Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm Not a Bad Mother

On Friday night I gave a speech at my church called "I'm Not a Bad Mother -- Moving past the blame and shame of children's mental illness."

It was a cold, blustery night. Freezing rain had fallen in the morning, and then snow in afternoon and into the evening. The event had been advertised in local papers and on the radio, but I still had visions of an empty church. Instead, we had almost 100 people turn up to hear me speak.

Here's what I had to say.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not My Finest Mommy Moment

Mommy, why are you so mad at me? he asked quietly, glancing up at me from his jam sandwich.

I stopped storming around the kitchen, feeling like a knife had just been plunged into my heart. I looked at his sweet face, so earnest and hurt, filled with confusion as to what he had done wrong. It wasn't his fault. None of this is his fault. Yet he was the unintentional recipient of my anger.

I dropped to my knees in front of him and took his little face in my hands. I looked deep into his eyes and apologized to him from the depths of my soul.

I'm not mad at you, I reassured him, knowing full well that my actions had been communicating exactly the opposite. I'm so sorry, my Angel. You didn't do anything wrong.

OK, Mommy, he replied, everything already forgotten. I love you. Can I have some apple juice?

Dear Lord, please make me worthy of this beautiful boy, whose light shines so bright and so pure.

[Note: My frustration with Bear not being able to sleep got the better of me tonight. I got my hopes up when he fell asleep at a decent time, only to have them dashed when he woke up an hour later. It was not my finest Mommy moment.]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I'm Making My Sweet Boy Cry, and It's Killing Me

Bedtime in the ODD household used to be absolute hell. And by hell, I mean hell. Yelling, screaming, crying, throwing things, door slamming, you name it. For one thing, Bear would be tired, so his aggression would skyrocket. He also had problems falling asleep, which is a classic ADHD symptom. Then we discovered ADHD meds, which helped with the aggression, and melatonin, which made him sleepy. Those changed bedtime for what we hoped was forever.

Then along came last week, or maybe the week before, and suddenly all Bear's sleep issues resurfaced with a vengence. The melatonin stopped working, and suddenly he wasn't falling asleep until 3 a.m...or 4 a.m...or 5 a.m. He wasn't even yawning! (I've noticed he rarely yawns, which is something I'll be talking to the doctor about. Maybe it's a sign of something.) He didn't go to school for a week and a half because you can't send a child to school on 2 hours of sleep. Night after night we went through this. In addition to not sleeping, he was also wildly hyper and dangerously aggressive at night. Once Bear's meds have worn off, he's a different boy altogether.

Then the other night I clued into the fact that getting him to bed at 4 a.m. wasn't any easier than trying to get him into bed at 9 p.m. He'd cry. He'd scream. He'd slam his door. He'd throw things at me. He'd pound on our bedroom door to try to wake up The ODD Dad. He'd scream outside Stitch's room to try to wake him up. Except this was at 4 a.m., and Mommy was exhausted. Eventually he'd wear himself out and I'd go in and snuggle him while he cried himself to sleep. After three or four nights of the 4 a.m. game I started to see if I could move bedtime up. What if I provoked him into meltdown at 2:00 a.m...would he exhaust himself and fall asleep? Yup. What about midnight? Yup. Except now he's figured out what Mommy's doing, and he's devastated. Mommy's making him cry on purpose, and so rather than flying into a rage that he's locked in his room (because I actually have to lock him in), he sobs. He sits against his door and crying his little heart out, sobbing "let me out...Mommy...let me out...I want Mommy...I want my Momma..."

And it's killing me.

Note: We have an appointment with Bear's specialist on Tuesday, and I'm praying that we can get something to help him sleep.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More Coffee, Please!

It's 12:31 a.m. on a Monday night, and I'm blogging. I'd much rather be in bed asleep, but that's not happening anytime soon. Maybe not even tonight.

As I sit here typing, Bear is running up and down the hall. Right now he's doing everything in his power to make me mad or wake up Stitch or The ODD Dad. I've confiscated the markers he was about to use to write on the wall and the Spiderman toy he kept launching at me (it launches disks). He's dumped the dog's food into her water, threatened to throw a toy in the fish tank (stopped when I said we'd get rid of the fish), and keeps hitting my computer. I've just gone and emptied out the half-full coffee cup that was sitting beside me (my third cup tonight) just in case he gets the bright idea to dump that on my computer.

<Note: In the time it took me to walk 10 feet away and dump out my coffee, Bear charged out of his room to ransack my work space. He pounded away on my computer keyboard, inadvertently closing me out of my blog. I'm glad I remembered to save it before I walked away.>

When I paid no attention to his antics, including his attack on my computer, he started throwing things at me, including Stitch's little board books. Those things can fly! And they hurt, too!

What's going on, you ask? I have no clue. I wish to hell I did. Last night was the same deal, except Stitch was up for a good part of the night as well. After all, it's a little difficult to sleep when your big brother is pounding on your bedroom door and screaming at the top of his lungs. I finally got Bear to sleep at about 2:30 a.m., but I think it was about 3 a.m. or so before I managed to get Stitch settled.

Bear used to have major issues sleeping, but he hasn't had any problems in months. Then, for some reason, things changed last week. Just like old times, Bear woke up at about 11 p.m. last Wednesday night and didn't go back to bed until about 4 a.m. Then he did the same thing on Friday night. Then last night he was up almost all night, and the same thing tonight. The 11 p.m. til 4 a.m. used to be a pretty regular occurrence, but this all-night thing is new. I can't say I'm a big fan.

Bear's sleep problems this past week, combined with a school suspension and a snow day, have meant that I haven't managed to get any client work done. None. Zero. Zip. And is that a problem? Yes, it is. A big problem? Yes, it is. A huge problem? Yes, it is. So tonight I'm drinking cup after cup of coffee in an attempt to stay coherent enough to get some work done. If I'm going to be up, I may as well be productive.

Guess I'd better go make some more coffee. It's going to be a long night.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Giving Kids with ADHD a Chance

Ring ring

I didn't think too much of it when the phone rang this morning. Stitch was at my parents', so I figured it was probably my mother with a question.

Good morning, Laura speaking, I answered. For the record, I don't always answer the phone like that, but I work from home so I have to at least pretend to be professional. No one needs to know there's a toddler clinging to my legs, I'm working on my laptop at the dining room table that's still covered with breakfast dishes, and I'm in my jammies.

Hi Laura...it's C., said the voice on the other end.

Oh, crap...now what's he done???? I moaned out loud. I don't even try to sound surprised anymore when C. calls. I'm impressed that so far I've managed to keep it to "oh, crap..." and nothing worse. Because believe me, that's not what went through my head.

C. is the resource teacher at Bear's school, and part of her job is to call the parents of our misbehaving little darlings to tell us what they've been up to. I don't envy her her job because it sounds as if some parents resent her calls. That has to be hard.

He hit a girl twice, so the principal thinks he should spend the rest of the day at home and then stay home tomorrow. Sorry, Laura. (Turns out this is the same little girl who threw snow in his face a few days ago. That day he was very proud of the fact that he had told a teacher instead of hitting her, but it looks like he was still harboring a bit of a grudge. Guess we're going to have to work on that. If you're going to retaliate, at least wait a week so that no one makes the connection. Duh!)

As much as Bear being suspended is a major pain in my behind, I can't say I get too upset about it. In fact, I almost welcome it. I know it sounds crazy, but the more he gets suspended, the stronger the case the school has when they request funding for an EA for him for next year. Believe it or not, the principal and I have already had this conversation.

Suspend him for a week, I told him, if it means he gets the help he needs.

And we may be in luck. Not with the week-long suspension, but with the funding request. Up until now, the Ontario Ministry of Education didn't recognize ADHD as a condition that might cause a child to need extra resources. In order to qualify, a child had to have a second diagnosis, like autism. The fact that the Canadian government considers ADHD to be a severe disability didn't seem to matter. The fact that ADHD can lead to extreme learning difficulties didn't seem to matter. The fact that a lot of kids with ADHD drop out of school didn't seem to matter.

Until now.

Last month, very quietly, the Ontario Ministry of Education made an announcement that ADHD is now enough of a diagnosis on its own to merit funding. That doesn't mean children with ADHD will automatically get the resources they need, but at least now they stand a chance.

A chance.

A chance to be happy.

A chance to feel smart.

A chance to succeed.

A chance to rise to their full potential.

A chance to achieve their dreams.

A chance.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Predictability of Unpredictability

Batten down the hatches...there's a storm a brewin'. There's no telling when it will end or what kind of destruction it will cause, so better safe than sorry.

That's the way I feel sometimes about life with Bear: it is as unpredictable as the weather. One minute it's all sunshine and love, and the next it's raining cars on my head -- literally. But once the deluge is over and the remaining showers have passed, it's sunshine and love again.

That gets exhausting, let me tell you. Imagine staring at the sky constantly, always wondering when the next storm will hit? That little cloud over there? It looks all cute and puffy and white, but don't kid yourself. It can turn into nasty weather faster than you can say "What the hell did I do to set you off this time???"

Welcome to life with a child with a mental illness or a mood disorder. Unpredictability is the only thing that's predictable.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Permission To Be Less than Perfect

This Christmas I did something new: I gave myself permission to be less than perfect.

Those of you who know me know how hard that was for me. After all, I'm just so darned...perfect. (cough, sputter, choke)

Fine, I'm sitting here while my tornado of a toddler destroys my house (I've just looked behind me and it's Kleenex carnage...apparently I left a Kleenex box within Stitch reach), I haven't showered in days (eeeewwww...) and the dog-hair dust bunnies are nibbling away at my toes. The dishes aren't done, the dog wants out, and Bear could probably use some breakfast. So what am I doing? While blogging, of course, because I feel compelled to share my new-found freedom from perfection with you.

Perfection, I've decided, comes in many different forms. My idea of perfection and your idea of perfection are probably pretty different. In fact, I can guarantee they are, because my standards are apparently pretty low.

Anyway, this Christmas season I gave myself permission to be less than perfect in three main areas:

Main Area #1 -- Fudge
I've always tried to bribe thank all the members of Bear's team at school at Christmas. They work really, really, really, really, really hard, so I think the least I could do is let them know how much we appreciate all their efforts. The first year, I made batch after batch of fudge, and then gave each teacher/support person a big container. Last year I decided to cut back, so they each got a small container (but really pretty!). This year, when I still hadn't made the fudge a week before the last day of school, I gave myself permission to not stress over it. If the fudge got made, it got made. If it didn't, it didn't. There's no reason why gifts of appreciation can't come after Christmas. It's not as if anyone would refuse to accept, right? The only one judging me about whether or not the fudge got made was me, so I decided to stop. I can't tell you what a relief that was.

Main Area #2 -- Work
As a freelance writer and editor, I work when the work comes in. As many freelancers can probably understand, I've basically bent over backwards for clients in the past. Need it yesterday? Sure, no problem. I'll work all weekend and neglect my family...whatever it takes to get the job done. Heaven forbid I should ever say no. Heaven forbid I should ever put my needs first. But this Christmas I said forget it. It's my turn. It's my time. Bear is off school for two weeks, so I decided to take a two-week "vacation" where I didn't do any work. Keep in mind that when you work from home like I do, you're always at the "office," so it's really easy to feel guilty about doing something for yourself. This year, however, I've put aside the guilt and I'm not allowing myself to do any more than send the occasional work email. I even told a client that I was taking two weeks off. If other people can take vacations, why can't I???

Main Area #3 -- The small stuff
I've decided that a lot of my stress is self-induced. Yup, you read it right -- I am my own worst enemy. This year I decided to stop sweating the small stuff, the stuff others most likely wouldn't care about. For example, for the past few years we've had an open house at our house on Christmas Eve. It's always a really nice time, and I really look forward to it. This year was no different, until I started to make my grocery list of the stuff I would need. As I wrote down the ingredients for the dip that is a staple at our house, I stopped. Would I really have time to make that? Probably, but at what cost? At the cost of getting stressed? Would anyone notice if the dip was absent? Probably. But would they leave? Probably not. Would it ruin their evening? Probably not. Would they judge me? Probably not. Are there good dips available at the grocery store? You bet. And so that's what went on my grocery list.

So my lesson this Christmas? It's OK to be less than perfect. We create our own expectations of "perfect" for ourselves, and then we try to live up to them. But would making fudge or dip have made me a better mother or wife or sister or daughter? Nope. Would trying to work against deadlines with two little boys at home be a good idea? Definitely not. But removing my self-imposed stress so that I could relax and enjoy my family a little more sure was.

Cause let's face it...when Momma ain't happy...ain't nobody happy. (Cause Momma gets really bitchy when she ain't happy...just ask TheODDDad.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

An ADHD Christmas

I follow a bunch of different blogs, one of which is TotallyADD. TotallyADD is a great site for adults with ADHD. I was playing around on it the other day when I came across this little gem, and I just have to share it.

Note: Yes, I realize this post would have been better timed had I posted it before Christmas, but I didn't have it then. So you just shush and keep reading. And if you recognize yourself in the poem, well...you might want to visit the website.

T’was The Night Before… an ADHD Christmas


T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was on time, not even my spouse.
The stockings were half up, the gifts were half wrapped,
Cause the scissors and tape were buried ‘neath crap.

The children were glued to their laptops, by God,
While visions of new apps danced on I Pods.
And mamma in her kerchief, and still in pajamas
Had just settled her brain, which was going bananas.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clutter
Of lawn chairs, car parts and my rusting grass cutter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore my shin on an old box, and made a deep gash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Made me think of a cow, then an old TV show.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
But the memory of shoes I had misplaced last year!

Also where I’d left that new wooden broomstick.
Oh, and look, there are cows! Oh, and there’s old Saint Nick!
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

Now Dasher, and Dancer, now watcha-ma-callit?
On Comet! On Cupid! Oops, forgot my wallet!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall,
But he rushed without checking, and took a great fall!

As my thoughts that before a wild hurricane fly,
I should do my taxes, or at least I should try.
Did you see that movie? Oh, what was I saying?
Oh, right St Nick and his reindeer were sleighing!

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
Some tools I’d left there, being kicked by a hoof.
As I drew in my head, thoughts came in a bunch!
So I missed Santa land, I was so out to lunch!

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were tarnished with ashes and soot.
The bundle of toys he had flung on his shoulder,
Looked quite a mess, like my bills in file folders.

His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
Like that guy that I knew. What’s his name? Bob? Or Larry?
Santa’s droll mouth was drawn up like a bow,
Which reminded me once more of that TV show.

The wreath of smoke from his pipe made him blink,
But he explained that nicotine helped him to think.
In his hand was a coffee, and a second one waiting,
And a joint and vodka. It’s called self-medicating.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old chap.
And we laughed when he tripped on a pile of crap.
He told me, “I have A.D.H.D. in my head.”
I said, “Me too, Santa! It’s nothing to dread!”

He spoke not a word, for a second or less,
Then nattered non-stop, piling gifts on our mess.
And checking the pockets of all of his clothes,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he soared on the breeze,
“Happy Christmas to all! Oh darn, where are my keys?!”

By Rick Green
With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore