My Kid Will Never Play Soccer, And That’s OK

I’m sitting, happily gazing at Man during a swimming lesson.  Down he goes, and then out pops his little face adorned with a satisfying grin.  I too am beaming with pride at his success—you see, until recently, his Sensory Processing Disorder made it impossible for him to fully submerge his face under water.  Watching him do this is HUGE and fills me with delight, but, I will admit, also relief.  At six, Man was the only first grader still wearing floaties at the pool, something he was acutely aware of, but unable to change.  Until now.

 

floatiesman

 

I glance up to notice one of his classmates sitting on a bench next to the pool.  He is quietly reading a chapter book, a large chapter book, a chapter book that clearly exceeds the literacy skills of most first graders.  He is there patiently enjoying his story while his little brother takes a swimming lesson- he has already mastered swimming himself.  A pang of jealousy and competitiveness burns inside of me.

 

“Do you know that I saw XX reading a chapter book!?!” I mention to a mom friend a few moments later.  She is not surprised and also casually mentions that he excels at soccer as well.  He is a classic overachiever, and is bound to succeed in life- a future filled with a fabulous career and riches galore is most definitely in the cards.  My friend marvels at this and comments on how she too would love for her son to be successful.  I respond by saying that I just want Man to grow up and be happy.

 

Maybe it’s because I watch him struggle at tasks that most children do seamlessly without thinking, or maybe it’s because I have already sat in four meetings with his educational team and it’s only the beginning of January, but for whatever reason, to me, success for my guy means getting off the bus with a smile on his face.  I know I am not unique in this thinking, and all parents want their kids to be happy, but each of us has a different definition of “success.”

 

I began to ponder, what are we really asking of our children?

 

It has taken many years and a boatload of acceptance for me to come to the realization that, at least for the time being, Man is not going to be the star of the class, or the captain of the soccer team, the most popular kid, or the most talented.  It’s not that he doesn’t have the potential to be many of these things, for he is smart, and kind, and funny, brilliant and talented in ways many other children are not.  But his ADHD and SPD cause him to struggle in many areas.  Watching him struggle has taught me that what is most important, what is vital to his future success, is his happiness and self esteem.

 

I was recently brought to tears during one of our many educational team meetings.  I tried over and over again to find something, just one single thing, which showed that Man excelled as a first grader and as a little boy.  “Maybe he calls out so much because he has a lot of ideas about the topic you are discussing!”  “What if his behavior is deteriorating because he’s bored and already understands what you are teaching?”  “Don’t you think he would benefit from some more challenging math work?”

 

“No”, was the repeated answer.  “No, he is not bored or in need of any more academic challenges.  He is the way he is and we are all doing the best we can for him.”

 

“You don’t understand, I wept, I need for him to excel at something, anything!!  Just tell me one thing he does really well!!  I watch him struggle to participate in tasks like piano and dance, things he loves and he himself chooses to do.  I need to hear that there is something, ANYTHING, that he participates in during his day that does not pose a challenge!!”

 

I was met with sympathetic nods, but more importantly, I was told the following, “Don’t worry, he really is doing well!  He is so happy and enthusiastic, he loves to learn and participate, he is kind and has lots of friends and he thinks very highly of himself.”

 

And in that moment what is most important became clear:

 

I no longer care that he hates soccer or that he would rather build a rocket then score a touchdown.

 

It doesn’t bother me anymore that he continuously calls out in class or doesn’t fit into the profile of a typical student.

 

I stopped defining the achievements or failures of his days by his behavior chart.

 

If he is still wearing floaties at the pool this summer, I would be cool with that and I would make sure he felt like a badass wearing them.

 

It’s not worth getting frustrated about the fact that he has been sounding out short words since he was three, but reads on grade level because he can’t focus long enough to get better at it.

 

The fact that he has no interest in taking tennis lessons or doing Tae Kwan Doh like his friends is of no consequence.

 

When he needs to leave his dance class because he is too over stimulated, so what?

 

That day he sat and colored for the entirety of his piano lesson because he had no more focus left in him, big deal…

 

I won’t tell you that I don’t worry constantly about his inability to perform the tasks of typical children his age; I worry all of the time.  But I can tell you that I am far more focused on teaching him lessons that will make these facts irrelevant in his future.  I’m trying to teach him to be himself and to be happy with whom he is.

 

What are the “tiger moms” of the world doing for their kids if not teaching them to define success by each external achievement?  I am teaching Man to define success by each attempt.  Failure is great; it means you had the balls to try.  If you tried, you can feel proud and accomplished.  I want him to understand that choosing happiness above all is what’s important in life.  Today it seems that we push kids to do more and be more, what happened to just being happy kids?  When did it become so important for a six-year-old to be a superstar?

 

Success is near impossible without happiness and good self esteem.  It is unattainable without having to learn to cope with failure, and to figure out how to pick ones self up, and try again.  Not everyone is going to win that trophy, or come in first place, and that has to be ok.  We are doing our children a disservice if we teach them that they have to be good at everything, rather then just trying their hardest. They must understand that doing their best is good enough, even when they come in last place.  Failure is part of life; it’s the grace with which you handle it and the lessons you take from it, that define you.

 

He might never play soccer or tennis, be a professional hip-hop dancer, or the valedictorian, but one day, things will fall into place for Man.  His future is bright and, following many failures, he will become whatever he wants to in life, I am absolutely positive about this.  But every day is a successful one, because when he lays his head on his pillow at night he does it with a smile and a sense of accomplishment.

crossfitman
Takings a stab and Crossfit.  Success!

ADHD: How My Son Is Already Failing The First Grade

*I will preface this blog post by stating that I adore Man’s teachers, his school and our school district.  They have been completely supportive since the day we began our journey.

 

The phone rings and I see the number of Man’s school pop up.

 

My heart begins to beat faster, my chest tightens, and an overall feeling of complete anxiety fills my body.

 

“What happened now?” I think

 

I toy with the idea of ignoring the call.  Maybe if I don’t answer it the problem will go away, magically disappear into the vastness of my voicemail, left to be dealt with at a later time when I feel more up to it.  That thought is shoved out quickly and replaced with, “I have to deal with this right away, or I might never call back.”

 

“Mrs. R, this is Mrs… the assistant principal.”  I wonder why she even bothers to introduce herself at all anymore; she calls more often then my best friend or some family members.

 

“Man is…”

 

That blank is often filled with information on some physical altercation or some refusal to do his work all day, thus a removal of some important activity has occurred.

 

This same information comes almost daily in the form of e mails from his teacher, the school psychologist, or the special education teacher.

(*I will add that all of these women are lovely ladies dedicated to their jobs and helping Man. He does not make it easy.)

 

Man has ADHD and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder).  Many people are misinformed, or just have some preconceived notion of what ADHD is, so here is a very brief description-

 

ADHD is NOT:

Just being hyperactive and unable to sit still.

A behavior problem.

Caused by poor parenting and lack of discipline.

Magically treated by medication.

Something small children just outgrow.

Treated with sports or other physical activities.

Just a child being lazy.

 

ADHD IS:

The inability to regulate one’s emotions.

An inability to identify and pick up on general social cues.

An inability to filter out the input around you, therefore, causing extreme distractibility.

An inability to control impulses.

Abnormal levels of activity.

Difficulty organizing and staying on task.

 

This is just a brief overview of some of the characteristics associated with this disorder and a child can have some, many, or all of the characteristics.  Additionally, any one of the symptoms may be more present and cause greater challenges than others.

 

Man has begun first grade this year and the transition has been TREMENDOUSLY difficult.  In kindergarten he was able to have some freedom to play and roam; the expectations were not as high.  Now, in first grade, he is expected to sit still for longer periods of time, do much more class work and pressures have increased one hundred fold.  In many ways, he is crumbling under these pressures.

