This weekend, hundreds of thousands of families will celebrate Mothers Day. Some of us moms will be treated to breakfast in bed, special brunches out, or perhaps delicious hugs and heartfelt cards from our children, both young and old. Perhaps many of us will be unintentionally hurt by our kids with AD/HD, triggering yet another sense of loss and disappointment, because they’ve…..yes….forgotten to pick up a card, or flowers. Or in some situations- sadly- even the phone.
At 8pm last night, my flight from NYC landed at Detroit Metro airport. I’d been gone nearly a week- longer than I’d ever been from my family before- and I returned with mixed feelings. My travels took me to the ADDA conference in Orlando, where I’d presented on “Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD”, then on to NYC, where I’d been part of a media event to discuss the FDA approval of a new AD/HD med- a patch called Daytrana.
Those of you who are mothers of children with AD/HD, might understand this mixed bag of guilt and relief I was struggling with. Though I knew my AD/HHHHD daughter was in good hands during my travels, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times she’d forgotten her lunch money. Or if she’d remembered to shower and brush her teeth. I worried about what papers from school got lost.
In the back of my mind during this time away, I knew that Mothers Day was inching up and I couldn’t help but think- am I glad to be away from home? Away from the daily stresses of raising a child with AD/HD (and in my case, other significant special needs?). The combination of guilt and relief nearly consumed me. So I decided to take the opportunity- Mother’s Day- to reflect on this and share them with you. Perhaps you will relate.
I personally don’t believe that mothers get enough positive feedback or support for the challenges they face on a daily basis in raising their kids with AD/HD. Or even without AD/HD, for that matter! Here’s a sample of a typical day of parenting my daughter, Mackenzie. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
It’s 7am. My daughter, a poor sleeper, has already been awake for 1 ½ hours. Luckily, my husband, also an early riser, has made sure she’s taken her meds and has gotten some breakfast into her. The bus is here. My daughter races through the house looking for her shoes, runs out without her jacket, runs back in to find her backpack, but still forgets her jacket. Mind you, we already have systems in place for all of her things to be in ONE spot so this doesn’t happen on a daily basis. Yet, it still does.
7:30am I have her IEP sitting on my desk to sign. It took 6 months to get it right, yet I still haven’t signed it because I forgot to add a goal/objective that I think is important for her school success. Do I sign it anyway? Or make the teachers crazy with my new concerns?
1:00pm I email her teachers, to check in to see how things are going. This is a weekly ritual. Without it, I wouldn’t have much of a clue as to how she’s doing. Why? Mackenzie also has a language impairment on top of her memory issues and AD/HD, which makes it hard for her to relate to me what her day was like, or what work she is doing. Or what materials she may need to bring to school.
1:30 I find out from one teacher that she’s having significant difficulties remembering to bring her papers and book to class. That triggers me to check and see how many pills she has left in the medicine cabinet. I’m horrified- we’re down to two doses. I call her doc to get refills and pray she’s in the office.
3:00pm School lets out. Where are the papers for me to sign? They are already lost. I ask how her day went and already physically and emotionally spent from “keeping it together” for seven hours, she stomps out of the kitchen, and promptly attaches herself to her computer to unwind from the stresses of her day. Study after study suggests that kids spend too much time hooked up to gadgets; they need to be outside playing and getting exercise. Guilt hits. Yet…as a severely hyperactive child, she moves more in one hour than most do in 3 days.
5pm. Time to figure out dinner. Wait, did I mention that I, too have AD/HD and find planning daily dinners almost impossible? Add to the mix an AD/HD child (or two or three), and your meal choices are extremely limited. Some kids could eat cold cereal every night and be perfectly happy. As mothers, we feel compelled to fit the perfect mom mold, and try to conjure up ways to give our picky eaters foods that are healthy. Mackenzie, like most kids with AD/HD, is exceptionally picky. My guilt buttons are pushed again as I serve yet another dinner of macaroni and cheese for her, with a side of peas. She refuses the peas- again- but fortunately, agrees to a piece of fresh fruit. I’ve been given a small emotional reprieve for this one bit of healthy food I’ve been able to get her to consume.
7pm. I go through her schoolbag, searching for the VIPs (very important papers) from school. My hands get slimed from the half eaten snacks floating around in that canvas sack. Papers are fist- crumbled, laying on the bottom. I pull them out and find that two are already overdue for my signatures. The good news is…no homework! I’d insisted at her recent IEP that all homework be completed in school. Getting my child to do homework after spending her whole day working so hard, became impossible. Hovering over her every day only created tension and anger between us. Unlike most children, she does not typically or consistently learn from the consequences of her behaviors. So, getting Es from incomplete homework does not motivate her to do it at home. The school staff told me that I was enabling her by not enforcing homework. But they don’t live with this child. She simply cannot DO it at home. To me, having a healthy and positive relationship with her was far more important than World War Homework on a daily basis. My IEP team was furious with me, but I didn’t budge.
9pm Bedtime routine begins. We use reminders. We use schedules. We rarely ever change routines, knowing how difficult it is for her to get back on schedule once it’s been changed. Even for a day. Yet, as every night before, there is the complaining, dawdling, “just one more TV show, mom”, and worse….the mood swings. Transitions from free time to bedtime are horrific, even with gentle transitions INTO transitions.
Tonight is Shower Night. Now most girls her age no longer need reminders to watch their hygiene. Mine needs cajoling. We are both already completely spent by the stresses of the day. Yet they still aren’t over. Again, she does not always learn from the consequences of her behavior and could care less if she goes a week without showering.
10:30pm Her bedtime meds have long ago kicked in (insomnia is seen frequently with AD/HD kids and they aren’t always due to the stimulants taken much earlier in the day). She’s hobbling around in a stupor, so exhausted, yet her body and mind still can’t shut down. I ignore her, knowing that when she’s tired enough, she WILL go to bed. But I’m wrong. Again. She gets distracted, impulsive and can’t force herself to call it a night. I need to intervene yet again.
11pm She is asleep. For the first time since 3pm, I am off duty. But MY mind doesn’t shut down for a few more hours yet, because *I* need some down time that is not interrupted by the chaos of raising a child with AD/HD.
Mother’s Day is just around the corner. We’ll go out for brunch and I’ll observe the elated moms, with their brood showering them with attention and gifts. Some have stories much more complicated and difficult than mine, but I’ll still wrestle with the mixture of guilt and happiness, thinking- am I a good enough mother for this very needy and challenging child?