fears failing – therefore won’t try. He can’t stand to lose, and he gets VERY overwhelmed when he doesn’t understand something or gets it wrong. The teacher noticed that he’s been “off” and his academics are suffering. We met with the Special Education teacher who has also been working with him for the last few years. We discussed things we needed to work on, and possible suggestions to help him work on organizational skills and writing.

The hardest thing to hear was how his social skills are lacking. As an 8 year old – your social life IS life. He gets picked last, the kids make fun of him, and he gets into fights with other kids. My heart. I know he’s awkward, and can be explosive. But he’s also just the sweetest boy.

He’s so sentimental and cuddly. He’s helpful and passionate. He loves to help his little sister, and he loves to just hang with mom. And he says just the sweetest things.

“Mom, I don’t need money to be rich. I’m already rich – rich with love and family…”

Ugh. My hearrrrrrrt.

I wish the world could see him through my eyes. But I know they can’t. And they won’t. That’s the reality of life. All I can do is teach him the basic fundamentals of life: how to do your laundry, pay bills, make a good meal, be respectful, and maybe how throw a right hook.

As I sit here sipping my now-cold coffee, I wonder: maybe there is more I could do, as a mother and wife and friend. Maybe I could do better by my son, and help him be more successful and happy. Am I doing all that I can? Should I be home with him more? Did my divorce mess him up that much? Does he need more counselling? Maybe a tutor?

Maybe, just maybe, he’s going to be fine. And being an 8 year old is hard, after all. But all we can do is love them, guide them, and be here when they need us.

And maybe, I am overthinking this.

(Don’t tell my husband that 😉)