“We’re Trying to Act Like a ‘Normal’ Family, Remember?”
One mom explains how she finds a balance between the demands associated with her daughter’s ADHD and her son’s needs – and why it’s not always easy.
I hate the fact that, because he has a sister with special needs, my son Aaron often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to sharing parental time and attention.
Aaron turned 12 on September 2nd, (I labored on Labor Day!), but we didn’t have his birthday party until Sunday, September 7th. My fault, I was too disorganized and overwhelmed to get invitations out in time for a timely party!
We had the party at Happy Joe’s, a pizza place with a game room. Just before the party, Aaron and I were finishing up preparing treat bags for each of his guests; counting out $5.00 in quarters for each boy to waste on arcade games in the name of entertainment.
“Does Natalie have to come?” Aaron asked.
“Yes, Natalie is coming,” I said. We’re trying to act like a “normal” family, remember?
Natalie was dying to go, but was in no shape to do so. Ten minutes before we were to leave, Natalie threw a fit — threw her glasses across the floor, grabbed the extra quarters and treat bags and ran off with them, cried, screamed, and stomped.
She was falling apart for her usual ADHD-related reasons:
1. A too-quick transition — she’d been home less than an hour and we were going to leave again.
2. It was getting close to medicine time.
3. She was probably hungry.
4. She was excited.
“I’ll just stay home with her,” Don said, when she showed no signs of calming down.
“You can’t! I can’t leave the kids alone at Happy Joe’s and go pick up the cake!” I said. I’d ordered Aaron’s ice cream cake from Coldstone Creamery; right down the street from Happy Joes. They didn’t open until noon, the same time the party started, and my plan was to send Don to pick up the cake right when it was time to eat it. Besides, I wanted him to be there for Aaron.
“Just go,” Don yelled to be heard over Natalie screaming.
Aaron and I left without Don and Natalie; without a plan for how we’d get the cake, without knowing if Don would find a way to join us later. Aaron was quiet in the car on the way there, responding to me with one word answers. Sad, instead of excited, like he should be. Same old story — his special needs sister was ruining everything. Taking Don’s attention — even his presence — away. Taking the cake — literally, this time.
“When Tracey comes to drop Jake off, I’ll ask her to pick up the cake,” I said. “Or, we can just have sundaes for dessert, and we’ll take the cake home, and have it tonight ourselves. Nobody will know the difference.”
“Whatever,” Aaron said.
Natalie eventually calmed down, and Don ended up bringing her, and the cake, about halfway through the party. She behaved beautifully. Aaron’s friends hardly noticed her. They all seemed to have a great time. And the cake was scrumptious! All’s well that ends well, right? Yes, but . . . Natalie’s behavior still impacted Aaron’s big day.
Balancing Aaron’s needs with Natalie’s demands is heartbreakingly hard. I hope he’ll be okay. I hope he knows how much I love him.