It occurred to me that most people reading this who haven’t lived with me don’t know that I have a child with “special needs”. My oldest son, Jeremiah, has severe ADHD, so do I. So does my brother and so does my oldest sons biological father. It’s heavy in the gene pool and was almost inevitable I guess.
So as he was growing up and I was growing up, I mean I was 17 when I had him, so let’s face it we were growing up together I was watching him closely for it. Soon thereafter when he was about 2 we knew that he did. You see, a lot of people falsely believe that ADHD is just a hyperactive child and that it’s not really a disease it’s a bunch of parents getting together to drug their children. That’s not what it is at all. ADHD is a chemical imbalance in the brain.
When you suffer from ADHD you literally don’t think about the consequences of any of your actions. You don’t think about how mean something is going to sound, you don’t think about moving the glass before reaching across the table so it doesn’t spill. All you think about is, I want that thing across the table and I want it right now! GRAB! SPILL! MESS! Oh….well, why did that happen?
It’s taken me so long to work to where I can function and even maintain an adult conversation without losing focus on what the other person was talking about….. it’s not even funny. When I was growing up the environment was very much “don’t do anything that will affect or upset the parental units” So my brothers and I went outside as often as possible and went on grand adventures to keep ourselves entertained and away from the parental units, the yelling, the hitting and the misdirected and misunderstood anger.
My husband’s childhood was much more accommodating. His mother realized that his sister couldn’t have her food touching so she got sectioned plate’s, she realized that my hubby needs a solid 30 min of alone time in the morning before he’s awake. She realized these things and made them happen so they could be happier children.
When I became a parent, needless to say, I wasn’t ready and had no concept of what I was really getting into. I just thought it was about order and discipline, being as that’s how a lot of my childhood was. When Jeremiah was born, I was a 17 year old teenager with a severe cocain addiction that began shortly after I became a mother because I couldn't deal with the stress of having a two month old baby to take care of. I also had an idiot boyfriend who went AWHOL from the navy (yeah, don’t ask me either, I don’t know what I was thinking~~) Now I'm a mature 24 year old mother who no longer partakes in ANY illegal substances. I have 3 boy’s, a husband that adores me almost as much as I adore him, a mortgage, almost a bachelor’s degree, and am on the brink of starting my own business… Coming on this journey my parenting style has dramatically changed.
Pulling away from controlling my children and leaning towards teaching my children has helped Jeremiah blossom. Instead of attitude and “freak outs” we get jokes and laughs! I have to take the time to explain everything to him, to mentally prepare him for change. He has to have a 15 min, a 10 min, and a 5 min warning before we’re going to leave somewhere, before he has to go to bed, before anything is going to change. I have to tell him the plan when I pick him up from school as far as what we’re doing the rest of the day. If he has soccer I have to remind him to do his homework right when he gets home so he can play after soccer.
He has good days and he has bad days, he is on medication (well he was until 4 days ago) that just helps the teensiest bit. I never wanted to “drug” him and only wanted to go the medication route if it helped. IT HELPS! It lowers his intensity just enough to make him pause and think. He still needs plenty of explanations, plenty of information about plans for the day, and that helps too! Like times when he sees the park on the way home from school, he always wants to stop and play immediately and half the time a big fit will ensue if we don’t. Well, if I’ve taken the time that day to explain the plan to him then he understands why stopping at the park can’t happen right then and that I’m not saying “no” to be mean.
Sometimes all the talking about everything is tiring and Daddy is working so hard to learn with me so we’re all talking more, yelling less, and overall getting angry A LOT less! Daddy didn’t grow up with me so he doesn’t know how hard it was to watch my little brother struggle by being made fun of at school, by being called retarded, and weird and stupid because he had to go to special-ed, not because he was dumb but because he COULDN’T learn. I’ve seen it all and I refuse to let Jeremiah go through that.
Words only sting if you feel that it’s a mean word. Look at the African American culture and their use of the “N” word. By using that word amongst themselves they make it much less hurtful to their children if someone called them that in a racist manner. I describe myself joyfully as a dork and encourage Jeremiah to look at it that way. Then at school when another kids says, “you’re such a dork” he doesn’t feel like an absolute looser that needs to just go away because you’re only annoying everyone like I always did. He can think about it in the matter of “yeah I am, and that’s cool!” “I’m okay with it”!
