Friday, December 30, 2011

The Best Christmas Present Ever

The Christmas season has been a little hectic here in the ODD household. If you have a child with ADHD, ODD, or any other mental health challenges, you can probably sympathize. For one thing, everything takes twice as long when you have a child who requires more attention than the average child. Add in the excitement of Christmas, and you have a little boy who is a little crazier than usual, if that's possible. Add in a toddler, and you have two children who require a heck of a lot of attention.

With all the chaos of Christmas, one particular present stood out this year. It wasn't anything under the tree. It wasn't even wrapped. (Well, I guess it was, in one respect. It was wrapped in jeans and a t-shirt and an elf hat with bells on it.) It was, however, the best Christmas present I've ever received.

Last Thursday was the day that parents look forward to all year. You know the one. The day where you go sit in a packed gymnasium on hard plastic chairs with a squirming toddler (well, maybe you've done it sans toddler, but it adds a whole new level of challenge) while for two hours you watch other people's children sing songs to which they've forgotten the words ( hour, but it feels like two) in order to see your child -- your star -- sing his or her little heart out for two minutes. Yes, you guessed it...last Thursday was school-Christmas-concert day.

Being the dutiful mother that I am, I made the requisite phone calls to grandparents to alert them to the fact that their presence had been requested by Bear. Bear's never been much of a performer, so he's never really wanted anyone other than Mommy and Daddy in the audience. This year, however, the family turned out in droves at Bear's insistence. Including Stitch, who provided us with endless entertainment while we were waiting for the star of the show, there were seven family members present to cheer Bear on. OK, that may not constitute droves, but that's a pretty good turnout for one little six year old. (We're growing in numbers. The first year was a pregnant me, the next year was three adults and an baby, and this year was six adults and a toddler. Can't wait to see next year!)

I warned everyone that they shouldn't expect too much from Bear's performance. In the past it has been a little lackluster. Perhaps lackluster isn't the right word. Non-existent is perhaps more accurate. You see, an unmedicated little boy with severe ADHD doesn't have the patience or the attention span to learn a song, especially not a song with hand gestures. (And what good kindergarten performance doesn't include hand gestures?) Put this same little boy on stage and what do you get? Well, let's put it this way. I took a lot of pictures at last year's performance, and he wasn't facing the audience in one of them. But I have great pictures of him bugging the friend beside him, bugging the friend on the other side of him, staring at the ceiling, staring at the floor, checking out what's going on behind him...anything other than what he was supposed to be doing.

This year I anticipated the same thing, despite the fact that he's now on ADHD medication. Given the anxiety issues that he's had this year, I would have been happy just to see him get up on stage. He was really excited about being in the concert, but that doesn't mean anything. He can talk a good talk about something he's excited about doing, but then often backs out when the time comes. We've learned not to let our expectations get ahead of us, because then we're disappointed. Not with him, mind you. He does the best he can, and we know that. But constantly anticipating a good day, a fun day, a big breakthrough...or whatever it is you're anticipating...and then being disappointed is emotionally exhausting.

Despite my cautious pessimism (less exhausting than cautious optimism), I grabbed the camera on my way out the door, thinking to record Bear's performance for TheODDDad. (TheODDDad works an hour away, so being there wasn't an option for him.) Now, I should tell you that I've never recorded one of these before, so why I decided to this time is a mystery -- but I'm glad I did. (Do you see where this is going yet?)

When it was time for Bear's class to perform, I scooted up to the front of the gym to sit on the floor with the other parents who were recording the performance. Out walked the kids, with Bear first in line. He walked to his spot, knelt down, and looked at his teacher for direction. I waited for him to wiggle. He didn't wiggle. The music started. I waited for him to look lost. He didn't look lost. The kids started singing. I waited for him to simply kneel there, not singing. He started to sing. The hand gestures started. I waited for him to get confused and ignore the hand gestures. He made all the hand gestures. And then it sunk it...for the first time in his life, my little boy was able to participate in something just like all the other kids.

The song finished. Bear stood up and bowed with all the other kids.

I cried.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If a Mommy Were in Charge of the Elf Brigade

You know, the Elf on the Shelf is a cute idea, but it's really pretty useless. Granted, it's fun to watch the boys go looking for the elf in the morning. Even Stitch gets in on it. Every time the Elf catches his eye during the day he gleefully screeches "Ebbie!" which is toddler for "Elfie!" I haven't yet tired of that little piece of cuteness, but even that has its limits.

I think the main problem with Elfie is that he can only do one thing: He watches the boys and then he reports back to Santa. A multi-tasker he is not. Now, put a mom in charge of the elf brigade, and you'd see some changes. (cue the cool music as we transition to my vision)

1. No more hiding. Mommies, especially Mommies of little boys who tend to wander off, don't like little people who hide. I really couldn't care less that you're a magical elf and you're playing a game -- no more hiding!

2. No more good boy/bad boy (or girl, I guess) thing. That stopped working ages ago. Kids these days are smart -- they know darned well that Santa's going to bring them presents regardless of how they act. Have you ever heard of a child who didn't get toys from Santa for behavioural reasons? Santa either needs to improve his follow-through (Read a parenting book, Santa!) or stop with the threats.

3. No more flying to the North Pole every night. Come on Santa...that's what e-mail is for! That time could be much better spent doing something productive.

And speaking of productivity, Elfie's job description would expand. In my world, all elves would receive remedial training in the following areas:

- floor washing
- child bathing
- dish doing
- present wrapping
- cookie baking
- fudge making
- tree decorating
- card writing
- party planning
- back rubbing (I know...a back-rubbing elf...sigh...bliss...)
- furniture dusting

I figure if an elf is going to hang around my house for a month, he'd better be useful. Otherwise, back to the North Pole with you, Elfie. I don't need another thing to dust.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Angry Elf

I have to admit...Bear's been a bit of a pain in my behind lately. (Hhhhmmmm...if I lose weight and my butt gets smaller, will he be less of a pain?) His behaviour has definitely improved since we upped his meds, but bed time has once again turned into a battle. Things had been going really well for a while, and then BHAM...a regression. I guess that's to be expected to a certain extent, but it's still frustrating. You start to wonder what you're doing wrong or what you're doing differently to bring about this change, but the answer is normally nothing. Most kids go through fazes, right? Well, I guess so do kids with ADHD and ODD. At least that's what we're telling ourselves.

Anyway, the last couple of nights have been a little rough, so tonight I don't really feel like wrapping Bear's Christmas presents, which was my plan for the evening. Instead, I informed TheODDDad, I was going to wrap Stitchie's presents and tomorrow I was going to return Bear's. Not that I ever would, but sometimes it just feels good to be mean. Well, not really be mean. Just talk about being mean.

TheODDDad, being the more warped of the two of us (something I really love about him), suggested that it would be way more fun to draw angry eyebrows on Elfie (our Elf on the Shelf who has so far sat everywhere except on a shelf) and tape his hands to his hips (the way an angry Mom stands). That would freak him out, TheODDDad gleefully declared.

Yes. Yes, it would.

Sometimes being mean just sounds like so much fun.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let There Be Magic

Once upon a time I believed in magic -- and then I grew up. Why does that happen? When do we become so jaded that we stop believing in all things wondrous and magical? Is it when we find out there really is no Santa Claus? (Sorry if I ruined for you.) Is it when we realize that despite how many pennies we throw into the fountain, our wishes don't come true? Or is it simply a result of growing up?

And then the big question...can you get it back?

I think you can, if you open your heart big enough and spend a little bit of time with a six-year-old. That was my lesson this week -- that lucky pennies really do work and that magic really does exist, so long as you know where to look for it.

Bear and I were shopping the other day and he found a penny on the floor right beside the checkout counter. Being the practical mom that I am, I suggested he pick it up so he could put it in his piggy bank when he got home. The cashier, who is apparently way more in touch with her inner six-year-old than I am, commented to him that he was a lucky boy to find a lucky penny. A lucky penny? What on earth was a lucky penny, Bear wanted to know. ( I that jaded that I've never told him about lucky pennies? Or maybe it's because I haven't been able to take him into a store in years, so we've never had the chance to find one. Ya, let's go with that.)

Five minutes later we're in the van on the way home and Bear spots an ambulance. If you've ever spent time with a six-year-old boy, you know that any vehicle with lights on top and a siren is IT. There is nothing better. Period. (For my French friends...point finale!) End of story. So there we are, stopped at a red light, and an ambulance goes by. There is nothing particularly exciting about this ambulance. It isn't going fast. It doesn't have its lights flashing. It doesn't have its sirens blaring. It's just driving along, minding its own business like all the other vehicles on the road. Nonetheless, to Bear an ambulance is an ambulance is an ambulance, and it is thereby worthy of commentary.

"Mommy!!!" shouts Bear, "Look!!! An ambulance!!!" (Yes, all exclamation points are necessary. He's six...he's very emphatic.)

"Yes, Angel," I reply fairly automatically. Needless to say, the sight of an ambulance doesn't engender the same type of excitement in me as it does in him.

"The lady was right, Mommy!" he exclaims. "I found a lucky penny and now I've seen an ambulance. Today is my lucky day!" (I refrain from pointing out that his lucky day is perhaps not so lucky for the ambulance's passenger. That just seems wrong.)

