Life with us 3

“Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.” Walt Whitman
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This blog is a personal journey through parenthood; it is a glimpse into our world.  

My family consists of my son; an almost five year old, who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and perhaps one of the gentlest hearts I’ve ever know; my husband, about 40, who is our rock, stable, dependable, loving, and has yet to turn away from me and my crazy; and me. 

I’m a 38 year old mom, who until recently, felt hollow, an imposter of life. We 3 live by the sea, in a cottage filled to the brim, with memories, love, and too much stuff. 

I hope for this blog to be a source of understanding, hope and love. With a large dose of real life mixed in. 

all the feelings…

My personal ADHD journey has been fraught with so many emotions; so much that is overwhelming, that often I cannot see past the pain to see the big picture. 

Since seeking treatment for myself, I’ve had a tsunami of feelings come up. I don’t know what to do with them, or how to adult through them. I end up catastrophizing the insults, and making them into the apocalypse. 

I’m realizing rejection sensitive dysphoria is ruining me. What is RSD you ask? 

From Affinty Magazine: (RSD) is an extreme emotional sensitivity and emotional pain triggered by the perception – not necessarily the reality – that a person has been rejected, teased, or criticized by important people in their life. RSD may also be triggered by a sense of failure, or falling short – failing to meet either their own high standards or others’ expectations. The term dysphoria is greek for “difficult to bear”. People with ADHD that suffer from RSD aren’t weak, it’s just that the emotional response of rejection and criticism takes a heavy toll on us, rather than someone who doesn’t have it. Also the depression and anxiety for us is 10x more, than those who don’t have this condition…. more at Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: What They Don’t Want You To Know About ADHD

By no means am I attempting to scapegoat my behavior on the ADHD, (or RSD).  I am trying to learn all I can about it, and put forth my best efforts to avoid sinking into the despair which so often accompanies these RSD attacks. This is no easy feat. I’ve done some serious damage to my life and important relationships. 

I am starting, after 38 years, to be able to recognize these RSD moments for what they are. Doing something healthy with this perceived rejection is my goal… right now I’m finding I have to move. Physically removing myself from the situation seems to be key right now. I used to be a walker – I would walk miles per day. These days, since my back surgery, walking is not an option. 

So, instead, I find myself gravitating to my family’s beach; the one generations of my family have summered at… I park, grab my journal, headphones and pen. Settling into the pebbles, I sit and take it all in, through all my senses. I’ve found my grounding.  My spot. 

Getting up and leaving? Last Thursday morning, all of the air had been sucked out of the house. My son and husband were still sleeping. As I sat writing downstairs, I realized I couldn’t breathe. Some say panic attack, I say suffocating. This wasn’t the normal panic response I was used to. 

I saw the writing on the wall. We have been so ugly to one another, taking each other for granted. Saying hurtful things to be the one on top… even if for a brief moment in time…. we were both guilty. 

So many external, and internal things were contributing to this descent. Blame, shame, hurt, anger, you name it, we were living it. 

My heart broke. I couldn’t carry the atmosphere of our house anymore; and since that morning, I haven’t. I cannot be the doer. (I wasn’t the only one doing, but I sure felt that way). 

I always try to find the positive in the negative experiences; and learn from them. 

So much of me was left behind on Thursday June 14, on that beach in my hometown.  And that is okay. That beach took my rage, and opened my eyes to what was most important. What needed my attention. 

My home, husband, and son need me to be present. Physically and emotionally. And I’ve come home. 

Since my awakening (or whatever you’d like to call it), I feel the change in my soul. I feel as if I’ve been given new eyes to see the world with, and it sure is a beautiful place. Especially when we put our devices down long enough to drink it in. 

And my husband and I? We talked, like we haven’t talked in years. I think he gets it… how sensitive I can be, and he actually apologized the other day for potentially hurting my feelings (yes, they were).  That’s something we have never really talked about before. We are both guilty of sharing. Now? We are taking steps to care for ourselves, and nurture our relationship. This is new, and exciting. 

And me? I get a day off from responsibilities. Weekly. 

Last week, I went for a tattoo. 

