Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why I talk smack about my kid on social media.

I adore Skyler.  Nothing he could ever do will make me love him less, though I don't always like his behavior.  I believe that he knows he isn't perfect, and I see a desire in him to keep making progress on this whole growing up bit.  And I admit that he may be mad at me if he knew how much I post about him.  At this point I am hoping that by the time he has his own tween he will forgive me.

But I'm not sharing this stuff for him.  I'm sharing it because of all the challenges we have faced with ADHD/ODD, the hardest to deal with is how isolating it can feel.  When all you see on social media and at the park is happy, well behaved kids with excellent, calm parents- it hurts.  That is nobody's fault.  I LOVE seeing pictures of your adorable children.  I love reading about the funny things they say and do.  I am happy for your family successes and I post these things, too.  Please don't take this as me asking you not to post about the award your kid got or your child's delicious Santa picture.

But you know who else I appreciate?  The mom who posts that perhaps today-in-parenting isn't going so well.  The parent who posted that her kid had a meltdown in the grocery store and the dad whose daughter thinks he "just doesn't get it".  The adult children who mention that they appreciate their parents putting up with them because, well, sometimes they were hard to put up with.

There are parenting books on how to handle tantrums, dedicated teachers who come up with creative success strategies and wonderful therapists who help families work through power struggles.  There are many struggles that come along with a child who has extra challenges (or any kid, for that matter), and thankfully many tools to deal with these things exist.  But that doesn't mean it isn't isolating.  That is doesn't make you question your parenting or even your sanity now and then.

I know I'm not the only parent who, when asked "how is the school year going?" at a PTA meeting has to quickly think- should I really say, or will I get that "yikes, sorry I asked" look?  I'm not the only parent who has skipped a company party because I fear that a tantrum could leave my childless colleagues seeing me in a different light.  I'm not the only parent who has debated over medication vs. therapy vs. yet another parenting strategy vs. giving up and drinking wine.  But for awhile it sure felt like it.  And that made this whole situation so much harder.  What's more, since I felt isolated and was afraid to be honest about the hardships, nobody was there to tell me that it's ok and that I am NOT an awful parent who just isn't getting this mommy gig right.  So in addition to my kid's behaviors beating me up emotionally, I added a whole ton of self blame on it until I was almost drowning.  If I drown, what happens to Skyler?

And guess what got me through?  The mom who admitted on Facebook that her son's ADHD was bringing her to the point of exhaustion.  Because she was willing to admit that maybe the smiling family photo doesn't tell the whole story, but I could tell that she is a great mom and her kid will make it out of childhood just fine.

I don't want other parents to struggle but the truth is that they will.  And if they remember that time I posted that a call from the teacher completely derailed my day...maybe when they get that call, they will skip the feeling-like-a-failure stage and go straight to the figure-this-out phase.

I love my child so much.  He is incredibly empathetic and creative and funny.  I am convinced that eventually the ADHD will be a help to him- the kid doesn't need coffee to go all out, all day long!  But he isn't perfect.  And he doesn't think he is, and I don't think he is.  If I did we would just skip all this hard stuff and wish him luck in adulthood.

I am sharing it on social media because as necessary as this parenting job is, it is HARD.  And I have come to realize that admitting that isn't weakness or negative or overly dramatic- it's just real.  I will not add to it by contributing to society's habit of posting the good stuff and not talking about the hard stuff.

So I post that my kid got a referral.  Or a few.  And I post that I followed his little butt around school and check in with the teachers, even though it means eyerolls and proclamations of "you are ruining my life!".  Some parents won't understand why I post what I do.  But honestly?  I'm not posting for those parents.  I'm posting for the parent who will hopefully someday feel comfortable reaching out because they remember the time that my status admitted that from time to time my awesome kid is a pain in the butt.  Because you aren't alone, and you shouldn't feel like it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A letter to my tween...for 30 years from now.

Hi son.

It's me.  The mom that is currently set on destroying your life.  You know- the one who calls your teachers and takes away electronics and is keeping you from seeing your friends tonight?  Yep, that's me.

I'm just here, in my room, writing my feelings out while you lay on your bed crying yours into a pillow.  You just got done telling me that I am ruining your life and enjoy doing so.  I kept my own face steely rather than allowing my eyes to well up with tears like they wanted to.  You stormed up to your room in the throes of despair.

Look, kid- it isn't that your antics are end-of-the-world awful.  You aren't a bad kid.  Really.  Everyone thinks you are intelligent, funny, confident and a natural leader.  As I spoke with the school administrator today we both had a chuckle at the crazy antics that distract from the fact that you are, at your core, an awesome young person.  And I'll even admit that it was hard to keep a straight face when I told your other parental units what it was that you got this latest detention for.  I mean, if I'd seen it in a movie I would have laughed and rolled my eyes and hoped the teacher drinks wine on a Friday night.  And when you are reading this and you have your own tween to contend with, I'm sure we will share a good giggle about your boyhood antics.

But I can't admit that to you right now.  Because today it was leading the whole class in a jarring rendition of "It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring" while a flustered substitute teacher attempted to explain a math concept.  And it was a lunch detention and a call to mom and a missed opportunity to go to the Monster Bash at the school.  Today it was relatively harmless.

But what happens if I give in?  If I tell you that this wasn't SO big a deal and I know that you REALLY want to see that pretty little girl with long brown hair, so I'll let you off the hook "just this time".  That's the problem, son.  I've let you off the hook "just this time", too many times.  And if I keep letting you off the hook, someday it may be something more serious than chanting and disrupting class.  And how am I to expect that you will understand the seriousness of the consequences if you are accustomed to being let off the hook after a good speech?

It hurts to disappoint you.  It hurts to know that I am the reason you are sad, and that even if I AM acting in your best interest you won't see it for many years.  It downright sucks.  I gave you life and I have given you everything I can think of to make that life better, starting from the moment that pregnancy test read positive.  It goes against every fiber of my being to be part of anything that will hurt you.  After so many years of rushing to stop tears the minute they flow, it kills me to cause them.  And to know that if I am lucky, you will understand why in, oh, roughly 20 years.  Right now that feels like a very, very long time to me.  I promise it feels longer than a Monster Bash.

I always tell you that it is important to admit when you are wrong, and to fix it.  Well, son, I was wrong.  I went too long giving in when the tears flowed and you said you were sorry.  I went too long letting you think that a well voiced apology works like magic to correct a situation.  And this is me, correcting that.

We won't go to the Monster Bash tonight and you will stay home, hiding from your evil mom.  I will try to keep busy doing other things and repeating to myself "I am doing the right thing" 10,000 times.  I will mostly believe it, but there will still be a little part of my heart that aches for your sadness.

If you read this in 30 years, I'll assume I had you read it after I get a call from you telling me how frustrating it is to parent a tween whose parents "don't understand me AT ALL".  So here is what I will say to you: Yeah, it sucks.  But if you are reading this, that means you survived childhood.  Hopefully you are mostly unscathed.  Hopefully I am, too.

I told the Assistant Principal that I am going to be so filled with pride and joy if you manage to navigate childhood some day.  She laughed and said you will.  She thinks you are a great kid.  Guess what?  Your parents think so, too.  We think you can be a complete pain in the butt sometimes, but we absolutely adore you anyhow.  I'd imagine if you are really honest with yourself, you kinda feel the same way we do.

P.S.  I'm saving all your antics so that should you choose to become a comedian as an adult, you can use the material you dreamed up at 11.  I promise it will be better received at that point.  You're welcome.

Love you, Sky B.  Forever and ever, even when it doesn't feel like I do.