Keeping the Storm OUT…

 

I counted four weather warning text messages on my phone during my noon break today, while training for my summer job.  While watching the lightning flash and hearing the thunder, I was expecting stormy texts from my sons, who were at home without parents.  To my utter surprise, I found out the storms had actually occurred OUTSIDE the house today, and my eight year old pronounced that today was his best babysitting ever.  The reasons he gave for this was that there was not fighting, yelling or kicking today. 

I’ve been really worried, because, though I have a fifteen year old and a thirteen year old to watch the younger ones, things usually do not go well when I am gone, unless I let them vegetate in front of the tv or computer.  Since I have this strict schedule I designed for summer, they only get one hour of screen time each day, unless they earn an extra hour by doing something healthy (exercise, reading, etc).  I knew that it would be a challenge for them to get along without constant screen time while I work.  Thankfully, my husband will be home most days, but one day a week he has an appointment and the boys will be alone.  I pictured coming home to traumatized little ones, perhaps some fingernail scars on the two older, and maybe a bloody nose.   At the very least, I expected a big mess. 

It was so refreshing today to walk into a moderately clean house, where chores had been completed, and children had actually gotten along the entire day.  It seems like a miracle and it feels so good to think that I might have hit on a brilliant plan this morning when I sat down to instruct my older sons in the art of babysitting.  I cannot believe that something this simple might have worked such a miracle! 

This is what I said to them, and left it for them in writing:

Babysitting Tips

1.  You are a team.  Both of you are in charge, working towards a common goal, just like two parents do in a home.

2.  You are not in charge of each other–13 year old will answer for any of his actions/15 year old will answer for his own actions.

3.  The goal is NOT trying to get little brothers to do their chores.

4. The goal IS following the schedule…(b) doesn’t happen until (a) is completed.

5.  If they don’t do chores, no big deal, they aren’t allowed on the screen until chores are done.

6.  NEVER attempt to control another person.  They always have choices.  Your job is to point out the choices/consequences.

7.  Break chores into smaller segments for 6 yr old. 

8.  Plant good seeds, water good seeds (this came from my training for my new job …)

         Every negative thing said to a child can create a negative belief that grows into a rotten tree.  Every positive thing said to a child grows into a fruitful vine.  Look for the positive, speak the positive. 

 

I am still in shock that this little list made such a difference…or was it making them a team?  I’ve NEVER seen these two older boys show this kind of teamwork with one another!  I am so excited and so pleased that there was peace in my home today and that the storm stayed outside, where it belonged!

Aside

Love you, Mom

Love you, Mom

The Dr. Thinks my six year old boy might be somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder line. I see the strange behavior he’s referring to, but I have trouble picturing the Autistic children I’ve seen ever drawing a heart in the sand with Mom’s initial inside, just to say they love Mommy. Am I in denial, or is the spectrum really that wide?

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Being a mother in this era of history is hard enough at times.  Multiply that times four, add in ADHD, and you have a formula for a perplexing problem to solve.  In case you need to see that in mathematical format, here it is:  M(4)+ADHD=x.  Many people think they have the solution to this equation, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who can solve it.  🙂

The psychologist who tested my children for ADHD recommended that I read a book called “Taking Charge of ADHD, Third Edition: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents”, by Russell A. Barklay.  I’ve just begun to read it, due to my own lack of techno-savvy (I bought it on my Kindle and it didn’t download at first–user error?).  Since I finally graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, I had a little time this Summer, and took the time to download it on my tablet. 

I’m only in chapter one, and already I sense that this guy knows my innermost thoughts and feelings as a parent.  He perfectly describes the conflicting emotions I have about my sons.  To me, they are the most amazing creatures I’ve ever seen.  I’m continually amazed at their high level of intelligence (especially after student teaching and realizing that my sons truly are exceptional).  The psychological testing revealed higher than normal IQ in many areas, for every one of my sons.  I feel privileged to be with them on a daily basis, enjoying their high level of reasoning, their amazing vocabulary, and their intuitiveness. 

On the other hand, I worry about them, as I see their low self esteem, their total awareness that they are less capable of showing this brilliance to the world.  I am the one who sees their tears when they don’t get an award, yet they are totally aware that they were at the top of their class, academically.  How do I explain to them that a lack of focus, which they have no control over, can affect their ability to be chosen for awards? 

I see the little one come in from first grade downcast and worn out from trying so hard to be what he isn’t, and failing again.  I see him hiding his backpack behind the bush because of the many pages of homework in his folder that he was unable to complete in class.  I observe the heightened worry in his eyes and the nervous wringing of his hands when he’s trying to explain why he forgot to put on his underwear before putting on his pants.

 I hear my eight year old making off hand comments again and again about how stupid he is.  I see the light depression that keeps him from joining in the things that other kids like to do, and my heart breaks when he tells me how he hates school because it is like a prison.  I try not to show my pain as he shows me the picture he drew of school, obviously a high security fantastical prison, with a ball and chain.

My thirteen year old, wonderfully bright, has been recognized enough to be in Gifted and Talented, but can’t remember to turn in the assignment in his regular classroom, putting him in jeopardy of being kicked out.  He explains that he took the can of tuna into his room because he wanted to remember that he was looking for his multi-tool to open it, and he was afraid he would forget by the time he got to his room.  Sadly, once he got to his room, he forgot why he was in there, and the can of tuna remained there, unopened.  He is so aware of his lack of focus.  He jokes about it and openly tells everyone he has ADHD, but he tells me how other GT students treat him, and my heart aches.  He knows he is different and he’s coping the best way he can.

My fifteen year old was just diagnosed this year.  He has terribly low self esteem.  He’s known all his life the pain of trying and never reaching his goals.  So, he learned to give up when the effort seemed too great.  Because he’s simply inattentive, and not hyperactive at all, it took all these years to figure out what was wrong.  He went undiagnosed because his symptoms could also be related to the child abuse he endured, when his father and I were married.  I worry most about him, I think.  His IQ is the highest of all of my sons.  The child is amazingly brilliant.  However, his extremely low self esteem, and his sensitivity to feeling easily overwhelmed, has me very worried.  I’m perhaps overly concerned about his social life, but  I worry about his future most of all.  He cannot remember to take his medication on his own.  He cannot remember to bring me paperwork from school.  He procrastinates on boring assignments and then forgets to do them.  He wants to go to college, but, with only three years left, I wonder if he can ever turn things around enough to make it on his own.  I worry about his future wife and children.  Will they understand his issues? Will he be a good father and husband?

The author of the book I’m reading seems to “get” all of these feelings and worries with amazing clarity.  Reading this first section of the book, for the first time I really felt understood.  I, like many other parents of ADHD children, have run the gamut of un-asked-for advice from people who have never had an ADHD child, have never studied ADHD, and yet seem to have all the answers.  “These herbs will cure it”(well, they might help a little, but only if I applied them every hour)….”you need to get them on this diet” (super expensive and made absolutely no difference)….”these supplements will work” (only a slight difference)….”don’t give them that medication!” (It is the only chance they have at a somewhat normal life)….”They need more discipline” (Why would you punish a child for something he cant help?).  All the voices seem to be yelling at me sometimes, and yet it seems that none of them understand even a fraction of what it is like to truly parent four children with ADHD. 

This author really understands…at last.  He has me hooked into his book right away.  If this guy can get the conflicting emotions I feel as a mother, then he’s worth listening to.  I’m intrigued.  Tell me how to take charge of this monster, because I often feel it is taking charge of me, and the whole family seems to be affected.  Oh…he says they will be, so I guess that is “normal” too.  I need to read more.  I feel conflicted about whether to read today or do housework.  Truth is, though, reading and gaining an understanding of my sons might actually help with the housework.  Hmmm.  Something to ponder. 

At least I know that there is someone who understands, and has studied the disorder enough to really offer advice.  What do you think?  Have you run across a source that might be helpful to mothers and fathers in the same situation as I?

Aside

Futility?

They say that the ADHD is my fault. Somehow, I’m not a good enough parent. I should spank that ADHD right out of them. At the very least, I should be a stay at home mom, and not be so busy. Guilt trips abound, but Science and the doctors assure me that there are true genetics at work, and that no matter how hard I try, I cannot change the fact that my sons have ADHD, any more than I can heal my husband’s MS.

The truth is that, between ADHD, MS, and my own juggling act, our family gets pretty messy sometimes. Many have noticed, and chosen to criticize, but a few who realize the circumstances are kind enough to admit it’s a difficulty.There’s the forgetfulness (it gets so bad I’ve threatened to paint “I forgot” on the front door of our home), but also there is the blatant and epic lack of organizational abilities. The latter is what really gets me.Sometimes I wonder if those perfectly ordered families are all just one big lie, a fairytale to make us all feel guilty for being less than ideal. I figure every family has its problems, even without medical diagnoses. It could just be that any family with more than two children gets a little hairy at times.

I grew up in a family of girls, so living with so much testosterone has been an interesting learning experience in and of itself. My home is loud and boisterous, with impromptu wrestling matches, practical jokes, and constant chaos. Any given load of laundry can contain stinky socks, mud splattered pants, and a three corner tear in that new church shirt. Keeping food in the pantry, especially snack food, is an ever increasing challenge, and random needless noises are hard to escape. Finding a moment to use the restroom uninterrupted is surprisingly still difficult. It seems Mom’s bathroom mirror is much better at aiding teen boys get their hair just right. Besides, Mom is supposed to be the referee and the confidante, as well as the nurse and cuddle queen. Even though it is quite different than living in a home full of females, I cherish every moment.

But, I digress….what part of it is just living with males, and when it crosses that line into ADHD madness, I don’t know. I have no experience to tell me where that boundary is. All I know is that, in spite of labeling every cabinet shelf and every kitchen drawer, none of my boys can manage to put the dishes in their proper location. Oh I am trying very hard to teach them organizational skills, but if I’m not there every moment to supervise all four at once, they simply cannot seem to follow the organizational plan.

They have labeled bins in their room for different types of toys…and they are always hopelessly mixed up and rarely in the bins. Their closets are labeled with different sections for each child, and each type of clothing…yet the clothing get shoved every which way unless Mom happens to put them away. They have clothes baskets, yet their clothes have to be picked up off the floor almost daily. When it is time to get dressed, rare is the day that someone’s shoes are actually in the closet where they belong. They have cubbies by the front door for backpacks and books. They have hooks with the cubbies, a place to hang their jackets…yet invariably when it is time to walk out, one of them cannot find these necessary items. (By the way, when Mom lays your clothes out for you, how can you possibly forget to put on your socks???)

Having read how important a schedule and structure is for ADHD children, I have made and printed out a detailed summer schedule, and yet, if I am not home to assure it is carried out, my husband has trouble remembering to follow the schedule. The boys even have specific screen time figured in, because I know that too much screen time makes their symptoms worse…yet they can’t remember to get their chores done so that they can actually have their scheduled screen time.

I think the disorganization is one of the most frustrating things about ADHD. As a mother, I work hard to try to make the family flow more smoothly, but yet I am one person, and there are four, nay five males who can’t seem to get with my program. However, though we have SO FAR to go to be the perfect family, every year it gets a little better. Every summer we conquer one more aspect and get one more good habit. Just as they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, our family will not be ideal in one planning session. It takes time, persistence, and constantly modifying and adjusting.

At times it is discouraging, but we are all working towards being better and getting through this life in a more organized fashion. Sharing tips, and most of all, not giving up, is what makes that slight but constant improvement.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 NLT

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Futility in Action

Futility in Action

The microwave anti-spatter is somehow ruined and in the cabinet.. . . Just another example of the futility of trying to organize ADHD children. No matter their age, for anything to work, they need constant direct supervision.

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Feeling Overwhelmed?

Sometimes life can leave us feeling overwhelmed.  There is so much to do, and so little time.  Our priorities get blurred under the stress of what is nibbling at us in the moment, and all too soon we realize the day is over, and there is still so much more we needed to get done.  I often have days like this.  Whether I simply have too much to do for one person to realistically accomplish, or whether I am simply a bit ADHD myself, I cannot know for sure.  But, a huge percentage of the time, I go to bed feeling utterly exhausted, and completely failing at what I want to get done.