I say nothing, but I smile and think to myself that perhaps finding luck is often the direct result of looking for it.

Two days later Bear and I are sitting at the table in front of the computer having a little Mommy-Bear quality time, as he puts it. He's sitting on my lap and we're creating our very own snowflakes, which will soon fall digitally on the screen in front of us. As we sit mesmerized, staring at the scene we've just created together, I glance out the window.

"Look, Bear! It's snowing!" I point out, thinking it's a fun little coincidence.

"Mommy...we made it snow!!! It's magic!" he exclaims in delight.

Yes, my sweet boy, it is. Life with you is magic.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Punishment for the Sake of...What?

My poor little Bear has been having a bit of a rough time lately. He's getting into a whole heap of trouble at school and at home, which is pretty hard on everyone, especially him. Imagine being six years old and never being able to do anything right? Poor little guy. (Note: We're hoping his meds just need to be increased. He's grown 2 inches and put on 5 lbs since July, which is a fair amount.)

TheODDDad and I have never punished Bear for something that happened at school. The school hands out discipline for infractions, so it seems silly to punish him twice. If they've taken something he really likes away, why would we do the same thing? If he did something here and I punished him, TheODDDad wouldn't then hand out a second punishment, would he? Now, that's not to say we don't talk to Bear about whatever happened, but that's different.

How to discipline Bear has long been a conundrum for us. Convensional wisdom holds that children must be disciplined when they do something wrong in order to learn from their mistakes. I understand that -- really, I do. And for most children, it makes sense. But on the other side, imaging studies (MRIs, etc) have shown that the part of the brain affected by ADHD is the part that regulates emotion and impulse control, which means that a child is often unable to stop the unwanted behaviour despite knowing it's wrong.

Bear is no dummy. In fact, the school tells us he's "scary brilliant." He knows hitting and kicking are wrong and is the first to get upset when someone else is doing it. He's also extremely remorseful once the dust he's disturbed with all his kicking has settled. The fact of the matter is that no matter how many times we punish him and tell him that what he's doing is wrong, he is still unable to stop himself. That's not to say that someday he won't be able to control his actions, but that day is a long way away. For one thing, he's only six. That plays a big part. Secondly, he needs to learn the skills to recognize how he's feeling and to figure out how to react in an appropriate manner to the things that bother him. Did I mention he's only six?

So in the meantime, what do we do about discipline? If he kicks me or throws something at me, how should I react? Is there any point to punishing him, or is that simply punishing him for the sake of punishing him. He knows it's wrong, so I'm not teaching him anything. On the other hand, allowing your child to "get away" with transgressions seems to be the opposite of good parenting. On the other, other hand (trust me, you need three hands minimum when you have a child with behavioural challenges), if he really is lacking the skills necessary to behave in an appropriate manner then I can no more get mad at him than I could get mad at a child who has never been taught to read for not knowing how to read.

See the conundrum? What would you do?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Do Twenty Percent of Today's Parent Readers Have in Common?

Dear Nice People at Today’s Parent (of which I’m an avid reader – yes, this is me sucking up because I really, really want to be your next blogger),

You asked me to tell you what makes my situation unique. Nothing, is my answer.

What? But how could that possibly be? What kind of nut applies for a job and says there’s nothing unique about them? (This one, apparently. But keep reading, OK? There’s a point, I swear.)

My story isn’t unique, but that’s the beauty of it. You see, my son has mental health issues that affect pretty much all aspects of his life, not to mention ours. Sounds unique, right? Except it isn’t.


The reality is that one in five Canadian children will experience mental health issues at some point in their childhood. If we assume, for argument’s sake, that there is a limit of one child with a mental illness per family (totally not the case since there is a genetic component to many of the conditions, so it is extremely common to have more than one child per family with mental health challenges), that would translate to 20 percent of Canadian parents having a child with a childhood mental illness. That would mean that of the 215,709 unique monthly visitors to the Today’s Parent website, roughly 43,141.8 of them have/will have/know someone who does have a child with a mental illness (that .8 person is simply in denial). Granted, those numbers are totally skewed in my favour because my math skills leave a lot to be desired, but you’re looking for a writer, not a mathematician. Regardless, you see what I’m going for. That’s a heck of a lot of parents…readers…your readers.

So if my story isn’t unique, my reality isn’t unique, my daily challenges aren’t unique, what is? Quite honestly, it’s my willingness to talk about it. The symptoms of mental illness in children often manifest the same way regardless of the condition: in “bad” behaviour. Unlike children who show physical signs of their condition, children with mental health issues look totally “normal.” Rather, as a result of their behaviour, they often come across as brats and their parents as lazy or negligent. But what people don’t realize is that parents of mentally ill children often deal with more parenting issues in a week than most deal with in a lifetime. Parenting a child like my beautiful boy can be exhausting, soul-sucking, embarrassing, alienating, frustrating, depressing and maddening. It can also be joyful, silly, uplifting, rewarding and awe-inspiring…and that’s what I blog about.

Rather than hide my son’s issues because of the stigma (oh, yes…lots of stigma), I choose to embrace it and share it. My husband and I spent many years wondering what we were doing wrong, and no parent should have to ask those questions.

Want more? Read on! (Don’t forget to read the comments, because they tell you how awesome I am!)

I'm Not a Bad Mother!
What Makes a Parent Harm their Child? I Think I Know
Code Bear
I'm so Tired of It All (Fine, you said three, but you got four because I love this one.)

Enjoy your tour of my life (and that of 20% of your readers...don't forget that part!).

Laura Wright

Bio: A former Montrealer and Torontonian, I now live in small-town Ontario (pop. 20,000) with my husband, my two sons and my dog. I’m the editor of a local family magazine (distribution 15,000) and am a children’s mental health advocate and public speaker.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Going on an Elf Hunt

If you don't have little kids, you may not be familiar with the latest craze in "Christmas." To be honest, I hadn't heard of it until the other day, but had already managed to successfully block it out of my mind -- until yesterday, that is, when Bear heard about it. Now it's the only thing on my mind.

Elf on the Shelf is the brainchild of a mother and daughter who wrote a best-selling children's book based on their own family tradition. Along with the book comes your very own elf, who you have to name and everything. Here's the fun part, though. Said Elf keeps an eye on your children in the weeks leading up to Christmas and reports back to Santa. Not only does he report to Santa, but he actually flies back to the North Pole every night while your little monsters are in bed and hands in his report in person to the Big Guy himself. No joke! I guess all that flying must make him tired and affect his memory, though, because he never ends up back in the same place come morning. This is the best part for little critters, because it means they have to run around the house looking for him every morning. (Fun!) So Elfie isn't so much an elf-on-the-shelf kind of elf as he is an elf-wherever-the-heck-he-ends-up-in-the-morning-because-Mommy-and-Daddy-were-feeling-kind-of-twisted-the-night-before kind of elf.

Bear came home from his friend's house yesterday full of elf stories. Did we know they had an elf? Where was our elf? Had we seen him? Had we heard him? Bear was ready to launch a full-scale hunt for our lost elf at supper time last night, just as I was trying to get the chicken out of the oven and the vegetables drained. He stood in the middle of the kitchen, tapping his index finger against his cheek, chanting "Where could he be? Where could he be?"

I did some fast thinking and very matter-of-factly explained that the elf always lets me know when he arrives for the season, but he hadn't checked in with me yet. He usually comes on December 1st (see how I bought myself some time...clever Mommy!) so he wouldn't be here for at least a few more days? How many sleeps? Oh, let me count. Four more sleeps, Sweetie. That blasted elf that Mommy now has to find in a small town comes in four more sleeps. Why does your friend already have her elf? Oh, I guess her elf must have come early. Maybe she and her sisters have been especially naughty this year. (OK, I left that part out because Bear would have been repeating that at school this morning, but you have to agree that it's funny.)

Anyway, now Mommy is on an elf hunt. I have to admit that it's a really cute idea and I'm sure we'll have fun with it for years to come, but right now it's just one more thing I have to do, and I only have three more sleeps.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Feedback Time

Alright Readers (all 10 of you)'s time for you to do some work. OK, maybe not work. Maybe it's more like a favour that I need from you. Here's the scoop. Today's Parent, one of the leading parenting magazines in Canada, is looking for a new mommy/daddy blogger and I'm going to apply. In keeping with the spirit of things, you have to apply through your blog, so don't be surprised when you see a "Dear Today's Parent" post in the next week or so. In addition to sharing what makes me unique as a blogger and a mommy, and I also have to link back to my three best posts.

Here's where you come in (pretty please???).

#1 -- In your opinion, what makes The ODD Mom unique? Anything? (Oh God...I hope so.) Please feel free to sing my/its praises. Loudly. If you could make sure they hear you in Toronto, that would be great.

#2 -- What are your three favourite posts and, in 100 words or less, why did they resonate with you? Too much? Fine, feel free to just tell me what your favourite posts were.

Thanks, everyone! Every bloggy mommy/daddy and their dog is going to be applying for this, so competition will be stiff. (Did I mention this would be a paid gig?

I appreciate your support.

