Kurt turns seventeen in a month’s time.
There was a time when I couldn’t believe how quickly he was growing up, but the last year has moved intolerably slowly at times.
As many of you know, we survived a tumultuous year with our ADHD son last year. If the word ‘teenager’ makes you shudder, then try handling a teenager with ADHD.
All teenagers offer up challenges, but with the right ground rules in place, you hope as a parent that they will ultimately emerge unscathed on the other side. But the ground rules are more difficult to lay down with teenagers with ADHD, because they don’t understand the notion of ‘consequences’.
I’m an advocate for allowing kids to fail to teach them resilience in preparation for the real world, but with the complication of ADHD, the perspective is different.
So here’s my conundrum. Because Kurt didn’t come with the same skill set as NC. Every step of the way, life has thrown up challenges for him that he hasn’t always been able to tackle, whereas NC has experienced both peaks and troughs, but enough peaks to keep her going.
I admit that I’m in danger of ‘over-parenting’ when it comes to my son.
NC is horrified at what she considers my favoritism of him. She accuses me of being a pushover when I ferry him around, for example, but in my defence I do it because otherwise his anxiety disorder would prevent him from going out altogether.
Thankfully, life has improved dramatically since the Dark Ages of 2013 *touching wood*. Kurt started Year 11 at another school this year and he genuinely seems to be making a go of it. His behavior at home is far from exemplary, but because historically we know that for many ADHD kids the wheels come off in Year 11, (which is when they often make the decision to quit school), we have had to become masters of compromise and have stopped sweating the small stuff in an attempt to be supportive.
The nose ring still tests us, admittedly.
As the level of the work becomes more challenging and the quantity of assignments increases dramatically at school, those organisation skills that Kurt should have honed in years 9 and 10 are still not available in his toolbox.
He was busy in years 9 and 10, focusing on other ‘life’ skills. Up until this year, (and in spite of my support), he had barely turned in an assignment and to this day, he has never read a book.
If his twelve HSC modules could include Top Gear, the history of Marijuana, Nirvana and Brit pop music, he’d be offered a place at the best uni in Sydney. But the curriculum is not yet that diverse.
He gets through the demands of school aided by my constant nagging. The other day when I reminded him to take his medication, he asked me, ‘Have you taken your nagging medication yet?’
I prefer to define my strategy of support as ‘notifications’ but there is no doubt that scaffolding my son doesn’t strengthen the frail threads that bind our relationship together, especially as the pressure continues to build.
I’m actually quite amazed that he can read at all and the talent he demonstrates for producing laborious assignments for English about books he has never read blows me away.
He is a master at the art of ‘copy and paste’ and restructuring just enough to make whole paragraphs of Wikipedia look like his own work. He even adds spelling mistakes for authenticity.
There must be a job for that skill. Ah yes, I think it may be called ‘being a fraud’.
I have no expectation of him going to university, not because he doesn’t have the intellectual ability to get there, but because it wouldn’t suit him. But I would like him to complete his HSC – mainly because he doesn’t have the emotional or social maturity to leave school yet.
So I’m torn. Do I scaffold him because of his ‘disability’ – because his ADHD means that he needs more help with organisation than the average child and he deserves a fair go? Or do I let him fail to give him a valuable insight into the relevance of responsibility?
The decision is simply not as straightforward when it comes to teenagers with ADHD.
If I leave him to flounder, I know that his self-esteem could hit the floor with failure and he will give up. Yet, one of the major roles of a parent is to prepare your children to become independent.
What would you do?