The Christmas season has been a little hectic here in the ODD household. If you have a child with ADHD, ODD, or any other mental health challenges, you can probably sympathize. For one thing, everything takes twice as long when you have a child who requires more attention than the average child. Add in the excitement of Christmas, and you have a little boy who is a little crazier than usual, if that's possible. Add in a toddler, and you have two children who require a heck of a lot of attention.
With all the chaos of Christmas, one particular present stood out this year. It wasn't anything under the tree. It wasn't even wrapped. (Well, I guess it was, in one respect. It was wrapped in jeans and a t-shirt and an elf hat with bells on it.) It was, however, the best Christmas present I've ever received.
Last Thursday was the day that parents look forward to all year. You know the one. The day where you go sit in a packed gymnasium on hard plastic chairs with a squirming toddler (well, maybe you've done it sans toddler, but it adds a whole new level of challenge) while for two hours you watch other people's children sing songs to which they've forgotten the words (fine...one hour, but it feels like two) in order to see your child -- your star -- sing his or her little heart out for two minutes. Yes, you guessed it...last Thursday was school-Christmas-concert day.
Being the dutiful mother that I am, I made the requisite phone calls to grandparents to alert them to the fact that their presence had been requested by Bear. Bear's never been much of a performer, so he's never really wanted anyone other than Mommy and Daddy in the audience. This year, however, the family turned out in droves at Bear's insistence. Including Stitch, who provided us with endless entertainment while we were waiting for the star of the show, there were seven family members present to cheer Bear on. OK, that may not constitute droves, but that's a pretty good turnout for one little six year old. (We're growing in numbers. The first year was a pregnant me, the next year was three adults and an baby, and this year was six adults and a toddler. Can't wait to see next year!)
I warned everyone that they shouldn't expect too much from Bear's performance. In the past it has been a little lackluster. Perhaps lackluster isn't the right word. Non-existent is perhaps more accurate. You see, an unmedicated little boy with severe ADHD doesn't have the patience or the attention span to learn a song, especially not a song with hand gestures. (And what good kindergarten performance doesn't include hand gestures?) Put this same little boy on stage and what do you get? Well, let's put it this way. I took a lot of pictures at last year's performance, and he wasn't facing the audience in one of them. But I have great pictures of him bugging the friend beside him, bugging the friend on the other side of him, staring at the ceiling, staring at the floor, checking out what's going on behind him...anything other than what he was supposed to be doing.
This year I anticipated the same thing, despite the fact that he's now on ADHD medication. Given the anxiety issues that he's had this year, I would have been happy just to see him get up on stage. He was really excited about being in the concert, but that doesn't mean anything. He can talk a good talk about something he's excited about doing, but then often backs out when the time comes. We've learned not to let our expectations get ahead of us, because then we're disappointed. Not with him, mind you. He does the best he can, and we know that. But constantly anticipating a good day, a fun day, a big breakthrough...or whatever it is you're anticipating...and then being disappointed is emotionally exhausting.
Despite my cautious pessimism (less exhausting than cautious optimism), I grabbed the camera on my way out the door, thinking to record Bear's performance for TheODDDad. (TheODDDad works an hour away, so being there wasn't an option for him.) Now, I should tell you that I've never recorded one of these before, so why I decided to this time is a mystery -- but I'm glad I did. (Do you see where this is going yet?)
When it was time for Bear's class to perform, I scooted up to the front of the gym to sit on the floor with the other parents who were recording the performance. Out walked the kids, with Bear first in line. He walked to his spot, knelt down, and looked at his teacher for direction. I waited for him to wiggle. He didn't wiggle. The music started. I waited for him to look lost. He didn't look lost. The kids started singing. I waited for him to simply kneel there, not singing. He started to sing. The hand gestures started. I waited for him to get confused and ignore the hand gestures. He made all the hand gestures. And then it sunk it...for the first time in his life, my little boy was able to participate in something just like all the other kids.
The song finished. Bear stood up and bowed with all the other kids.