Laura AKA The ODD Mom

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Makes a Parent Harm Their Child? I Think I Understand

If you think I'm being flippant with my title, think again. There have been too many news stories of late where little ones have been killed by their parents. Parental anger is no joke -- in fact, for many children, it's life or death.

While I know there are bad people out there who do terrible things to children, I also think there are good people out there who don't have the skills needed to deal with challenging children and who, as a result, find themselves doing the unthinkable.

"Not me!" you say? Well, I'm happy for you. Not me either, thank God, but that doesn't mean that raising a child with a mental illness (yes, ADHD and ODD are considered mental illnesses) hasn't given me a glimpse of my darker side, and I don't like it. In fact, it scares me. If I have the skills to cope and yet can still get that lost in my anger, how difficult must it be for a parent/caregiver who doesn't have the skills or who has anger issues of his/her own? I have often said that children with ODD are the poster children for child abuse, and I stand by that.

Let me tell you the true story of the events of one evening, one of many similar evenings I've lived the past few years.

It's 4 a.m and I haven't been to bed yet. Bear woke up at 11 p.m., just as TheODDDad and I were heading to bed ourselves. Given that I work from home and can nap if I need to and he has to get up at 5 a.m. to go to work, I'm on evening Bear duty. Bear's ADHD meds wore off about eight hours ago, so not only is he wide awake, he's wired. He's running up and down the hall yelling (we're in a 1000 ft bungalow, so he's running and yelling right in front of the bedrooms) and jumping off furniture. I've tried everything to get him to be quiet. I've played with him, cooked him a hotdog and made him a sandwich, watched him play video games and put on a movie, but as usual, nothing works. I say as usual because this is the third time in 10 days this has happened. I've tried to lie down on the couch to nap, but he runs in and jumps on me every time. For whatever reason, he needs to be with me at all times when he's up during the night. For the record, I need 10 hours of sleep to function properly and I don't do well with children bugging the hell out of me when I'm tired. I'm now at the end of my rope and am desperately trying not to scream at him. He's now decided that I'm the worst mother in the world because I won't play hockey with him or make him the hamburger he now wants. His aggression kicks in (for the umpteenth time tonight night) and he screams at me (again) that he's going to throw something at me and that he hopes he hurts me -- then he picks up the nearest toy and hurls it at my head. Neither my patience nor my reflexes are at their best at 4 a.m., so the toy hits me in the shoulder. I lose it. I scoop him up and storm down to his room where I literally drop him on his bed, screaming at him to stay in his room and how I don't want to hear a sound out of him, blah, blah, blah. He's up in a flash, screaming back at me, telling me I'm a stupid idiot, that he hates me, and that he's going to yell and scream til he wakes up Daddy and Stitch. But that's it...I'm done. I can't take it any more. What feels like torment and abuse at the hands of a pint-size bully has been going on for five hours, and I'm barely functioning in a haze of exhaustion. I raise my hand to hit him, but somewhere deep inside it registers that I haven't swung my hand back to catch him on his behind, I've raised it to slap him. Where, I don't know because I manage to stop myself despite how good it sounds at that very moment, but I can only imagine it would be across the face. Instead I storm out of his room, slamming the door as hard as I can behind me, fist balled in my mouth, teeth biting into my knuckles to stop myself from screaming my anger. Too many four-letter words are swirling through my mind, but I can't bring myself to tell my son to shut-the-f-up any more than I can bring myself to slap him across the face. But the slap was a close one, and so is the screaming. Instead I run into my bedroom and climb into bed fully dressed, telling TheODDDad that I just can't do it and that he has to take over before I do or say something I'll regret and how I don't give a damn if he has to call in sick but he has to take over. He knows I mean it, so he quickly takes over. Bear comes into the room to see where I've gone (because now he needs me to comfort him), but I don't trust myself to open my mouth, so instead I lay there with tears streaming down my face from the effort of not saying anything and feeling like the worst mother in the world. Now exhausted from the evening's events, a crying Bear allows himself to be ushered out of the room and back into bed by TheODDDad, where he finally falls asleep. It's now 5 a.m. and time for TheODDDad to get up anyway, so he comes back into our bedroom, turns off the alarm that's about to go off, asks me if I'm OK (knowing I'm not but that I will be, just like I've been OK every other time this has happened), wipes away my tears, tucks me in, kisses me softly, tells me he loves me and that he's sorry I've had such a hard night, gathers up his clothes and tiptoes out to get ready for work, closing the door softly behind him so as not to disturb the now quiet household. Bear wakes up four hours later and comes bouncing into the bedroom, once again my happy little Bear and having completely forgotten about the night's events.

I shudder to think how this story would have ended if I didn't have the skills to cope with Bear. I don't have a temper, I don't have impulse control issues, I understand that he has a mental illness and that there's a reason why he does the things he does. For the most part, these things help me to remain cool, calm and collected regardless of what he's throwing at me (literally). But what if that wasn't the case? ADHD is genetic, so what if I, too, suffered from the temper and the lack of impulse control that can come with it? What if I had ODD that I had never learned to control and got violent when I got angry? What if I, too, had been raised by a parent with ADHD who hadn't been able to control either me or their reactions and had been beaten myself? How, then, would I cope with Bear? Would I be able to?

Make no mistake -- I am in no way condoning child abuse or making excuses for people who hurt children. But am I saying that I can see how a parent who loves their child but doesn't have the skills to cope can be pushed to the point where they might hurt their child? Unfortunately, I am.

There but for the grace of God, go I.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Because I don't trust you..."

Today I found myself saying words I now regret. At least I think I regret them.

"Why Mommy?" he had asked.

"Because I don't trust you," I answered.

But as I walked away I wondered what on earth had possessed me to use those words. What kind of a mother says that to her six-year-old? The kind who doesn't trust her six-year-old, apparently. But is that any excuse? Should those thoughts ever be shared with a young child, even if he's proven time and time again that he can't be trusted? Or should the sentiment be framed in gentler terms, like "because I'm not comfortable with you doing that" or "because I want to know where you are and what you're doing"?

On the other hand, he's six years old -- old enough to learn that there are consequences to his actions. One of the consequences of stealing four granola bars out of the cupboard (tomorrow's going to be a bbbbaaadddd day), eating them and trying to hide the evidence is that when you want to play downstairs (where you hide your stash) Mommy says "no...because I don't trust you." Or when later that day you ask if you can play in the backyard while Mommy takes a shower, she says "no...because I don't trust you." (This is the same child who was found 10 blocks away without his shoes on the last time he promised to stay in the backyard.)

So which is it? Am I scarring him for life or teaching him a life lesson? Am I a bad mom for making him feel bad about himself or a good mom for teaching him accountability?

I have no idea. But I'm sure he'll tell me in 20 years, once he's in therapy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Good End to a Bad Week

I have to report that this week ended way better -- and I mean WAY better -- than it started.

First and foremost, it looks as if a happy resolution has been found for the homework wars. On day three of the battle, I decided I needed to call in reinforcements. It was a long shot, but I emailed Bear's teacher and resource teacher to explain the situation. I was pretty frank and told them I was emailing them to beg for their help. For whatever reason, it was taking 3+ hours to get Bear to do 10 minutes of homework, and he wasn't learning anything. All it was doing was pitting us against each other, and TheODDDad and I have always felt that home needs to be Bear's safe place. Some battles obviously have to be fought, but those that aren't mission critical are dropped. Homework is a no-brainer -- it needs to be done -- but when and where are variables that can be negotiated.

After explaining everything, including the fact that homework was causing Bear to become physically aggressive and even turn on his baby brother, I asked if it might be possible for him to complete his work at school. I figured they weren't having the same problems with him at school that I was having at home, or I would have heard about it by now. Sure enough, I was right. The work that he's been fighting me on like a caged animal is the same work he's sailing through at school. The teacher explained that she has an Educational Assistant in the classroom to help in the afternoon, which means that one of them can help him complete his homework.

I confess that I cried from relief.

We are so lucky to be a part of this wonderful school that is so ready to work with us and to accommodate Bear's needs. I know many schools aren't as understanding and that many parents are left to struggle on their own, and it breaks my heart. However, I also know that the school wouldn't have known how much we were struggling at home if I hadn't told them. It's just another example of how important it is to work closely with your child's school and teachers and to be an advocate for your child's needs (and your own).

Is this a long-term solution? No, it isn't, but that's OK. It gives us some breathing room to work with Bear and to get him more comfortable with doing homework at home. As he grows and matures, this is hopefully one more problem that will resolve itself. But in the meantime, after-school is once more a time of snuggles and giggles with my Bear.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

We Don't Need No Education

Despite the fact that he is far too young to know who Pink Floyd is, this song seems to have become Bear's mantra. (If you've been living in a cave for the past 30 years, "we don't need no education" is from one of Pink Floyd's best known songs, Another Brick in the Wall.)

According to Bear, he doesn't need to learn anything, especially to read or spell. (He does, however, seem to enjoy scribbling all over the walls of our bedroom in dry erase marker in retribution for being forced to sit down and do his work.) Not only doesn't he need to do homework, but he actually wants to fail. Granted, he has no idea what "fail" even means, but it's nonetheless what he is aspiring to do, according to him.

When he's throwing things at my head, I can't tell you how tempting it is to give in. Sure, kid, fail grade one. Drop out in grade two. Just don't come crying to Mommy when you're 25 and can't get an apartment, a girlfriend or a job because no one likes a grade two drop-out.

Is that wrong?

For the record, I think I have a bruise from where I was banging my head against that (an)other brick in the wall.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What They Don't Tell You about Homework

Have you ever noticed that when you read a "how to" article or book, they make it sound so easy. Even if they admit that it's harder than it sounds, you still walk away thinking "I can do that!"

Getting children with ADHD to do homework is no different. There are countless -- and I mean countless -- articles on how to help them, how to organize them, how to set up a space for them, when they should do it, when they shouldn't do it, what kind of snack they should eat prior to doing get the drift. These articles are all (OK, maybe not all) extremely helpful, except they all assume one thing: that your child is actually willing to sit down and do the work.

But that's the key part. It doesn't matter how nicely you line up the pencils and how healthy a snack you prepare, if your child refuses to do his part (I'm using the masculine here because you know damn well that I'm talking about Bear), there's nothing you can do about it. Well, maybe there is with most kids, but not with an ODD kid. No siree Bob. Or Bear.

Yesterday was a really bad day with Bear, and it all centered around homework. For three hours Bear and I battled, with him alternating between scribbling all over his homework, apologizing, yelling at me, promising to be good, standing on the dining room table, telling me he's ready to work, throwing things at me, crying in remorse, and hitting his baby brother (just once, and not even hard enough to cause Stitch to blink, but nonetheless). In the end I think we managed to get about 20 minutes done, but we were both exhausted.

When it comes right down to it, there's really not a damn thing I can do if Bear refuses to do his homework. Like most kids with ODD, he can't be externally motivated (stickers, charts, etc.) or punished. If he doesn't want to do something, he honestly couldn't care less what we're promising or threatening (the school has noticed this as well). There are all kinds of great programs to help kids with ODD become less...well...ODD...but they can take months and even years to show results. So what are we supposed to do in the meantime? I have no idea.

And on an amusing note, when I tried to explain to Bear today why it was so important to me that he do his homework, he looked me straight in the eye and asked "Do I look like I care?" Where the heck did he pick that one up???? And for the record, no, he didn't.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm So Tired of It All

It's been a bad day with Bear, and tonight I’m tired.

So tired.

Bone tired.

Physically tired.

Emotionally tired.

I’m tired of being abused by my son.

I’m tired of feeling like I have to tiptoe around my own house for fear of setting him off.

I’m tired of always feeling like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I’m tired of being afraid of my six-year-old.

I'm tired of not knowing what's going to set him off next.

I’m tired of feeling like a prisoner in my own home.

I’m tired of feeling like my life isn’t my own.

I’m tired of not being able to plan anything.

I’m tired of not being able to do anything.

I’m tired of making excuses.

I’m tired of feeling like I have to make excuses.

I’m tired of feeling like I just don’t have it in me to discipline him anymore because I don’t want to take the abuse.

I’m tired of feeling like I’m a bad mother.

I’m just so damn tired.

Mommy Has Superpowers

One of the things I love best about six-year-olds, and my six-year-old in particular, is they have absolutely no idea how transparent they are. As a parent, that really comes in handy, especially when you have a child who thinks he's smarter than you. (Fine, he is, but for the moment his transparency gives us an advantage.)

Bear is always surprised when I know what he's up to. He hasn't yet figured out how I can tell when he's jumping on the bed (the squeaking gives him away) or hasn't washed his hands (the lack of running water is pretty indicative). "Mommies know these things" is the answer I give him when he questions what gave him away. I could tell him how I know, but that would just be stupid. He'll figure out things like running the water and other cover-ups soon enough, but I'm sure as heck not going to point them out to him.

The other day I caught him at something, and he was really ticked off.

"How did you get your Mommy superpowers?" he yelled at me.

"God gives mommies superpowers," I told him. How I managed to say it with a straight face, I'm not sure, but I did.

That stopped him in his tracks. He looked at me for a minute as if to figure out whether I was telling the truth, nodded his head, and walked away.

So here's my prayer for today.
Thank you, God, for my Mommy superpowers. Would it be too much to ask if they can evolve as Bear does? I'd like to keep my advantage for a few more years, if possible.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Team Bear

Tonight was teacher-parent interviews at Bear's school, which is a bit of a joke for us since I communicate with the school just about daily. I don't normally have high expectations of gleaning any new info at these things, but I think it's important for me and TheODDDad to put in an appearance to make sure we look like involved parents. You know, just in case they missed that part.

When we arrived, TheODDDad and I started chatting to the resource teacher who works very closely with Bear. She was telling me yesterday (see, told you I speak to them daily) that Bear is "brilliant...scary brilliant," which was nice to hear. (TheODDDad thinks "evil genius" is the term she was looking for.) She always has great Bear stories to share since she normally deals with him when he's up to no good. Fortunately, she thinks he's hysterical, and she's right. His impulse control issues may cause some major problems for him, but they also make him a really funny kid. Today, for example, he walked past his teacher as she was teaching his class, slapped her on the arm and said "Good job! Keep it up!" (or something to that effect). Sounds like she had a hard time maintaining her composure, which I can see.

Anyway, back to tonight. When it was our turn to meet with Bear's teacher, the resource teacher joined us. (Don't worry, she asked.) About 10 minutes into our alloted 10-minute interview, the principal pulled up a chair and joined the party. We were the last interview, so our 10 minutes managed to stretch into about 30 minutes. You know you have a complicated child on your hands when your intimate teacher-parent interview turns into a team meeting. I think I'm going to get us all hats that say "Team Bear."

The upshot is that Bear is doing really well in school. His teacher has him on a program where he works for 15 minutes and then gets to take a 15 minute break to colour or read, but he often rejoins the group before his break is over, telling her that what they're doing looks interesting. Curiousity may have killed the cat, but I think it will take a Bear far.

Our evening ended with the principal thanking us for supporting them in what they're doing. Really? You think we're supporting you? Cause we thought you were supporting us. I guess that's why we make such a good team.

Go Team Bear!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Code "Bear"

Yesterday I went to pick Bear up after school. Normally he takes the bus, but being banned from taking his beloved bus for two days was part of his punishment for hitting a friend in the face for no reason on Friday. The other part of his punishment was that he lost his last recess of the day for two days. Now, before you start in on me about how you should never take recess away from a child with ADHD, chill out. I know that. The school knows that. But this is the last recess of the day, the one right before the kids get on the school bus. Might be a problem if he were taking the bus, but he's not. And even if he was, it's a five-minute bus ride. Bear is a very difficult child to discipline because nothing bothers him, so we hit him where it might at least sting a little.

But I digress.

So I go pick up Bear and I get to talking with the resource teacher. Our conversation went something like this. (Keep in mind I get along really, really well with this teacher.)

Me: "So, how was his day today?"

Her: "He had a great morning, but then for some reason he tried to run away this afternoon."

Me: "He tried to what?" (Not sure why I was surprised given recent events involving AWOL Bears.)

Her: "He only got to the front door. But don't worry, we take it very seriously. We have a plan in place in case he should ever get out."

Me: "You have a WHAT?"

Let me tell you, there's something both incredibly reassuring and yet completely disturbing about finding out your child's school has an emergency plan in place in case he should ever decide to vacate the premises. Bear does have a tendency to run away from his teachers (and his home, apparently) when things really aren't going his way, so this certainly shouldn't come as any surprise. To date, I don't think he's actually made it out of the school, but I guess they need to be prepared for the possibility (eventuality???).

What I learned is that all staff members have been advised that an announcement over the PA system about someone having lost a red bag (code red?) actually means that Bear is on the loose...on the run...on the lam.

I probably shouldn't have told TheODDDad this while he was eating. Poor guy almost choked on his spaghetti. (Imagine trying to explain that to the paramedics!) He suddenly had visions of the school having "Bear drills."

For the record, when I asked Bear where he had been heading when he was leaving the school, he had no idea what I was talking about.

Me: "You know, when you were running down the hall towards the doors and they caught you. Where were you going?"

Him: "Oh, that! I wasn't leaving. I was just going to run into the doors and bounce off of them."

And he really was. Cause running out of class, down the hall and into the glass doors so you can bounce off of them seems like a perfectly logical thing to do when you're Bear. But next time? Who knows what will be going through his head next time he goes running down the hall towards the doors.

Has anyone seen my red bag?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Long Live The Switch Witch (and organic candy)

Halloween is next week, and TheODDFamily is getting ready. We live in a pretty quiet neighbourhood, so we've traditionally driven five minutes away to a busier neighbourhood for our trick-or-treating. I do feel a little guilty about that, because it means I'm not giving out candy to the few kids who do come our way, but I just love trick-or-treating with Bear. The neighbourhood we invaded was perfect for us because both sets of grandparents lived on the same street until this spring, which was incredibly convenient. We would start at the house of one set of grandparents and trick-or-treat down the block to the next set, which was just long enough for a little guy. Things are different this year because one set of grandparents decided to move, which has ruined all our fun. I really wish they had taken our needs into account, but I guess family isn't their priority. (Kidding!!!!)

