I know this sounds like mom bragging, but I promise you it’s not. I can’t even put into words how I am feeling… astonished, grateful, amazed…
I know this sounds like mom bragging, but I promise you it’s not. I can’t even put into words how I am feeling… astonished, grateful, amazed… Believe me when I tell you that I am not the type to get in everyone’s face about how great my kids are. A little bragging is actually good. Therapists have told me that a bit of bragging within earshot of your child does wonders for his self-esteem. A BIT, as opposed to a parent I know who has all of her kid’s test scores on her phone and shoves it in everyone’s face constantly—her UPS driver, Target cashier, and anyone she ever runs into.
It’s not that I don’t know my daughter is smart. She definitely is, but she has traveled such a long hard road thus far in her evolution as a student.
When my baby was about 7, she started to become kind of scatterbrained. I know, she’s 7. It’s not like second graders are models of organization, but she was noticeably less focused than her peers. She wasn’t following the lessons, and she started fighting about her homework, she was mad all the time. Ultimately, she started to dislike school, which is not good when you are facing at least 10 more years. My husband and I talked to her every day about how she was feeling and tried to gain an understanding of her problems. We also spent hours with her on homework that should have taken 10 minutes. This, of course, led us to fighting with each other, and eventually our house resembled a shelter for feral cats. It was just bad and getting worse.
Third grade is a testing year, so things get real. Yeah, you still have to bring 20 packs of baby wipes in for the supply list, but there is no baby and no excuses in third grade. My daughter couldn’t handle that. She withdrew, zoned out, and just refused to care. Her grades plummeted, and I was distraught. Google and my mother were telling me to get her tested for ADHD. It’s not that I had a problem with that, I had a problem drugging her. To me, ADHD was the diagnosis du jour, and just another excuse for not stepping up to the plate. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
After one neurological test, my child was diagnosed with ADHD. I was relieved, scared, and apprehensive about any medication, but after much research and debate, we decided to try one. It was a disaster. At 8 years old, my 50-lb daughter flew into such a rage that she flipped over her mattress. Game over. As I held her in my arms that day, tears streaming down both our faces, I promised myself I would never let that happen again. I hated myself for not accepting my child for who she was, and trying to temper her spirit and creativity, and put her in a conformist box because the latest research wanted me to. She is who she is, and I had to be a better parent.
For the next year, I dedicated myself to helping my daughter become more organized and developing strategies to keep her focused. My husband and I drove 60 miles each way, four weekends in a row for a battery of tests that took hours. I was determined to find out if it really was ADHD. Six months of a billion tests later with a new neurologist: Affirmative. As my daughter got more anxious in life, we found her a therapist, then another, and a psychiatrist she bonded with that was, of course, miles away in an area where it is easier to win lotto than find a parking spot. We hired a tutor twice a week and had weekly appointments with a neuropsychologist who put my daughter in an electrode cap, mapped her brain waves, and embarked on a six-month non-invasive therapy to realign her beta wave. I also made sure she had fun activities like dance and gymnastics so her life had more balance. My four-year-old son and I spent hours in waiting rooms. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.
By the middle of fourth grade I knew something had to give. I saw a new neurologist, and between the new doctor and the psychiatrist, they convinced me to try medication again. A different medication in conjunction with the anti-anxiety regimen she had already begun. I was so hesitant. I couldn’t bear the thought of more drugs. And honestly, I still kind of believed that this ADHD thing wasn’t real, and it would work itself out. We agreed to try the medication, though. It had been over a year of stress and frustration, and the medicine doesn’t even last for a full day. And guess what, slowly but surely, my daughter started to focus. It was by no means a miracle situation. It was a slow process, but it was like I could see a light at the end of the tunnel, we both could. My daughter was learning again, remembering again, smiling again. She still wasn’t committed to her homework, but it’s homework, duh. It’s the learning I cared about. The satisfaction she had from knowing things. The smiles.
For middle school, my daughter was lucky enough to get into a smaller school. It’s a lot more tight-knit and warm. The teachers are incredible and they are helping her thrive. Honestly, if you would have told me years ago that my little girl who taught herself to read at 3 would win the sixth grade science fair, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But eight years later, I am still in a state of shock, and so, so, so proud of her. The science project was all done in school, and I just saw it for the first time at the parent-teacher conferences. The science teacher said my daughter was confident and extremely knowledgeable in her presentation, and I think I started crying right there in the classroom.
Is my daughter’s room neat and her backpack sorted out? Not a chance. I’m afraid to tuck her in at night for fear of breaking my leg, and I just found 25 empty bags of chips under her bed. She’s a tween, what can I say? I personally would never want to repeat that part of my life. But she still lights up at a Facebook video of a baby bunny washing his face, and she wrote an article about unicorns for the school paper. Yes, she WROTE AN ARTICLE! I am beaming.
I don’t know what the moral of my story is. Maybe it’s “Follow your heart and never give up.“ Maybe it’s “Keep trying and things will get better.” Maybe it’s “You never know what life will bring.” Recently, I asked one of my daughter’s former teachers who is a new mom, “What is the most surprising thing you have discovered about motherhood?” This woman has been an excellent fifth-grade teacher for almost 20 years. She paused for a while and really thought about her answer. “It’s hard,” she said. “It’s really, really hard.”
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