I have an ugly scar on my arm from long ago. The ER doctor at the time told me he was going to do an awful job stitching me up, so I’d not do it again; and he held true to his promise. 17 years later, I finally am okay with that scar; and wanted to add a reminder of the beauty of grace in this world. 

Since my trip to Ireland last year, I’ve wanted grace in Gaelic. After much research, I found the Celtic swan symbol; and the symbolism behind it fit perfectly. I have hope to get past this ugliness, and move toward the best life we three can create. 

“Find ecstasy in life, the mere sense of living is joy enough.” – Emily Dickinson 

Memories of a swingset …

My father handbuilt my sister and I a swingset; set in the far back corner of our yard. I think I was 5 or 6? I mastered swinging. And reading at the same time. 

Our childhood home had a large backyard, with mature gardens. The entire back and both sides of the large yard were lined with old growth lilacs; wisteria and grape vines battled for the arbor off the back of the garage; while a majestic willow could be seen from the path to the beach. There was also a very old, and not very healthy crabapple, great for climbing. 

The scents as the world woke up from the winter slumber were intoxicating. I chose to spend as much time on that swingset as I could. Surrounded by the sweet smells of spring, with a touch of the sea mixed in, from the beach just a few hundred yards away…. we were so blessed. 

And now, I live in a cottage, a few hundred yards away from the sea. Surrounded by lilacs. With a large vegetable garden plot, with many raspberry bushes. 

My son gets to pick them fresh from the bush; they are by far his favorite fruit. They come in for his birthday in July; and he has been in awe each year at the sheer amount he is able to pick at once. He told me sunny raspberries taste better than ones from the fridge, I agree, little one. 

We spend hours outside. We have a great big barn at the back of the property that is so much fun to explore. Oh, the possibilities! There are bunnies, deer, and so many different birds to watch. Some days we count planes; find familiar faces and shapes in the clouds. 

Other days, we head out on a nature scavenger hunt. Filling a box with treasures only found on our little patch of Earth. 

Last year, we raised caterpillars; and watched them turn into painted lady butterflies. My little one saw one; he thinks it’s a baby of the ones we released last year, perhaps it is? 

We rent. I’m happy with that. We can’t afford to buy. 

I have to find my voice. And ask permission for a swing for my little one. It might help him. I know it helped me. At least we may have some fun. 💜

and so it begins…

As I’ve detailed in other posts, it’s been determined my son will need an IEP for school. The independent evaluation we had completed at Boston Children’s Hospital is quite detailed in the recommended accommodations he will need to succeed in school. 

His current preschool teacher has reviewed the results, and told me she would like to see even more strict accommodations put in place. She has repeatedly told me and my husband: “he is so intelligent, I would hate to see his social and emotional deficits get in the way of his success. We must be very careful with his self esteem, and be certain to let him know that his lack of impulse control does not make him ‘bad’. He lives to please; he is eager to be good and helpful. Nurture these qualities; build upon his strengths. Offer constant praise of his positive abilities.” Children’s developmental team told us the same thing. 

It is difficult to learn, on my (our) own, how to best reprogram our responses to him. I’m putting forth the best efforts possible; and sharing all that I learn with his father. 

His father has certainly made major efforts to change; he was more of an authoritarian type parent, until we received the official diagnoses. Now, the change I see in my husband, has brought us closer; I truly appreciate his efforts. 

We are all still blindly trying to figure out what works. I have us, (my husband and I) on a waiting list for therapy, specifically parenting therapy. I’m hopeful we will be introduced to new parenting methods that won’t feel quite so frustrating for all three of us. 

I’ve been accused of being a pushover, a terrible disciplinarian, etc. I have to explain here why that is. I choke. I am, most times, able to apply the 1-2-3 magic method and it works. However, if my son is having a particularly tough day? All bets are off. He talks back, taunts me, and generally acts like a 4 year old. When all my methods fail? That’s when I choke, or yell. And to my son? Yelling is worse than a spanking (which was only briefly used in the most difficult times in the past). 

I choke, because I don’t know what to do. He’s not neurotypical, so NT methods don’t help. I can relate so much to him when he’s like this; as I get the same way with overstimulation, or overwhelm… we’ve yet to find anything to help us both. 