Trick or treating became a little more complicated when we started Bear on his diet last year. Suddenly, he wasn't able to eat 90% of the bounty he would collect on Halloween. What to do, what to do??? I'm a firm believer that Bear needs to be able to enjoy all the typical childhood activities, so I do my best to figure out ways for him to do that.

One of the things we did last year was to buy some organic candy we knew Bear could eat. One of our favourite brands is Yummy Earth. Their lollipops and gummy worms are out of this world! I bet if you did a quick Google search or called your local health food store, you could find some before Halloween. I usually get them at my local Winners store, so check there if you have one close by.

TheODDDad and I filled our pockets with various Bear-friendly candies last year, which we dumped into his loot bag whenever he wasn't looking. This works really well if your child carries a small bucket/bag for collecting that then gets dumped into a larger bag carried by Mommy/Daddy. When we got back home we sorted the candy into two piles: Bear-friendly treats and non-Bear-friendly treats.

The non-Bear-friendly treat pile is where the Switch Witch comes in. (I will forever be grateful to my friend for introducing me to the Switch Witch.) The Switch Witch is a distant cousin of Santa Claus. She's the black sheep of the know the one. Always wearing a little black dress, showing up late for the festivities, leaving a trail of slack-jawed men in her wake. She makes the Tooth Fairy look like a real little priss.

Anyway, the Switch Witch comes to visit Halloween night, after all the candy has been collected and sorted and little ones are asleep. She takes away the unwanted candy and leaves a present in its place. The more candy left for the Switch Witch, the better the present. The Switch Witch comes to our house because Bear can't eat most of his candy, but she's equally happy to visit homes where moms and dads simply don't want that much candy kicking around the house.

And for the record, the Switch Witch has been known to make an appearance at our house on Valentine's Day too, when we had a sobbing Bear because he couldn't eat any of the chocolate or candy from school.

So give her a call. She's pretty accommodating. We will be.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Surprisingly Easy, yet Difficult, Day

First off, I want to thank those of you who emailed me to wish us luck yesterday. Things went surprisingly well, yet it was surprisingly -- or perhaps not surprisingly -- difficult for Mommy and Daddy.

If you missed my post from Friday, then you have no idea what I'm talking about. Yesterday Bear had minor surgery to get some dental work done. Because of his ADHD and ODD and the amount of work that needed to be done, it required a general anaesthetic. The prospect of my baby boy having surgery was pretty scary, but I tried to keep it in perspective. Mind you, surgery is still surgery, and there's always a risk with anaesthetic.

In addition to the ADHD and ODD, Bear also has some anxiety issues. We think we're starting to see some improvements in his anxiety levels thanks to his new meds, but it's still a bit early to tell. With all his issues, yesterday could have gone so horribly, horribly wrong. TheODDDad and I had visions of having to carry him into the waiting room kicking and screaming (literally), or having to call in reinforcements to hold him down when they sedated him. That stuff we were prepared for, but it was nowhere near as bad as expected.

Not only did he go quite happily into the waiting room, but he also went quite happily into the operating room. Mind you, all we told him, and only in the minutes preceding his operation, was that the doctors would be putting a mask over his nose and mouth to help him sleep while they worked on his teeth. We didn't even tell him they would be pulling any teeth because that would just have freaked him out. Much to our surprise, he hopped up on the operating table and lay there quite nicely as they attached little electrode-doodads to him. He saw his heart beat on the monitor, and he thought that was pretty cool. He even allowed them to put the mask on and took a few breaths...and then it hit. The panic. The sheer "What are they doing to me, Mommy, and why are you letting them" panic.

The anaesthesiologist had warned us this might happen. As a pediatric doctor, I guess she probably sees this a lot. We had already discussed that if he were to put up a fight, I would hold his arms down while she held his mask on, so at least I knew what to do. The problem wasn't knowing what to do -- the problem was seeing the terrified look in his eyes and the tears streaming down his sweet face as he fought us with all the strength in his little body. At that moment it felt like I was betraying him. It was over in seconds and he probably doesn't even remember. But I do.

When I mentioned to TheODDDad that I was worried Bear would be mad at us when he woke up, he reminded me that Bear's always mad at us for something, so this really wouldn't be different from any other day. That made me giggle, which is one of the things I treasure most about TheODDDad. He's always had the gift of knowing exactly when to just hold me and when to make me laugh. I don't think he's every gotten it wrong.

An hour later we were allowed into recovery to see our boy, and that is another memory I could do without. My sweet Bear was curled up in the fetal position with a blanket tented over both him and one side of the bed, where a hose was hooked up to blow hot air under his blanket. He was so small that we couldn't even see him from the door. His perfect little mouth was swollen from the freezing and there was a little bit of dried blood in his nose from the breathing tube. His eyes, when he opened them, were blood shot, unfocused and puffy, with tears puddled in the corner of one eye. He looked so vulnerable and confused that it took an effort on my part to push over a bit so that TheODDDad could stroke his hair and his cheeks, too. Why is it that as moms we sometimes forget that dads need to do these things just as much as we do? We don't have the monopoly on loving our children more than life itself.

For a moment I got a glimpse into the world of parents with critically ill children, who have to see this over and over again, and even though my mind didn't form the words, my heart cried out a prayer for them. Here's what I would have said if I had been able to put it into words.

Dear Lord, please be with all the families who face the loss or the critical illness of a child. Give them the strength to do what they need to do and to face the days ahead. Please give them the comfort, Lord, that can only come from you.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Is Tomorrow Over Yet

Is tomorrow over yet? Because I'm so ready for it to be over. Tomorrow we head into the city, where Bear will have surgery to have a bunch of teeth pulled. Why is a 6-year-old boy having teeth pulled, you ask? Because his mommy and daddy are negligent and his teeth are rotting out of his mouth. Or at least that's how it looks.

Here's the situation in a nutshell, and I say a nutshell because I want to go to bed soon, so you're getting the short version. Bedtime used to be hell with Bear. It would take hours to get him to bed, and would sometimes end up in a total meltdown where we had to restrain him. A sure-fire way to incite a violent meltdown was to try to get him to brush his teeth. I know most kids don't like to brush their teeth, but most don't fly into a rage. Holding him down and brushing them for him was our only choice, but someone would have ended up injured, so that wasn't exactly an option. So instead, TheODDDad and I opted to not force the evening teeth-brushing ritual because Bear going to bed and falling asleep before 10:00 p.m. was our priority. He brushed his teeth in the morning, we reasoned, and lots of kids only brush their teeth once a day. Every now and then we'd try again, only to be met with extreme resistance. I guess we figured it was a phase he'd grow out of.

One of the threats we used to use on Bear was that the dentist would have to pull his teeth out if he got big holes in them, and that's exactly what's going to happen tomorrow. One tooth is so bad that it has abscessed, which is why we find ourselves heading into the city tomorrow. The surgery was originally set for December, but an abscess gets you booted up the line.

For the record, when I say surgery, I mean surgery. With Bear's issues and the amount of work that needs to be done, the only option is to put him out, so he'll be having a general anaesthetic. So far all Bear knows is that we're going to a different dentist tomorrow and that he's not allowed to eat any breakfast. TheODDDad and I figured any further details would just freak him out, so we'll let the doctors explain everything to him. I've stocked up on bribery -- a new Transformer, a new Sponge Bob book (you know I'm feeling guilty when I lower myself to the drivel that is Sponge Bob), and a new movie. I have those hidden in my backpack to use in case of emergency or as a reward. It's about a 90 minute drive each way, so he might need a little something special for the way home.

I, of course, have visions of him freaking out. I have visions of us having to carry him in, kicking and screaming, scratching and biting. I have visions of us having to hold him down while they sedate him. I have visions of tomorrow being one of the worst days of my life.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Hypocritical Oath

The Hippocratic Oath is the oath traditionally taken by doctors and medical professionals promising to practice medicine ethically. The Hypocritical Oath, on the other hand, is when you suddenly say: Shit...I'm such a hypocrite!

Today, my friends, I swore the hypocritical oath. Granted, I swore it under my breath since my little guys were underfoot, but I swore it nonetheless.

I swore it because I realized that I'm asking -- no, expecting -- Bear to do something I'm not willing to do myself. It started when I got up this morning and discovered that Bear had once again broken into the crackers. I had bought crackers yesterday and stored them in the pantry in the basement. Unable to reach them this morning, Bear got his Winnie The Pooh stairs from the bathroom and took them downstairs to aid in his break-in. He then tore the boxes to pieces and used his little green craft scissors to cut into the bags of crackers. When he had had his fill, he hid the bags of crackers in the cupboard of the entertainment unit. Despite the shredded boxes and crushed crackers littering the floor in front of the TV, Bear seemed shocked that he had been found out. He may be on his way to being a criminal, but he won't be a very good one. I'm not sure whether to take comfort in that or not.

Like any good mother, I naturally took him to task for doing something he knows he's not allowed to do. Not too much trouble, because I recognize that his ADHD and lack of impulse control are at the root of his cracker capers, but still enough for him to get the message that Mommy wasn't pleased.

Along came lunch time and I started to make myself something smothered in ooey-gooey-cheesy goodness. Cheese is my weakness, and always has been. You'd think that I'd be a cheese snob having grown up in Montreal, but I'm not. Give me a good old medium Cheddar and I'm in heaven. No problem...all things in moderation, right? Except I don't do cheese in moderation. I do other foods in moderation, with a large side of cheese.

