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.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Irresponsibility at The National Post

I'm honestly so angry right now that it's going to be a struggle to write this post without an extreme use of profanity. For those of you who know me, you know I don't swear a lot, but right now I'm so mad that every bad word I've ever heard is flooding my mind.

You see, today The National Post, a major Canadian newspaper, published an "opinion piece" that effectively denies the existence of ADHD. Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for opinion pieces. In fact, I have a few opinions of my own right now, some of which I'm about to share. But what I am against is stupidity, especially stupidity in the guise of journalism.

Maybe stupidity isn't the word I'm looking for here, because I don't believe the article was written with malicious intent. Perhaps irresponsibility would be better. As a well-respected writer with a established career (see, I did my research), I believe this journalist acted irresponsibly by writing about something of which he apparently knows nothing. You see, the National Post's weekday circulation is about 170,000 across Canada. That's 170,000 people who could have been educated about ADHD, but instead were misinformed. And that, quite frankly, is my idea of irresponsibility.

If you haven't seen the article, here it is. The snide, bolded comments are mine.

Diagnosis: Attention Surfeit Disorder
(National Post, September 19, 2011)

These days, if a boy fidgets, pays no attention when people talk to him, and tries to get out of doing things he doesn't like, chances are psychiatrists will diagnose Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD.) Many of us had ADD when I was young, only we didn't know it. They called us spoiled brats, not sick kids. [And once upon a time people with mental illnesses were locked up in insane asylums where they were treated like animals, but by all means, let's continue to talk about the good old days, shall we?]

Teacher's Pets suffer from a different illness. I call it Attention Surfeit Disorder (ASD). Psychiatrists don't recognize it, possibly because many are afflicted themselves. Just as we once confused ADD-victims with bad boys, we confuse ASD-victims with clever boys. I think they're just as sick as bad boys, but since they usually go on to become doctors, they're a menace only to their patients.

Patients don't count. They used to, once, when doctors could offer them little beside bedside manners, but now that physicians can actually tighten loose patients a notch, at least temporarily, they've stopped coddling them. The first thing students learn in medical school is save what bedside manners they have for patients they can't help.

If you're a patient, don't worry until your doctor is polite to you. When that happens, start seeking second opinions, until you find a specialist who's rude. Then you can relax.

Anyway, it takes a sharp mother to recognize her son as a menace. An old friend I haven't seen for a while is sharp. While we're having coffee, she describes her son as a menace. Apparently at six he'd pose queries like "Mommy, when was the common carp domesticated?"

I sense a trap. "Has someone domesticated the common carp?" I ask.

"Even a person as innocent of pisciculture as you," my friend replies, "must have seen goldfish in a bowl."

True. Mind you, goldfish never looked terribly domesticated to me. Frankly, they didn't much look like carp, either.

"I thought there was something fishy about them," I respond warily. Most mothers prefer "My son, the doctor" as an opening gambit to "my son, the menace." The word leaves a gap in the conversation

"Let me guess - has he become an ichthyologist?" I ask.

"No, a doctor," my friend replies triumphantly. You can't keep a good mother down. "He works as a psychiatrist for the Ombudsman's office."

I nearly say that in that case he must hear a lot of carping, but stop in time.

"So, he isn't such a menace anymore," I say instead.

She laughs ruefully, before glancing at her watch. "Once a menace, always a menace," she says. "Have another coffee and meet him. He'll be picking me up in a few minutes."

I'm shocked to recognize the slight, neat, dapper young man who walks into the restaurant 20 minutes later. We've never met before, but he's a fully grown Teacher's Pet, a breed I can smell from a mile, upwind.

Teacher Pests, as I used to call them, exude their essence from every pore. From his carefully knotted tie to his meticulously polished shoes, my friend's son conjures up nightmarish memories. He's the monster from school, the immaculate pupil, the role model: The boy everybody wants to know why you can't be like, including your parents.

"Why can't you be like Billy?"

"I could, Mom, but you wouldn't like it."

"Try me."

What's Billy the Brain like? While ordinary boys are dishevelled, Billy is perennially neat. While we fidget, Billy sits quietly, as alert as a Boy Scout. While our attention wanders, his eyes are fixed on teacher's lips. Fixed? Glued. While our imagination soars with eagles or (more often) hibernates with bears, Billy's goes swimming in a bowl, looking for things to domesticate.

Is ASD a medical condition? I don't know. Is ADD?

Shrinks think we used to mistake sick kids for discipline problems because we didn't know any better. ["Shrinks" don't THINK that. The medical and scientific communities KNOW that. Imaging studies have shown that the brains of children with ADHD are different from those of other children, specifically in the area of the brain that controls emotions and impulse control.]  I think we mistake discipline problems for sick kids because we still don't know any better. [I think you would be better off doing some research before you write your next "opinion" article.] Being resolved not to make our grandparents' mistakes, we make our own. Having decided that inattentive children suffer from ADD (actually ADHD, since we've added hyperactivity) we prescribe drugs for them instead of drills. [It's called ADHD because there are three types of ADHD: 1) primarily inattentive 2) primarily hyperactive 3) combined. And most doctors will tell you that ADHD meds are only one component of an effective ADHD treatment plan.]

