I’ve always thought of myself as a great communicator, with due respect to our 40th president. But apparently, my words are sometimes less than crystal clear.
I recently picked up a box of dishes that contained four place settings. When I got home, I pulled out a single bowl for my husband’s approval. “I can live with it,” said Don. Believing I had his go-ahead, I went back and bought service for 12. When Don came home from work the next night, I threw open the cupboards, revealing neat stacks of matching dishes. He was shocked. “I thought you were just buying bowls! We’re always running out of bowls!” he said.
My communication may have been faulty, but, at $16 a box, the dishes aren’t half bad!
I don’t want to be anything less than precise when it comes to treatment for my daughter's ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
Case in point: Natalie and I recently visited her pediatrician for a med check. I told the doc that Natalie’s ADHD meds were working fine. A few days later, at a parent-teacher conference, I heard otherwise from her teachers. Afterward, during a series of med changes, every phone call and appointment was punctuated by a reminder from the doctor: "Check with the school before reporting back to me on how the new meds are working."
As a former social worker, I should know as much. I used to counsel other families about the importance of communicating honestly and thoroughly with their doctors. Don’t gloss things over, I’d tell them.
I haven’t always applied that wisdom in my role as Natalie’s treatment advocate. I assume that my exhaustion and worry show on my face or in my attitude at work. So, I was surprised when a former boss said: "I read your blog last night. I didn’t realize things were so hard for you." How could you not? I thought.
And when my sister couldn’t believe that Natalie is well below grade level in school. "Really? Ohhh...," she said, trying to square this struggling Natalie with the smart, feisty girl she knows. If the people who see us daily can’t read us, then Natalie’s doctor can’t make important decisions about ADHD medication without complete feedback.
I’m Only Human
We all answer "How are you?" with the standard "Fine, thank you," no matter how we feel. It’s expected, appropriate. But there’s more than social reticence at play when I don’t talk about Natalie’s problems. Her behavior is, to some extent, a reflection of my parenting skills — or at least it seems that way. If I were consistent, her behavior might improve. But, I admit, sometimes I’m just too tired to follow through.
My first-ever conversation with Natalie’s doctor — about beginning ADHD medication — is a perfect example of this symbiotic bond. "At this age, we only prescribe medication for a child if the parent is too tired to cope," she said. I was, but we didn’t start Natalie on medication until two years later.
Tell It Like It Is
When things are tough, saying that we’re "fine" is easier. But "fine" won’t get my family help. In order to receive support or improve my parenting skills, I have to tell doctors and counselors what we need, and why we need it. In order for the doctor to assess and treat Natalie effectively, I have to tell her about those behaviors I can’t handle, and what I’m hearing from Natalie’s school. The doctor can’t read it in my public smile. It’s not written in the knots in Natalie’s messy hair either.
Yes, even in middle age, my communication skills are a work in progress, as those darn dishes, stacked neatly in my kitchen cupboard, remind me.
This article comes from the Fall 2009 issue of ADDitude.
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