My first ten years as a parent, I was miserable. Let me be clear: I love my kids. More than anything. But there was always a “but.” But it was hard. But it was frustrating. But it was lonely and isolating and terrifying.
When my daughter was just two weeks old, she started to scream. It didn’t stop. As other kids passed childhood milestones, she struggled to master simple life skills. Instead of sleepovers and summer camp, she went to vision therapy and occupational therapy. Instead of forming friendships, she changed schools again and again. My daughter carried the heavy, lonely burden of not just one life-changing diagnosis, but three: ADHD, anxiety, and learning disabilities.
As parents, we want to carry it for them. I wanted to pick her up and make everything better. Knowing that I couldn’t – that was one of the most painful, difficult learning experiences of my first decade as a parent of a “complex” kid.
Equally challenging was the incredible isolation. It seemed like parents of other complex kids found each other. It was as if they had radar and could seek out others who struggled, just as they did. Sharing the load – talking about challenges and solutions and just making contact – makes it that much lighter. I felt like I was completely off the radar, that even among the complex kids, mine was more complicated.
I was desperate for community, for help. My daughter, thankfully, had a great therapist who provided her with guidance and support. Honestly, I couldn’t help but think: “What about me?!” I knew I needed to do something. I just had no idea what.
Something Had to Change – And It was Me
You can’t help your kid – or yourself – build a strong, healthy life if you start with a shaky foundation. I needed to strengthen mine and parent from a place of hope and optimism, not fear and anxiety. When I began to realize that my child could have a fulfilling life, that she could thrive, I saw a way out of my panic.
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What prompted this change? For one, I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 40. Suddenly, my whole life made sense! At the same time, I had two powerful allies on my side: a nutritionist who taught me that small changes could make a big impact, and a coach who – finally! – offered me the support and connection I so desperately craved.
Full of hope and purpose, I went back to school and earned my coaching certification. Why? Because that coach saved my life! I wanted to provide that same compassion, understanding, and light for all those other parents who were “off the radar” too. I often refer to is as my Scarlet O’Hara moment, when I raised my hands to the sky (yes, literally — a little drama keeps things interesting, right?) and declared, “As God is my witness, no parent of complex kids shall ever have to go through what I went through those first ten years.” Parents would have a community; they would never have to feel as alone and desperate as I did.
Is parenting a complex kid still difficult? Sure. Do I still worry from time to time? You bet. Are there days when I’m exhausted? Yes. But there’s always a “but.” But I know it’s manageable. But I know I can handle it. But I know my family is going to thrive. But I know I can make the difference – and that you can too.
A Wesleyan University graduate (Connecticut) and CORO Fellow (New York), my passion for community, coaching, parenting, and politics has led to a number of initiatives:
- Co-founding ImpactADHD, the first virtual coaching and training resources designed specifically for parents of children with ADHD
- Launching Touchstone Coaching, a leadership, executive, and personal coaching practice, and pioneered the Touchstone Method to help clients overcome obstacles and develop strategies for change and growth
- Founding one of the largest political action committees in Georgia
- Founding a “Breakfast Club” for mothers and daughters, designed to facilitate effective communication
- Launching a Speakers Series to support service providers and caregivers of kids with special needs
- Working with the NYC Commission on the Status of Women, Planned Parenthood Federation of American, and on the Governor’s Council for Maternal and Infant Health (Georgia)
- Teaching couples labor and delivery classes, as well as pregnancy and postpartum yoga classes
- Completing CTI’s Co-Active Leadership Program, a leader in coach training
- Certification by Coach Training Institute and the International Coach Federation
- Sharing expertise with ADHD as a contributing author for The Huffington Post
- Speaking and exhibiting at CHADD
- Serving on the Chapter Quality Network ADHD Executive Review Committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics