I’ve shared a few times about my journey parenting children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or the lesser form, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Read here: Pill Popping Mum
I’ve been the teller of ADHD jokes and the brunt of such jokes. My ears have been singed with sarcastic judgemental comments and my eyes burned reading judgemental, cruel and often incorrect media articles written by those who’ve never personally experienced time or life with a person suffering ADHD.
Five years ago we took on a sibling group of three children aged at the time 5, 4 and 3 years old. Immediately we experienced social difficulties and basic homebound difficulties. Putting everything down to the trauma of being in foster care we put in the hard work and spent well over 12 months parenting the three as best as we were able. Strict supervised boundaries, routine and structure ,even trialling the diet path hoping to have life suddenly become happy and normal.
What is Normal?
I’ve long forgotten what it is to be normal. Despite everything the three just could not function in life. Jumping lounges, throwing toys and non toys over fences to neighbours yards and roofs. Tipping over boxes of toys just to hear the noise with no intention of play. Tearing up books because it felt good and pouring bottles of shampoo down the shower drain to laugh hysterically as the bathroom floor became covered in millions of bubbles. Our home resembled a war zone of unravelled loo rolls, blocked toilets, drawn on walls and damage and chaos that spread out to their Kindy, Pre-primary and Daycare facilities. Each teacher begging me for help, calling me in each day to point out the damage and ask what are they to do. My response? A frustrated, pained and embarrassed shrug. What could we do, society had decided that these children don’t exist. ADHD is a condition of the imagination created by absent parents, too much sugar and way too much freedom. Which by the way is in a society that also decided that saying NO to your child was unhealthy and children should be very much heard and seen. A wonder the world is confused!
Seeking medical help came at a cost, turned away by many not wanting to be associated with ADHD slowly and finally all three children gained their labels, a controversial issue in itself.
Along the way sibling number 4 arrived and so began the Nature-Nurture debate (the debate that a child’s behaviour is determined by genetics regardless of upbringing or a child’s behaviour is determined by surroundings and parenting rather than influenced by genetics ). Would this child be different because he was placed in our care from birth avoiding the trauma of multiple foster care placements causing attachment disorder issues and instability. Even we hoped that nurture would win over nature but as time has gone by we lost.
Mr Toddy was a dream baby but over the years it became evident that once again no manner of stability, love and structured parenting was going to hold off on what now seems to be an inherited condition.
After at least 2 years of begging for help and warning that things would go horribly wrong if he reached the school system without help in place my worse fears came true. School, childcare and even therapists have failed to be able to manage the child. In fact the one place he can be managed is at home but at great cost and mainly because it seems we’ve developed a home environment designed to cater for the ADHD and oppositional child.
What does all this struggle mean for the child? If my children had been diagnosed and given medical intervention early they wouldn’t be struggling with friendships now. Other parents wouldn’t already have them tagged as wild misfits. I wouldn’t be morally and emotionally exhausted and my own children wouldn’t have endured years of ‘crazy’.
ADHD is very real, it’s a cruel dysfunction of calm. It exhausts the child and the child’s family. It hammers at the child’s self esteem and creates a cloud of trouble above their head.
The ADHD child is everywhere except where they should be and want to be. That’s right, don’t ever assume the ADHD child enjoys being ADHD. They just want to be normal.
I now live with four, formally diagnosed ADHD children and not one of them wants to be ADHD. They are not purposely attention seeking, they don’t enjoy being rejected by other children, parents and society. They don’t dream about being banned from special activities and fun adventures because of their mischief. They are impulsive and at times radical.
Behind the ADHD they are kind, gentle children. Children with dreams, wishes and needs for friendship, acceptance and love.
They are not naughty children neither are they misfits, unloved street riffraff or any other form of derogatory description. ADHD is not defined by race, age or sex. Children both rich and poor are susceptible to ADHD. Children of great loving parents and children of absent parents can fall prey to this condition.
Normal for the family living with ADHD is far from normal. Then again what exactly is normal?
Normal for us is accepting that four of our beautiful children need extra support, understanding and lots of physical opportunity to run, climb and laugh.
Normal for me is knowing that each day life will never be quiet, peaceful or free from mishaps. Sleep-ins are what dreams are made of and maybe, if I’m super lucky the upcoming adolescent years will balance the excessive energy with the hormonal dampeners and perhaps we will see a glimpse of your normal.
Puddle Jumping in the rain while other children sit tucked up in front of television. Life with ADHD is challenging but it’s also loaded with fun.