Wait. When I get like my son? The past few weeks… when my husband sees me getting all keyed up and off the charts upset? He comes over and hugs me, let’s me know how much he loves me… hmmm.  This has been working, for me. Perhaps we should try it out with our son?

I don’t know if I’ve shared this. We were able to get my son in, via school choice to a smaller school with a more responsive SPED department. School is out on June 20th. 

We have support coming from all directions for the little one and his schooling. Multiple family members and friends have been down a similar path, and have shared their experiences. I have a handful of relatives who work in school systems, one as an advocate, one as the school psychologist who is in charge of school evaluations, and one who is an incredibly empathetic teacher… they’ve all offered their support and expertise. My husband and I also attended a class on our basic rights with IEP’s last week. 

So, with everyone’s advice, I put together a letter requesting an IEP, and hand delivered it yesterday to the school, along with the results from children’s. That one action was a miracle for this executive function deficient mama.  

Now, we wait. 

Let’s go back…

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. It is also the 30th anniversary of my sister’s remission from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL. 

Yesterday, for the second time in a month, I had to bring my son there, to the hospital which saved my sisters life. We were just traveling in for an audiology assessment; not quite as heavy. The developmental specialists at our children’s hospital had recommended it, when we went for our results of his neuropsych testing. 

The appointment was booked just last week; I never expected to get in so quick. 

I didn’t realize the second part of yesterday’s date, until five minutes before that sister was dropped off, to accompany my son and I. 

It was surreal. So much time as children, with her so sick, spent making this same trip. 

The one hour trip turned into a three hour one due to traffic, though we had a blast. 

We made a few stops; coffee and breakfast, mama needed to stretch, and not far from that stop, a bathroom break at Burger King. That sister I mentioned earlier? Well, she brought her goofy side… she came out of BK with crowns for the three of us. We needed that. 

It truly was like reliving our childhood trips. We saw the giant mini golf dinosaur; the one which our community rallied to save, once the mini golf place was torn down. 

My sister, riding in the back with my son, told him all about the dinosaur. She told him the different colors we had seen it painted over the years; mostly orange, but one year pink. 

The giant bridge to the city? The one I used to close my eyes tightly over, and try to imagine myself anywhere but there? She shared memories with my son, and started a discussion surrounding the fog enveloping us … were we in the clouds, or was it fog? 

My little one, recently having checked out a book on clouds, was able to definitively answer her. (I forgot to thank her for asking him so many questions – ones that he was able to answer! Best self esteem boost for him… and not even requested by me).

Passing along the Charles river, we discussed the “Make Way for Ducklings” family; and how the island the babies were born on was somewhere in that river. 

As my sister kept my son entertained with stories, and memories, I was white knuckling the steering wheel. My anxiety was getting the best of me, as I made the turn onto Charles Gate. 

Once we arrived at the parking garage, I recalled the directions I was given when I booked the appointment: “the office is in the same building as the parking garage.” Suffice it to say, I thought I knew what I was doing, where I was going. Unlike our childhood, I was in charge; the other two were looking to me for direction. 

We walked about two blocks in the pouring rain.  No 333 Longwood to be found. Arriving at the end of the two block size building, I read the plaque: Harvard Longwood Medical. No number, no “Children’s hospital”. I had to Adult; though I was closer to crying. 

We traced our steps back; and found a kind helper in the parking garage info booth. Turns out there’s more than one parking garage. 

He aced the audiology exam. And we promptly left the city afterwards. 

Returning home, we stopped at the market for flowers for my mother’s birthday. The two of them picked out some beautiful bouquets. 

My little one was getting squirrelly. I saw the signs. At checkout, I had to bag the groceries; and asked him to stay beside me. This is something I’ve been working on with him; as has his father. 

Well, my little one? He’d done such an amazing job holding it together all day… but the signs were there… he was overstimulated. He did great, until the last bag. Then bolted out the door to the parking lot. 

I saw him out of the corner of my eye. (I have some physical problems that make running difficult.. but it was my child, and he potentially was running out into traffic!) I bolted after him, and grabbed him. 

