ADHD Parenting: When You Lead A Horse To Water But Still Can’t Get It To Drink

One of the biggest dilemmas for the parents of children with ADHD, is just how much to scaffold and offer their kids extra support. 

English: Example of Bamboo Scaffolding
English: Example of Bamboo Scaffolding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For too long, I not only ‘helicoptered’ to our son, due to the extra parental guilt derived over what I saw as his inheritance of the dodgy genes, I was the fucking all singing, all dancing AugustaWestland model (Look it up!).

The sad truth is, that although it has been widely acknowledged that many ADHD children have above- average intelligence – and from the children I have met, I can believe that – their poor motor, organisational, sensory, memory and behavior skills hold them back in life and can exacerbate poor self-esteem, which leads to other issues, particularly in the classroom and when they go out into the big, wide world.

It’s an issue the old man and I fight over continually in respect to our son. How much support to give our son? How much to compensate for his special needs? Where the old man believes that because Kurt won’t ultimately be treated any differently in the real world, it is wrong for us to provide him with too much extra support, my argument is that it is due to those very needs, that Kurt will have no chance of making it into the real world without a helpful push from us.

As you know from my recent post, I am a fan of the Love and Logic parenting ethos, but obviously their approach is not aimed directly at the parents of kids with mental health issues. So although their style encourages the idea of cultivating independence from the outset, it doesn’t take into account that sometimes independence needs a ladder, or a helping hand across the bridge.

With ADHD kids, the most frustrating aspect of supporting them is when you have led your horse to water, and they still refuse to drink.

That characteristic is something that can stirs the embers of anger to such a degree, only the mother of a child with ADHD can fully appreciate. Where normal children will in general appreciate help, the ADHD child resents it; probably because it makes them feel even more inferior. As a parent, you can put yourself out there, encourage, support, praise, do every fucking thing the parenting manuals tell you, leaving your child no excuse not to succeed, and they will still refuse.

And the hard part is, you don’t really know if their attitude is derived from anxiety, fear, self-loathing, oppositional behavior or downright teenage wilfulness.

It isn’t helped by the fact that ADHD kids struggle to understand the concept of consequences and choose to live in the moment – so they can’t see the consequences to their decisions. It also doesn’t help that they struggle with empathy, so where normal children might consider the impact of hurting their parents or peers through their actions, that is not something that will affect our kids in the heat of the moment.

I lost the plot this morning for this very reason.

Did I mention that Kurt may have a job *praying*? Anyone who understands ADHD will appreciate my honesty when I say it’s very early days, but we are tentatively keeping everything crossed.

But to get the boy to sort out his tax file number – you would think I’d asked him to walk around Sydney in a Frozen costume.

So we had to put our hard hats back on to do some scaffolding. The old man booked the appointment at the Post Office and I offered to accompany Kurt. I know that sounds like a severe case of ‘helicoptering’, but we’ve learned from experience that Kurt simply would not have gone to the appointment by himself, even if that did mean not getting paid/losing the job. This is a boy who has missed important interviews, exams, performance try-outs, sign up sessions for courses and expensive medical sessions, without for one moment considering the consequences.

Once the initial excitement of him maybe landing his new job was over, we then watched his behaviour regress for a rough few days because he must have decided that having achieved something pretty major in his life deserved time to unwind and celebrate, and remind us of the sort of behaviours we had hoped this new level of responsibility would help him leave behind.

So when he refused to get out of bed yesterday morning to come with me to the post office, I felt worn down and disappointed and simply lost my shit, stormed out of the house with the old man’s accusing voice bombarding my ear drums and found solace in pounding the pavements for an hour, until the swelling in my brain subsided.

Note to self: parenting is not an exact science, our children are not our clones, nor necessarily anything like us, nor do they think like us. No-one’s the perfect parent and sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t fucking make it drink.

