Pride (and Frustration and Heartbreak) — In the Name of Love

ADHD brings with it extreme emotions. We see this in our children when they face homework frustrations, perceived unfairness, and social isolation. We also feel it ourselves as parenthood swings us up, down, and around the hair-pin turns of life with ADD. Here are the 10 emotions that humble (and feed) me daily.

A roller coaster symbolizing extreme ADHD emotions
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ADHD and Extreme Emotions

Slow and steady may win the race, but honestly I wouldn’t know. As a woman with ADHD raising three boys with ADHD, my days are a series of hectic sprints and stops. We hit the highest highs — he finally learned how to tie his shoes! — and minutes later we’re mired in the lowest lows — yet another fight at school? In between, hardly anything is “steady as she goes.”

The end result: a wild array of feelings. Sure, every parent feels turbulent emotions while they deal with their kid. But ADHD magnifies everything, and it tends to accentuate the ways our emotions dip and swell in the course of the day. It’s part of being a parent with ADHD. We can hardly imagine a different life, but sometimes we would just like a quiet coffee break.

Here are the strong, shape-shifting emotions that bring me to my knees on a weekly basis.

A summer tire swing representing a parent's love
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ADHD Parenting Emotion #1: Total, Overwhelming Love

Like any parent, we are gob-smacked by moments of total, selfless, and complete love for our children. They overwhelm us; they bring us to our knees and we know we would do anything for them: fight school principals, stare down judgmental moms, push the swing for 25 minutes straight because sometimes that’s the only thing that calms them down.

These moments might come when our child put his hand on our face and tells us he loves us; they might also come when she is screaming on top of the slide and refusing to come down. But suddenly, we feel it; we feel them, and we can’t help but feel anything but a helpless love in the midst of our chaos.

A peacock symbolizing the pride parents feel in their children with ADHD
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ADHD Parenting Emotion #2: Pride

Every single day, our kids do something that makes us swell with pride. These milestones and accomplishments might not be the same ones celebrated by neurotypical parents, but they puff us up nonetheless. For example, a kid goes to school without forgetting anything. A six-year-old makes his first real friend. A girl logs off her device without a tantrum, or a boy accepts bedtime without a debate.

We hold these moments in our hearts. We cherish them, get misty-eyed over the big ones and grin goofily over the smaller ones. They’re proof our babies can do it. They’re proof our babies will do it. And we hold hard to them.

[Read This Next: The Unspoken Mom Expectations I Proudly Reject]

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ADHD Parenting Emotion #3: Worry

We don’t know what the future will hold for our kids. Sometimes, we’re not sure what this afternoon will look like — meltdowns or happy faces depending on how the medication wears off. We worry that they’ll need to be on medication for their whole lives and that they’ll never remember to take it when we aren’t there to hand it to them.

We worry they will get bullied today. We worry that they won’t have any loyal friends when they need them today, or tomorrow, or next week, or next year. We worry about their teachers. We worry about the school year ahead, be it elementary or middle or high school or college. We worry and we worry and we worry. We can’t help it. All that worry is part of having your extraordinary kid’s needs and wants clash with the demands of a neurotypical world.

steam valve representing anger felt by parents of children with ADHD
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ADHD Parenting Emotion #4: Anger

We get mad. Oh, we get mad.

There are very few things on earth as infuriating as a child with ADHD. Anyone who says otherwise needs to sit down and hold that opinion until they can admit the reality of it. That doesn’t mean that we need to act mad — on the contrary, there are some among us with the patience of saints who never lose their temper. They are not me and they are likely not you, either.

But it’s really, really, really hard not to yell when your kid can’t find his shoes, again; when she left her lunch at home, again; when he’s screaming at you, again. You ball up your fists. You feel the anger rise up in your chest. Your face gets hot. And you yell. Unless you are having a very saintly day, which sometimes we all have, you yell. Even though you know it will not help. Because you can’t help it. Because you are infuriated. Believe me: every parent does it.

Empty playground swing
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ADHD Parenting Emotion #5: Remorse

Over the course of the day, you’re going to feel bad about something(s). Really, really, bad. Like a gigantic and colossal failure that has irreparably damaged your child (even though you likely haven’t; kids are incredibly resilient).