Drugs calm bad boys as well as drills, if not better; it's just that while drilling bad boys helps some, drugging bad boys helps mainly their parents. [A) Don't you ever, EVER, call my son a bad boy. My son is beautiful, funny, smart, and the light of my life. He also has mental health challenges that requires medication. B) It is that exact lack of understanding and stigma in regards to ADHD medication that contributes to the guilt parents feel about providing their children with the medications they so badly need. My heart breaks to think of all the children out there who won't reach their full potential because their ADHD goes untreated. I would no more withhold my son's ADHD medications than I would withhold his insulin if he were diabetic.] The more psychopharmaceutical services we provide, the more we need. In America, the diagnosis of ADHD went from about 12 per 1000 in the 1970s to 34 per 1000 in the 1990s. Epidemic? Perhaps it's something in the water - not necessarily in the fidgety children's water, but in the water of education and health professionals. [It's called better screening and understanding. The cancer rates have gone up as well. Maybe we've made that up as well???]

Perhaps it's just as well that ASD hasn't been classified as an illness by the satraps of mental hygiene. Imagine my friend having to feed her precocious boy pills against being a Teacher's Pet.
Most of us expect our grandchildren to know more than we do. This leads some of us to believe we know more than our grandparents. Do we? Yes, we do, about satellite-navigation and kneesurgery. About many other things, we don't. About ourselves, for instance, we probably know less. [You're right; we do expect our grandchildren to know more than we do. For the sake of your grandchildren, I sure hope they know more than you.]

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Wild & Crazy Weekend

On Wednesday TheODDDad and I will celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. In this day and age, that's an impressive feat in itself. According to the statistics, about 40% of Canadian marriages end in divorce. That's a heck of a lot.

But here's another fun little statistic. Studies have shown that couples who have a child with ADHD are TWICE as likely to get divorced before the child turns 8 than couples who don't have a child with ADHD. Apparently divorce rates go back down to normal once the child is over 8. (Yippee...back down to only a 40% chance of divorcing!) Now, the nice people who did the study were quick to point out that having a child with ADHD doesn't cause you to get divorced, but rather it adds to the problems that already exist in a marriage.

This doesn't come as a surprise to TheODDDad or me since we've known that little stat since...oh...the day Bear was first diagnosed. The clinical psychologist who informed us that Bear had ADHD and "ODD at a level rarely seen in a child his age" also warned us that the divorce rate for parents like us is much higher than normal. The school principal, who had been sitting fairly quietly through the meeting, jumped in at this point to encourage us to see a marriage counsellor if we were having problems. Ugh! Kick us while we're down, why don't you!

Thankfully, our marriage is perfect.

OK, maybe not perfect, but I have to say I have no worries about us beating the odds. That's not to say that I don't completely understand how having a child with ADHD can strain a marriage. ADHD isn't one of those things that has an easy fix, or even a proven fix, so people have different ideas on how it should be handled. If you have two parents who can't seem to see eye-to-eye on how to approach the situation, things can get tense. TheODDDad and I are fortunate in that we have always agreed on how to handle even the hardest parenting challenges Bear has thrown our way. We also turn to each other, rather than against each other, when things get really rough, and I think that's key to our survival.

But back to our anniversary. Given that it's on a week day, we decided to celebrate early. So, how did we, two wild and crazy parents who are still madly in love celebrate our wedding anniversary? Well, first off, we sent the kids away for the weekend. Uh huh...that's right. Away...for...the...weekend.


Yup. Rather than go out for dinner or something else romantic, we slept. Or rather, I slept. I napped for almost three hours while TheODDDad tackled some outdoor projects he'd been meaning to get to for a while. Then we ordered in for pizza and snuggled-up to watch a movie (an uninterrupted movie, at that!!!), and I barely made it through to the end without falling asleep. Then we went to sleep. Then we slept in.

There was a lot of sleeping. Glorious, quiet, uninterrupted sleeping. The sleep of a mother who knows she won't have to get up in the middle of the night to tend to a child for the first time in weeks. Or is that months? To say years might be an exaggeration, although not much of one. (Bear has sleeping problems and is often up til about 3 or 4 a.m., but that's a blog for another time.) The sleep of a mother who knows she'll be able to sleep until she wakes up rather than only until her crazy kid comes in to jump on the bed. Sleep. Blessed soul-rejuvenating, dark-circle-erasing sleep. I haven't looked this well-rested in a very, very long time.

So now TheODDDad and I find ourselves at the end of our long-anticipated anniversary weekend, having done nothing we planned, but very happy about it. It helps that I look damn good for all that sleep.

So happy anniversary, Handsome! Thanks for being the man who holds me when I cry, who encourages me when I falter, and who celebrates with me when I succeed. I love you more today than the day we got married, and I can't imagine a better father to our two little crazies.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Best Mommy

This morning, out of the blue, Bear called out to me from the other room.


"Yes, Bear?"

"You're the best mommy a boy named Bear could ever have."

So. Unbelievably. Blessed.

Skipping School

Tonight I was bad -- I skipped school. Actually, I skipped the open house at Bear's school. I normally go to these things because I feel it's really important that TheODDDad and I are seen as involved parents. When you have a child who causes problems at school, the last thing you want is to be known as "those" parents.

That said, I work with Bear's school a lot. There is an open dialogue going in both directions, and I love it that way. I turn to them for advice and they do the same thing. Everyone works together to make school a positive environment for Bear and to make Bear a positive addition to the school.