Helicopter Parents Anonymous and Grated Carrot

My regular readers might remember that the old man and I have been attending what we call ‘Bad Parenting’ classes for some time now, in an attempt to get our son ‘out of the woods’. Kurt might have his own inherent issues due to his ADHD, but as we are consistently reminded, ADHD is no excuse for bad behavior.

carrots-vegetable-mustache_MJk0ZyDu_L
So we’ve had to look at different approaches to how we parent him, because some kids simply don’t respond to the normal methods.

Recently, our psychologist recommended the Love And Logic style of parenting, which for me has been more enlightening than screw-top wine bottles. 

Love and Logic parenting divides parents into three sub-types: the helicopter parent, the drill sergeant parent and the consultant parent.

(My regular readers might also be aware that I am a fully paid-up member of Helicopter Parents Anonymous, too).

My own mother was a Drill Sergeant parent, as most parents of her generation were; added to which she was a single, working mother with three children and so really didn’t have time for no shit.

But when we parents from Generation X had our babies, we were the guinea pigs for a new style of parenting where you didn’t smack your children or shout at them, rather you praised everything they did (even if they were crap at it) to raise our children’s confidence and self-esteem out of love, rather than fear.

And the whirring overhead became deafening very quickly.

‘Helicoptering’, as a parenting method is more commonplace now than you think. I see the danger signs of it every morning when I watch mothers of primary school kids carry their kids school bags and I was horribly guilty of it myself when I used to take Kurt’s forgotten lunch into school for him, write the school letters to excuse him from sport and when I won (hands down!) all those Head Teachers Awards for THE BEST FUCKING PROJECTS.

But we ‘helicopters’ are naïve to think that we are supporting our kids by enabling them in this way, when in fact what we in danger of doing is hindering their growth and independence, which ultimately makes them less confident.

‘Consultative parenting’ is the ideal approach in the eyes of Love and Logic. This style of parenting is about showing love and support at all times, not shouting or over-reacting and using consequences instead of punishments. Acting as a consultant to your kids allows them to think for themselves, make their own decisions and mistakes and learn independence.

Which is great in theory…although the journey to success can be fraught at times.

I was very lazy when it came to getting our kids to contribute to household chores. When they were younger, I worked part-time so I had time not to have to deal with the moans and groans, the half-baked attempts and the inevitability of having to do those chores all over again myself.

But with our psychologist’s recommendations haunting our every waking hour, these days the old man and I are encouraging our kids to be independent and to do as much for themselves as possible.

In this particular area, Kurt is a model child, thanks to his OCD – in fact we have to book time slots with him as to when we can use the washing machine. And at twenty-one, NC is obviously not a child anymore, but as a student she still lives at home. Because NC has a part-time ‘proper’ job, is studying a full time science degree, is away every other weekend discussing the Earth’s orbit with NB (who I think I will rename from now as The Astronaut), (and I don’t want anyone to tread on the House Bitch’s toes), I have been slack about insisting on how much she does around the house.

She has changed her own bed linen for a while, although she is happy to leave it until it walks itself to the laundry. She does her own laundry – until the old man caves in when he can no longer relocate the carpet in her room under the thick layer of dirty undies that have begun to take root. And recently, she has started cooking for herself because she wants to eat more healthily than the old man’s nightly offerings of meat and rice in a different sauce.

But sometimes I question if the devastation in the kitchen afterwards is really worth it!. This morning I entered the kitchen to what looked like the after-effects of a grated carrot hurricane. There is no bigger EWWWWW! in my book than treading on food mulch in bare feet, first thing in the morning. Not only that, in spite of being a scientist, NC has unfortunately inherited her father’s oblivion to bench top microbes.

While I don’t want to nag her, mainly because I don’t want her to strop off, never cook for herself again or stab us in our sleep lose confidence, a Love and Logic approach might be to go into her room and have a grated carrot dance together so she can see how much it compromises my OCD to find grated carrot in my cup of tea.

And one of the other recommendations Love and Logic offers us desperate parents is how to communicate with your child. Rather than an accusing ‘WHICH FUCKER SPRAYED GRATED CARROT AROUND MY CLEAN KITCHEN?’, what I should say is something along the lines of, ‘Darling, you know how silly my OCD makes me and how although grated carrot in my tea shouldn’t bother me, IT DOES, so can we find a solution to your grating technique so that all the carrot lands in your salad?’

