Monday, April 23, 2012

My Boy -- A Man of His Word

"I'm not going to school!!!!" he shrieked at me this morning. This after he had snuggled with me and smothered me with kisses.

"You're the best mommy ever!" he had informed me.

But then it came time to get ready for school, and things changed. He changed.

"If you make me go to school, I'm not going to listen!!!" he warned me. Ya, ya, kid... we've been through this before.

"That's fine," I told him. "But I still have to take you to school or I get in big trouble. Whether you listen is your decision."

His tirade of abuse continued in the van on the way to drop off Stitch at daycare. Bear's school is normally my first stop, but something told me that might not be a wise decision this morning. Glad I listened to my instincts.

When we arrived at Bear's school, he was out of his seat belt and in the back of the van before I had even turned off the radio. I've learned from previous experience to stow our "stow-n-go" seats when he's in this kind of mood. It makes it easier to crawl in the back of the van and drag him out. If I don't he hops over the seats and then back over them as I run around the van like a fool. Today he pulled a new trick, though, and scooted to the front of the van, hopping out one of the doors before I could grab him. I have to say I'm surprised it's taken him this long to think of that.

Off he trotted to the front doors with me trailing behind, thinking that perhaps this was going to go better than anticipated. Wow...I couldn't have been more wrong.

As soon as we were inside the doors, Bear let loose. He started kicking the metal window frames of the entrance way, which reverberated loudly. The school secretaries can now tell at a glance what kind of morning Bear and I have had, so one of them dashed for the teacher who works with him. Bear adores her, but this morning he lashed out at her as well, calling her names and kicking at her. Another teacher who works with him was drawn by the commotion, and between them they wrestled him away. Actually, they carried him, but that's nothing new.

Twenty minutes later the phone rang at home. Bear had thrown two chairs, hurled Lego around the room, and spit on the floor. Both teachers were still with him and it wasn't going well. Could I come get him?

Back at school, I crouched down to talk to Bear, who was hiding out under a counter. I held my hand out to him and reassured him that he was OK, that Mommy was here and we'd help him calm down. He took my hand and crept out.

"I told you I'd do this," he reminded me as he glowered at me, "and it worked."

Well, can't say he didn't warn me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mom's Income -- The Real Cost of Childhood ADHD

As I sit here in the middle of the afternoon, chaos reigns around me. On the table beside me sits a stack of bills that I'm trying to juggle payment on -- I have to decide which ones need to be paid now and which ones can wait until next payday. In the living room Stitch is playing, happily throwing blocks around and laughing madly as they bounce off the furniture. Down the hall Bear, who should actually be at school right now, is playing his Leapster, the fact that it's an "educational" game allowing me to fool myself into believing it can be classed as "work."

I stare at the bills, willing them to just disappear. Disappearing in a puff of smoke would be preferable, since then there'd be no trace left of them. Money gets a little tight in the ODD household because, even though TheODDDad has a pretty decent job, and for that I'm grateful, I work from home part-time and currently bring in about half of what I would be earning if I worked full-time. We manage to pay the mortgage and the bills, but there's not a whole lot extra (if any) left at the end of the month. We'd cut back on our spending, except there's really nothing left to cut. We have basic cable and neither of us owns a cell phone. We have friends over instead of going out. When we do go out, we've been known to ask my niece to babysit for free because we can't afford to go out and pay her. (For the record, my almost-16-year-old niece is one of the most important members of our support network. She has been on the receiving end of Bear's behaviour more than a few times and knows how to deal with him and laugh it off like a pro. Because she's seen it firsthand, she's one of the few people who truly "gets it," so she's always happy to help if it means we get out of the house.)

The fact of the matter is that we really need to be a two-income family. We need to be, but we aren't. We need to be, but we can't be. I realize there are a lot of families in the same boat given the state of the economy, but the economy isn't our problem.

So why then, you ask, aren't I out bringing in more money? Well, if you must know (you're so nosey!), we have a child with special needs, and just about any mom with a special needs child will tell you how difficult it is to hold a full-time job AND do everything you need to do for your child. Something, somewhere, has to give, and it's very often the ability to hold a full-time job.

Think I'm exaggerating? A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics revealed that overall earnings of mothers with a child with autism are 56% lower than mothers whose children don't have any health limitations. This is likely due to the fact that mothers of children with autism often have to leave the workforce altogether or take lower-paying jobs in order to properly care for their children. Interestingly enough, the study showed that only the mother's income was affected, not the father's.

Granted, the study looked at mothers of autistic children, not children with ADHD. But while autism and ADHD are two completely unrelated conditions, they can be very similar in their outward manifestations. In fact, a proper diagnosis of ADHD often involves ruling out autism. Both can cause behavioural problems, problems in school, difficulties in social interactions...etc, etc...and necessitate all kinds of interventions and specialists. Based on my own experiences and those of other mothers I know whose children have ADHD (especially when there's an accompanying diagnosis of ODD, anxiety, or any of the other conditions that often go hand-in-hand with it), I would say we're in the same boat.

