When you are the parent of a child with ADHD, life is different. After a couple of years you no longer notice how different life has become. You get use to the routines. You now longer notice that your life is divided into blocks of time on the weekdays and that what seems like a free for all on the weekends is still on routine. You adjust to your child’s anxiety, take over more chores than is good for you and plan out 5 or 10 minutes of alone time just to regain your sanity. You forget that you are constantly on edge and worried that at any moment, your son may dash out the house and run down the street because he thought he saw his friend all while you had the audacity to use the bathroom and shut the door and come back out a quick 2 minutes later to find your house empty, no sign of the little escape artist anywhere so now you have to search the entire neighborhood calling his name loudly like he’s a lost dog but thankfully you find him 2 blocks away playing with a friend you never knew he had, but it’s OK because it’s his very best friend that he just met 1 minute ago (true story).
Still, it’s all part of the norm for a parent with an ADHD kid. Until report card time…
At report card time, you open that little manila envelope, rejoicing that there are no Ds or Fs and being totally surprised that there is a B along with a smiley face from the teacher. You jump for joy when you read the note that says, “your son is making progress.”
Then you open up Facebook. What do you see? Dozens of posts from your friends with perfect children getting perfect straight As and making the honor roll with their perfectly happy cherub faces smiling at you with captions like, “Isn’t she so smart” or “proud mom here” or “look at Johnny, he is such a genius getting straight As and taking after dear ol’ dad.” And you can’t help but be bitter all while “liking” the post because that is what you do on Facebook.
That’s when you are reminded that your child has to fight and struggle for a C. That you fight and struggle right along with him. That even though you love him dearly, you secretly mourn the fact that he isn’t a genius who tested into the gifted program and will land a nerdy job that will gain him riches, comfort and let him solve world hunger problems. That sometimes you fear for his future education. That you don’t even know what to do to help him so you try every suggestion possible, ending up in a helpless heap of motherhood on the floor while your child tries to explain that his brain just doesn’t know how to read that big word.
You despair and wallow in self pities of, “why me,” and, “why my child.”
And then, you remember all the quirks that come along with ADHD: the hyper-focusing, the obsessing on physical details of a peregrine falcon verse a red tailed hawk, the ability to think a million thoughts at once and sometimes, nothing at all. That’s the moment when you realize, your child’s ADHD isn’t a disability, it’s their super power and your job as a parent is to foster it. It may not manifest itself in straight As’ or Honor Roll. It may come in the ability to see grand designs or details where others do not or simply in their loving nature.
Parenting a child with ADHD is different. Because it is so different, you can’t just expect your child to measure up to a certain society norm or educational goal. You have to help them find their meaning, hone their superpower and sharpen their tools of survival. So, to all the other parents of children with ADHD, I feel ya. I understand ya. I’m with ya. And for goodness sake, get back up off of the floor and run outside because your little one probably escaped while you closed your eyes for a moment and chances are, he’s down the street, playing with a dead creature he found, trying to understand how it works.