This wouldn't be such a bad thing (OK, it would still be bad. Shut up.) if it weren't for the fact that about seven or eight years ago I started to develop a rash on my hands. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was causing it, but it itched like mad. For a few years I suffered with it, trying one kind of cream or another. TheODDDad also has skin issues, so we switched to all-natural cleaning products and cosmetics when Bear was still an infant to see if we could find the cause of our issues. No such luck, until I removed cow's milk from Bears diet when he was about three years old. (Not ADHD related, so that's a whole other story) As a result, my dairy intake went down exponentially and my rash improved. I cut out milk and cheese altogether for a few weeks, and my rash disappeared altogether. Huh. Go figure.

So basically, I suffer from a similar problem to Bear. We are both sensitive to certain foods, but whereas his manifests in behaviour that affect other people, mine manifests in a rash that bothers no one but me. (And TheODDDad, who has to listen to me complain.)

So where does that leave me? It leaves me with the stark realization that I'm a hypocrite for asking my 6-year-old son to do something I'm not willing to do myself.

But I can live with that.

Pass the cheese.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Boy, a Granola Bar, and a Suspension

So, Bear was suspended from school for one day this week for eating a granola bar. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but that's kind of what it boils down to.

When Bear was first diagnosed with ADHD and ODD in the spring of 2010, TheODDDad and I wanted to do everything we could to limit the amount of meds he would need. Don't get me wrong, we're not anti-meds. In fact, we're pro-meds when they're needed, and we were pretty sure they were needed, but first we wanted to investigate some other therapies that might not involve drugs.

The first thing we did was take Bear to a naturopathic doctor who did some food-sensitivity testing on him. The results were astounding. The results are given in a numeric range, something like this: 0-40 = not sensitive, 40-60 = slightly sensitive, 60-90 = sensitive, 90+ = highly sensitive. Bear's highest score was in the 500s, something the naturopath had never seen before. Bear is sensitive (not allergic...there's a difference) to a number of different foods, but the worst are soy, casein, gluten, eggs, and sunflower (ya, sunflower, and it's in everything.). We eliminated those five things from his diet immediately, which is essentially the autism & ADHD diet, and a whole new Bear appeared. Within a week of changing his diet, Bear was slower to anger, quicker to calm down, and better able to concentrate. The difference was truly amazing, and we've kept up with the diet ever since. (For the record, we have friends whose boys have similar issues to Bear. They, too, have implemented this diet and the changes in their boys are equally impressive.)

Before you think the changes to Bear's diet solved all our problems, let me be clear. The improvements were impressive, but they took us from "kicked out of daycare on day 4" to "able to manage a 1/2 day in daycare with additional staff support." From "the other kids on the playground avoid him because they're scared of him" to "Bear and his friends had a good day today." It certainly wasn't perfect, but it gave us hope.

The meds were the turning point for Bear. He hasn't even been on them for a year yet (nine months, to be exact), but again, the changes have been astounding. He went from being removed from class daily for being too disruptive to being removed on occasion. From weekly (sometimes daily) phone calls from the school to monthly phone calls from the school. Again, baby steps, but it gives us hope.

Then came Wednesday's phone call from the school. It seems Bear didn't want to do the work in class (it was a math game, but it interrupted his Lego time), so he flat out refused to participate. Instead, he very calmly started turning chairs upside down, putting others onto tables, and doing all kinds of other disruptive things. When the resource teacher came to the class to see what was up, Bear took off running down the hall, only to be apprehended by the vice-principal as he was about to run outside. The principal got involved as well, but none of them could get Bear to cooperate. One Bear, three adults, and Bear won. Classic Oppositional Defiant Disorder behaviour.

Hence the phone call. They were very sorry, but they needed to suspend Bear for the day. It should be noted that Bear has an IEP that allows for different behavioural expectations and the school has been wonderful, but he had really pushed the limit this time. Bear, three adults, and Bear won. And, as the VP explained to me, a couple of suspensions on his record could help us immensely when it comes time to ask for additional resources for our guy. So it's a strategic suspension, if you will.

According to the VP and the resource teacher, they had never seen this side of Bear before. They're used to his behavioural challenges, but in the past they've always been able to talk him down. On Wednesday, however, things escalated to the point where he was hitting, pinching and threatening the resource teacher. Never a good thing.

"Huh, it almost seems like he's eaten something," I remarked to TheODDDad. Normally a sudden regression in Bear's behaviour can be traced back to either anxiety or something he's eaten. Bear, however, adamantly denied having eaten anything he's not supposed to eat despite the many questions we threw his way over the next 12 hours.

Note to self: Always trust your instincts.

Thursday morning, as Bear was jumping from couch cushion to couch cushion, far more hyper than I've seen him in months (which was probably the last time he ate something he wasn't supposed to), he gleefully -- and I mean gleefully -- informed me that he's been picking food up off the floor in the school cafeteria and eating it. Crackers, granola name it. EEEEEWWWWWW!!!! Oh, and that granola bar I was sure I had left on the dining room table but then couldn't find? Well, now I know where it went.

As I sat there absorbing this information, rather relieved that the catalyst had been something so simple, my eyes settled on a box of, make that two boxes of crackers...sitting open beside the TV. One of the major characteristics of ADHD is a lack of impulse control, which in Bear is made worse when he eats something he shouldn't. So his lack of impulse control caused him to eat stuff he shouldn't off the cafeteria floor (and again I say EEEEWWWWW!!!!), which further decreased his impulse control, which caused him to break into the cupboard at 6:00 a.m. while I was sleeping to get more food he shouldn't eat.

Thursday may have been the official suspension, but given the amount of gluten he had eaten on Thursday morning, I made a preemptive strike and kept Bear home on Friday as well. I figured it saved the school the trouble of calling me and me the trouble of having to go get him, because that outcome was just a given.

So my plans for this weekend? I guess I'd better work on perfecting that granola bar recipe I've been working on before someone gets hurt.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Weekend of Firsts

This past weekend was Thanksgiving, so we headed up to the in-laws' cottage as is our tradition. Last week was a pretty rough week with Bear, so TheODDDad had suggested we could stay home if I needed to (bless him...the cottage is his favourite place in the whole world, so that shows just how bad my week was -- and how much he loves me), but I had been really looking forward to it.

It's always crazy when we get together at the cottage. It's just a cottage. A real cottage. Not a house "cottage." A small cottage. A real old-fashioned don't-worry-if-you-track-sand-through-the-cottage-or-if-the-wet-dogs-are-sleeping-on-the-couch type of cottage. So it was us, my brother-in-law and his family (another 5 people), my in-laws, and three dogs. Six adults, five kids ranging between 18 months and 15 years old, and three dogs ranging from 20 lbs to 100 lbs. Adults get beds and kids get floors and couches. Dogs get wherever is left. Big kids look after little kids and adults sit and watch as teenage boys turn to young men before our eyes and little boys flourish under the attention of their big cousins.

Craziness ensued. Laughter bubbled. Tension faded. It was glorious.

One of the most amazing things to happen this weekend is that we saw a whole new side of Bear. Whether he's hitting a new stage where he's becoming more confident or whether his new anti-anxiety meds are starting to work, I'm not sure, but I really liked what I saw. Bear has always refused to go anywhere near the Mule (picture a cross between a golf cart and an ATV) or any of the boats. When they start up, he goes running in the other direction, terrified. Yet there he was within about an hour of arriving at the cottage, perched on the seat of the Mule beside his big cousin, going on trails through the woods and loving every second of it. This was so out-of-the-blue and momentous that TheODDDad and I actually stood there in disbelief, hugging and struggling to hold back tears of joy as our little boy came out of his shell. He also went for a walk in the woods with us (another first, and just hours after telling us on the way to the cottage that he was not a "walk in the woods at the cottage type of boy" because he was scared of the bears and the porcupines) and even chatted with some teenage girls he had never met before. This from a little boy who just a few weeks ago became violent at the prospect of having to walk through the waiting room at the doctor's office and has been known to hide for hours on end because someone he has never met is visiting. We were stunned with the changes we saw this weekend, and so hopeful that he'll now be open to new experiences.

It's hard to watch your child struggle with things that come naturally to other kids, but the feeling that comes from watching your child flourish and overcome his challenges can't be measured. Here's to you, my brave Bear! Mommy's proud of you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is It Tomorrow Yet?

Not that there's anything particularly interesting happening tomorrow, but is it tomorrow yet? Basically, I just want today to be over. No more today. I'm so done with today.

Let me explain why today needs to end. At about 8:30 a.m. I received a call from the school. That's never a good sign, especially not when I haven't even finished my second cup of coffee. Apparently one of Bear's friends had been bugging him on the school bus, so Bear clocked him and gave him a bloody nose. Now, in Bear's defense, the other boy fully admitted that Bear had told him to stop a number of times but he hadn't, so technically he had it coming. As Bear explained it to me, the other boy kept hitting him in the nose and wouldn't stop, so Bear decided to hit him back -- hard. You know, I can see it. And what I love about Bear's school is they see it too, so both boys were punished together! These two have been in the same class for three years now and are always in trouble together (there's a third Amigo, but he doesn't take the bus), so I don't think anyone was too concerned or surprised.