I felt the eyes of everyone on me. I did not care. People judge, and have no idea. He doesn’t understand safety. We have been trying for two plus years to explain it to him… but the overstimulation occasionally wins out. (These are the times he cries to me about; asking why his body betrays him). We had a talk; no shame involved. 

It was partially my fault. I knew he was exhausted, hungry and had been trapped in a car for six plus hours … but we needed groceries. 

These are the hard decisions I have to make as an ADHD mom, with an ADHD son.  People say, just don’t bring him to the market. Well, how do we get food then? We aren’t rich. My husband currently works six days per week. Grocery shopping happens when I can squeeze it in. And, my son will only learn as we practice, repeatedly. 

We arrived at my parents, ate lunch. Had a nice restorative visit. As we sat, I told my mother of getting lost, on foot. She apologized to me for not coming with us; but explained it was just too difficult. Too many memories; too much loss experienced in that one corner of Boston, between her daughter, and her mother. Did I mention she was just 25 when all this transpired? 

I counted my blessings that my son’s different abilities are manageable. And that is what all of this is for. I could not even imagine going through this trip weekly; without even knowing it would keep my child alive, as she did. The strength that must have taken? The internal drive? I am so very proud to be her daughter. 

This experience has been eye opening.  Fortunately, I have known as we travel this path that the outcome IS manageable; my little family and I can do this. And my childhood experience with children’s? It’s helped me put it all into perspective.  💙 

Love you, mom. Happy birthday. 

“Mama, why…

do I look like a big kid, but my body still acts like a baby?” He asked me this last night as we were getting ready for bedtime stories. He’s four. How is it possible he is able to recognize this?! 

I just read this in one of Russell Barkley, Ph.D’s books:

 “Although they may be bright intellectually, many children with ADD or ADHD lag behind their peers developmentally by as much as 30 percent in certain areas, according to research by Dr. Russell Barkley. Recently researchers at NIH actually discovered that the ADHD brain matures three years more slowly than the non-ADHD brain.”

It was late. He had a rough day; not enough sleep, we were busy, meals were rushed, or very late… the playground was packed and too overstimulating. I could go on. Yet, he expressed such a complex concept; and was looking to me for an answer. I hope my face did not portray my shock. 

I took a moment to gather my thoughts, and explained to him that he’s just like me and papa (his dad).  We three are a little different than others; more in tune to how things make us feel; incredibly curious; and have really big feelings. I explained how we are trying to all work on things; I’m working on patience, organization and no more yelling. Papa is working on the same. 

I ended with a request for him, please think of some things that you would like help with. We’ve come up with many strategies over the past two years to work around all of our difficulties, but never asked him, outright. 

On May 22nd, when we were told his results, we were told we should share them with him. I did not think to ask how. I should have – I need concrete directions…

Yesterday was our planned day to tell him. However, it was too emotional of a day for him. 

The best way I know how to share things with my son? Books. I requested two from the library, and they are sitting in my purse. 

Praying today is a better day for him. We will be outdoors, at home. Maybe some sensory play. He told me just last week: “mama, do you know why I like sensory play so much? It helps me slow down, concentrate, and pay attention.” I am not kidding. This child is so intuitive, and full of understanding. 

The books I found? 

Cory Stories: a kids book about living with ADHD

Baxter turns down his buzz: a story for little kids about ADH

Wish us luck. I fear we are going to hurt his self esteem. I’m praying it actually gives him a much needed boost. To have a name, and some understanding of the diagnosis… it gave me peace after 38 years. I hope it shall do the same for him. 

If you are a parent of an ADHD child, how did you explain it to them? I am open to any and all suggestions. ❤

Hope…

Two long years, spent filled with worry; trying with every ounce of my soul to figure out what my son needed… a move to a fresh preschool, focused on nature… so many tiny adjustments that really did make a difference. The most important? Allowing him time to express himself, letting him know he IS heard. 

We have arrived, summer before kindergarten. Life is changing. I no longer have a little one who needs help with eating, toileting, etc. I have a little boy. A helpful one; holds the door for me, carries the groceries, picks up his toys! He has a wonderful soul, heart and mind. He is so eager to please; and that is such a beautiful thing. 

We (well he) was accepted into the ideal school through school choice. This, alone, will make a world of difference for all of us. The support offered there, plus a significantly smaller school will allow him to blossom. We still have some major work in front of us; however it is manageable. This, I can do. 

We are quite blessed. And I don’t take any of it for granted. 

I have always believed people are placed in our lives for a reason. 

From my job, working as first contact for clients and families with different abilities; to all the friends I’ve made there (plus the many inservices, where I’ve learned of so many supports!); to my own personal experience growing up with a sister who went through SPED… and advocating for her once she became an adult. 

Truly, the one person I think made the most impact on all three of us, is my son’s preschool teacher. She made all of this possible; and from a loving place. 

She recognized the difference in my son’s intellectual abilities, and social emotional abilities. And from that loving place, recommended we have him tested. Not to have him labeled; but to protect his self esteem, to nurture his curiosity, to allow him to succeed in the best possible manner through his public schooling. I am so grateful that I cannot find the correct words to describe it. 

My heart is full. 

Family has also been a huge source of support. Always there for us. With a listening ear, loving heart, and advice when requested. 

My sister? She is another one, an amazing old soul. She may be differently abled, but she alone has provided the understanding my son needed. She has a beautiful heart, and shares important skills with my son. She taught him to pause, take a deep breath or two, and count to ten, when frustrated. I see him doing that, often. So many little things which she has shared, have helped him while we were in the waiting stages for answers, over the past year. 

I can’t forget my mother. The one who has been there, done this, and is still doing this. She taught me what strength and perseverance are all about. From the days where my sister was two, and not diagnosed properly at our local hospital, and getting sicker by the day… she decided my sister needed better care; and moved her to one of the top children’s hospitals in the world.  Because we fight for the best. If it’s not right? Don’t accept it for your child; find better. I’ve witnessed her do this countless times over my life, for the both of us. And I’m learning how myself; finding that strength internally, to advocate for what my child needs. 

And, I must mention my husband here. I’ve misinterpreted his quiet, introspective nature; as not caring. We have fought, and had some very difficult times over the past year. Parenting is the most difficult job I’ve ever had; and being on the same page is imperative. Well, we have arrived there, together. I’m so thankful for him. My love has multiplied; we are a team. 

I’m pursuing becoming an educational advocate. For this girl, who could never complete a degree- tried four times- it all makes sense. The universe had not yet given me the guidance I needed. I hear it now. 

I’m filled with love, and hope for what lays ahead. Today, I’m just going to bask in the positivity which surrounds us. Reflect on how it all really has worked out thus far. I’m in awe. 

Time to go play 💜

“and is it hard work dear, holding the atmosphere…”

So much overwhelms. 

Choosing an outfit, what to pack for lunch, what kind of coffee to order… on and on the list goes. I have always felt incompetent, unable to choose from all the options life offers. 

As a child, I had someone to choose for me; as an adult, not so much. My family always joked about how I’d change my clothes five times in a day, and that has followed me into my adult life … but in a much more significant manner. 

I work three days per week, in the office. The other four, I’m with my son.  I am completely embarrassed to admit this, but deciding on the days events with him, causes paralysis. Some days, there are so many options to choose from… I just end up shutting down, staying home. 

As I research women with ADHD more, I’m finding these deficits are common, and actually fall under the symptoms of ADHD. Which is very relieving, and has helped to reduce the level of shame which I’ve been living under. 

I have worked for 38 years to hide how hard I work to appear normal; to not allow my disorganization, procrastination, and confusion of sense of self to show through. It has been exhausting. 

After an average day of adulting, I oftentimes wish I could take the next day off, to recharge my depleted energy reserves, and confront any perceived inadequacies. Since becoming a mom, this has become more difficult. 

I feel shame; shame at being so socially inept, shame at not arranging repeated play dates with my son’s friends and mothers, shame at canceling plans at the last minute with my friends or family… just shame. 

It hurts. So much. 

I worry this inability of mine is having a detrimental effect on my son, and his social skills. The child psychologist discussed how important social skill development is for him; and how we must try to encourage him to develop and nurture friendships. Isn’t that my job as a mom? To teach and encourage these skills? How am I to do that, when I cannot nurture my own friendships? 

I’m working on this, with a therapist and psychiatrist. Both have repeatedly explained to me that I must learn to be gentle on myself. I have to forgive the 38 years of shame, to move forward. To parent my son, and guide him through all the messiness ADHD brings to life. To recall what hurt my soul, and what helped me live through the pain, and cope. The best thing I can offer him? Understanding. Love. Support. Advocating for him, and nurturing his huge curiosity and love for life. I can do this. For him, for us. 

Sari Solden MS, LMFT, details all of this in her book, “Women with Attention Deficit Disorder.” 

“At the end of the day, if you’re just dealing with ADD, that’s great,” Solden said. “But most women—because they weren’t diagnosed as children, because they didn’t have hyperactivity or were smart—grew up absorbing a lot of wounds and shame. These women are often twice exceptional. They have incredible strengths and are really smart and creative, but they have these struggles that nobody understands, including them.” More here‘I Thought I Was Stupid’: The Hidden Struggle for Women with ADHD

Lyrics in title from The Lumineers – sleep on the floor

planting dreams…

Sometimes, children come up with the best ideas. We received a full years worth of koala crates last year, and completed only some of the activities. I’ve sorted them, and keep them on the activity shelf for my son to choose from, if he likes. 
Last night, he asked my husband for help planting the garden. My son showed my husband how to make the vegetables. 
As the little one was planting them in the garden, he told us “I’m planting my dreams.” 
Me too, little one, me too. 

Headphones

I have always had difficulty with noise, since a very young age. If I couldn’t control it; it felt as if it rattled my soul. 

I see this sensitivity in my son; he does not do well at crowded places, when people yell, and public restrooms are the worst. I get it. I carry sanitizing wipes with me at all times, to avoid the noisy hand dryers; and the automatic flushing toilets. 

When I was young, sensory sensitivities weren’t such a big thing, or as well known as they are now. I remember not being able to think if a faucet was dripping; plastic bags making noise in the back seat with the windows open, or any other distracting noise. 

As a child, my father and his sister shared music with me. To this day, I feel music with my heart. There were some bands as a child that frightened me: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who. Others, U2, Cat Stevens, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan calmed me. I enjoyed their melodies and lyrics though I may not have understood the message behind them, they gave me peace. 

We were a young family. My father was a chef, and worked all hours; but during the winter months he would work while we were in school, and be home for us after school. I fondly remember him home cooking, with music on, those days. My mother was in nursing school, pursuing a degree. She had been with us since birth, and was at a point where she could finish her schooling and build a career for herself. 

I did not have a great time in school. I enjoyed learning; and was always thirsty for more education, just never what was being taught. I always had books; that was my passion. 

The social part of school was the hardest for me.  I always felt like I didn’t fit in; and recess, lunch and gym were too loud. I could not pay attention, no matter how much effort I put forth. 

I will never forget the Columbia music membership: each month we received new music. Cassette tapes, delivered to our door. I would read through the catalog, circling items and folding pages; hoping to receive at least one of my many favorites. My father would always make sure to include one of my requests. It was better than Christmas morning, when that cardboard box would arrive. 

We had an amazing sound system; purchased at Radio Shack. The speakers were at least three feet tall. The tower had a record player, CD player; tuner and two cassette slots. It was so powerful, and music sounded so sweet on it. 

The day my life changed, was the day my father brought home the noise canceling headphones. He showed them to me, and let me try them out. My mother and sister were watching television. 

I put my Columbia music best of tape in the deck, and pressed play. I found that I was able to shut out all the noise and chatter in my mind; and focus solely on the music. I felt it deep in my heart, and my soul. This was magic! Never before was I able to turn the world off; shut my ping pong brain off… but with the headphones and the right music; I’d found a way. 

From that day forward I was obsessed with music. It was the key to expressing who I was, where I stood, and what I dreamed of. I was a mix tape maker, a DJ, a walking musical encyclopedia. 

