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“The Only Parental Expectation That Matters? My Child’s Joy”

“Considering that we named him Race, I should have anticipated some intensity and drive in the kid. But his energy and behaviors continue to dwarf and disarm all my parenting knowledge and resources.”

On a recent warm day, I glanced out our kitchen window to see my 8-year-old son, Race, lying in our backyard. He was peacefully watching a bird nest we had recently discovered near the rafters of our roof.

Amidst a busy Friday afternoon, the sight reminded me to take a deep breath and let the moment soak in.

When we first noticed the nest, it held four tiny eggs, and our family had since been watching for any signs of new life hatching. It was fascinating to me how the mama bird guarded her nest ever so protectively, swooping down when she felt her eggs were threatened. We also marveled at her patience as she sat hours on end, providing warmth and nourishment to help her babies thrive. With four young children of my own, I could relate to her protective instinct and desire to nurture.

The Little Lone Bird

Of all my children, Race was the most intrigued by this miracle of nature. He and my husband monitored the nest together from a safe distance as to not disturb the little bird family.

Recently, three of the four eggs had hatched. The three newborns appeared so vulnerable, with no fluffy feathers yet to keep them warm, and their mouths wide open, dependent on their mother to drop food into them.

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While the rest of us were captivated by the chicks, Race’s thoughts lingered on the lone egg. He expressed concern, wondering why it hadn’t hatched with the others, and what would happen if it didn’t.

Race’s questions resonated deeply in my heart as I realized how I’d felt many of the same concerns as a parent — concerns about safety, provision, and the future.

I thought about how that mama bird might feel, fearful that her baby wouldn’t make it. Maybe she felt guilty that she didn’t give it as much time and care as she did with the others, or that everything depended on her, and she had somehow failed. Those feelings describe a burden with which I’ve become all too familiar, and I think many can relate to my story.

The Best Laid Plans

Prior to becoming a mom, I was told parenting is full of surprises. I have absolutely found this to be true. For the last eight years, parenting has been nothing like I imagined. My plan was to have two girls who played house with dolls and followed all the rules — you know, a bit like myself.

[Read: Throw Out Everything You Assumed About Parenthood]

I remember panicking when our ultrasound showed a boy. I didn’t know what to do with a boy! (I still don’t.) But when I saw that precious miracle with dimples looking back at me, I saw a piece of my heart outside my body. Caring for a baby quickly revealed a love inside of myself I didn’t even know was possible. I felt like God had entrusted me with such a gift, and I was determined to take good care of His gift.

He would have play dates, organic applesauce, and only watch Baby Einstein. My plan seemed to be working… until it wasn’t.

I still remember my exact words to a friend the day before Race turned 18 months old. “He is such an angel. I get so angry when other babies are mean to him and take toys and stuff from him.”

The next day, I witnessed my little angel take a toy from another child and run.

He’s still running, and trailing behind him are all my expectations of parenting.

Soaring Beyond My Expectations

Considering that we named him Race, I should have anticipated some intensity and drive in the kid. But his energy level and behaviors continue to dwarf and disarm all my parenting knowledge and resources.

We’ve read the books. We’ve tried the rewards and consequences. All. The. Things. We talked to experts. And I’ve prayed. Oh, how I’ve prayed. Any parent knows how heartbreaking it is to see your child struggle and not be able to help them.

A couple years ago, Race was officially diagnosed with ADHD. The diagnosis was not a surprise, and it actually brought some relief. I let go of the blame I was placing on myself and my husband for all the mistakes I felt we’d made. Instead of seeing Race and his behaviors as a problem to be fixed, my perspective shifted. I now see my son for who he is: an amazing child with his own unique strengths and weaknesses.

I’m starting to believe his energy, passion, and leadership will be used in positive ways. Maybe, most importantly, I’ve stopped comparing him to others. His development may take a different route than that of other kids his age, and that’s OK.

And about that bird nest in our backyard — the last time we peeked in, four little chicks were nestled inside. Since then, those four chicks have learned to fly and have left our backyard, soaring to adventures. I’m confident my four children will do the same.

Parental Expectations and ADHD: Next Steps

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