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.