I am the mother of two wonderful boys. This New Year’s I can celebrate a successful resolution: I no longer put my little one, Ayden, in the “bad” category and my eldest, Christopher, in the “good” category. I am happy to have realized they can both be good with necessary encouragement. Christopher is kind, caring, patient, helpful, selfless and usually takes on the responsible role. He tells you what you need to do, when you should be doing it and how it should be done. Ayden turned six in September. He is a wonderful, sweet, kind-hearted, artistic and super intelligent little boy who also enjoys embracing the role of the good, responsible and helpful child. Unfortunately, his “good conscious,” doesn’t always catch up to his impulses…
I had just picked the boys up from the bus stop and picked up a game we had pre-ordered for both to play. Ayden became upset and told me he couldn’t play because the second controller was not working and he kicked the Halloween decorations outside. I tried to explain that the controller was not broken, but Ayden continued crying and yelling, “I’m not going to be able to play the game.” Whatever I said didn’t matter because he couldn’t focus on my words, so I asked him to go to his bed to relax until he cooled down. About five minutes after his meltdown–still somewhat upset with his arms crossed, head down and his lips puckered–I went in and hugged him and encouraged him to look at my eyes as I explained the game-scenario again. When I got his attention back, I asked, “why are you feeling so upset and sad?” He told me, “I am sad because the bus driver called me a baby and I don’t like it when people call me a baby.” I tell him, “oh that’s not a nice thing to say” (knowing in my heart how much he HATES when people say he is acting like a baby or call him a baby). He then says, “he does it all the time!” His older brother walks in and concurs, “yeah, he does say that all the time, even to me sometimes!” I explained to them that I am writing a letter to report this negligent behavior and told Ayden that I understood why he was so sad today and that I was sorry. We hugged; I could tell he felt better.
I know I can ease Ayden’s frustrations; however, other close family members often yell and call him names like “hard-headed.” They either have not realized that Ayden can be good or it goes unrecognized. In speaking to them about ADHD, they seem to have an “old school” mentality, “all he needs is a good spanking to fix him.” This is my cue to explain my beliefs saying, “this will teach him to use more violence as a way to express himself.” In the meantime, they continue to praise Christopher, who can do no wrong and when he does, he is still not reprimanded in the way that Ayden would be. I explain to my mother-in-law that we don’t believe in medication, as it has too many side effects, but we are talking about implementing behavioral strategies, such as praising and planned ignoring, which is eliminating negative comments or reprimanding.
I have learned how difficult it is for children with this disorder and it broke my heart into a million pieces when he told me “mommy, I don’t know how to be good” and “my brain tells me to do those things.” After many tears for my son’s struggle, I have learned that what he is saying is that his thoughts come so quickly, he has no time to think, “no that’s not a good idea because I might get hurt or someone else might get hurt,” and reacts so quickly and impulsively, which is out of his control. It broke my heart when I learned this is what he is going through on a daily basis and it must be so hard for him in class with so many distractions and temptations.
This past year I have been able to embrace my children’s differences, love and accept them equally and help others do the same. I will admit that prior to gaining an understanding of ADHD, and speaking to individuals who live with children with ADHD or have it themselves, I would not have been able to understand. I also thought, and said at one time, “Ayden is the bad one and Christopher is the good one.” Well thank God I have the strength to change what I can change. I am so glad and thankful that I can say now that I have changed my outlook on this. Even though I cannot fully change or cure Ayden, I can encourage him by saying, “I know it’s hard, I know you are trying your best, and I know you love being my good little helper,” while guiding him in the direction where I know he can be successful, so he too can be called the “good boy” or the “good listener.”
I see his frustrations when he cannot sit still through homework that should take him 30 minutes but sometimes takes an hour and a half. He is so jumpy and his brain is so active that everything in the room he glances at draws his attention and he has to reach, get up and grab it or talk about it. This is when it is just me and him in a room, I can only imagine in a classroom of 20 plus children.
I want to give thanks to the many people that played a part in me understanding this; Dr. Allyson Cole who was able to provide me with different techniques and watching her interact with Ayden was amazing. I had never interacted with him the way you should with a child with ADHD because I didn’t understand it fully. I am thankful for his pediatrician who was able to pick up on it right away during his last physical, as her two sons have ADHD and are of similar ages, and I am so thankful for his teachers that showed concern, care and patience while implementing different behavioral plans and techniques. Working as a team is so helpful. I am thankful for the school psychiatrist, who was able to meet with Ayden individually and then with my husband and I to explain more about ADHD. I informed his soccer coaches so they can embrace his differences appropriately during practices and games. I continue to get the grandparents on board about treating him differently, not because he is the “bad” one, but because he needs extra attention, recognition and praise when he is doing well.
My pediatrician and the school staff explained that Ayden is too young to be evaluated for an official ADHD diagnosis, because kids are very active at this age and they are usually evaluated by age eight. They added that they do see traits of ADHD and we can all start implementing the techniques together, which we have been doing this past year and he has really improved drastically! I no longer have to tell Ayden to do something five times before he actually does it. He does it right away because of the response he gets when he does it the first time.
I feel so good inside when he tells me, “Mommy, you are the nicest person I know. I love you so much.” And then hugs me so tight, like he doesn’t want to let go. I feel by continuing to advocate and help him I am doing my job as a mother of protecting him from things he should not have to experience. *Happy tears* *Feeling accomplished*