 

When Man crumbles, it isn’t into pieces — it’s into a fine dust, a total and complete meltdown.

 

There are days when he absolutely just. Can’t. Sit. Still. long enough to do any work.  He refuses.  He must suffer the consequences accordingly.  There are rules of the classroom and he is given plenty of leeway, but at some point, something has to give and his work must be completed.  It often is not.

 

readpic

 

There are days when he calls out so often that no other student can get a word in edgewise.  He is so enthusiastic, so excited about the information in his head and he wants the class to know his thoughts.  When Man is an active participant, which is every day, he is truly an active participant.  But you can’t cut people off; you must give others a turn.  You have to raise your hand and wait patiently to be called on, as do all the other eager and smart students in the class.  He often cannot.

 

There are social situations that Man seems to perceive or interpret incorrectly.  He often uses his words once, but then if a student does not immediate do as he has asked, he will use force to get what he wants.  My sweet child (and I don’t say this because I am blind, he truly is the sweetest, most sensitive child you will meet) sees this as a slight or an insult, has absolutely no impulse control and goes right to pushing or hitting.  He uses the method of a child half of his age to get what he wants.  It happens so fast, so quickly that even when someone tries to stop it, it often does not happen in time.  He feels terrible when these events occur. Yet he cannot control them.

 

The phone calls and e mails begin to flood in.  Man had a difficult day; he refused to do his work all day.  He comes off the bus looking neutral.

 

“What was the best part of your day, my love?”  I ask, praying for something positive.

 

“Seeing my friends at lunch.”

 

“What was the worst part of your day?” the silent prayers beg that he doesn’t burst into tears for the third day in a row.

 

“They took away recess.  I had to go to the assistant principal again.  Bad kids go to the assistant principal.”

 

“You have to try and do your work,” I explain, “I know it’s hard to concentrate.  And you’re not bad.  You’re having some challenges and we are going to work it out, I promise.”  I make a promise I’m not sure I can keep.

 

“I can’t focus, mom,” he cries, hysterically, “Help me.  Help me be able to concentrate.”

 

Other days the conversation goes more like this:

 

“Man, I got a call that you hit someone today.  You KNOW you can’t do that.  You MUST respect personal space.”

 

“I know mom, but they…”

 

The explanation as to what the child did is irrelevant.  What is relevant is that in his mind, he truly believes he was slighted in some way.  Or, in some situations, he uses his words to try and mediate once, and then the impulse control takes over and he just takes care of the problem physically.  This is UNACCEPTABLE.  I imagine a long list of parents who assume my kid is an asshole, a bully, an undisciplined, unmanageable, jerk who just goes around hitting and kicking.  I know I would be thinking the same thing.  However, this is just NOT the case.  He does use force, and it’s a huge challenge, but it’s not because he’s a bully or just a mean and nasty kid.  It is because he literally has no impulse control.  He has no impulse control in many other areas as well (think calling out in the class, taking someone’s turn during gym or music class, etc.) it’s just that in this area, other kids get hurt.  I want to call all of these parents, apologize to every one of them.  Give an explanation of the situation.  I’m not sure that would do anything.

 

I want to help my sweet boy.  I want him to feel smart, for he is truly brilliant.  I want him to feel socially accepted, for he is the nicest, kindest, most loving child.  I want him to feel happy every day, because that is what a six year old deserves.  I’m not sure I know how to do that right now and it terrifies me.

 

I wish society understood just how difficult this disorder truly is.  I want parents to understand that it’s not that our children are undisciplined or lazy; they actually work twice as hard as a typical child to function day to day.  I want schools to get their act together and begin to design programs that work for children who are wired this way.  Why is my child made to feel less than every day because he cannot fit into the mold of the current educational expectations?  We have to do more for children as a whole.

