Back Off, World: My Son and I Are Doing Our Best
Do I blame him for the outbursts, or his ADHD?
It was an expensive week at our house and required more math and more money than my English teacher brain and bank account were accustomed to finagling:
Repairs to eyeglasses: $25
New couch cover: $80
Repair to wall: $120
Not one of these could be chalked up to an accident…or the inevitable wear and tear of life, bad luck, or even bad choices. Each was a direct result of impulsivity — plain and so far from simple I often don’t have words.
My nine-year-old son, who contends daily with the ravages of ADHD, has been helped immeasurably by medication; however, by 4 P.M. each afternoon, when the effects of his medication have all but dissipated, he is left, as he has so often remarked, feeling as though he is crawling out of his skin, feeling not at home in the body in which he resides.
He broke his glasses in frustration when his hands would not allow him to draw the complex images his mind envisioned. He ripped the couch cover when he saw its potential as a catapult to move him from Point A to Point B. And he damaged the plaster on the wall when he made exuberant contact with a chair trying to find his favorite book.
None of it was intentional. None of it was malicious.
Because I know this — about these incidents, about him — coming up with consequences that are fair, swift, and instructive is not easy. If the behaviors that led to the damage were intended or came from a desire to harm, the consequences, while unpleasant, would be easy.
But what do you do when you know — truly know — that the moves your child makes are not born of his will? How do you help him learn to help himself? To make it more complicated, how do you explain to his siblings, indeed the world, when his consequences seem muted or, from their perspective, inconsequential?
The answer is you don’t. Raising a child with ADHD, indeed raising any child, requires constant leaps of faith, of trusting your instincts, of thickening your skin, and knowing, truly knowing, that no one has the full picture — not friends, not family members, and certainly not strangers.
I remind myself daily that this journey my son and I are taking is ours and no one else’s. The world is invited to be with him, to love him, but that is all. The world is just going to have to trust that he and I are doing our best.