To the Mom Who Saw What I Was Too Tense to Notice
Amid the meltdowns and act-ups, the kicking and punching, I can forget—much to my own shame—how sweet my five-year-old daughter is.
“Oh, she is just so sweet,” a mom says to me as we watch my five-year-old daughter playing on the floor with another child about her age.
She is? I think to myself shamefully. She is—I know she is—but it’s easy to forget sometimes, thanks to her ADHD.
Just that morning she punched me in the head while I was trying to help her get her shoes on. I’m not sure if the punch was intentional or if my face was just too close to her flailing arms. It stung, either way. After the shoe episode, I had to inform her that her tablet wasn’t charged overnight and she wouldn’t have anything to play with in the car.
She went boneless onto the floor and kicked the ground to emphasize her unhappiness with that news. Once in the car, she declared she wanted a snack. I pulled a pack of crackers out of my purse, but I stopped when she kicked the back of my seat with those tiny sparkly shoes I worked so hard to put on her.
“I don’t want those!” she screamed.
So I put them back. That wasn’t the right move either; the kicking intensified.
She finally ate the crackers begrudgingly and tried to talk to me about something she saw on television. It was a nice conversation…for about eight minutes.
“Where are we going?” She asked me, even though we were headed for the same place we go every Wednesday morning, at the same time, for the past four months.
“We’re going to your art class.”
“Oh, and then what? Can we go to Dunkin’ Donuts?”
“No, we have…”
The kicking starts again. “This is why we’re not going,” I tell her. I keep my voice calm and steady like I’ve been told to do. I don’t reward the behavior or give in, which is easier to control than the urge to scream back.
I let her cry it out as we pull up to her class. We sit in the car for a few minutes, and she tells me she is ready now. “I’ve calmed down,” she says. I want to believe her. I want desperately to believe her.
We walk into her class, and she immediately sits next to another little girl. They start chatting away about the Stick Bot the other girl is holding. The little girl was playing alone and my daughter took to her right away. She told her she liked her dress and her headband. She smiled big at her.
“She’s so sweet,” I hear the mom say again.
“Yeah,” I say out loud. “She can be.”
We make it through the class with little more than a loud yelp and a few redirections. As we’re getting into the car, she tells me to wait.
“I made this for you!” She hands me a paper with some scribbles and lines, and in the middle is an uneven heart. Inside it says “Mom.”
My teeth hurt from grinding them all morning. My shoulders hurt from all the tension. My head throbs from the constant noise my daughter has been making since she woke up at 5 a.m.
But that little heart, with that little word in it, makes the pain start to fade.
“Thank you,” I say. “This is really sweet.”