When Bear got off the bus today, he decided he wanted the bus to go first and then he'd cross. The bus driver didn't agree with that plan, so he had to get off the bus and tell Bear to get going. This I viewed from about six houses away, where I was standing in our driveway watching it all unfold. This led to a phone call from bus driver who had noticed me there and wanted to explain what had happened. He was very nice but I didn't have time to talk because Bear was missing. Again.

You see, Bear's been really defiant and angry this week, but we haven't been able to figure out why. Still don't know, but that's not the point. Bear was really adamant that he was not doing homework and stomped outside yelling at me as he went. I told him he could have 5 minutes to cool off outside, and then I'd come get him so we could do homework. I decided to give him 10 minutes and do a little vacuuming, so that's what I did. When I turned off the vacuum a few minutes later, one of the neighbours was at the door asking if Bear was allowed to be at the park by himself, because that's where he was. She kindly volunteered to go get him since I had Stitch, except he was gone by the time she got there. About 1/2 hour later and after much frantic searching by my father, the neighbours, and the police (yes, we've now called the police twice in a little over a month), Bear was spotted about 10 blocks away and returned home by my father. As he informed the police officer, he had run away because he didn't want to do homework. For the record, he was on his way to McDonald's where he was going to ask if he could borrow some money for some food and a toy if he promised to pay it back.

As if that weren't enough, there was a note from Bear's teacher explaining that he'd had a rough afternoon and had been so disruptive during a test that he had to be removed. Hhhhmmm...a test, you say? We had problems last time there was a test, although those were different problems. Still, we might be onto something.

And to top it all off, he went to bed in a royal huff tonight, telling me I'm the worst mother in the whole world and how mean and awful I am. Why? Cause I wouldn't make him a jam sandwich. (Trust me, there was a good reason why not. I wasn't just being bitchy.)

So, is today over? Cause I'm so ready for it to be tomorrow. Just so long as tomorrow is better than today.

Oh, and for the record, after some cool down and snuggle time, I still made Bear do all his homework. So much for running away!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Suck It Up, Buttercup!

As you may have figured out by now, TheODDDad and I take Bear's issues very seriously. I'm the researcher in the family, so I read and learn everything I possibly can on ADHD and ODD and then pass that information along to him. No matter which way you look at it, our son has problems, and sticking our heads in the sand won't make them go away. (Trust me, I'd do it if I thought it would work!) Rather, we feel that we will be better equipped to help our son the more we know and we will also be in a position to empower others to help him by sharing what we've learned. So far this philosophy has paid off.

As I think I've mentioned before, it was someone at Bear's school who first suggested that he might have a problem. I was actually happy to hear it, if you can believe it, because it meant hubby and I weren't imagining things and the things we were seeing weren't just the result of bad parenting. Ever since that day (probably almost two years ago to the day), I've worked very closely with the school and Bear's teachers to make sure that things are running smoothly. And by smoothly I mean not only that Bear's getting the support that he needs from them, but that they're getting the support they need from us and we're getting the support we need from them.

As Bear's parents, TheODDDad and I know him better than anyone. We know what works and what doesn't, what sets him off and what calms him down. The teachers are grateful when I give them a heads-up that he's having a bad morning, and I'm grateful when they send me a note home telling me what a good day he's had (or bad, for that matter). My feeling is that this open dialogue has fostered a really good environment for all of us. I can't imagine having it any other way.

Unfortunately, that feeling isn't shared by all parents, as I found out the other day. I was speaking to one of the teachers who works closely with Bear, and she was sharing some challenges Bear had been having that morning. The Vice-Principal, aware of the problems that particular day, had asked her earlier in the day what she planned to do. Her answer apparently surprised him: She was going to call me and talk to me. What? Call a parent? Would I actually be open to that? Oh yes, she assured him, these parents would be.

I find it sad to think that there are parents who wouldn't be open to it, and I have to ask myself why. Are they ashamed of their child? Do they think their child's issues reflect badly on them as parents? Are they worried that if they acknowledge a problem, then they have to deal with it? On the other hand, have they had bad experiences with the school? Do they feel judged/blamed by the teachers and administration for the problems their child is having? Have they been burned in the past by people who don't understand?

Regardless of the reasons, and I can only guess they are many and complicated (and some may even be valid!), I just have one thing to say: Suck it up, Buttercup! This is your child, and your child needs you. I don't care how uncomfortable or difficult it is, this is your job. That's right, your job. Your child's success and happiness may very well depend on you doing everything you can possibly think of to help them, and then some. Is that a whole lot of pressure? Yup, it sure as hell is. Does that mean you're responsible for every decision your child makes? Nope, it absolutely doesn't. But you ARE responsible for ensuring that your child has all the tools and skills to make good decisions when the time comes. You are responsible for being the one who asks for help on their behalf and who stands up for them and with them when things get rough. That doesn't mean denying there's a problem or placing blame on others. In fact, it might even mean getting help for yourself in order to make sure you have the tools and skills to help your child.

It's a rough road, and it's not the road you thought you'd be on. But you know what...that's just too damn bad. So be the parent your child needs because...well...your child needs you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Confessions of a Soon-To-Be-Diagnosed ADHD Mom

I admit it...I'm messy. Actually, to say I'm messy might be putting it nicely. My house is, quite honestly, dirty. The dishes aren't done, the dog-hair dust bunnies hop out to greet you, there's a pile of clean clothes that's been sitting on the couch waiting to be folded for about a week (TheODDDad washes them, but I volunteered to fold them and put them away), and the bathroom...well, let's just leave the bathroom for another time, shall we.

Add to that all my papers that I can't seem to get organized. I work from home, so my house is my office and my office is my house. You know how disorganized your office can get when you haven't done your filing or you have a number of projects on the go? Well, imagine that spread throughout your house. I have piles of books and papers everywhere, and I mean everywhere. If you must know, I do actually have an office in the basement, but I have yet to use it in the year and a half since we created it. Yes, it has furniture, but it has furniture covered in papers and files. Seeing a trend?

Before you go call the producers of one of those hoarding reality shows, let me reassure you that it's not bad enough to require an intervention. When we put our minds to it, TheODDDad and I can get the house looking pretty good in a day. You still wouldn't want to eat off the floors (but that's just a gross idea no matter how clean your floors are), but nor would you be afraid to sit down.

This is the way I have always lived and worked. In the past I've just chalked it up to a major personality flaw on my part -- my being lazy and messy -- something that I've always wanted to change but just couldn't seem to. Again, I put that down to laziness on my part. I've always envied people who could say "Sure, come on over!" instead of requiring at least a few day's notice (a week would be great!) before someone comes to visit. I've envied them and wondered how the hell they managed.

My mother-in-law is the exact opposite of me. The dishes are done three times a day, right after you finish eating. The entire house is vacuumed twice a week, once quickly and once thoroughly. Towels and bedding are washed once a week, on Saturdays. When you're finished with something, you put it away. (Now there's a concept I've never managed to grasp.)

I kid you not, early in our marriage I used to get panic attacks when my mother-in-law was coming over. Bless her, she's a wonderful lady and I love her to bits, but I was terrified that she was judging me as unworthy of her son. I admit that she never gave me even the remotest reason to think that and I understand now that I was projecting my own feelings of inadequacy on her, but that's not the point. The point is that I felt so bad about my abilities as a wife/housekeeper that I worked myself into a tizzy every time she came over.

Nine years of marriage later, I now call her to come clean my house. Originally the thought was that she would help me, but it has turned into me helping her. Actually, it's turned into me trying not to get in her way. It was only while watching her last year that I began to realize how different our cleaning styles are. She's very methodical and can accomplish more in a day than I can accomplish in a week. As I watched her, I began to reflect on how I clean. This is how it works for me:

1) start dishes
2) notice Bear's book that's been sitting on the counter for a week and has finally started to bug me
3) stop dishes and take book to Bear's room
4) notice dirty socks on Bear's floor and take them to our room to add to dirty laundry
5) decide to throw a load of laundry in, so gather up clothes and take them to basement
6) throw laundry in washer and take clothes from yesterday out of dryer
7) take dry clothes into playroom to watch some TV while I fold them
8) decide to pick up toys on playroom floor before folding clothes so that no one trips over them
9) realize I have to pee, so abandon unfolded clothes and half-cleaned floor to go upstairs
10) after peeing, decide I'm hungry so make myself a snack
11) go to put my dishes in dishwasher only to realize it's clean
12) unload bottom of dishwasher and then stop to go send an important work email I've forgotten about
13) see an email that I've been meaning to reply to for days and start to respond
14) realize that it's almost time to start making supper and I still don't have any clean pots because I never finished the dishes
15) go back to find water is cold
16) begin process again

That's pretty crazy, and that's just how I clean! Imagine that in every aspect of your life. You'd get nothing done, right? You'd be overwhelmed, right? You'd have no free time because everything would take you twice as long, right? Right! RIGHT!
Up until now, we've assumed that Bear inherited his ADHD, which is genetic, from TheODDDad. He was extremely hyper as a child and he's rather unorganized, so it wasn't a big leap to come to that conclusion. I, on the other hand, don't have a hyper bone in my body (those of you who know me can just shut up's rude to laugh at friends) and somehow manage to juggle a whole bunch of things all at once, so it couldn't possibly be from me. Could it??? Then last week I came across an article that described the very unique ways in which ADHD manifests in women. Wow, was that ever an eye-opener. Here are some of the questions. (