 

man1stday
A smile for the first day of first grade

Not Your Kid’s ADHD

I’ve been writing this blog for about five years now.  I write a lot about myself as a parent- my mothering triumphs and failures, frustrations and fulfillments, surprises and bits of wisdom.  However, I don’t seem to talk much about myself as just, Laura.  That’s my real name, Laura.

 

I am able to write about Man’s (he will remain anonymous…to most of you) ADHD with little hesitation, but I struggle to come to accept and disclose that I too have recently been diagnosed with ADHD.  Yes, this is the new fad, this finding grown women who were never diagnosed because it presents differently- yet so, so similarly.  But I’m not just jumping on some bandwagon; I’m getting answers to questions that I didn’t even realize existed.

 

When reading up on the disorder following Man’s diagnosis, it was undeniable that most of the characteristics felt alarmingly familiar to me.  I wasn’t just reading about Man, I was reading about myself.  Man happens to have that hallmark, “I’ve just downed six espresso shots” manner about him; however, most women with the disorder lack this quality so the other symptoms, the more important players in the ballgame, go completely unnoticed.  Well, that is, until they can no longer hide.

 

My most important piece as a mom blogger has been,ADHD, A Real Medical Diagnosis .  It stresses the importance of removing the stigma associated with this diagnosis, for Man’s sake, for all who carry the diagnosis.  So, why not move it along with sharing my own story?  I am in no way ashamed.  There is absolutely nothing that could have been done to prevent or change it.  The hesitation is simple- putting it out there means being seen differently.  The truth is that plain and simple.  As an adult, the same stereotypes that worry me about Man’s future are like giant barriers that stand in the way of my own day to day life.

 

In the end, moving forward means being willing to be seen as exactly who I am, and honestly, there is nothing wrong about that.

me1991
Me, age 11. It was inconceivable that anything could have been amiss.

When the initial diagnosis was made official, I felt a surge of empowerment.  There was a reason for some of the things that have plagued me, in one way or another, my entire life.  Yet, months later, the sheen of this shiny new diagnosis, this “answer to my problems” has worn off.  The realization of what it means has just begun to settle in.

 

I don’t want to preach to you about what it feels like to be me, to live in my brain.  There are people with far worse fates than my own.  Similarly, there are people with far better.  We are who we are, better to work with that then try and be something else.  I will, nonetheless, try and provide some information on how a brain like mine works.

 

I work from the inside out in a world that works from the outside in.

 

I literally have no less then four or five thoughts going on in my head at all times.  My brain is never ever quiet.  Yoga and meditation are my kryptonite.

 

I take in everything that’s around me in detail.  I see, hear, smell, and feel it all, the passing glance, the broken window latch, the plant in the corner, the banana peel that the guy just threw away across the room.  Nothing filters, it’s all just there.  Did you hear the bird tweet as it flew by the widow on the other wall?  Well, I did.

 

I have absolutely no idea how to be quiet or subtle.  Never take me to library.

 

Most things don’t have a designated place.  No, that’s not true; its designated place is where I last put it down.

 

You will never get a word in edgewise with me.  Ever.  There are many of you reading this that know, have tried, but came to the final realization that it was just not going to happen.  It’s not because I’m not interested in what you’re saying, truly, it’s not- quite the opposite, in fact.  There are just so many thoughts, and no ability to judge which should be kept and verbalized and which should just return to the small recess of my brain from which it came.  They.  All. Must. Be. Said.  Period.

 

I’m never doing just one thing at a time.  Yet, if I attempt to do too many things, I implode and none of them get done.

 

I have begun a million projects… I’m still in the middle of most of them.

 

Unless it’s “do or die”, making a decision is difficult.  It’s the overthinking and the thoughts again, people.  I can rationalize, re-think, get new information, hem and haw, be wishy washy, make a decision, and then immediately change my mind because of… yes, the thoughts.

 

It’s going to take me about a year – maybe several years – to learn your name.  However, I will remember your face, how and where we met, and likely some random factoid or two about you.  But I still won’t know your name!