Music brought my husband and I together. And even in the tough times, it still brings us together. 

So, when I saw what difficulty my son was having with all the excess noise surrounding him… I remembered. Amazon had the perfect pair. Once they arrived, I unwrapped them, and plugged them into his kindle for him. And explained if he ever gets too overwhelmed, to pick them up, and try them out. 

This little four year old boy? He thanked me for helping him. His expression said it all; he really is just like me. He has some great taste in music too; the lumineers, bob Marley, the black keys, Alabama shakes. 

This mom has a full heart. Each time I remember one of these experiences, I try to recreate it for him. To see them work, as I’d hoped? Gives me hope I’m not failing at this parenting thing…. 

it takes a village

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Yesterday, my son and I were fully surrounded by ours. (My mother and husband were working, and therefore not with us).

We traveled two hours or so west, to attend our annual family Memorial Day picnic, with my father and adult sister. For the past 20 years or so, we have made this trek; only missing the occasional picnic. We visit with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and an assortment of cousins and extended family. It is a wonderful time to really connect and catch up; unlike any exchange via social media or email. 

Having received my son’s diagnosis last Monday, I shared the results with three wonderful women in my life: 

my grandmother, who raised five happy, successful children, while holding the position of children’s librarian at her children’s elementary school; 

my aunt, who has raised 3 amazing young adults in their 20’s,  a teacher, and an incredibly knowledgeable woman;

my other aunt, who is an incredibly talented photographer, artist and graphic designer, who is so kind, gentle and mindful; who I’ve always shared a special connection with. 

All three have shared many, many useful tidbits of information with me since, which I have taken in to apply to our lives. 

I was a bit apprehensive about attending the picnic… my son is impulsive; especially when overwhelmed with too many people / new experiences/ too much sensory input. There was a pool; many acres of woods, and a river in those woods. 

When we go places like this, my husband and I work in a tag team of sorts; we both never take our eyes off of him. Before you think we are some kind of helicopter parents, our son has run out into traffic, twice. Fortunately, we caught him before he stepped in front of a moving vehicle. 

My largest fear is that he will get overwhelmed and sneak out … out of a yard, home, into a road… and these fears were confirmed with the developmental pediatrician and psychologist. We were told it is very common with the impulsiveness that goes along with ADHD. (And, I can certainly relate. To this day, when I get overwhelmed, I have to physically remove myself from the situation to process and regroup.) So, I do understand. He does not understand how unsafe running off can be, yet. 

Well, it turns out my fear was unnecessary. Since I had reached out to the three women above, they also helped keep an eye on him. In fact, as the day progressed, I realized that half of the people at the picnic were also keeping an eye out for him. He’s quick! Twice, he got away; I paused to grab a drink… and could not find him. My uncle waved- he saw my panic, and found him digging in the garden. 

I was so overwhelmed with the love from all of these family members. Everyone had pulled together to help me, when I thought I was most alone. Most amazing, we were able to do all of this so that my son never once knew, or was scolded, or forced to sit, when he needed to move. I was not alone. They understood. I did not have to explain to anyone. This was so surprising- and filled my heart. My son experienced his first picnic, free to explore as a four year old boy should. 

One of my cousins with two little ones came to talk with me. I started my usual defensive speech about how I’m not a helicopter mom; he’s impulsive due to ADHD, and a communication disorder… and I trailed off. She said, “you know I’m an elementary school psychologist, right? I see these diagnoses often, and they are definitely manageable.” We talked for quite some time, as we watched our children play; as we did when we were children. Full circle. 

It meant the world to me. To see my son treated as a neurotypical, to have my anxieties wiped off my conciousness … to just feel as if we were both accepted with all our faults / disorders… my heart is more full than I thought possible. To have my son have a full day of fun, which didn’t contain any meltdowns or comments regarding his deteriorating self esteem… THIS is what life is about. I am so very thankful to be a part of this clan. 💚

“…uncontrollable behaviors such as bolting into a busy parking lot. “By the time they’re diagnosed with ADHD, most kids have had a long history of problem behaviors that can affect their self-esteem,” says Dr. Koplewicz.”

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