Life Under the Big Top

Karen Paz

As a child, we dream of growing up, getting married and having kids. We imagine how many kids we may have, and how much fun it will be raising a family. For me, that dream was based on afternoons of watching reruns of “Leave it to Beaver,” “Lassie” and “The Brady Bunch.” But in reality, many of us end up with kids more like “Dennis the Menace,” hoping that “Super Nanny” will knock on our door any minute and cometo our rescue, saving us so that we don’t end up with problem children on “Dr. Phil.”

Life with kids started out as I imagined. My son was a happy, easy baby. I should have known something was up when, at five months, he was crawling and climbing on things and his in-home daycare was concerned he was overly active. My daughter came into the world impressing the hospital nurses with her feisty temperament. But what did I know as a young mother? I thought I could handle anything that came my way. I was soon to find out that it is physically exhausting and emotionally draining to have two high maintenance children.

Over time, my quest for helping my own children turned first into volunteering, and eventually into a career. Now, I have a full-time position at an agency that provides programs for families of children with special needs. My children are young adults, and as I reflect back, I realize that I spent an inordinate amount of energy as a parent making sure my children received the support they needed. At the time, I thought that was my number one priority. While it seemed like the main concern at the time, I now see that I was so caught up in helping my kids that I failed to make time for myself.

As a parent who understands the struggles of raising challenging children, I welcome the opportunity in my professional role to help guide others, providing resource help and personal support. For each of us, the problems and solutions will vary. For me, looking for the positive moments and finding humor in difficult situations helped me through the tough times. So in keeping with that light-hearted approach…

Ladies and gentleman, children of all ages, welcome to the “greatest show on earth”, the ADHD Family Circus. Let’s meet the star of the show: you, the parent as ringmaster! Your role as ringmaster is to command the audience’s attention and direct their focus from one ring to the next. Most importantly, as ringmaster it is your responsibility to keep the show running smoothly, keeping the performers on task while overseeing acts happening in three different rings simultaneously.

The audience may perceive the ADHD Family Circus as entertaining and exciting, but to those in it, parenting kids with ADHD is an exhausting, full-time job. There is pressure in trying to live up to expectations with all eyes on you. This is not easy when you are always on the go, and your routine constantly interrupted. Yet regardless of moods, problems or behavior, the show must go on. This is why the role of ringmaster is so important.

All of the players in our Circus deserve applause, acceptance and validation – including you, the ringmaster. Here are 13 ways you can channel the creativity and uniqueness of the circus, find avenues to improve your parenting performance, and ultimately take the bow you so richly deserve.

  • Take a team approach. Consider family members, teachers and support professionals all members of your team.
  • Find support in members of your circus family, and beyond, who understand your lifestyle.
  • Before going on stage, educate yourself through training. Continue to practice and perfect new skills.
  • Exercise and stay fit to reduce your stress and be prepared to handle what comes at you.
  • Take time to heal emotionally from painful experiences like illness, grief and divorce, just like you would with a physical injury.
  • Like an acrobat, learn to be flexible.
  • Practice juggling by actively making time for your spouse, each of your children, work and yourself.
  • Find a sense of balance like a tightrope walker, and create a safety net for yourself with family and friends.
  • Learn from the trapeze artist to let go and enjoy the freedom of trusting that all will work out well.
  • Take risks and get outside your comfort zone like the trick stunt performers.
  • When you are at the end of your rope, build new muscles and discover new ways to gain control like the Spanish web performers.
  • Be consistent and firm when it comes to discipline. If animal trainers can get wild animals to behave, you can teach your ADHD child (but use the carrot, not the stick!).
  • Don’t forget to give yourself permission to clown around and let humor provide comic relief.

So the next time your life feels like a three ring circus, remember you are the ringmaster and you call the shots. Life with ADHD will never be dull, so relax and enjoy the show.

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