"Maybe I should cut off Hadley from dance, Girl Scouts, and playdates. That will limit the number of people who can become frustrated with her. But what of those who might bring out the best in her?"
by Sarah Kaczmarek
Last week, we took one step forward. Then ten steps back. Followed by a shuffle in the right direction. I hope.
Just as Hadley's updated sticker chart began gaining traction, and she was earning 50 - 75% of her daily sticker, Wham-o! I'm blindsided by Hadley's suspension from daycare. A kindergartener suspended?
It turns out she was upset and inconsolable to the point of turning aggressive. I've not witnessed Hadley's behavior turn violent before, and it concerned me.
In the weeks leading up to this episode, Hadley was enjoying school and sharing more about her day with us. In fact, I e-mailed her teacher just days before thanking her for not giving up, and she replied saying Hadley was improving in the classroom.
In addition, I’ve recently become co-coordinator for a CHADD-associated support group. I spoke to a gathering of parents about advocating for our kids and for change. Things were going well for us. Then, the very next day, this happens.
I do not disagree that Hadley’s reaction at daycare was out of line. She needed an immediate consequence, of course. But on the other hand, how can I get Hadley's before- and after-school program to recognize that suspension has sparked the opposite of their intended effect?
Hadley's now reverted back to earning zero stickers. She asked me, "If I keep getting in trouble, do I not have to go back to daycare or school?" How do I get her caregivers to see that their punishment has set back both Hadley and her teacher’s efforts in the classroom?
One silver lining: Hadley was able to express to me why she got so angry. For her, this is a victory. She tells me she feels like she never wins at anything. I agree. I now know how it feels to work ten times harder yet celebrate half the successes as everyone else. It stinks.
We talk about ways to handle these situations going forward. Inside this is breaking my heart. In private, I am crying. I can’t fix this. I can’t make it go away.
Suddenly I'm feeling like most parents with ADHD children do: alone. I'm mad, frustrated, and wonder whether everything I’ve done up until now has even mattered. Is this what we have to look forward to for the next 13 years of school?
Parents and caregivers don’t really understand that Hadley really, truly does not "know better." How can I explain her behavior without sounding like I’m making excuses? How do I balance making concessions for her ADHD, with the reality of what she will always face; and teach her how to work through her challenges?
Daycare and school aren't the only places where Hadley is misunderstood. I'm irrationally thinking that maybe I should cut her off from the world just to protect her - she can quit dance, Girl Scouts, and playdates. She still has art, and that is where she excels. That will limit the number of people who can become mad or frustrated with her. But what of those who might bring out the best in her?
After several days feeling conflicted and sad, I circle back to advocacy. For my child’s sake I will not give up. If her daycare program does not have adequate information on ADHD and behavior strategies, I will bring it to them. At the same time, I will continue to teach Hadley how to work through her frustration rather than act it out.
I will promote change and understanding, one day at a time.