So tonight I decided to cut myself some slack. Hubby had a commitment that he couldn't get out of, so I was heading to the school on my own. And I would have gone if I hadn't been so tired, but showering seemed like a lot of work just for a 45-minute open house where I probably wouldn't have had a chance to say much more than "hello" to Bear's teacher. Some days escaping to the quiet confines of the shower seems like heaven, so you know you're tired when it seems like work.

So what did I do instead of showering? I napped. Yup, I crawled into bed and napped for an hour before TheODDDad got home from work. Then I got up, served supper, put the kids to bed, made muffins, did some work I actually get paid for, did some dishes, and then made bread. (Yes, I make my own bread. No, I'm not insane. Yes, that's a blog for another night.) Now it's almost midnight and I'm just waiting for everything to finish cooling so I can put it all away and finally go crawl into bed for the night.

Sweet dreams.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Many More Years of School???

I realize today is only Wednesday, but it already feels like it's been a long week. Yesterday afternoon I got my first "could you please come get him?" call of the year from the school. Mind you, it took til week three for that phone call to come, which is an improvement over last year. Last year he only made it to week two, although that was an improvement over the year before. (Fingers crossed that next year he makes it through a whole month before being sent home!)

But back to yesterday. In the school's defence, it was more of a "Bear's hiding under a counter and won't come out and we're not sure what to do now" phone call than a "come get your crazy child before someone gets hurt" phone call. (Trust me, I've had the latter as well.) The teacher said this was the first time that she hadn't been able to find a way to get him to do what he was supposed to do, which was why she was calling. Normally a promise of being able to play with Lego for a bit will do the trick, but not this time. But you have to hand it to's a pretty gutsy six-year-old who flat out refuses to do what his teacher and the vice-principal are telling him to do. Most kids would cave at some point, especially when the teacher gets the parent on the phone. But Bear? Nope, not my Bear. Instead he crawled out from under the counter and joined in the conference call! What a kid.

Given the fact that Bear was flat out refusing to go back to class and that there was only about an hour left of school, it was decided that he would come home and do some work. That should have been a fairly simple arrangement to enforce, but this is Bear we're talking about. Homework, as we're finding out, is not something he does willingly.

What followed was about four hours of torture, both for him and for me, but extremely enlightening torture. As it turned out, there was a math test in class that afternoon, which was why Bear was refusing to go to class. You see, if he took the test, he might fail, and that wasn't an option for him. Children with ADHD are very often perfectionists with a very low tolerance for frustration, which is a dangerous combination. How do you do something perfectly when you don't have the patience to learn to do it properly in the first place? Answer? You don't do it at all. What if you're having problems with the work you're doing in class? You leave your desk and hide in the coatroom, of course. What if there's a test? You find a reason to leave the class and then you hide under a counter and refuse to go back. And if well-intentioned teachers tell you the work is easy? Well, if you find it hard when others find it easy, you internalize the message that you're stupid and a loser (his words, not mine) and then you come home and refuse to do any work because you can't do it perfectly.

In the end, no work got done, a lot of tears were shed (mine hidden, of course), but a lot of information was gleaned. That information was then shared with his class teacher and his resource teacher and by morning they were already working on a plan. (I love that school!!!)

That was yesterday. Then came today.

Today Bear's anxiety reared its ugly head again and he refused to get out of the van when we got to school. Instead, he climbed into the back seat (Before you all start emailing me, by "back seat" I mean the third row. No, he wasn't in the front at six years old, and yes, he was in a booster seat. Can I continue now?), pulled a blanket over himself, and claimed he was too tired to go to school. After a few minutes of trying to negotiate with him I headed into the school to look for reinforcements, taking baby Stitch with me. (I hate to admit it, but Bear can't be trusted around Stitch if he goes into a rage, and I wasn't sure how he was going to react when forced to go to school.) When further negotiations didn't work, I handed Stitch to the teacher who had joined me, climbed into the back of the van, and proceded to start to physically remove him from the van. Fear of his friends seeing him won the day, and he went into school on his own steam. And in typical ADHD/ODD fashion, which means the fastest mood swings you've ever seen, the boy who just minutes before had been crying and yelling at me now went happily trotting into school to play Lego, with hugs and kisses all around. Go figure.

His test, for the record, went well. So well, in fact, that he didn't even know he had written it. Alternating five-minute-periods of work and play had made his first test ever a painless experience. His teacher had already filled me in, but I decided to play dumb with him to see what he said. (Some days that's easier than others.) "So, how did your test go today," I asked on our way home from school. "Test?" he repeated, sounding a little confused. "I don't think I wrote it." "Well, you did, because your teacher told me you did and said you did really well on it," I explained. "OH!" he exclaimed, completely surprised. "Then it went well."

It's going to be a long 12 years for everyone involved.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Will He/We Ever Learn???

If you've been following this blog, you're well acquainted with Bear's little escape act last week. If you're new, here's a quick synopsis. Bear, who isn't even allowed to the corner on his own yet, decided to ride his bike to my parents' house without telling anyone. My parents live about 10 blocks away, and there are two very busy streets to be crossed between here and there. After a frantic search of the neighbourhood by some wonderful neighbours, the police were called. Shortly after that, Bear was located safe and sound at my folks'. (For more explanation on why they didn't call me, read last week's blog.)

Anyway, TheODDDad and I struggled with how to discipline Bear. The thing is, kids with ADHD have problems with impulse control. Science has proven that the area of the brain that controls emotion and impulse (among other things) doesn't work as well in people with ADHD, so they have a hard time regulating their behaviour. Bear knew he shouldn't go to my parents' house, but he was unable to stop himself.

So how do you discipline a child who you know can't control his behaviour? Or do you discipline them? Is there any point? On the one hand, they need to learn, but on the other hand, it's not their fault. Tricky, huh?

Anyway, despite the countless parenting and ADHD books I've read (and apparently not paid enough attention to), the only idea I could come up with that seemed to fit the crime was to take away his 6th birthday party that was planned for a few days after his little escapade. Now, in my defence, the thought of taking away a little boy's birthday party made me nauseous, but I was scared and wanted him to learn his lesson. NOW!

TheODDDad, however, despite not having read any parenting books, is way smarter than I am when it comes to these things. (Oh, thank God!) As he pointed out, the birthday party had nothing to do with Bear's disappearing act, so taking it away made no sense and would teach him nothing. (Duh...I knew that. Really, I did.) Rather, he suggested, why didn't we remove his bike since that was the vehicle used in the great escape and restrict his freedom to our property. Brilliant!!! This summer was the first time Bear was really allowed off our property without our being with him, so we explained to him that he had shown us he wasn't ready for that "big-boy" privilege yet and needed to earn it back. So for five days this was the deal, and we stuck to it. Yay us!

Bear, bless him, really seemed to get it...or so we thought. (I know, now you have to read on just to see what he's done this time.) When he asked to go next door or across the street we would gently remind him of why he wasn't allowed to go, and he was OK with that. No major meltdowns (or even minor meltdowns), which really surprised us. He even went so far as to come into the house to ask if he was allowed on the street to pet the dog that was coming. I was impressed at how well he had learned his lesson.

So along comes Sunday, and Bear regains his privileges. Of course, the bike/Bear reunion was prefaced by a serious talk about the importance of always telling an adult where you are and not going further than you're allowed. Yes, Mommy. Yes, Daddy. No, Mommy. No, Daddy. So far so good...and off he went.

The first place he wanted to go was to visit our new neighbours two houses away. We haven't even met them yet but they have a dog, and in Bear's world that means they're A-OK. When I tried to explain to him that Mommy and Daddy hadn't met them yet and we didn't even know if they liked children, he matter-of-factly informed me that he had spoken to them the other day and they hadn't said they were allergic to children. Well, it's hard to argue with that kind of logic, so I agreed that he could go see if they were outside.
"Mommy, if they're there, do I have to come back and tell you I'm staying there?" he asked. I smiled at him, said a quick little prayer of thanks that he had learned his lesson, and explained that it was OK because I knew where he was going.

About 10 minutes later TheODDDad, who was working outside, asked where Bear was. At the neighbours, I explained, but suggested that we should fetch him so that he didn't overstay his welcome. So off went TheODDDad to bring Bear home. About 20 minutes later I realized neither of them had returned home yet, but I just assumed he was chatting with the new neighbours. After all, they have a dog, and that makes them A-OK in his eyes as well.

A little while later a very sad looking Bear rode into the driveway, followed by a very serious looking daddy. Funny, though, they were coming from the opposited direction of the new neighbours' house.

"Hi, Mommy," Bear said quietly. "I went away again." Sigh...

Apparently when he didn't find the new neighbours outside, Bear decided to go to the park around the other side of the block instead. When TheODDDad didn't find him at the neighbours', he headed straight to the park, where he spotted Bear's shoes and bike...but no Bear...the very same scene I had come across when Bear took off last week. Thankfully Bear was at the house next to the park petting their cat, so another Bear disappearing act ended safely.

So Bear's bike is once again locked in the shed and Bear isn't allowed off our property. Will he learn his lesson this time? My guess is probably not. Will we? Well, if the lesson is not to trust our son (yet, that is), I'm afraid we've learned it. But I can't say I like it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mission Accomplished

The other day I shared about how TheODDDad and I never expected to have children of our own because of medical issues, but how God has smiled down upon us and given us both Bear and Stitch.

One of the best things I did during that dark time was to buy a book on surviving infertility. This book wasn't about the best positions or diets to increase your fertility, it was about dealing with the overwhelming emotions that come with being told you can't have children. Having a baby is something we take for granted. We play with dolls as little girls, and we just assume that one day we'll get married and have babies. But what about when that doesn't happen? What about when your body betrays you? What about when the very sight of a baby makes you want to curl up in the fetal position and sob until you fall asleep and don't hurt anymore? How do you deal with the loss of the dream you envisioned for your life? This book dealt with those things. It said: here's what you're probably feeling, and that's OK; here's what other people are saying to you, and here's how to respond; here's how to explain what you're going through and why it's important to share it with the ones who love you. That book was a lifeline for me.

Having a child who suffers from a mental illness has been, in my experience, similar to dealing with infertility. Everything looks normal on the outside, but looks are deceiving. There is a stigma attached to mental illness, and especially to childhood mental illness. Why is that? About 20% of children and adolescents worldwide suffer from mental health problems. That means that in a classroom of 20 kids, four of them will at some point in their childhood experience some form of mental illness.

I can't speak for other forms of childhood mental illness, but I can tell you that children with ADHD and ODD are often misunderstood. Because they look normal but often appear to be out of control, they are often labeled as brats. People don't like brats. And why are children brats? Well, because of bad parenting of course! So in addition to people judging your child, they also judge you and your parenting skills. And you know, I get it. I really do. Bear is as cute, funny, and smart as they come, but when he's running up and down the aisle in church or calling me names at the store because he can't get his own way, it really does look as if he's getting away with murder. But here's the thing. I know that if I don't diffuse the situation, it will escalate. Escalating, in our world, means that he gets aggressive and we have to physically restrain him before someone gets hurt. We've never had to do that in public, but only because we haven't allowed situations to get that out-of-hand. Instead, we've left church in the middle of the service, looking like we can't control our son.

The reason I'm telling you this is because yesterday I received an email from a woman I've never met before, thanking me for my blog. "I am so glad to have found your blog. I cried, I laughed and I don't feel so alone in a world where add/odd is just looked at as bad behavior and parenting. THANK YOU!" Other than how good it feels to share what I'm going through, this woman's response is part of the reason why I'm doing what I'm doing with my blog. Parents of children with mental health issues often face more parenting challenges in a week than other parents face in a lifetime. This blog is about me reaching out to other parents to say "This is what I"m feeling, and it's OK if you are too. You're a good parent, and you and your child are going to be alright." Mission accomplished.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why I Lock the Windows

If you've been following the Canadian news, there's currently an Amber Alert for a three-year-old in BC who was snatched from his home while he was sleeping. Given my harrowing hour earlier this week when I thought Bear had been kidnapped (the shoes and scooter left on the driveway didn't help matters), my heart goes out to his parents. Well, it would anyway, but it just feels particularly close this time.

When I was a little girl, I always slept with my bedroom window wide open. My bedroom faced the street, and there was even a porch roof right under the window that ran the length of the house. Actually, it ran the length of five houses, because we were in a row house. Perfect for kidnappers, but that never occured to us. Why would it? I imagine that children have been snatched from their homes for as long as there have been people who want to harm children, and I imagine that's since the beginning of time. Why anyone would want to hurt a child I have no idea, but I know they're out there. But somehow the idea of someone coming into our home and my bedroom never occured to me or to my parents.

About a year before I got pregnant with Bear, little Cecilia Zhang was taken from her parents' home in Toronto in the middle of the night. For those of you who remember the story, it didn't end well. That story, and that sweet little girl's face, are etched in my brain and have coloured how I put my boys to bed. Call me paranoid (and I'm the first to agree with you), but my guys have never had the luxury of sleeping with their bedroom windows open. You see, we're in a bungalow, and you wouldn't need more than a step-ladder to get to the windows.

Am I nuts? Maybe. Am I scarring my kids for life? I don't think so. Bear has never questioned why I close his window at night because that's just the way it's always been. At bedtime Mommy and Daddy close his window and pull down the blind. That's our ritual, and as far as he's concerned there's nothing more to it.

I pray for the safe return of little Kienan Hebert and for strength for his parents to face whatever is coming. And in the meantime, I will continue to lock the windows at night.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Miracle Bear

Six years ago this week a miracle happened. Six years ago yesterday, despite being told that I would probably never be able to get pregnant, TheODDDad and I welcomed our little Bear into the world...and our lives were never to be the same again.

You see, I have a "girl" problem that causes infertility. (Fine, I have endometriosis, if you must know.) About seven years ago I had surgery to figure out the cause of the problems I was having, only one of which was the fact that I wasn't pregnant despite two years of trying. After the surgery my gynecologist described my insides as looking like "a dog's breakfast." That, my friends, is never a good description of your insides. My doctor, who was very young and who we really liked, informed us as gently as she could that my chances of getting pregnant were between about 2% and 20% and, since IVF wasn't really an option for us because of my situation, we might want to consider looking at adoption.

What followed was probably the darkest few months of my life, as I wrestled with a depression that I couldn't quite seem to shake. Let's put it this way...TheODDDad and I went to the mall one day, and he left me for all of about 5 minutes to go find the washroom. When he came back he found me huddled against the wall, sobbing uncontrollably. A dad pushing a baby in a stroller had gone by...

About a month later I discovered I was pregnant, and the sun came out again. My surgeon's reaction when I called to tell her? "You can't be!" I guess my chances were closer to the 2% than the 20%.

At 14 weeks, however, I started to hemorrhage while I was at work. While waiting in the emergency room for a gynecologist to come see me, the doctor in the ER did a preliminary exam. "Am I losing the baby?" I asked as I clung desperately to TheODDDad's hand. "I'm not a specialist, but probably," was the dumb-ass's response. An hour later the specialist appeared pushing the ultrasound machine, and proceeded to show us Bear, still snug and safe where he was supposed to be.

At the time, the doctor couldn't tell why I was bleeding, so I was sent home to rest. When the bleeding started up again the following week, a second ultrasound revealed a blood clot between the wall of my uterus and the placenta. I was ordered to rest until it had completely disappeared, and wasn't allowed to leave the house for about six weeks. It was only when Bear was about a year old that my GP looked me in the eye and said "You know you were starting to miscarry, don't you?"

If you think the complications end there, you're wrong. Bear was induced because he was a week overdue and my blood pressure was skyrocketing. His heart rate dropped and rebounded every time I had a contraction, which was not reassuring. After two hours of pushing and him not moving (and his heart rate dropping), it was decided that a c-section was in order. Great...everything would be fine after that, right? Wrong. Bear wasn't breathing when he was born, which TheODDDad hid from me. "The doctors are just checking him out, Sweetie, but I can see him and he's beautiful," he reassured me (or words to that effect). In reality, though, my poor hubby was watching the doctors and nurses working on our baby, knowing full well that something was wrong. But then those little lungs filled with air and all was right with the world.