Still working on it.

Don’t Let Your Children Define You  

I reach the other other end of another decade next week, which has given me pause for reflection.

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/566419105

I entered this last decade with a new life in Australia, but ‘life’ as such is rarely defined by the country you inhabit, rather the people you inhabit it with. Inevitably, my most recent decade has thrown up a myriad of new and memorable experiences, as well as some invaluable learning curves
In this decade we moved into the next phase of parenting – the teenage phase. Whichever stage of parenting you find yourself in, the experience offers unforgettably rewarding moments, but for some of us it can also prove an arduous journey.
Beyond the cute stages of first smiles, first teeth and their precious first days at school, (well before the meaning of ‘adolescence’ truly sinks in) time shifts forward a gear and you’re suddenly there, treading water in the turbulent waters of the terrible teens.
As many of you know, the past couple of years with our son, have been a challenge.
The old man and I have shared the sort of parenting journey that when you discuss it freely with new people at a dinner party, causes an awkward silence that there’s no coming back from. It started when our son free-falled off the rails without warning and did all those things we thought only other people’s kids did. He truanted, got uncontrollably angry for no reason, self-harmed and experimented – leaving us mystified, battered, bruised and guilt-ridden as parents. The wounds were penetrating and remain raw, (although the Band-Aid of ongoing therapy has relieved some of the sting), but what we did learn from the experience is that in order for both he and us to grow and develop, sometimes you have to let them go earlier than you planned.
A positive outcome of the situation we found ourselves in, however, aside from the shock of it bringing the old man and I closer together, was an invaluable, personal lesson. I learned what a terrible mistake it is to allow your children to define you, because I realise now that up until that crisis point I had sacrificed my own identity and future for my children.
Do you ever listen to your alter-ego of fishwife screaming in the morning, as you castigate the kids for not doing all those minor chores they are supposed to do, like brushing teeth, getting dressed, packing homework and eating their breakfast? All that stuff that seems so important at the time, yet strangely becomes less of a priority when you witness their mental stability begin to crack.
Don't Allow Your Children To Define You
Found on life-is-worth-it.blogspot.com, via Pinterest.

I spent years worrying about those things, to the point that the stress of getting everything right and not succeeding began to affect my health. I’m an anxious person with a generous side portion of OCD thrown in and I wanted to be that ‘perfect’ parent. But I now know that although I have good kids and love them dearly, neither of them will be grateful for the sacrifices I made until they themselves are parents and make their own self-sacrifices.

You see, I got completely sucked in by the motherhood sales pitch and the promise of parenting glory and so eagerly took up its optional extras of guilt and fear of failure. And before I knew it, I’d sidelined my own personal ambitions and happiness to put my children’s needs ahead of my own.

Until last year, when the realisation eventually dawned on me that not only had I lost sight of who I was (and that it was actually okay to let go of my son, if necessary), but my obsession with doing everything by the parenting book was making me ill and I needed to prioritise my own sanity.

I’m sure that sounds selfish to many of you. My daughter recognised my problem. She has always accused me of ‘not being able to compartmentalise’ my emotions – (a mature level of criticism from a twenty-year old who still believes life rolls like a Disney movie). She noticed that I allowed the fall-out of arguments between myself and her brother to impact everything that happened that day, or even that week.

Therapy has taught me that that when we ‘enable’ our children, rather than ’empower’ them, we are damaging both them and us.

Children and young adults need to be free to make mistakes while they remain in the safety zone of home – in doing so, they learn to take responsibility, value themselves, (and ultimately us) without risk. And the benefit for us parents, is that when we’re not wasting our lives fussing over over decision they make, we make more time for ourselves; to achieve our own personal goals. Which is really important when we’re one of their main role-models.

We western mothers, many of whom have no extended family close by to support us, have had to rely on parenting manuals to teach us how to raise our children. Sadly, the need to attain some sort of altruistic success for ourselves out of parenting – via our kids successes – has devalued our own worth, in some cases. We are guilty of over-protecting our progeny, which is where the ‘helicoptering analogy stemmed from, and this mode of parenting will ultimately damage their confidence in their own abilities too.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when my kids’ needs began to overtake the relevance of my own and I transformed into the type of female doormat I despised when I was a younger woman. I only became fully aware of the implications of that change when we reached crisis point last year, when our son tried to assume full control of the power I had innocently provided him with in our household and made it obvious that he believed our happiness was secondary to his. I’d missed the signs, of course; so busy was I trying to be his perfect mum.

What sort of mother would I have been if I’d allowed him to fail?

It turns out a ‘good’ one. And that shift in focus from the importance of my life versus his not only had a detrimental effect on his development, but it affected mine, too. I became over-anxious, irritable, resentful and less confident in my abilities. I was judging my personal success as being mum to my kids, in spite of having a career I enjoyed, friends and a sound relationship. Which meant when either of the kids tripped over life’s hurdles, I saw those trips as my failures too.

Don’t let your children define who you are. Let them be an extension of you rather than your life’s work.

Unparalled Fear, Parallel Parking, Teenagers and ADHD

Kurt is driving. *makes sign of the cross even though atheist*


Embed from Getty Images

I said… another mad, irresponsible teenager has been let loose on the road. So if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself on the same piece of road as a young man in a silver Golf anywhere in the Lower North Shore, who is sat next to some crazy middle-aged female hyperventilating and dry-wretching out of the passenger window, I recommend you get out of the way.

Kurt driving is a huge deal for this over-anxious mother who is a direct descendant of the original Helicopter Parenting species. Several wiry grey hairs have already sprouted through my highlights, seemingly overnight.

 

I promise you, I tried everything to avoid this debacle of putting my son behind the wheel. I tried to control this event in much the same way I’ve tried to helicopter everything my children want to do that may put them in harm’s way.

(What parent doesn’t? It is becoming glaringly obvious to me now that ‘the fear’ never goes away because you have to let them spread their wings).

And then fate stepped in.


Embed from Getty Images

Having told Kurt emphatically that I would not pay for his driving lessons until he reached the age of (at least) 45, (due to the higher risk of accidents kids linked between ADHD and driving, as well as the fact that he still can’t be trusted to take his medication and the worrying long-lasting effects of any self-medication that may or may not still be in his system), I have now been forced to capitulate.

In my opinion, no seventeen-year old boy should be allowed on the road. Maturity in a seventeen-year old boy is about as uncommon as energy in front of the sport on television in the middle-aged man, and furthermore, there is a suspicious relationship between the male and cars that is unhealthy. If only boys showed as much enthusiasm for learning other life skills, such as ironing and cooking, we would all be a lot happier.

And the thought of seventeen-year old boys WITH ADHD behind the wheel is frankly the stuff of nightmares.

But then I was faced with a conundrum – when Kurt’s equally juvenile seventeen-year old male friends began to pass their tests and drive my son around. MY SON! So I was cornered. Was it wiser to trust my son’s life to his silly friends or in his own hands?

Not much of a choice, is it? It’s so bloody frustrating when your teenagers refuse to let you control them.

So I had to back down. I decided that it was easier to blackmail my son into demonstrating some responsibility on the roads than to control his friends behaviour that is fuelled by the most dangerous drug of all, ‘peer pressure’.

At least, I thought, I would have time to get used to the idea. But no, because that disorganised son of mine with little or no focus, only fucking passed his Ls the same week he decided to drive, with no revision – in fact, he organized the whole fucking shebang – something kids with ADHD CAN do when they see a massive Dopamine hit as the end result.

Childishly and on principle, I obviously refused to get into the car with him until he’d survived a ridiculous number of very expensive lessons and his wonderful instructor, Jack, (who is obviously a saint), gave me the all-clear. And our first outing together will not go down as one of those special bonding moments. No, it wasn’t a pretty sight at all – psychotically anxious mother holding frantically to the safety handle of the car door with one hand and brown paper bag in the other, next to a teenager who thinks they are already an experienced Formula 1 driver.

Unparalleled fear, parallel parking, teenagers and ADHD
Found on retro-iphone-case.com at http://www.pinterest.com

‘Chill, mum,’ doesn’t pacify me, oddly, when my son consistently takes corners like he’s in a dodgem at the fairground and behaves as though he owns the road.

If you laughed out loud reading this post, leaked wee or even vaguely managed to identify with any of the middle-aged waffle contained therein, don’t be scared and follow my blog by clicking the ‘Follow My Blog’ button (derr!) at the top of this page, on the left hand side so that I feel loved. You can even follow my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mymidlifemayhem, and if you want to become the ultimate stalker, you can find me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram too, where I lurk, (far more often than is healthy for my family and work), in the clever disguise of Louisa Simmonds.

If We Could Control Our Destiny, I Wouldn’t Have Had Such A Bad Week

 

It has been a difficult week and it’s still only Wednesday.

Suicide prevention message on the Golden Gate ...
Suicide prevention message on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Kurt survived his first set of exams but I feel as though I have been put through a shredder and lived the anxiety HE should have been experiencing – vicariously.

 

When he refused to do the revision he needed to do, I fretted and mooched around the house like a dog that has been unfairly reprimanded.

 

If I could have disguised myself as Kurt and sat those bloody exams in his place, I would have. It terrifies me to think that his intelligence may be judged on how much he knows about Tutankhamen’s mummification.

 

Did you know that they pulled the poor boy’s brain out through his nose?

 

Hark, the distant whirring noise of my helicopter blades overhead?

 

We all feel like that though sometimes, don’t we? As though we’re being conspired against. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, (and it always happens when I’m already seriously under the pump), work suddenly leapt back into my life with a fucking vengeance and dumped STUFF on me, just to compound my stress.

 

And then I realised just how fucking self-indulgent and ridiculous I am, worrying about such mundane bollocks….

 

Because some poor soul jumped off the bridge on Monday afternoon – about the same time that I THOUGHT I HAD PROBLEMS.

 

And I can’t seem to shake that image from my head.

 

I didn’t see it happen but it feels as though a sadness still lurks in the streets around our house.

 

Perhaps I’m being over-sensitive, or maybe it’s menopause that is making me upset over the death of someone I never even knew.

 

No, I can’t really blame menopause this time because Kurt was affected too.

 

The death wasn’t reported on the television or in the papers – which proves my theory that the press sensors, or is sensored, and conceals suicides and rapes. Which is a shame, because both tragedies need funding, support and above all, AWARENESS.

 

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for males and it has reached a ten-year peak this year. Depression is the leading cause – meanwhile the government removes more funding from mental health organisations and makes the cost of going to the doctors prohibitive.

 

I don’t know anything about the person that jumped. I just happened to be walking down the street and saw the police standing over the still body, finally safe from scrutiny, under a blanket.

 

It’s a shame we couldn’t have protected them a little better; before they jumped.

 

What a terrible job the emergency services have – trying to fit the fragmented pieces of peoples lives together in times of terrible trauma.

 

And how desperate would you have to be to choose to end your life at school pickup time and in such an appallingly public way?

 

We failed that person somehow. Whether they did it because they couldn’t get the right support or they felt isolated. Whoever it was reached their tipping point at that particular time and on that bridge and ended up as another statistic.

 

Imagine feeling that your life was that worthless?

 

Some onlookers were taking photos at the scene – most of them had already forgotten that there was an actual person under that blanket.

 

But everyone will move on quickly with their lives. Except for the family and friends. The death didn’t even make the next day’s fish and chip newspaper.

 

Kurt was visibly shaken when he heard about it. He has a morbid fascination with suicide and death that often worries me. He often reads accounts about the jumpers at the World Trade Center and watches video footage.

 

I worry that he truly believes that there is a glory to taking your own life, or a triumph in being able to control your own destiny.

 

But if we could control our destiny I wouldn’t have had such a difficult week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta