“The Turbulent Life: Learning to Hang On and Buckle Up”
My emotionally intense son sets my heart in a loving tizzy.
One of the things I love most about my son is how compassionate he is. His ability to love unconditionally blows me away.
Recently, we found a chick in our driveway that had fallen out of its nest. My son ran into the house in a panic: “Mom, Mom, Moooom.” Hearing the shrieks, I started to panic. I jumped out of the shower, still soapy, to get to him. He had placed the bird in a shoe box with a towel underneath it. This was a feat. If I were to ask him to find his shoes or backpack for school (all of which are in plain sight), he couldn’t, but he set up a safe haven for a hatchlingwithout a problem!
“Mom, we have to save it. I think it’s injured. Please, Mom, what can we do?” He’s talking to me with a sense of urgency, tears flowing.
“OK, bud, we will find a vet, or a place to take it. Everything will be OK.”
“Hurry, Mom,” he pleads with me.
So here I am, before I’ve had my first cup of coffee, googling local bird rescue places on my phone. It’s not how I envisioned my morning beginning, but we find a local wildlife rescue in our neighborhood, and off we go. The entire car ride, he is consoling the bird. “It’s OK, little guy, we are going to take care of you, you are safe.” My heart bursts into a thousand pieces.
There are also the moments when that same boy becomes inconsolable and irrational in seconds. I’m on the phone, and he’s pacing around me, tugging at my shirt. Again, what he has to tell me cannot wait.
“Mom, I need to tell you something.”
I abruptly end my phone call, only for him to tell me that Dan TDM, his favorite YouTuber, is no longer going to be making Minecraft videos, but is currently on his only U.S. tour. Can we please, please go?
“Umm, I don’t know, bud. We need to talk to Daddy.”
Unhappy with my response, he proceeds to show me Dan’s tour dates on his iPad. The closest one to us is in Ohio.
“Please, Mom, it’s not that far,” he says, despite my attempts to show him on a map how far New York is from Ohio.
I heard about his latest crisis for the rest of the day. It’s all he thought about, and he wouldn’t relent until it happened, which it did not.
In fact, it played out like this—and it wasn’t my best parenting moment: “You are not to say Dan TDM’s name for the remainder of the day, and I’m taking away your iPad. You cannot get everything that you ask for all the time. Life does not work that way.” As if he were capable of understanding a fraction of that statement.
We have also had many not-so-memorable moments on the soccer field. My husband, a former soccer player at Villanova, couldn’t wait till our son was born to throw him into a uniform. He couldn’t wait to kick around a ball with him. A soccer ball was the first thing he purchased when he learned we were having a boy.
By the time Jack was four, we signed him up for soccer. It did not go well that year, or the years following. We stopped when he was about seven. Jack would throw himself on the field in a fit of fury, declaring that someone “took” the soccer ball away from him. We tried to explain that this was the object of the game, kicking the ball away from the other team in an attempt to score. He could not wrap his mind around that idea.
It became too painful to watch Jack on the soccer field. I felt as if we were torturing him. I watched, full of anxiety, anticipating a breakdown. He was at his happiest on the sidelines, cheering on his teammates. His compassionate side always shows through, no matter what my son does. He could be miserable on the soccer field, but in a matter of seconds he turned into his teammates’ biggest fan.
According to the National Resource Center on ADHD, one of the components of impaired executive function is the inability to control one’s emotions, tolerate frustration, and think or act before speaking. These attributes are hard enough for an adult to practice, let alone a child. A child with ADHD feels everything more intensely.
My pediatrician gave me a great description when Jack was diagnosed that will always resonate with me: “Imagine that you are sitting in a classroom trying to focus on your test, and the girl next to you drops her pencil, a boy in front of you kicks his chair, the teacher bites an apple, someone walks past in the hallway, a bird flies near the window. A person without ADHD would most likely not notice any of these things. A child who has it cannot shake the images from his head or focus on the task at hand.” The perspective was a reality check. It helped me to think before I spoke, keep my own frustrations in check, embrace all the beauty that surrounds ADHD, and roll with whatever may come my way.
Shortly after the conversation, we were in the car, and my son asked me (for the millionth time), “Who would win in an epic battle, Mom—Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario?”
I responded, ‘Totally Sonic, buddy. He has supersonic speed and the ability to control the power of the Chaos Emeralds! See, I really was listening.” He flashes me a big grin from ear to ear, which makes my day — and possibly my year.