  • Do you feel overwhelmed in stores, at the office, or at parties? Is it impossible for you to shut out sounds and distractions that don't bother others? Uh, yah...sometimes.
  • Is time, money, paper, or "stuff" dominating your life and hampering your ability to achieve your goals? Did you read the above description of my house?
  • Are you spending most of your time coping, looking for things, catching up, or covering up? Do you avoid people because of this? Ssssshhhh...nobody's supposed to know that. I've done a really good job covering it up for 40 years.
  • Have you stopped having people over to your house because of your shame at the mess? "Stopped" would imply I ever started.
  • Do you have trouble balancing your checkbook? Do people actually still do that? I have a cheque book and I do actually write things in it, but that's about it.
  • Do you often feel as if life is out of control, that it's impossible to meet demands? I'm on anti-depressants for anxiety -- take a wild guess.
  • Do you feel that you have better ideas than other people but are unable to organize them or act on them? Yup!
  • Do you start each day determined to get organized? Oh, hell yes! Every day is the day I'm going to get organized and caught up before someone figures it out.
  • Have you watched others of equal intelligence and education pass you by? I'm doing pretty well, but that's because I hide it really well. But there are jobs I know I simply couldn't do because they require too much organization.
  • Do you despair of ever fulfilling your potential and meeting your goals? See above.
  • Have you ever been thought of as selfish because you don't write thank-you notes or send birthday cards? Let's not even go there with this one. I think only half our wedding thank-yous got sent out, I can never remember birthdays, and I don't do Christmas cards. (My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is stuck at home recovering from surgery, so she did her Christmas cards last September!!!)
  • Are you clueless as to how others manage to lead consistent, regular lives? Oh my goodness, yes!
  • Are you called "a slob" or "spacey?" Are you "passing for normal?" Do you feel as if you are an impostor? Don't think I've ever been called these things, but what I'm called and how I feel are two different things.

When I read the article to TheODDDad, he asked when I was going to make an appointment with my doctor to talk about this. When I talked to my parents about it and described what ADHD-Inattentive (or "girl" ADHD) looks like, my dad said that a lot of things from my childhood now made sense (another article, but all the signs were there, just not recognized). My mother-in-law laughed herself silly and told me that she's never met anyone like me. Apparently I do a good job cleaning so long as she tells me exactly what to do and keeps reminding me. And reminding me. And reminding me.

So where does that leave me? Well, I saw my doctor the other day and scored pretty high on the ADHD pre-screening test. Next is a visit to the psychiatrist to make sure that it's ADHD and not something else. That process in itself will probably take a couple of months, so I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'm really bothered by one thing. What if it's not ADHD? What if it's just me? That would really suck.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It Was the Best of Weeks, It Was the Worst of Weeks

This week was just a crazy up-and-down-roller-coaster of a week. On Monday Bear and I took a trip to the specialist for a follow-up on his new anti-depressants. I wasn't sure I had really noticed any difference in his anxiety levels, but it can take up to six weeks for anti-depressants to kick in and it hadn't yet been six weeks. The last time we were there Bear refused to go into the waiting room because people might look at him (we waited in the hall for an hour), so I knew this appointment would be a good test. And boy, was it ever.

Despite the fact that the waiting room was empty, Bear refused to go in. The doctor was on time, so all we had to do was walk through. For the record, this was our third or fourth visit to this particular doctor, so it wasn't exactly unknown territory. Well, he freaked. And when I say freaked, I mean freaked. I had to hand all my stuff to the receptionist to take to the examining room and then pick him up and carry him in. That wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the fact that 40lbs of kicking, screaming, writhing, scratching, biting (oh yes...biting) Bear is very difficult to carry without dropping. My poor baby. It was really heart-breaking. The only good thing was that it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the medicine wasn't working at all. Whether or not to change anti-depressants suddenly became a very easy decision for all involved, so now he's on something new.

Tuesday and Wednesday seemed to go off without a hitch, to the point where I wondered if I had any right to write a blog about having a child with ODD. ODD? What ODD? Then came Thursday, and all hell broke loose. Homework resulted in my being punched in the stomach. Granted, that's probably more the ADHD than the ODD, but they pretty much go hand-in-hand. That was the first time he's punched me like that (normally he kicks, hits, pinches, or throws something), and I'm not sure if I'm more disturbed by the fact that he punched me or the fact that it didn't really upset me. On one hand yay me that I didn't fly off the handle, but on the other "normal" has his behaviour become to me that being punched in the stomach by my six-year-old doesn't freak me out.

Friday was a good day for him, and his teacher even sent a note home saying he had had a really good week. I just love how everyone involved at his school seems to root for him. It's really heart-warming.

Then along came today, and a much-anticipated birthday party -- except he decided he wasn't going. This is typical Bear, but only for about the last six months. His anxiety gets the worst of him and he just can't bring himself to go. The good thing is that not only are we starting to recognize the signs, but so is he. Fingers in the mouth are a tip off, that's for sure. But whereas three months ago asking him what was wrong used to send him right over the edge and even into a violent rage if we pushed too hard, now he's starting to talk about it. This morning when I asked him if he was scared, he said yes. That was progress. We haven't pushed him to go to other birthday parties or to do things that scare him despite the advice of the well-meaning, and I think that has paid off. He now trusts us when we say we're not going to make him do something, so he's willing to talk about it. In the past he would shriek "You're just trying to get me to go!!!" when I tried to question him.

The one thing I did insist on today was that we go buy a present for his friend and deliver it, but I stressed that he didn't have to stay. He was OK with that, and then added on his own that maybe he could stay if he decided to. So that was our deal. Get ready for the party, go buy the present, go deliver the present, and only stay if you want to. And lo and behold, he wanted to! He did ask me to stay with him, although rather casually, so I told him I couldn't because I had an appointment to get my hair cut (I wasn't lying). I did promise him that I would come back as soon as I was done, though, which I did. I got a flying hug when he saw me, but then I was informed that I could go.

Yay, Bear!!! You go, my angel! This is real progress and I'm hoping it's a sign of better days to come. Just the fact that he's beginning to talk about how he's feeling opens up a world of opportunity to help him.

You know, when your child has ODD, you often end up as the enemy. Kids with ODD take everything personally, so they see anything you do (like make them sit down for supper) as an attack. It was a really nice to feel like his ally for a change.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My son, the Prime Minister

When I first came across this video a few weeks ago, I cried. I looked at all these people who have changed the world in their own way (oddly enough, there's only one woman in the bunch), and I thought about their mothers. Did these individuals succeed because of their ADHD or in spite of it? Did their mothers despair of them or encourage them? Or both?

I can tell you quite honestly that I do both.

TheODDDad and I have been encouraged to dream big for Bear by a wonderful teacher at Bear's school who saw his potential and believed in him right from the beginning. For Bear's first two years of school, this man teased me that we were looking at the future Prime Minister of Canada. (He left the school, otherwise I'm sure he'd still be saying it.) He recognized that Bear is extremely bright, funny, engaging, and an independent thinker. Although kids with ADHD, and especially ODD, are at higher risk of trouble with the law and with substance abuse than other kids, Bear shows no inclination to ever bowing to peer pressure. That's not say that he'll be immune to these problems down the road, just that he'll probably be the ring leader with other people following him. As his mother, I find that both troubling and reassuring all at once.

So as the video says, here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who are just crazy enough to think they can change the world...and do. Here's to you, Bear. Someday you'll change the world in your own special way. I know, because you've already changed mine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It Was no Accident

Today TheODDDad and I celebrate our 9th anniversary. Yes, I realize I've already blogged about our wild and crazy anniversary weekend, but it's my blog and I choose to write about our anniversary again. If you don't like it, you can go write your own blog.

So, for those of you who don't know him, let me introduce you to TheODDDad. He's the love of my life, my best friend and, quite simply, the most amazing man I've ever met. He makes me laugh like no one else can, he makes me feel more beautiful than anyone ever has, and he still makes me smile when he kisses me.

Ya,'re all feeling nauseous right now. Well, too bad. blog, my rules.

TheODDDad and I nearly didn't get together because he thought I was too "big city" for a small-town boy like him, but then fate slapped him upside the head (actually, it was my sister, but close enough) and he got his butt in gear and told me he liked me. (That sounds like grade 6, doesn't it?) We've been together ever since.

We've faced a lot of pretty major challenges in our time together: unemployment, infertility, name just a few. Somehow, though, we've always emerged on the other side of a challenge smarter, stronger, and more in love than when we went in. Our secret? We are each other's biggest fan. We believe in each other, we encourage each other, we talk to each other, and we listen to each other. We say little things like I love you, thank you, and I'm sorry. I know -- what a concept.

I could say something deep and meaningful like how hard we've worked to make our marriage work, blah, blah, blah, but that would be a lie. Somehow it just comes naturally to us, like it was meant to be. Maybe that's because it was.

This was our wedding song, and it still says it all.