Thursday, March 29, 2012

Don't rock the boat, baby, don't rock the boat.

So the little man seems to have hit his stride at school. I mean, it only took six months, but hey, who's counting? If he does well today he will have had two straight weeks of excellent days. Which I do not think has EVER happened. So what are we doing to achieve this magical event?

Sam goes to school with a LOT of extras. He has a special sit-upon cushion which provides some additional sensory input. He gets to hold a koosh ball during circle time to help calm him down. He has a series of charts that help give him some external order throughout his day. His awesome awesome awesome teacher Miss M. comes to school with him one day a week to help him focus. He has a sorting game for good choices and bad choices. We talk about when choices are hard and who he can ask for help. I'm giving him ridiculously expensive Omega-3 supplements because there's increasing research that indicates that may have a beneficial effect for kids like mine.

I'm not under the illusion that we've "fixed it" and it will be smooth sailing from here on out. Sam is a major limit-tester--he doesn't do it to be defiant or rude, but more like out of scientific curiosity. He is always going to have days when he wants to push the envelope and we'll have to smack him back down (metaphorically) so he knows exactly where those boundaries are. As he gets older I'm hoping it will be easier and easier to channel that tendency into more productive pursuits. We're already starting to do some "science experiments" around the house and I think I need to really buckle down and dedicate one day a week during the summer to those kind of projects.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Running might be your Prozac, but PROZAC is my Prozac.

So the whole fam-damily headed off to the gym on Sunday, to dump the little man in the kids center where he could run wild and scream at girls ("LOTS of us boys were doing it, mom. We thought the girls were ants.") and his father and I could hit the pool. On the way in I saw an SUV (because mini-vans are just so uncool) with this bumper sticker: Running is My Prozac.

Which. Like. Well. Yay for you. Seriously, I'm not being sarcastic there. If you can manage your mood through diet and exercise, that is great. That is WONDERFUL.

BUT. It doesn't work like that for everyone. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely use diet and exercise to help manage my depression. They make a HUGE difference. But unless I'm also taking the meds, I can't function at a high enough level to manage my diet and exercise. Hell, I can't function at a high enough level to do laundry. (Although sitting on the couch and watching The Real Housewives of Orange County and silently sobbing didn't seem to pose much of a challenge, oddly enough. (I lie. It was Wife Swap.))

And while I totally support the idea that there are a lot of steps you can take to help manage mental illness, I get so leery of bumper stickers like "Running is my Prozac," because part of me feels, rightly or wrongly, that it implies that if one tried a little harder one would not be depressed. Maybe if you just got more exercise, or helped others more, or went to church, or were a better fucking person you wouldn't be such a sad sack of shit all the time. And although I have no reason to think that is the message behind sayings like "Running is my Prozac," I think a lot of people take that message away, and it is not helpful.

Depression is not a reflection on who you are. It is not necessarily caused by an unhappy childhood, or unresolved issues, or being a repressed housewife. Sometimes it is just brain chemistry.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


So the last couple weeks have been, I don't know. Busy. A little nuts. Sam probably has a malfunctioning ear tube, so he's been murderous at school (ha ha, not really. I think the only thing he murders is his teacher's will to live) and a poisonous devil at home. Then we started bribing him with peanut butter eggs if he takes his ear drops, and suddenly all is well again. He heads to the ENT on Friday, and I have the sinking feeling we are going to have to replace at least one of those tubes, DAMNIT.

He went to the dentist on Friday, and I was expecting Sam-hijinks. But he was a MODEL patient. He held still, opened his mouth wide, and was great. It certainly didn't help that our hygienist was unbelievably good with him. She knew EXACTLY what he needed. It was amazing. I did some major prep work, talking a lot about the dentist and making a plan--he wouldn't have to lie down all the way in the chair, he could sit on my lap, he could wear sunglasses so the light didn't hurt his eyes, and he could hold a new angry bird plush that he could keep ONLY if he was a good patient (or at least gave it the old preschool try). But he really surpassed all my expectations. The only snag was when he puked because of the fluoride treatment. Next time I'll remember to bring another shirt to the office.

Friday, March 9, 2012

10 pounds of awesome

Having a child with ADHD is kind of like having 10 pounds of awesome in a 5 pound bag. Or, in our particular case, 66 pounds of awesome in a 33 pound bag. Yeah, there are times (a lot of times) when trying to contain all that awesome in a bag too small is a pain. You are scrambling around, picking up spare pieces of awesome here and there, trying to shove them back in the bag, trying to convince the bag it is time to hurry up already people are looking at us. There are often forgotten bits of awesome strewn about the house and left at the neighbors and the friends. All that awesome spills over in school, when the bag is supposed to be sitting still, neatly containing what you know is impossible to contain. There is no doubt it can be a gigantic pain in the ass.

But the thing about it? All those random pieces of awesome floating all over the place and complicating your life? They are made of awesome. Having a child with ADHD means you are never, ever, EVER bored. You learn more than you ever thought possible, not just about yourself and your parenting skills and stretching your limits and all that jazz, but about whatever insane thing your child becomes obsessed with this week. You learn because your child just will not take "I don't know" for an answer, and while that is not always ideal before you've had your first cup of coffee, it is a wonderful and amazing thing to discover new worlds with your child. ADHD kids are likely to approach things from a different angle, noticing things other kids might not, making new connections.

ADHD kids won't sit on the couch and cuddle with you quietly while you both enjoy a movie. They'll ask for a movie to go on, then grab their toys and act it out right along with the screen, often improvising and adding new details. You'll always know who is talking, because they have different voices for each character.

Your ADHD child probably won't color inside the lines. But they'll amaze you with their artistic vision. They are the innovators and the improvisors. They might not follow directions to the letter, but what they come up with is often astounding in its difference and creativity.

Make no mistake--ADHD is a gift. Unwrapping that gift is often messy and hard, leading to cut fingers, tears, and a lot of frustration as you figure out how to get past the paper and reach the child inside. But WOW. What's inside is amazing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stop me if you've heard this one before...or the curious case of behavior deja-vu.

So we'll go along for a few weeks at school with Sam's behavior being "okay-ish." Not especially great, but also not especially bad. Then he'll have a few really good days, and I'll start to think one of two things: A--we've got this whole thing figured out, and I am such an amazing mother for getting my child what he needs to really succeed; and/or B--maybe we were all over-reacting, and he doesn't really have a problem after all. He's just spirited, but now he's getting the hang of it (side note: if it is MARCH and your child is still working on getting the hang of it please to talk to your doctor objectively about possible behavioral issues.).

Then he'll have a couple really bad days. Days when the future looks so dark for both of us, because he just cannot do school things in an appropriate fashion. Things like sitting down for 10 minutes. Things like working on an art project, or waiting his turn without giving up on the whole idea and finding something totally different. You know, things like focus. Persistence. Self-control.

Today I forgot Sam's awesome air cushion, which is supposed to provide sensory input. To be honest, I don't understand the reasoning behind it 100%, but it has a success rate of about 75-80% with my kid, so we use it. Except today. So of course he had a bad day, earning an actual frowny face for his second circle (story-time), a frowny face his teacher hardly ever gives. I guess he was hiding under the table the entire time. JE. SUS. CHRIST. Or, as we sometimes say around the little man, CHEEZITS. Dad gum.

I know, I really really do, that this is a long-haul process. But sometimes it can be dispiriting to know that a single dropped component sends the gears screeching to a halt.

On the bright side, I told him that if he lines up on the playground without being asked more than once 4 days in a row he would earn the Mighty Eagle setting on my Angry Birds. That worked like a motherfucking charm.* So now he's going to go 6 days in a row (which translates to 3 weeks) to earn another app.

*No, I don't know why telling him he needs to line up doesn't work. Threats don't work. There is basally no punishment severe enough (outside of like, beatings) to overcome the momentary thrill of exercising that power on the playground. But positive rewards work, as long as he wants them badly enough.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Discipline, rights, and privileges

I've been hearing from a few different sources about what may constitute appropriate rewards for a token economy and this concept of special time with parents keeps coming up. And I've got to tell you, it raises my hackles. If this works for your children, in your family, that is awesome. As I've said before and will no doubt say again, just because something is wrong for my family doesn't mean it is wrong for your family. And to me, the idea that a child needs to earn the privilege of spending special time with his parents sets off the kind of deep, bellowing alarm bells every mother knows not to ignore.

To me, there is a big difference between special outings and special moments. A trip to the movies? Sure, that can be earned. Chuck E. Cheese (or as we refer to it, The Hideous Rat) or a dinner out at a favorite restaurant? Absoulutely. Things of that ilk can be put firmly into the category of "privileges Sam earns for good behavior."

But reading a story with me? A walk on a spring evening? Heading to the farm to see newborn animals? Going to the creek to see the first bluebells? Catching fireflies with his father on the first summer nights? These are the rights of childhood. I will not make these experiences conditional on behavior. Obviously, if his behavior is atrocious I might elect to postpone these, but he doesn't need to earn these. Spending special time with your loved ones is unconditional in this family. You don't need to be good, or smart, or funny, or obedient, or having a good day to participate in family life. These activities are ones that nourish our souls and replenish the wellspring from which we draw on in times of stress and trouble. I will not ration my son's childhood.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Doctor, Doctor, give me the news

So we went to Children's National Medical Center yesterday, which kind of rocked. Except for the horrifically long wait, but I always pack for bear when going to a doctor's office, so that didn't really bother me. I really liked the developmental ped we saw. She was personable, had great rapport with Sam, and told me exactly what I wanted to hear in terms of her reliance on meds--that they can be incredibly helpful, but tend to be a short term fix, and behavior modification is at least as important. Also that it would be inappropriate to drug my preshus baybee at this point on the game.

As expected, we did not come away with an official diagnosis. Other than her official diagnosis of "a delightful child, and clearly extremely bright." That's right. It has finally been declared by a disinterested third party. He is delightful. But in terms of his Very Unique Qualities, she said he was showing characteristics of both ADHD and some sensory issues. She suggested occupational therapy, and we'll come back for a follow-up in about six months, after the school year starts next year. We're on the road to getting Sam an official diagnosis by the time he's in kindergarten.

The good news is that we are fully on track in terms of getting him the services he needs. The doctor said she actually didn't have much she could tell me, because I was already doing so well with him. She was impressed at how well I understood Sam and his issues and how well I manage them. Which is the significant upside of being a mother-child ADD pair. I get him. I never look at him and think what the hell is going on in your brain? At least not more than most mothers do. I mean, I ask that when he tells me that my new! precious! exquisite! candle smells like Angry Birds. (It does NOT. It smells like Tuscan Blood Orange! And spring! and cleanliness! And LUXURY!) But when he's doing his Funky Stuff, I know what he is going through. I'm able to do a lot of the things he needs because they are the same things that I needed when I was a child--and often the same things I still need today.

Which is hardly to say I am a perfect mom. Just because I know ADHD intimately does not mean I don't also get overwhelmed with what it means to parent a child who is so much more intense than his peers. I lose patience, and I yell, and I let him get away with things he shouldn't sometimes because I am just so damn tired and I don't have the energy to deal with it. I try to let that happen as infrequently as possible, but I think the vast majority of parents have times when they pretend they don't see something because they just cannot deal with it. Not don't want to deal with it, but can not.

In other news, we are getting Sam the Man his new twin bed this weekend. I earned the money for it all by myself with hours and hours of painstaking editing. I am a mother who slaves away for my child's benefit. You know, in my pajamas, but still.