In my last newsletter, I shared with you my ADD moment of the year: tripping over my daughter’s wedding gown during the ceremony and nearly flying down the aisle. That story alone took up much of the issue and garnered lots of responses from you- mostly supportive and kind (thank you!).
There were more ADD related incidents that day. Of course! When you combine stress, non-stop activities, planning, socializing, having to be places on time, feeling overwhelmed, etc etc, there are bound to be problems.
But this one pertains to my younger daughter, Mackenzie, whom I write a lot about. She’s my ADHHHHD+++ kiddo. Meaning, she has ADHD (emphasis on the H) plus all kinds of other issues, including significant sensory hypersensitivities- something we often see with our ADHD. Lucky us.
When I present or work with families, I always suggest that parents “see it coming and have a plan.” In this case, I knew Mackenzie would have a rough time with the sensory overload of the weekend’s events. So I made all kinds of plans ahead of time to help her through the weekend; we talked about what she thought would help her, and then we put those plans into place.
- Ordering foods she would eat
- Bringing a backpack filled with snacks and activities
- Making sure she wasn’t hungry or over-tired
- Don’t laugh, but this was a must: I booked a room at the hotel where the wedding took place just for her- just for the day- where she could retreat to if she felt overwhelmed. We talked about using the room before feeling overloaded.
- Bringing extra clothes she could change into late in the evening should her bridesmaid dress become uncomfortable
- Scoping out the various rooms over the weekend (rehearsal dinner restaurant, hospitality suite, etc.) and finding a quiet place she would retreat to as needed.
- The bride, my older daughter, came up with a brilliant idea: she purchased huge headphones for her iTouch that Mackenzie could wear if the noise overwhelmed her. Better, she decorated it with her monogram on one side and a glittery star on the other. Mackenzie was promised that once she was able to walk down the aisle, she could don the headset for the rest of the evening.
I thought we covered all the bases. However, one big mistake I made was not making sure she was rested enough for the week’s events. So…the night of the hospitality suite gathering, where friends and relatives from all over the US and Canada came to mingle and socialize, I was faced with a very overwhelmed daughter. Too much noise. Too many people in one room. Too many questions asked. A new dress that didn’t “feel right.”
It all led up to a major meltdown. Even after running her to the designated safe, quiet place, it was too late: she let out a shriek and cried her heart out. Once she gets into the overwhelm “mode”, it’s almost impossible to talk her down.
The next day was the wedding and I was more than a little worried. But…she came through! She walked down the aisle, all bright eyed and smiling. Sat down and enjoyed the ceremony. And probably had a good laugh at my fall as well.
But then things took a turn. For the worse. We began posing for photographs and Mackenzie, being extremely sensitive to the cold, announced she was freezing. I had brought a sweater just in case but it didn’t do the trick. She began her descent into sensory hell…
The sit down dinner came next, but by then, Mackenzie could only sit for a short period of time, eating the salad then announcing she couldn’t manage the cold, the music, the noise. Now, Mackenzie pretty much is unable to sit anywhere for more than a few minutes, and I knew that trying to persuade her to do so would only escalate her stress and bring on another meltdown. So I reminded her of her hotel room. While this was happening, the speeches had started and I was “up.” I felt torn- how to help my daughter get through her angst while trying to enjoy my older daughters special day.
Luckily, my sister-in-law, sensitive to our situation, took me aside and told me she was taking over for the evening. “This is your daughter’s wedding and you need to be enjoying it with her.” I could have cried- in relief but also in sadness that even during such a special family event, my daughter’s special needs are always in the forefront.
At any rate, the wedding turned out to be a huge success. Knowing Mackenzie was in good hands and nestled into her hotel room, I could now enjoy the wedding.
Until she came rushing in the room, wearing a bathrobe over her beautiful dress, with sweat pants underneath.
I had a choice to make: feel the angst of her interruptions and unusual dress or…going with the whole thing and appreciating her wacky sense of humor. I chose the latter.
What did I learn? (You knew there’d be a lesson here, right?)
That even with the best of intentions, raising kids with ADHD and other special needs doesn’t always go as planned even when you think you’ve got all the bases covered. At which point you need to decide: are you going to fall apart? Or are you going to go with it and do your best?
When things begin to fall apart, ask yourself: how does your child feel? He/she isn’t choosing to over-react. She isn’t happy to feel out of control. He doesn’t enjoy having a meltdown. Put yourself in their shoes as best you can and move on. And learn for the next time.
What would I have done differently? I’m not sure. And that’s the truth.
It sounds like you really planned ahead, I love that you shared all your efforts. I have an older child who is now an adult (22), who has grown through many of these challenges. He is now making his way through college, and blooming at his own rate, he is mostly able to care for himself in terms of feeding, clothing, doing laundry, driving, socializing, passing classes etc. When he was young, even up to the age of 8, he would writhe and cover his ears and hide under the pew in church when the music would play. He would also do this in noisy restaurants. This fall, he won the top award in his college system for a musical piece he wrote, after staying up all night for several days, writing music for 30 musicians, to express various mathematical relationships in music. He conducted the whole college music class to lead them as they played his piece….what an amazing thrill for me, and I did nothing to make that happen except not bug him to go to bed on time. lol….keep on keeping on kiddo, it helps me so much to read other people’s stories. I get so sick of hearing people say, “don’t be an enabler” Hells ya I am an enabler, I have enabled him to grow up to be a great human being and he is on track to become an engineer on his own schedule. (He has taken all the math and physics available at the college he attends year round. Its too much change to take a break in the summer so he takes a lighter load then.) Thank you again
Thanks for your comments. You “get” it! You should be super proud of your son and you should also take a bow for helping him through those tough times.
I love this part:
“I get so sick of hearing people say, “don’t be an enabler” Hells ya I am an enabler, I have enabled him to grow up to be a great human being.”
I’m told this all the time. Specifically, I hear: “If she can control herself in school, then she can control herself elsewhere- you’re doing something wrong and (of course) enabling her.
Thanks for your terrific comments.
I’m in tears reading this message. You did absolutely everything possible to plan, but in the end laughing is the only answer. Thank you so much for validating the experiences that so many of us go through everyday and especially on those special occasions.
I have a funny wedding story too. I remarried when my son was about 8 years old. We had a very small ceremony in our home, so I really thought that my son would be okay with everything since he had his own environment. We had assigned my brother to take care of him during the ceremony, but in spite of it all. . . during the ceremony he ended up with his hands wrapped around my ankles! The pastor just went on with the ceremony and my brother eventually got him back to his room to settle down. We still laugh about it!
Best laid plans indeed! All the best, Karen
Karen, so you have had a similar experience! And you chose to go with it instead of fighting it or melting into tears (or worse).
I’m really glad that you can still look back and laugh at that.
Thanks so much for your comments.
I would love to post this wonderful story on the ACO ADHD Awareness Facebook site Terry. There are so many parents there that would benefit from reading it. Do I have your permission to do so?
Please feel free to post it on the ACO site! It would be great if you would cite my website- much appreciated. Glad your readers will find this helpful.