You Can Survive Parenting a Child with ADHD

Penny

I must confess something to you: I thought ADHD medication would help my son get along in the world “normally.” I thought that little pill would squelch his hyperactivity and inattention, and help my square-peg kid fit in the round hole of societal norm.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

That was five years and five months ago, when my son, Ricochet, was diagnosed with ADHD. He had just turned six and was having trouble in school. I knew there was more to his academic failures than simply being an overactive little boy. When he continued to struggle in first grade, despite having a wonderful teacher and a desire to do well, I knew it was time to investigate. My determination for answers led straight to ADHD.

Once we exhausted traditional behavior modification tactics and school accommodations with little positive result, the doctor prescribed stimulant medication. I hated the idea of medication for ADHD, because I believed it was drugging children into submission (just as society had taught me). I made myself sick about it, but I had to do something to help my little boy succeed and find joy.

Medication has been anything but a magic bullet to normalcy for Ricochet. Despite my own delusion of what ADHD medication could do, my son just doesn't do well with stimulants. Actually, he does well on one category of stimulants, but only for five or six weeks. Then they lose efficacy for him, and we're back to square one.

We have lived a constant roller coaster of medication changes for years now.

Medication trials are exhausting. Watching your child's medication turn his life around, and then suddenly quit working, is devastating. I've leaned on hope more times than I can count since Ricochet's diagnosis. And, I've fallen from that precipice many, many times as well.

In other aspects of life, I might ask myself why I keep going there when I know disappointment is inevitable. It sounds like I just keep setting myself up to fail. In truth, I am knowingly setting myself up to fail… sometimes. The old adage, “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again,” only works when there's an actual solution.

But there's no solution/cure/fix for ADHD. Believe me, I've looked.

I was setting myself up for failure when that was my ambition. But I learned over time that a “fix” wasn't the objective. The goal instead is to build strategies and implement tools for eventual success. I may not be able to “fix” his ADHD, but I can certainly help him build a solid foundation from which to create a life of purpose and joy, despite ADHD.

After all, this is my child! He's intelligent, kind, empathetic, and fun. He deserves to succeed. He deserves to feel good about himself. He deserves a life of joy. My goal is to help him create just that.

I research ADHD, a lot. We visit doctors, counselors, and occupational therapists frequently. I sit through torturous school meetings and advocate for my son to have an equal opportunity for academic success. We continue to tweak medication as needed. We see an integrative medicine doctor to look for underlying causes of ADHD behaviors, like vitamin and mineral deficiencies, genetic abnormalities, and food intolerances. We argue about do homework together. I buy products and support to help with planning, organization, sensory needs, and more. I spend hours communicating with other parents of children with ADHD. {Phew!}

So, I spend a lot of time on ADHD (I even write books about it). Yeah, it's exhausting. Of course, sometimes, it even seems like a losing battle. Yet, I see no alternative but to stand up and grab the bull by the horns!

This is my child we are talking about. I can't for a moment leave his happiness and life trajectory up to fate, surrendering to the hands of his abnormal neurology. Even if guiding and teaching him means a hell of a lot more emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion than if he were a neurotypical kid.

I've grown to understand that you can't just medicate ADHD – you have to manage it. A big part of my journey is about helping my son. I'm his mom. That's my job.  And it's worth every crazy moment of my time spent helping him learn to manage himself more effectively.

Let me shout out say right now: it's all worth it. In moments of joy, Ricochet shows me that he will be alright, great even. I catch solid glimpses of hope that don't require standing at the edge of a cliff. I see signs of the man he will become, and I know that every single moment of sorrow, disappointment, despair, exhaustion, and questioning I experience as his momma are just the building blocks for this remarkable boy's eventual success. 

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