When I have these moments, I have to stop and consider a few things.  First, did I waste any time on foolish or unhealthy pursuits, like TV, or endless internet browsing?  Am I setting realistic goals for myself?  And then, the biggest question of all, am I being sidetracked from the little duties by the people I love the most trying to get their needs met?

I cannot say that I have arrived at the ultimate answer for how to deal with those days when the weight of the world seems to rest on my own fragile shoulders, but I can say that stopping to ask these questions often puts things into perspective.

Take today for example.  I am feeling overwhelmed because my husband’s caretaker (he has MS) has been ill for almost two months, and the agency has no one to fill her place.  Due to this fact, I have had to step in and do a lot of caretaking for him that I do not normally do.  He is paraplegic, and has to have help bathing and dressing, getting into bed, and shaving.  He needs someone to cook for him, serve his food, run his errands, and do anything that he is unable to do in a wheelchair.  Because the caretaker has been absent, that extra role fell to me.

In addition, our four ADHD diagnosed sons are enjoying their first week of summer break from school, so I have four messy sons creating chaos, arguing, and unable to focus on chores without direct supervision.  Needless to say, my house is a total mess!  My goal for today was to get the kitchen cleaned up, and dry the four loads of damp clothes my teen son graciously washed… and dumped on the foot of my bed.  But, before I could accomplish these goals, I needed to register for two last tests to make me job worthy, and I needed to pay a couple of bills.

Lo and behold, the frustration when I discovered our banking computer system was having a computer glitch today.  My day was suddenly hijacked, as I went around town spending hours to pay bills that would’ve normally taken me a maximum of thirty minutes.  As I ran errands instead of working at home, I felt my frustration building, and the anger boiling, under the surface.  I wanted to give the caretaking agency a large piece of my mind.  I wanted to growl at the bank attendees, and I really truly wanted to throw the computer across the room.

As I drove through town, feeling exceedingly grouchy, I glanced in the mirror at my frowning face, and suddenly felt ashamed.  I asked God to help me to not sin in my anger, and to help me to deal with the issues, without getting personal with the people involved.  He did help me.  He always does…if we take time to ask.

When I got home, my thirteen year old son had done the dishes for me…mostly…(lol), and though there was water all over the counter, it did look better.  My younger sons, who are responsible for cleaning the counters and table respectively, had not measured up to my expectations, and my fifteen year old was asleep in his room, where he remained all afternoon, albeit sans his phone.

My husband, struggling with an infection, was laid back in his wheelchair napping, and I love to see him thus regain his health.  But, I still have four loads of damp laundry on the end of my bed, and I feel like I have wasted the day.  Until….I realize that people are more important than things.

I did not waste time today watching any TV, surfing the net, or reading novels.  Was my goal for my day realistic?  It might have been realistic, had I a “normal” family (whatever that is).  But, as a caretaker for a disabled husband and four out of focus sons, no, it probably wasn’t realistic to expect myself to get that much done, plus feeding and clothing my troops.  Finally, I realize that yes, I was sidetracked from the housecleaning by the needs of little people… and a husband, who is beyond kind to me.

At the end of the day, when I stop to consider what is truly important, it changes everything.  I can sleep with clean clothing piled on my feet for one more night, but those little kisses could be gone when I wake up in the morning.  Having lost a baby daughter, I know that there are no guarantees.  We must take each moment and treasure it.  Maybe my kitchen is still messy and quite a bit damp, but I took time to appreciate the efforts of an industrious thirteen year old.  We won’t be having a three course meal for supper, but my husband was clothed in clean, dry clothing this morning, his medication taken, his body prayed for.

When you feel overwhelmed, it helps to realize what our real priorities should be.  If we should pass away in our sleep and there should not be another moment here on earth, will it matter that the house wasn’t clean?  Will our children remember Mom’s back as she dusted the furniture, or will they remember warm kisses and a listening ear?

Putting it all in perspective….Just saying.