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A Love Letter to You, Moms and Dads

As my ADHD daughter nears her teen years, the challenges morph from physical to emotional exhaustion.

February 12, 2012 marks the ninth anniversary of my daughter Natalie’s adoption, and the beginning of the most challenging years of my life.

Nat was 2 and a half when we brought her home from an orphanage in Russia. Within days of coming home, we began the ongoing process of evaluating, treating, “therapizing,” and teaching that helped her grow into the fabulous tween girl she is today. Her struggles, and mine as her mother, are far from over, but the way those struggles are expressed, and the way they impact Natalie, me, and our family have clearly changed.

Last year, I wrote that, after 8 years, I finally felt like I was going to survive the experience of being Natalie’s mother. At age ten, Natalie had reached the point where I didn’t have to supervise her as closely as a curious, energetic toddler. In the year since, she’s become able to entertain herself for much longer periods of time, and hyperactivity has become a non-issue. I am less overwhelmed. I rarely reach the level of exhaustion that used to define my daily life.

As girls with ADHD become young women, their hyperactivity tends to evolve into restlessness. They start to internalize the feelings that they previously acted out through tantrums. That’s the path Natalie seems to be following. As the physical expression of her ADHD is diminishing, her anxiety has ramped up.

My feelings as Natalie’s mother have taken a similar path. The physical exhaustion of old has segued into a nearly constant ache in my heart, with blips of stabbing pain as new issues arise, and omnipresent nagging worries. As hard as that may sound, those internal struggles are a lot easier to cope with than the staggering level of exhaustion that results from the need for round-the-clock vigilance, while living in an in-your-face chaotic environment.

Just as we learn to adjust our expectations for our children’s futures as we come to terms with their differing abilities, we can re-imagine the definition of “easy” as it applies to being a parent. That’s why I can honestly say that, as our kids with ADHD grow up, being their parents really does get easier.

Hang in there, moms and dads! Your days of relative ease are coming too.

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