Does parenting a child with ADHD ever leave you wanting to just run away? Last night, after another intense session of physical and verbal fighting, I would have been happy to magically disappear altogether.
by Kay Marner
My daughter, Natalie, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). So does her best friend, Harry. The two are constant companions, and so when Harry was out of town for nearly a week recently, Natalie was anxious to play with him upon his return.
“Can I call Harry and see if he can come over and play?” Nat asked the day after he got home from his family vacation.
Without hesitating, my husband, Don, and I agreed she could. After all, we kind of missed having the little rascal around ourselves. Half an hour later the two friends were destroying practice golf balls in our backyard with Nat’s new junior-size clubs, while Don and I had invited our next-door neighbors Bob and Chris over for a summer grill-out, complete with assorted adult beverages. Burgers sizzled on the grill. Fresh Iowa sweet corn awaited cooking on the kitchen counter. All was well at the Marners' house.
Until Natalie and Harry started fighting.
In my last post, I wrote about a fight they had that resolved quickly. Natalie made the awesome choice of employing a coping skill instead of continuing to engage in the fight. She ran into the house and used her fabulous new weighted blanket to help calm herself down. But this time, like most times, the fight just kept escalating.
I am so tired of the way those two fight. It’s the same pattern over and over again. Here’s what happens: Harry does something Natalie doesn’t like. Natalie tells him to stop. Harry doesn’t. They yell angry insults and threats back and forth. Then Natalie becomes violent. She growls like a rabid wolf and rushes at Harry. Harry runs away in terror. I intervene and try to separate the two -- Harry typically retreats outdoors to safety. I scream at Natalie to go to her room. Don and I either keep the two apart until Harry’s parents pick him up or we take him home early.
The problems between Harry and Natalie typically erupt as the time for the two to separate approaches. At our last appointment with Nat’s psychologist, Dr. Phillips, I asked how we could change this awful pattern. Dr. Phillips taught Natalie a 60-second cooperative game that she and Harry could play as a goodbye ritual -- arms raised, the two would lean into each other, palm to palm, moving their feet back as far as possible, while holding each other up. I liked the symbolism of this exercise. I thought it would help. We tried it once, on a day the two got along beautifully, and I meant to have them repeat it each time they played together. But last night, the game was too little, too late. Instead of cooperating, the two would have killed each other.
The whole predictable encounter leaves me absolutely seething. And this time I felt the added frustration that even though Natalie was able to break the pattern last time, the two fell back into their old habits this time, just a few days later. And who can say why exactly? Would she be able to use the weighted blanket to cope in the future, if it becomes a habit? Could the goodbye ritual, if used routinely, become an effective way to avoid these fights? This is the challenge of ADD/ADHD parenting -- getting your hopes up, only to have the wind knocked out of them the next day.
After Harry went home, it was time to try and calm Natalie. During the frenzy, she’d run toward me and pushed me. Now, with her behind her closed bedroom door, I heard objects hitting the walls in her room. I knocked and entered. We talked. Soon we were snuggling. But Nat kept pushing her fingers all over my face -- giggling, she tried to push her thumb into my mouth, over and over. Her fingers pressed down on my closed eyes. I tried to push her hands away, but they kept attacking. “You’re hurting me. You need to stop,” I said. But her anger at Harry hadn’t abated, and now I was his stand-in.
Nothing pushes my buttons more than one person in a family hurting another. My anger soared. My own depressed mood had recently improved, and I’d been handling frustration better. But I wasn’t handling things this time.
“Why are you hurting me?” I forced the words through clenched teeth.
“Because I can!” Nat answered.
I headed for the basement to hand Natalie off to her father, Natalie dogging me all the way. “I’m going to shoot you in the head!” she said, as she fought to cling to me all the way to the basement.
I left her with Don. And I wanted to run.
I’m sending her to residential care, I thought. I pictured anonymous others disciplining her, serving her meals, putting her to bed. No. I could never do it. So I’m leaving. I see myself driving away, stopping in hotels for the night, going as far away from home as possible. Leaving Don to take care of the kids. He’d find someone to get the kids off to school in the morning, to stay with them until he got home from work at night. No one would know where I’d gone, but they’d know why. That would show them. Show them what? What did I want to show them? That I can’t do this. But what is the alternative? There isn’t one. There isn’t one. There isn’t one.
I headed out the door for a power walk, portable CD player and headphones in hand. I worked up a sweat. The blood in my face pounded. I tried to escape into a world of shape-shifters, fairies, and vampires -- an audiobook in Charlaine Harris’ True Blood series. But it didn’t make my anger magically disappear. It didn’t stop me from thinking.
There’s no solution.
There’s no solution.
There’s no solution.