I've already shared some horror stories in this blog, and there will be a lot more to come, but the reality is that my little boy brings me more joy than I ever thought possible. He's smart, he's funny, he's precocious, he's mischievous, he's loud, he's crazy, and he's mine. His hugs and his kisses bring sunshine to my day. And as much as his ADHD and ODD are problems, they're also part of what makes him so special. The hyperactivity and lack of impulse control that got him sent home from day four of Junior Kindergarten (yup) also cause him to go racing through a room bellowing "I LOVE YOU, MOMMY!!!"

He is my Bear, he is my miracle, and I thank God for the privilege of being his mommy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'm Not a Bad Mother!!!!

NOTE:  This blog was started yesterday and finished today as if it were still yesterday, so keep that in mind. And on a happy note, the police had to report the incident to CAS, but CAS called this morning to tell us they aren't opening a file on us. Yay! No one's taking my Bear away. (That got your attention, didn't it?)

I'm not even sure how to describe my day. How's's not even 5:00 p.m. and someone has already asked me if I've started drinking yet. I'm out of wine, but I may just have to send Hubby out for some when he gets home.

My day started off fine, until we missed the school bus. It wasn't anybody's fault, it just happened. This is the second week of school and I think things probably went a little smoother on the bus route than last week, so the bus was a few minutes early. It biggie. There was still lots of time to get to school, so back home we headed to get in the van. That was fine, until out of nowhere Bear decided he didn't want to take the bus home today. Huh? This is the same boy who was really disappointed that he had missed the bus. OK, whatever. But my insisting that the bus was his only ride home triggered a meltdown, which led to my chasing him around the outside of the house, catching him, and then carrying 40lbs of struggling six-year-old to the van. Not a good start, but we've had worse.

We get to school and he promptly bursts into tears, begging me not to make him go in. So again...huh? So he's sitting in his car seat, sobbing, telling me that he's tired and yawning and that the teacher will say something to him if he yawns. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but when you have a child with a generalized anxiety disorder, strange statements like this aren't unusual. Last time we went to a doctor Bear didn't want to go into the waiting room because people might look at him, so we stood in the hall for an hour while we waited for our appointment. The good news is it helped the doctor diagnose the anxiety disorder! (If your child is going to go nuts on you while you're out, it's always nice when it's at the doctor.)

Anyway...back to my morning. I tried to talk him through it and even offered to go in with him to talk to his teacher, but he wasn't having it. I could tell by the way he recoiled every time I reached for his seat belt that he was not going to go willingly. I considered forcing him to go in, but that would have required carrying him in, most likely kicking and screaming. I may have done it if I hadn't had Stitch with me, but I did. And anyway, he was sobbing...didn't that mean it was real? Is forcing the issue the best thing? I have no idea. In the end I caved and took him home. Right thing? Wrong thing? Again, no idea.

Having a child with mental health issues is exhausting, so by 10 a.m. I was ready to nap with the baby. Bear was happily occupied, so I lay down for a while. I guess I was a little more tired than I thought, because I passed out. In comes Bear...could he go and play in the backyard, pretty, pretty, pretty please? Yes, fine, I agreed, but stay in the backyard. He's always been good about these things, so I didn't give it another thought.

Fast forward about an hour, and I get up. I look out the Bear. Running shoes by the door, so he must be downstairs. Bear??? No answer. Go out Bear. Then I notice his scooter on the lawn and his sandals carelessly lying in the grass. Where is Bear??? WHERE IS BEAR??? He only has two pairs of shoes, so I knew that wherever he was, he didn't have his shoes on. I stood there, frozen, for what seemed like hours, as I tried to process what I was seeing. The logical side of my brain knew that he was most likely at a neighbour's, but the other side of my brain flashed through every episode of "Without a Trace" I've ever seen and I knew that if he had been abducted, we needed to find him soon. Don't they always say something about the first few hours being the most critical?

Flash forward again probably 30-45 minutes, while I scour the neighbourhood on foot with Stitch in a stroller and six neighbours are out in four cars going in increasingly larger circles. By this point there have been Bear sightings on his bicycle, but about 1/2 an hour before. He's not even allowed to go to the corner by himself, so how is it that we can't find any trace of him???? Then a brain wave hits...the only place he might go by himself is to my parents', who live about 10 blocks away. We go there all the time, so he would know exactly how to get there. But surely he wouldn', he couldn't...please God...let him have...

The conversation went something like this:

"Hi Dad. Don't panic, but Bear's missing."

"But...he's here."

<insert really bitchy tone here>"What do you mean he's there? How long has he been there???"

"I don't know. I guess about half-an-hour."

"And it took you this long to realize I wasn't there???"

Apparently Bear had simply walked into the house and told Grandpa that Mommy had dropped him off and gone home. That seemed strange to my dad, but then he thought maybe I had been having a bad ODD day with Bear and needed a break. I've done that before, although never without calling first, so Dad just figured I had spoken to my mother, who was napping. I swear...a comedy of errors. Or would that be a comedy of terrors?

