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.”