Bear's challenges mean that he rarely gets to school before 10:00 a.m., if he gets there at all. His anxiety means that summer programs and daycares are out of the question. Phone calls from the school come weekly, although at one point they were almost daily. When he does make it to school, I don't know from one minute to the next when I'll be called to come get him. Suspensions are fairly rare now, but they were a rather frequent occurrence at one point. Until last week, we met weekly with a counsellor to work on his anxiety issues. Although that's over for now, there will be more behavioural interventions as he gets older that will require meetings and appointments. Add in appointments with doctors/specialists and meetings at the school and you suddenly find that you are almost unemployable at a traditional 9-to-5 job. You are an employer's worst nightmare -- someone who may or may not show up for work on time (or at all), who may leave in the middle of the day on a moment's notice, who receives personal phone calls at work on a regular basis, and whose mind isn't on her job...ever.

I'm fortunate in that I have skills that allow me to work from home and to bring in enough money to makes ends meet, but let's just say that Freedom 55 isn't exactly in our future.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Who Will Catch Him if I Fall?

For the past three or four months we've had a fantastic counsellor from our local children's mental health agency coming to the house every week to work with Bear on his anxiety. He took to her immediately, as did I. He looked forward to her visits, as did I. But now they're over, and Bear's going to be sad. And so am I.

Our counsellor and I had a big talk when she was here yesterday about next steps for Bear, and we came to the conclusion that Bear needs to get a little older and a little more mature before we can move to the next level of therapy. Bear might be almost 7 years old, but kids with ADHD are actually two to three years behind their peers in emotional maturity, which means that in some respects we're actually dealing with a 4 or 5 year old. The concepts involved in overcoming anxiety are quite complex and require a fair amount of self-awareness, and he's just not there yet. Together she and I decided that at this point it's probably best if TheODDDad and I continue to work with Bear using the tools we've learned until he's a little older.

I don't know how I feel about being told there's nothing more she can do for us. One one hand, it's encouraging because she's telling us that we're doing a really good job and don't need her anymore. We're not being told to take parenting classes, we're not being told Bear needs psychological help...we're being told that we're good parents and we have it under control. On the other hand, it's scary. I don't want to do this on our own. I liked having someone come into my house on a regular basis. It made me feel safer, like someone was holding the back of my bike as I learned to ride it. Now I feel like someone has taken my training wheels off and gone back in the house, leaving me with no choice but to figure it out on my own. Part of me is glowing with pride that someone has enough confidence in my abilities to leave me on my own, but the other part of me is scared of falling off my bike.

Except there's no bike. If I fall, I don't just get a scraped knee. If I fall, I bring my beautiful Bear down with me. If I fall, who's going to catch me? If I fall, who's going to catch him?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is It Nap Time Yet?

It's 3:54 a.m. (yes, that's A.M.!!!) and I'm sitting here at the computer. Since I've now been up for almost two hours, my brain has started to wake up enough for me to function. Funny, though, the creature tormenting me in the middle of the night isn't you-know-who. No, Bear is fast asleep in his bed, and I'm desperately hoping he's going to stay there.

This time, for the second time in as many nights, it's young Stitch who's wide awake and up in the middle of the night. Right now he's sitting beside me at the dining room table, eating cookies and watching a movie. Eating cookies in the middle of the night? Damn right. It keeps him quiet, which means he won't wake up his brother or his father. I dare you to live my life and see what you won't do for a little peace and quiet in the middle of the night. And anyway, they're Arrowroot cookies, so it's not that bad. And he's launched half of them at the dog, who is in cookie heaven.

I honestly thought we were over this middle-of-the-night thing. Stitch has never had the same problems sleeping that Bear did, and Bear's problems are under control now that we've found the right meds for him. I was really hoping that we were on our way to actually getting full-night sleeps on a regular basis, but I guess not.

So what gives with the little one? No idea, but I sure hope this is just a two-night faze he's going through. I just don't think I have the energy to do this again.

Is it nap time yet?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Can't Say I Didn't Try

Easter, like just about everything else in the ODD house, is complicated. Because of Bear's food sensitivities, I don't have the luxury of running out to the store to buy a whole load of candy for the Easter Bunny to hide. That said, it's really important to me that Bear gets to do regular stuff like hunting for Easter eggs. There's enough in the poor little guy's world to make him feel different without being left out of the usual childhood traditions. The problem is figuring out what the Bunny should bring.

Now, being the incredibly enterprising mom that I am (tongue in cheek, people, tongue in cheek), I was determined that there be chocolate for my guys to look for on Easter morning. My preference would have been to buy stuff (because it's just that much easier), but search as I did on the Internet, I never found any Easter chocolate Bear could eat. So what did Mommy do? Mommy drove an hour to the nearest big town to get some "Bear-friendly" chocolate bars (rice milk chocolate bars are surprisingly yummy) that could be melted down and turned into Easter treats. Then Mommy descended on her beloved sister's house for an evening of chocolate making. Between me, my sister, and my niece, we had that chocolate melted and molded before you could say "pass the wine." We made chocolate-bunny lollipops and bite-sized bunnies and eggs that were abso-freaking-lutely adorable.

Cute, huh????

All week I eagerly anticipated the look on Bear's face when he tasted his first chocolate, and it was definitely worth waiting for. He popped a bunny in his mouth and closed his eyes in six-year-old ecstasy...then he opened his eyes again, signalled "one minute" with a finger, and ran into the kitchen where he spit his chocolate out in the garbage.

So much for that.

Stitch, on the other hand, pitched a fit when I wouldn't let him eat any more chocolate.

Mommy may have a new favourite son.