I wish I had the energy for a decent post here tonight, but the truth is that I gave at the office today. My full-time job is as stay-at-home parent, aka chauffeur/homework guru. Today my oldest son, who has moderate ADHD, had a rough afternoon. A very rough afternoon. You see, he didn’t do so well on a few math papers last week, papers that he completed in class so he didn’t have to bring them home to be checked by us. This would have been a nice avoidance tactic except that in his rush to finish he missed a lot of answers. His teacher, being the sweet woman she is and wanting to make sure he understands the material enough to be successful, kindly gave him the opportunity to correct the areas in which he had fallen short. In addition to the corrections he needed to make (about 20), he had 28 new math problems to complete and about 50 spelling words from two spelling lists to practice. Oh..he also had at least 15 minutes of reading to do. He missed recess because his teacher made him stay in and work on the math he was struggling with. As I was approaching him after school, I could tell we were headed straight for Chernobyl-level meltdown.
By the time we walked the thirty feet to the car, he was crying. He desperately needed some free time or a nap or a snack. But, he was so overwhelmed by the list of work he knew he needed to complete that he was certain he would have no time for television or video games or playing with friends tonight. Joe has a miserable fate as a Type A personality in a brain that is not readily capable of Type A behavior. As Joe carried on in the car about how sad he was that he wouldn’t get any “free time” because of his workload, I told him that I would not let him work for six hours without dinner. I told him that we’d happily accept the bad grades on his homework rather than making him redo everything if it was too much to ask of him today. I told him that this is only 5th grade math homework, and it’s definitely not worth crying over. I reminded him that in the grand scheme of things none of it mattered. I told him that we loved him and that he was plenty capable of completing the work with time to spare. He wouldn’t listen. His mind was made up. He was determined to believe that his short life was over and that he would never get the work done. Ever. The dramatic performance on the way home in the backseat would have put the actors on Days of Our Lives to shame.
If there’s one thing I understand about ADHD, it’s that it’s not a rational disorder. It makes no sense to someone who doesn’t have it. Many people don’t even believe it exists. I can understand that. You can’t quantitatively measure it, therefore it’s dubious. (Side note: you can’t quantitatively measure migraine headaches either, yet doctors prescribe medication for them just the same and that is considered a perfectly acceptable diagnosis and treatment.) I can’t get into Joe’s brain and help him calm down when he gets this way. I’ve had my son for 11 years and, even though I understand what ADHD means for him, there are times when I completely mess it all up. It’s not that he wouldn’t listen to me. It’s that when he gets into that state, he can’t listen to me. After all this time, you would think I could stop the tantrum or curb it just by knowing how to handle it. But, I can’t because I don’t know from drama to drama what will work to calm him. It’s in his head. He has to be willing to let it go before things will change. Instead of letting him vent, I kept cutting him off and trying to comfort him. When he still wouldn’t listen, I became agitated and tried harder rather than backing off. I should have known better. I’ve had this wonderful child for 11 years. I should know better by now. Bad, bad mommy.
So, this is why it’s now 10 p.m. and all I want to do is watch some mindless television and go to sleep rather than write anything about what ended up being a mentally exhausting day. I didn’t do the best job at my job today, and I’m worn out. The good news is that I still have a smart, sweet boy who loves me, and I have another chance tomorrow to prove to him that struggles in school do not make him less of a wonderful person. They’re just what they are…struggles. Nothing more. Nothing less. We all have them, and no one is immune. Maybe I would have a better time convincing Joe of this truth if I believed it applied to me as well?