Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Was Wrong.

This kind of admission would once have been the ultimate humiliation for me. I remember the one altercation I had with my high school social studies teacher over a test question I got wrong that I was certain was right. She had some very pointed words to say to me after class about otherwise being a such a polite young lady who oughtn’t be so outright rude to her teachers. I was red to my toes. Even more so when, for a brief moment, I understood why I had gotten the question wrong. Made my arguing that much more ridiculous.

I won’t say I’m completely different now—I’d still prefer to be right and I still have a tendency to be quick to correct the inaccuracies of others.

But this… Today… I have never been so happy to have been wrong.

I just read a book about parenting children with ADHD. It wasn’t preachy. It wasn’t jargonistic. It wasn’t rigidly procedural. It was about loving your child for who they are. Not just that you should. But why and how to do it.

I read about my own children in that book. I laughed out loud. And I felt like I was going to cry on several occasions. Mostly because I realized what a lousy job I’ve been doing of loving them for who they are. Or, at least, showing it.

I read about myself in that book. About how I have trouble seeing ADHD as a positive trait. How I’m deeply worried about my children’s future. How painful it is to see them struggling in school. How bringing all my will to bear on the situation with checklists and behavior charts and constant nagging at them to try harder, to behave better, to pay more attention simply isn’t working and, worse, seems to be making my children depressed, frustrated and self-loathing.

Four days ago, I hit a wall. After my son’s behavioral issues escalated to the point at which he is no longer able to ride the regular school bus and my daughter failed for the third day in a row to simply hand in an assignment which was complete, I was defeated. I blogged a few days back about being a lifelong quitter and how I couldn’t quit on my kids. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to quit that day. A friend had tried to encourage me by telling me God knew what He was doing when He gave those kids to me. But I felt kicked in the gut by the reality that I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t seem to have anything left up my sleeve.

Six days ago, I had poked around the Hennepin County Library system catalog for books on ADHD, hoping to find out more about the condition, treatments and prognosis. Grasping for any kind of resource that might help. Nothing was available immediately but I put in several requests for books that looked promising. The first three were ready for me to pick up within a couple days and they sat on the shelf until I ‘had time’ to read them.

Finally, last night, during the recently instated “Family Reading Time,” I started Superparenting for ADD with low expectations (it really isn't a great title). By the end of the introduction I was nearly in tears. By one o’clock this afternoon, my hope was completely restored.

The good news is that Dan and I have been doing a lot of things right. The better news is that the things we’ve been doing wrong—the things that aren’t working for our kids—are completely fixable. Not easily. Not instantly. Well, some things can change instantly, like my attitude. For the very first time, I can honestly say that I can look at my kids’ ADHD as a gift. As a truly positive trait that can be nurtured for their benefit in the long term. I didn’t believe that yesterday. I’m happy to say that I was wrong.


Here's the Book:

Hallowell, Edward M., MD, and Peter Jensen, MD. Superparenting for ADD, New York: Ballentine Books, 2008.

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