Back home, I'm standing in the driveway, phone in hand, having just hung up, when the police car shows up. One of the neighbours helping with the search is a paramedic, so he called his buddies at the police station to tell them what was going on. Nothing makes you feel more like a bad mother than having to explain to a police officer that your son disappeared while you were napping, but no worries, he's shown up 10 blocks away at your parents, wearing no helmet or shoes (no shoes???), having crossed a number of busy streets. Sigh...

So out I trotted the explanation. He has ADHD and ODD (I'm not a bad mother), kids with ADHD have very little impulse control (I'm not a bad mother), he's never done anything like this before (I'm not a bad mother), he's not even allowed to go to the corner (I'm not a bad mother), we're working with Child & Youth Wellness to develop his skills (I'm not a bad mother)...he promised he wouldn't leave the backyard (I'm not a bad mother...please believe me...I'm not a bad mother...). OK, I may have left out all the "I'm not a bad mother" stuff, but I'm sure it was written all over my face.

When my little chat with the nice policeman was over and he now knew everything about us and our family, I asked if he would mind going to over to my parents to scare the pants off Bear. No problem...he'd be happy to. He actually went pretty easy on him, so not exactly the pants-scaring-off lesson I was hoping for, but Bear's pretty cute and I think the officer felt bad for him. I didn't actually see Bear's face when the officer stepped into the room at my parents', but I did hear Bear say "Am I going to jail?"

So has he learned his lesson? Who knows. Have we? Yup. We have an appointment with the vet next week to get him microchipped, just like the dog. (kidding...sheesh...but it really did cross my mind!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

When a Haircut Isn't just a Haircut

I had great hopes for Saturday. I was going to do things. Good things. Productive things.

I should have known better.

Instead, I took Bear for a haircut. I know, why on earth would that interfere with doing things? Well, I'm glad you asked, because now I can vent. (Well, I'd vent anyway, but now you feel obliged to keep reading because, well, you asked.)

Bear has needed a haircut for weeks. The poor thing couldn't see out from under his hair when he put his bike helmet on. On Thursday I picked him up after school and told him we were going to go run some errands. No problem...he was game for that. After all, we were going to the party store to get invitations for his birthday party (he turns 6 this week...whahhh....) and then to get a haircut. We always go to First Choice to get his hair cut, but that's because I'm not paying more than $10 for a child to have a haircut, no matter how good his hair is (and he has really good hair...the girls are going to love it!). We managed the party store without any issues, but on the way to the haircut he informed me that he wanted to go home. I tried to convince him that it would only take a few minutes, but he was adamant. "I'm not going into the store and I'm not getting my hair cut, and there's nothing you can do about it!" Damn it, I hate it when he's right! There's a real feeling of powerlessness to admitting you have very little control over your own child, especially when he's only six, and you once again find yourself questioning your parenting abilities. After all, who's the parent here? If I say he's getting his hair cut today then, dammit, he's getting his hair cut today! Right? <insert hysterical laughter here> Oh, so very wrong.

Anyway, after talking it over we compromised on getting his hair cut on Saturday (today), with a trip to Walmart afterwards. He had received some birthday money that I had promised could be used to buy a toy, so we were already planning an excursion to Walmart at some point. Perfect, I thought...I'll tell him he needs to get his hair cut before going to Walmart or there's no Walmart. He wasn't terribly amused at my playing hard ball, but he agreed to my terms. Yes! Victory was mine!!!!

So for almost two days I listened to nothing but how much he just couldn't wait to go shopping at Walmart. Of course, being a bit of a witch, I gently reminded him every time about our deal. "Yeeessssss, Mommmmm," he'd say with great patience.

Flash forward to Saturday morning, and it's time for him to have a bath and wash his hair in anticipation of his hair cut. Sounds simple enough, right? Except Bear decided he didn't want to get his hair washed, and, again, there was very little I could do about it without a physical confrontation.

"Well, that's fine Bear," I said in my most reasonable and non-confrontational voice, as if I really didn't care one way or the other, "but then I guess we won't be going to Walmart." Bear stopped, looked at me, and said: "That's fine. I've decided I don't want to go anyway." For the uninitiated, that's a pretty typical reaction from Bear when something is being taken away. No sweat...I didn't want it anyway. It's actually pretty infuriating. Does nothing bug this child?

About an hour later he reappeared, having changed his mind. Could he please have his bath and wash his hair, he asked sweetly. I have to admit that I was really torn. Should I be the heavy and refuse, or should I be nice and agree? Would refusing teach him a lesson in doing what he's told? (Probably not. That hasn't worked in the past.) In the end I said OK, because I really wanted him to get a hair cut.

Although school started for Bear last week, the majority of kids go back tomorrow. Figuring the wait time at First Choice would be horrendous and thinking I was being really clever, I called a place in the mall and made an appointment for him. The result? Bear's anxiety, which has grown exponentially this summer, reared its ugly head and he refused to go in. Rather, I chased him pretty much from one end of the mall to the other (thank goodness it was dead, so I could see him at all times), calling for him to stop. Oh, did I mention I had Stitch with me? So I followed Bear around, unable to catch up, alternately dragging and carrying a 27lb toddler, with people looking at me funny as I went by for the second (or was it third?) time, still trying to catch up. Funny, what stopped him was when I yelled out "Bear! ArrĂȘte de marcher!" I guess French school is paying off.

After discussing it for a few minutes, we established that he was scared to go in because he didn't know them and he didn't know how they cut hair. My explanation that they cut hair just like everyone else, with water and scissors, held no weight with him, and so we decided together that we would go to First Choice, where he would be more comfortable. First, though, we would swing by Grandma and Granddad's to see if we could leave Stitch with them, because I was drained by this point.

Thankfully, everything sailed along beautifully after that. Grandma and Grandpa were home and were delighted to have Stitch for an hour. Bear and I arrived at First Choice to discover we had just missed the rush and we didn't even have to wait! We were in and out of there in about 20 minutes, and then on to Walmart for the promised shopping excursion.

So, if you've done the math, a 20 minute hair cut took two days. No wonder my house is a mess! (That, and I really hate cleaning, but today I'll blame it on Bear.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Never Count Your Tantrums before They Erupt

As much as I hate to admit that I have anything left to learn (Shouldn't I know everything by now? After all, next year is the big 4-0!), this week I learned a valuable lesson: Never count your tantrums before they erupt. I know, sounds stupid, but as any mom (or dad...can't leave them out!) with a child with mental health issues will tell you, you tend to indulge in worst-case-scenario thinking every now and then.

Case in point...I've been dreading back-to-school all summer. Now, if you know me at all you know I'm not one to worry about things before they happen. (Oh shut up, don't get to comment.) Fine, I tend to worry a lot. But in my defence, Bear provided me with a lot of very good reasons to worry.

I'm sure I can count on my fingers and my toes just how many times I got Bear to school on time last year. Just convincing him to get dressed could take hours, so the school was used to our showing up at 9 or 10 in the morning. Bless them, they'd look at me and say "Rough morning?" The only time any concern was expressed was around mid-year, when they explained that he was missing a lot of learning time (afternoon was play time) and they were worried he might fall behind. But even then, it was said out of genuine concern and with an eye to helping us. They even put together an incentive program for that school!

But I digress.

There were even days when he flat out refused to go to school, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. Short of wrestling him to the ground to get his uniform on, carrying him out to the van, sitting on him to get his seat belt on, and then carrying him into the school, my hands were tied. And before you suggest that's what I should have done, let me add that this would have sent him into a violent rage where one or both of us would have ended up injured. No exaggeration.

Instead, I told him that he had to stay in his room from the moment school started until it ended (8 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.) and he could only come out for snack, lunch, and bathroom breaks. This is not a child whose room is equipped with TV, computer, and video games, so his entertainment consisted of Lego, puzzles, books, and colouring. His reaction the first day when he was finally released at 2:30? "Wow...that wasn't long at all!" (Insert Mommy's smothered primal scream here.)

When he started showing signs of anxiety a few weeks ago at the prospect of starting school and being in a classroom without any toys (grade 1...he's a big boy now), I figured I was in for a rough ride. I say "I" only because hubby leaves for work at 6:30 a.m., so he's not here to help. Trying to talk Bear through his anxiety only seemed to make it worse, so I just left it.

The result?

Today is day five and the fifth day in a row he's been on time for school. Not only that, but he hasn't uttered so much as a word of complaint about getting ready for school. And...are you ready for this...he's even been ready early enough to happily race down the street to take the school bus with his friends, with Mommy and Stitch (the baby, for the uninitiated) scurrying after him.

So this week's lesson, my friends, is never to count your tantrums before they erupt. I'm sure I'll have forgotten it by tomorrow, but today it feels good to be just a little bit smarter than I was yesterday.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kind Words

Today someone did something nice for me. It may not seem like much, but today a total stranger with whom I've had a 3-message exchange on Twitter (although on Twitter that just about makes you best friends) told me she likes me, that I have a good sense of humour...and that I'm special. Her words hold particular meaning for me because she is an ADHD coach, so she "gets it."

Why am I so special, you might ask. Apparently it's because I've managed to keep my sense of humour through everything we've been through and continue to go through with Bear. Apart from being extremely flattered at such a lovely, and unsolicited, compliment, what hit me is that the ability to retain my sense of humour struck her, a professional who deals with parents like me on a daily basis, as something that stood out. As I said to her, if I don't laugh, I'll cry.

Thankfully, I don't cry as much as I used to, but I've had my bad days, trust me. I’ve had days when I’ve locked myself in the bathroom and called my parents to come get my precious little boy. I’ve had days when I’ve gone out on the deck and told him to stay in the house and leave me alone (my way of putting some space between us so I don't do/say something I'll regret). I’ve had days when I’ve crawled into my bed crying after finally settling him for the night. I’ve had days when I’ve lay on his bed with silent tears running down my face, holding him as he falls asleep, finally worn out physically and emotionally from a 2-hour tantrum that involved him hitting, kicking, pinching, biting, spitting, and throwing things, and culminated in me or my husband having to physically restrain him. I’ve even had days when I’ve fallen to my knees in tears, praying to God for the strength to get through this and to be the mother he needs. And trust me, I’ve had days when he has gotten the better of me and I have found myself slapping that little bum of his (oh shut up...let's see what you do when your son is throwing toys at your head and laughing when his aim is true) or yelling back at him. For the record, finding yourself yelling "No, you shut up!" at your five-year-old is not a good feeling.

So to my new-found friend...thank you. Thank you for taking the time to "get it." Thank you for taking the time to tell me I'm doing a good job. Thank you for encouraging me to keep laughing.

And to the moms and dads who haven't yet found a way to laugh, hold on. Our children are challenging in ways that others can't even begin to understand. It's a rough road we travel, but the hugs and kisses and giggles, even though they're sometimes rare, make it worth the trip.