It’s a common enough occurrence in this day and age. Someone posts an article on Facebook and another person makes a thoughtful reply. Everyone has an opinion and the prevalence of information and other opinion articles makes it easy for us to form our own opinions while having someone else do the research to back up the opinion. Sometimes, it’s something that can be easily boiled down to a meme, a quick catch phrase designed to spark a gotcha moment.
Anyway, these interactions can often have an unintended side effect. Side comments or well-intentioned arguments often hurt others. I know that this has happened to me on more than one occasion.
Most recently, a friend posted an article talking about a therapy that could help her newly-diagnosed ADHD son. Another friend – a parent, a teacher, someone highly educated and experienced in child development – wrote a response basically denying the existence of ADHD.
I’m sure that you’ve probably heard these types of arguments before. In fact, I will totally admit that there was a time when I used to hold these opinions myself. This type of thing wasn’t a problem in the past when kids were allowed to be kids. If kids could only get enough exercise, they wouldn’t struggle so much in school. Parents just don’t want to take the time to interact with their kids, so they just medicate the kids and turn them into zombies. It’s the tv/video games/constant input that is causing a problem.
I get it. I really do. There are definitely things about society that aren’t great. Perhaps there is too much instant gratification and this makes people in general unable to sit still for long. Perhaps it does seem like there’s all these diagnoses these days that seem to explain away what might have just been deemed shitty behavior in the past. Yeah. I get it.
But the truth is that some kids really are just a bit more. My kid is…different. He’s more. He hasn’t (yet) been diagnosed with ADHD or anything else, but there’s definitely times when I see a normal kid doing a normal thing and I’m just totally dumbfounded by how different my kid can be.
A lot of times, these differences are really challenging, and I have spent countless hours reading books on parenting. I’ve asked questions on forums and heard a lot of well-meaning advice. We’ve even been to a psychologist to get a professional opinion. All of these things help…and then they don’t.
All of these “new labels” like ADHD, SPD (sensory processing disorder), executive functioning disorder, and so on are actually real things. Maybe it seems so much more prevalent these days, but that’s likely because we are just learning to understand what’s really going on with our brains. In the past, someone with these challenges would have just tried to go on about their life. Were they as successful as they might have been if they had had the types of interventions we have now? We’ll never know.
It’s easy enough to say that these things don’t exist. Maybe you were an “active” child who would be “labeled” as ADHD today. Maybe you know someone who changed their kid’s diet and saw an amazing change in behavior. Maybe you know someone who “grew out of it.” Maybe you saw how “more discipline” was helpful. But unless you’ve actually gone through these things yourself, you just don’t know.
So I thought I’d tell you about the roller coaster of emotions that I go through every time someone starts to share their thoughts with “If only parents would…” or maybe “There’s this book…” and offers some type of new solution to the “problems” I have with my kid. And I’ll do this with the full admission that sometimes the advice I’m getting is unsolicited, but sometimes I’ve also asked for advice in a moment of weakness.
Yup, it all starts with hope. I start out by thinking, “Yeah. Maybe this will be the answer. Just this one little change and everything will be fixed.” Sometimes, there’s extensive preparation on my part in order to get ready to start implementing this new technique. And a lot of times, whatever new method I’m trying *does* work in the initial stages. I might see a positive change in my son’s behavior and start to get really excited….
But then things start to change. Suddenly, the old behaviors start to creep in. My son starts playing the “little lawyer” and negotiating on everything. He starts looking for (and finding) loopholes. I start wondering about what makes my kid so different. Why the heck does this amazing technique seem to work so well for other people, but not for me?
I then start getting upset with myself. Surely, I think, the “problem” isn’t with my kid. It must be something that I’m doing wrong. In this stage, there’s a lot of fighting, a lot of anger, a lot of tantrum-throwing. And I’m (mostly) talking about myself. And then this leads to…
I find that I’m baffled by everyone else’s ability to have kids that are respectful, thoughtful, and caring most of the time. I’m upset by the way that I lose my cool. All. The. Time. I never considered myself an angry person, and suddenly, I’m just angry all the time. I realize that the only possible explanation is that I am quite possibly the worst mother in the world.
Finally, I reach this point where I come to terms with it all. I realize that my kid really is different from others and that’s OK. I start to remember all the great things about him and focus on the good rather than the bad. We connect more, even if we fight sometimes. It’s not perfect, but it is what it is.