In a dream world no one would use the “r-word” and no one would do anything hurtful. However, I don’t live in a dream world and I can’t always be there to protect my son. A teacher can’t always be there and kids can be so mean. I want Jeremiah to have to tools to survive when I can’t be there.
One of the main things we did with my brother was use the word “retard” in a way that made it so it didn’t have power to hurt him anymore. Instead of saying we had a “blonde moment” when we did something silly and forgetful we said we had a “retard” moment. It was just a moment where something was “an oops” like shoot I forgot about that, dang it, retard moment! Then when kids at school said, you’re such a retard! He was like yep, I had “an oops” moment!
They were trying to hurt him but because we took the power away from that word, it didn’t cause my brother pain. They say ignorance is bliss, and in this case, I agree. It was better for Chris to be blissfully ignorant that the words the kids were throwing around were meant to be hurtful.
Our goal as parents has been to make home the safe place. All the laughter and fun happens here. Here we can tell fart jokes, shake our booties and sing badly at the top of our lungs without fear of judgment. At school we can be silly, when it’s appropriate but when it’s time to listen we close our mouths so we’re not being rude and we open our ears so all the learning can come inside! I want him to be aware of other people’s boundaries so that he doesn’t get made fun of because he can’t see when he’s going too far. When you have ADHD you tend to not notice when you go from funny to obnoxious and overwhelming for other people. I want him to have that insight so the world doesn’t beat him as badly as it did my little brother.
The other thing that is special about Jeremiah is that he shares my previous social anxiety disorder. I say previous because if you look at my post entitled “OMG I finally figured it out”…that was when I finally “cured” myself of that negative horrible way of thinking. Jeremiah is so scared of being embarrassed that he frets over it and gets anxious when he thinks about it.
I know EXACTLY the way that feels. In some ways that makes me the best teacher because if you don’t understand how it feels to almost be paranoid about meeting new people because you’re afraid someone is going to make fun of you then you can’t know what tools to give your child.
Social anxiety disorders are terrifying; once it consumes you it takes years of therapy and soul searching to overcome. Life becomes a very scary place and being high becomes the only way you have fun because it’s the only time your brain slows down enough to where you aren’t analyzing and obsessing over what every one else is thinking about you.
You get to where you feel like people “put up with you” rather than where they ACTUALLY want to spend time with you. You feel like you’re always walking on egg shells because you never know what you’re going to do which will upset someone. As you can probably guess having ADHD and a social anxiety disorder makes life so complicated in your own head. So much more than it has to be. I’ve learned so much about communication recently that it’s really opened a lot of doors. It’s changed the way I feel about life’s possibilities.
Right now, to help Jeremiah on the journey of his life, I’m trying to remain completely open as far as communicating with him. When he tells me something happened at school I ask him what he thought happened. There’s nothing worse than having a social anxiety disorder paired with lack of insight onto why people behave in a certain way. Why did he hit me? Why did she get mad when I said that? I’m trying to help him understand human behavior and that sometimes it’s not anything he did. Sometimes it’s the other persons OWN issues or lack of understanding or someone else is just having a bad day.
Then it becomes a way for him to look at that as a reason for someone’s reaction to what he said or did rather than focusing always on "what did I do to make them react that way? When I yell at him due to a combination of a stressful circumstances, a lot going on, and then he starts arguing on top of that I make sure that I always sit down and explain myself, no matter how embarrassed I am about my behavior. I tell him that I am embarrassed because I couldn’t keep my calm and I tell him that I’m sorry for getting frustrated and that I appreciate his patience while we both grow up.
This process is really for both of us; two like minded people at very different places in our lives exploring the world together. In turn, we share our understanding and knowledge with the rest of the people in our lives that are close to us; him to the young-ins and me to my adult friends and family. He’s an amazing teacher and he’s so SMART!
I don’t know, just some things about my life that I realized that other people don’t know and knowledge is power.