When Kieran was two, I discovered he was a different child. He would crawl on top of the counter tops, climb shelves in the pantry, and finger paint with any toothpaste, soap, shampoo or Destin tube he could find. I chalked up his behavior to an extreme case of the terrible twos, but as he got older, his activity level only seemed to increase.
Kieran was always on the go. Always exploring, always touching, always talking, and rarely listening or paying attention, or so it seemed. The older he got, the more stern we got with him. We set limits, time outs, spankings. We tried praising, reward systems, 1,2,3 magic. I bought so many parenting books, I could open my own library, but nothing seemed to click with him.
This past Summer was very rough. While we followed our pediatrician's advice to "be consistent and wait it out," Kieran's behavior was becoming increasingly exhausting. It would take him 20 minutes to brush his teeth. He would get overwhelmed by putting his shoes on, and instead sit down and cry. Teachers at school and church talked to us about his "behavior." Birthday party invitations were few and far between. He had become "that kid." My heart broke. In August, we saw one of the nation's leading psychiatrists in the field of ADD/ADHD. Kieran was diagnosed with having ADHD. He started 2 kinds of medication. One for his attention, and one for his mood swings or frustration.
What I wish moms would understand about Kieran, is that he's a sweet little boy. He's kind and loving and has a tender heart. Kieran forgives quickly, and is always up for an adventure. He's spontaneous and funny, and loves family time. Kieran makes me laugh. He's observant. He remembers everything. He loves Legos. He understands justice. He loves Jesus. He picks memorizes Bible verses faster than his brothers. He takes his big brother duties seriously. He tries so hard to listen and sit still, but his brain just doesn't work like that. I wish moms would understand how regular discipline methods don't work. How Kieran realizes that he's different, and has cried many times saying how he doesn't have any friends. I wish other moms would understand how hard it was to make the decision to put him on medicine, that it wasn't our first, or second, or even third option, it was our last resort. I wish people would see the sweet baby that stole my heart, and still does, and see what an amazing child he is, if they just look past the wiggles and tantrums.
Because this, is who we see him as. Parents of ADHD children have to work 10x harder to make their child listen, focus and follow through. Medicine is not a magic pill that makes your child become an angel. It is merely a tool to help their brains focus more. Since his medication, I've seen some improvements, however, we still have trouble with every day tasks. Kieran is 6 yrs old, and we still put his shoes on and tie them for him. He still hasn't mastered a bike without training wheels. It takes him atleast 20 minutes to brush his teeth, because each task requires attention.
#1. Walk to bathroom
#2. Pick up tooth brush
#3. Unscrew lid on toothpaste, and place on tooth brush
#4. Put tooth brush in mouth, rinse, spit and put away.
These steps come so naturally to me, that I don't even think about them, but for a child with ADHD, everyday tasks can take much longer.
Recently, my four year has been struggling in preschool. I see the signs. I cried this morning. I told Mr. Man I felt judged. Nothing was worse than telling people we finally put Kieran on medication. What if we have another child ADHD? What will people think? Will they judge us? Thinking we're lazy parents who can't control our kids? As I sat on our bed going through all of my what-ifs and worse case scenarios, Mr. Man just looked at me. He said, "Hon, it is what is. What is it going to change what others think? I was the exact same way when I was younger, and look how I turned out."...............It was in this moment, that I used every ounce of restraint that I had. Because as much wisdom was in the first part of his statement, the latter left me wanting to scream, "SO YOU'RE THE CULPRIT!!!!! It's your genes fault!" Luckily, I kept my mouth shut.
After my pity party, I started reading into diets that help alleviate ADHD symptoms. The fact is, when we are parents, failure is not an option. We group, and regroup, and keep pushing and exploring what will work for our kids. We will pay over a thousand dollars to consult with an expert, and wear last years flip flops all Summer long, if it means we're giving our kids the best shot. So, to all of the other Mamas struggling with me, know you're not alone. I've just started my journey, and I know it's going to be a long, up hill one, but any mama knows, our babies are worth.
If you think your child may have ADHD, where to start?
- Talk to your pediatrician. Ask them questions. Ask, ask and ask some more.
- You're going to need several different doctors. A pediatrician, a psychiatrist, and a psychologist. (Psychiatrist are pretty much worthless except writing scripts. For behavior advice, parenting tips, etc. find a licensed psychologist who is experienced in this field. Keep your pediatrician abreast. We love and trust our pedi, and really respect his opinion.
- Question everything, do your own research. I spent more hours researching medications, side effects, long term effects, neurological effects. I have a little background in science, so I understood most of the nerd lingo. But this is important. Your child should not be a zombie. Medicine should not alter their personality or make them into a shell of their former self. If it does, call your psych, and ask for different meds.
- Get organized. Children of ADHD do better on a predictable schedule with a calm environment. Sometimes, just sitting in a quiet room for a little bit helps Kieran calm down. I keep his room squeaky clean so that he is able to relax and unwind at bedtime.