 

I have an acute awareness of how the aforementioned characteristics make me appear to others.  This makes me anxious and sometimes sad.

 

On any given day, my ADHD can either be overwhelming, or not noticeable in any way.  Inconsistency is ADHD’s hidden talent, its secret weapon.  There is no way of knowing if it will be a good, highly functional day, or, an ADHD kind of day.

 

I am driven to complete tasks by different motivators then most.  I don’t even know how to explain this without most people thinking, my god, that is such a lame excuse, but I will try.  Scientifically, it has been shown that an ADHD brain has less dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in motivation.  This, right here, is the bottom line in either accepting that this is a real disorder, or, dismissing it as just a convenient excuse.  There are methods, and treatments, and tips, and tools, galore.  But at the crux of it, if I’m not motivated to actually use any of them, then the challenges just remain, like mountains.

 

Can you see now, why I hesitate to discuss it? That list is just the tip of the ice berg, and it already makes me seem unreliable, flaky, anxious, strange, scatterbrained, and a bit of a pain in the ass.

 

Well, yes, at one time or another, I am all of those things.

 

However…

 

I am also extremely creative and see things from a multifaceted perspective.

 

I blossom under pressure.  While you’re still asking yourself if that’s the fire alarm ringing, I have cleared the room of all living souls and am halfway down the street with them.  (True story- on a layover in London’s Heathrow airport, a man had a heart attack in line in front of me; I was the first person to begin administering CPR.)

 

I have learned to understand and embrace other’s limitations, as I have to live with my own every day.

 

I am an “empath”.  I can sense your feelings and emotional state just by seeing your face.  I know, I know, it sounds like I’m trying to tell you that I am the Long Island Medium.  No, I don’t talk to dead people, I don’t read palms, and I can’t read your aura.  However, because I do take in every detail of what’s around me, it means I’m taking in the details of your facial expression, body language, word choice, etc.  I can tell if someone is pretending to be happy, but truly hurting inside.  I can feel your pain, happiness, fear, excitement, anger, boredom, etc. right along with you.

 

I love challenges.  If I’m not challenged, I’m bored to tears.

 

I have a very low tolerance for bullshit.  I’m like the “goon” on the hockey team, not afraid to just call a spade a spade and eliminate the problem.

 

I’m quick on my feet.  Having a bevy of thoughts at the forefront of your brain often comes in handy.  One or more of my random musings are usually at the ready for any situation that may arise.

 

Taking in information all at once often means I can see a problem before it becomes a problem.

 

So why did I just take to the time share the inner workings of my brain?  The simple reason, because I don’t think enough people truly understand the depths of this disorder and why in permeates our lives in the way it does. But on a larger note, I want to highlight that we are all different, none of us an exact clone of another.  This is not only incredible, but vital in continuing to make this world thrive.  Our very success as the human race has risen from our differences, not our similarities.  All of our brains play a role in this world.  Personally, I am equally enamored with the brilliant brains that tackle today’s problems, as I am with the brilliant brains that created the Cronut and other such delicious foods and sweets.

Bad Mom? When Being A Parent Isn’t Enough

There are days when parenting gets the better of me.

 

Hell, if I’m being honest, it’s more like weeks, maybe even months, where being a parent takes every last bit of inner strength I have. I’m positive that there are days most parents have felt this way. Days when they feel like one more little thing, one more whine or “no” out of their sweet child’s lips they will absolutely lose it.

 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, that feeling like this for a day here and there, well, that’s normal. However, feeling like this more often then not, that seems excessive. I used to take pride in the parent I was, my skills, my way with my children, my ability to handle the things they threw my way. Now, I feel like a shell of my former SuperMom self—more like the villain battling SuperMom for control of the parenting realm. At this time, I am less then ideal.

 

How did I get to this point? When did this happen? Can it be fixed?

 

I am plagued with these questions hourly. The only answer that I can conclude is Man’s ADHD.

 

What comes along with this diagnosis, I truly wouldn’t wish on any parent. I am at a loss daily as to what to do for him, how to help him, how to help myself. ADHD turns my sweet, delicious, brilliant, happy Man into a ticking time bomb, and no one—I mean NO ONE—will swoop in at the very last second with the secret code to stop it from exploding. While Man was out of control out at dinner with friends this evening, I looked at my fellow mom friend, sobbing, and just said, “What do I do? I have absolutely no idea what to do with him anymore.” Her answer was perfect, “I don’t know,” she said supportively, “I think you’re doing everything you can.”

 

Yes, I am doing everything I can. Therapies, charts, doctors, reading and learning new information, working with his classroom teachers, providing him safe opportunities to play and learn—we do it all. But it comes at a high cost—the cost of my patience, my happiness, and my sanity.

 

I have a half of a blog post written busting the many myths about ADHD. However, I think there are only two real myths that require clarification. The first is the myth that ADHD is not real. Seriously people, it’s real; it’s very real, and it’s very difficult. I don’t really give that much of a crap if you think it’s real or not, but I need you to keep it to yourself. I don’t have the time to explain to you that my son’s actions are not due to my poor parenting skills and that no; he does not need a good dose of punishment to teach him.

 ADHD Wonka

The second myth is that ADHD is simply when a kid can’t sit still and pay attention. If you believe that, I’m happy for you, because you have not experienced what it really is, which is so much more.

 

For Man, ADHD means having no impulse control. Oh, that doesn’t sound so terrible, you might be thinking. Let me explain what having no impulse control means. It’s the inability to stop, think, and reason before performing an act. Any act. Especially the scary ones. So your child spots a random ball in the street; most often they stop and think: “Are there cars coming? Mom said not to run into the street. I will stay here and ask her to get it.” If they are old enough, they will stop, look both ways, and if the coast is clear, go and get the ball. A child with no impulse control would be out in the street getting that ball before I was even finished typing this sentence. Just this evening, I watched Man fill up his straw and spit it at his friend across the table. “All kids do stupid things like that,” you may be thinking, so what makes Man so different? The difference is that even after being reprimanded and punished and provided with an explanation as to why that was not proper behavior, he did it again no fewer then five minutes later. If we hadn’t upped and left the restaurant, he likely would have done it again, and again. No impulse control means NEVER EVER stopping to think prior to engaging in an action.

 

messyman
What? I wasn’t supposed to empty all of the toy bins at once?

ADHD also means having difficulty processing and controlling one’s emotions. Thus, once you have passed down the sentence, the punishment, the discipline that everyone thinks is so lacking in parents of children with ADHD, Man goes berserk. Again, you might be muttering, “My kid does that too!” Does your kid do that for 45 minutes at a time?

 

Let’s recap a small picture of what I have shared. A child with no impulse control, who does almost everything without thinking, then breaks down for an excessive amount of time over the punishment given. This happens all day, every day, from morning until night. I save him from himself, I attempt to teach him why he can’t do it again, I discipline the behavior, and then I stay calm as he has a tantrum for an excessive amount of time. I watch as my discipline fails. He will never be able to internalize, stop, and think, before doing the same action again and again. This is a small peek into my day with Man.

 

Did you know I have two children? I read recently that the siblings of ADHD kids are called “ghost children.” It is so true. At times, she is so invisible that when I realize she has been standing there, or that in leaving a destination because of Man’s behavior means she has to leave too even though she was perfectly happy and appropriate. I don’t have enough for my Man, which means that I have less than enough for my sweet Lady.

 

This has left me feeling like a less than perfect parent. How do I help him? How do I keep my cool? How do I give them both my all without emptying myself out? I have to be doing something wrong. It should be easier then this. I should be happier. I should feel better about myself at the end of each day.

 

fam adhd
Loving our Man.