That Face, Part Deux

8 Jan

If you haven’t read Part One of the That Face series, please start by scrolling down and reading it.  Part Two usually makes more sense if you’ve read Part One.  Chronology seems to work like that.

I’ve thought about writing this post before, but it never came to fruition, mostly because I’m really baring my soul and I think it sounds a bit whiny.  But my dear friend Patrick’s comment yesterday reminded me that I need to follow up with a little bit more information, as education is the only cure for ignorance.  And that’s worth a tiny bit of  whine, right?

There are two analogies that I often use when speaking with people who don’t understand ADHD or the way we’ve chosen to treat it with Sweet Pea.

The first is that ADHD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, much like Diabetes is caused by an imbalance of insulin in the pancreas.  One would never consider NOT treating a child with diabetes, yet many people are quick to judge when parents choose to use medications to treat their children’s ADHD.  This is a disease, a condition, a disability even.  It is not the result of bad parenting.

Furthermore, as one would never “punish” a diabetic child for dropping their blood sugar, one cannot punish ADHD out of a child.  YES, behavior modification is necessary, and extremely helpful.  There must be consequences for any child’s behavior.  But making the assumption that “that child just needs a good spanking” is ridiculous.  And in my daughter’s case, I often wait until we are at home to administer a consequence, so please don’t assume that just because a mom doesn’t yank her child up by the arm and drag her out of a situation she isn’t going to deal with the situation at all.  We’ve found that Sweet Pea loves an audience, and will often behave worse if we try to deal with her behavior in public.  So we wait until we’re home, where she can scream and writhe to her heart’s content WITHOUT the social stigma to boot.

The other analogy is one I read in a book about parenting diffiucult children.  No matter how hard I try, I’m never going to play basketball like Michael Jordan.  No matter how badly I want it, it isn’t going to happen.  You could beg and plead with me.  You could offer me a million dollars.  You could yell and scream at me.  You could take away the things I like.  You could even physically hurt me.  But I’m still never going to play basketball like Michael Jordan, because it’s not in my genes.  Likewise, the child with ADHD cannot be yelled, or spanked, or bribed into perfect behavior, because it’s not in their genes.  Everyone wants their kid to be the “Michael Jordan” of childhood – the smartest, the best behaved, the most polite…but all the reinforcements in the world, positive or negative, aren’t going to make it so.   Please don’t misconstrue these words to mean that I don’t think we should aim for good behavior.  We must.  Our children are growing up in the same world as everyone else, and there’s no card that you can flash to get them off the hook just because they happen to have ADHD.  But out methods are different.  And the results may take MUCH longer to see. 

So give us time…lots of time.  See that we are working on it, and give us credit for that, instead of judging us and our children solely by what you see in a snapshot in time.  Know that when our child misbehaves and we take that big breath it doesn’t mean “oh, our Sweet Pea, she’s so cute”; it means “oh, tonight is going to be awful because I’m going to have to give her consequences and she is going to rage and we’re all going to be miserable but it has to be done…one more night down the drain.”  And know that we already feel like terrible parents, we don’t need any help with that.  We’ve been told by untold numbers of well-meaning folks that we should have done this, or should have done that.  We  are perfectly capable of translating the off-the-cuff comments about our daughter into the painful jabs to the gut they truly are. 

We need friendship.  We need encouragement.  We need a listening ear.  We need laughs, and lots of ’em.  We need a running partner, or shopping therapy, or a skinny vanilla latte.  And margaritas…we definitely need margaritas (frozen, no salt please.)

Speaking of margaritas, here’s to my daughter, the girl with That Face.  Here’s to her unyielding spirit, her determined will, and her sheer spunk.  And heck, here’s to her freckles too.



10 Responses to “That Face, Part Deux”

  1. Spring January 8, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    1. not whiny. not even a little

    2. I keep thinking about: We’re the ones who don’t get invited to birthday parties or sleepovers.

    Yes we are. And it does hurt.I’m right there with you on compassion and empathy as well. Perhaps consider submitting this to a parenting mag?

  2. Barb January 8, 2009 at 7:52 pm #

    Yes please submit it. I love both blogs.

  3. T. January 9, 2009 at 1:59 am #

    Amen. Amen. Amen.

  4. anymommy January 9, 2009 at 4:44 am #

    You really should try, it’s beautiful writing on a subject that people need to know more about – kind of like attachment challenges. I hear you! Want to go running? Or out for margaritas?

  5. Paul January 9, 2009 at 8:45 am #

    Sure, spanking might increase levels of circulating dopamine and insulin. But meds can do both when these hormones are needed, which is BEFORE they are needed. Medication is a tool that actually works.

  6. Paul January 9, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Now, if I could just have a margarita before work.

  7. Julie January 9, 2009 at 3:13 pm #

    I was going to comment, but it’s already been said…definitely not whiny and PLEASE send this to all the magazines you can think of!!

  8. Jessica Bern January 10, 2009 at 12:56 am #

    I have a friend who has struggled with her kid’s ADHD for years. He is now medicated and finally living a life. A real life. I take an anti-depressant and I don’t care if the whole fucking world knows. I think the diabetes analogy is appropriate. My friend’s son is a happy child for the first time in 11 YEARS. How that came to be is nobody’s business but hers and his. You go girl!

  9. Patrick Briggs January 10, 2009 at 11:50 pm #

    You have a gift and with your experience, you are credible. Please share this and consider doing free lance or op ed writing.

  10. Insta-mom January 12, 2009 at 4:55 pm #

    What an excellent continuation of your previous post. Fantastic.

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