You picked the wrong school, and that’s why he’s suffering from bullies, and this is all your fault. You asked for the wrong teacher, and that’s why she’s not getting the accommodations she needs, and it’s all your fault. You weren’t strict enough with his play on the playground, and now none of the other moms will let their kids play with them.

It’s you, of course. You yelled at him and now he will never trust you again. You didn’t bring her the lunch she forgot and now she will blame herself for her ADHD. And on and on and on. Rest assured: this is normal. Every parent does it. And none of the things you are thinking are, actually, truly, really your fault in the end.

broken glass symbolizing the heartbreak felt by parents of children with ADHD
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ADHD Parenting Emotion #6: Heartbreak

A parent’s heart is destined to break a thousand times. But the heart of a parent whose child has ADHD? It will break a thousand thousand times.

See, before your child is born, you have an idea of what he or she will be like. And as that child grows, that idea changes — but it’s still there, gestating and growing along with your little one. And when that idea smashes into reality, heartbreak ensues.

For example, you thought kids learned to tie their shoes at five or six; as you watch your eight year old struggle, your heart breaks a little bit. You see other kids whisper as your son walks by, and your heart breaks a little. You realize other moms think your kid is a hellion, and your heart breaks a little. Your kid can’t sit still long enough to take the test, let alone ace it, and your heart breaks a little. The words “special ed” get floated — heartbreak, heartbreak, heartbreak. You’re not alone, mama. You’re not alone.

[Confessions of an ADHD Mom: Truths I Share With No One]

A child with ADHD grows beans in the garden
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ADHD Parenting Emotion #7: Wonder

Your kid will shock and amaze you. This kid, who remember cannot tie his shoes, will suddenly break out some obscure fact about the Revolutionary War you realize in retrospect he must have gleaned from listening to Hamilton in the background during carpool. You didn’t know he was paying attention.

Or he will start a new medication, become almost a new child, and you will think: Oh my gosh, there he is; there he was all along. Or she will get hyperfocused on something, say gardening, and raise a crop of plants like she was Farmer freaking John. This kid who can’t remember her music folder will remember to care for her plants every single day. Every day, your kid will do something that amazes you, something you thought was beyond him, something you never imagined or conceived of. Kids with ADHD are good at that.

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ADHD Parenting Emotion #8: Joy

Along with love comes joy, and every single day, every parent of a child with ADHD feels joy. Even on the worst days. The stinkiest days. The days when the tantrums won’t stop coming and it’s raining and the other kids won’t play with yours — there will be at least a moment. A stolen one, perhaps, but a moment.

They will crawl into your lap, those little ones. They will cuddle up next to you. They will hand you a dandelion. They will offer to help you cook, or give up their popsicle to their little brother. It may be small, but there will be a moment where you feel that swell, that gladness, that wish the moment would never, ever end. Kids are like that. Kids with ADHD are no exception.

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ADHD Parenting Emotion #9: Sadness

Sadness is your lot. It’s every parent’s lot, really — but sadness falls particularly hard on the parents of any child who is trying desperately to fit into a neurotypical world where he doesn’t feel welcome. Pieces of your life will make you simply sad.

It’s sad when your kid labors so hard over his homework — sad for you, who has to play the taskmaster, and sad for him, who’s forced to do this work that isn’t really helping him much anyway. You will feel sad when he breaks something he or you or someone else cares about. There’s sadness that he doesn’t have great social skills, sadness that he can’t remember basic tasks in a sequence or gets overwhelmed easily. You will feel sad. Hold this sadness. Accept it. Then move on.

A road symbolizing the persistence of parents of children with ADHD
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ADHD Parenting Emotion #10: Persistence

And through all of it, through the joy and the love and the happiness and the sadness and the worry and the remorse, you will persist. You will keep going.

You will not let the stony face of the principal stop you. You will not let the cutting eyes of the other moms stop you. You will not let the sneer on the other kids’ faces stop you (nor will you stop and tell them their faces will freeze like that). You will not be stopped by forgotten folders, or tremendous tantrums, the inability to tie shoes or the obsession with screen time.

Screams will not stop you. Stomping feet and yelling will not stop you. You’re the mom of a kid with ADHD, and that fierce love doesn’t stop for anything. Those moments of joy let you plow through the sadness. That pride breaks through the doubt and remorse. You have a kid with ADHD. You love that kid fiercely. And you persist.

[Your Kids Don’t Need “Perfect.” They Need “Persistent” and “Patient.”]