My Son, the Professional.

Wow.

I am still pinching myself.

Our knucklehead is now a fully qualified, PADI certified, Dive Instructor, passing his exams with distinctions and sporting a CV chock-full of related qualifications like Rescue Diving and Emergency First Response training.
He’s now adding Free Diving Instructor to that list, and he is on cloud nine.

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Last Sunday, the day after his exams, we went to celebrate with him and the other newly qualified candidates, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the knucklehead happier. He didn’t stop grinning, and if you asked him how he was, he threw his arms in the air and literally whooped!

If you had told me, even two years ago when he had just started his internship, that we would reach this point, I would probably have smiled, hesitant to take it as a given, even though I had all my fingers and toes crossed that he would make this work!
And it has been ALL him. He has had to work and study and look after himself – cooking, cleaning, doing his washing… We paid for his internship and supplied him with groceries, but he had to do all the work!
He has matured and grown up so much.
He is so proud of himself.
And we are so proud of him.

Is There Such A Thing As Mommy Limbo…?

I read quite a few mommy blogs.
I have many friends who have young children, and they blog frequently about being a mom to those children.
I belong to a mommy bloggers Facebook group.
I am a mom.
But I’m a mom to a grownup who doesn’t live here anymore, and most of my blogging is now about my dogs

There’s no more school run, homework drama, PTA meetings, parents evenings, or doctor’s visits.
There’s no more OT, fundraisers, play dates, speech therapy, or fighting with teachers over my son’s ADHD.
There’s no more arguments with him over taking his meds, us fighting over everything, or panic when the phone rings (well… almost).
His school life and growing up was hard. His ADHD diagnosis complicated his school life, his home life, his friendships, our family life… Beyond comprehension for people who don’t live with it. Everything was hard work.

And now I feel like my mommy duties have been suspended.

My son is doing really well at the moment.
He’s matured so much in the last 18 months, and he’s worked his backside off – on his own – working and studying! He’s doing an internship where he’s getting an internationally recognised qualification and he’s learning the business around it. It’s really hard work, and the final leg he’s in now has him stressed, but he’s doing it. On his own.
We pay his rent, we buy his groceries and we’re paying for his courses, but unlike the school fees I felt like I was wasting, he’s actually thriving and he wants to do this and do it well.

I only see him a couple of times a month, when I insist on getting a #mamalove selfie to try and make up for how few photos I have of the two of us together, and he doesn’t need me right now.

He needs groceries, but he doesn’t need me to take on belligerent teachers who refused to accept that he had a special needs diagnosis and required extra attention and was allowed extra time during tests and exams.

He needs cigarette money, but he doesn’t need me to take on the bullies who loved to pick on him because he gave them the kind of reactions that feed a bully’s ego.

He needs electricity money, but he doesn’t need me to drive him to endless doctor’s appointments for prescriptions and therapies, that sometimes made me feel like I was stabbing myself in the eye.

He needs us to pay for his trips, but he doesn’t need me to help him with his homework and stock up on stationery.

He’ll probably come back and live at home once he’s finished his internship, while he looks for work and a place to stay, and we’ll probably fight like cat and dog while he’s here, but I will never again be a mom to a little boy who needed me for everything…

Edited to add:

Make no mistake, I am a very happy mom.
I have time to indulge in my hobbies and learn new things. I have learned how to crochet, I have a few grown-up colouring in books. I can be a full time wife to my darling husband. I can work with my dogs.
And I love seeing my boy! We have actual WhatsApp conversations! I miss him like mad, and I am so proud of him.

At A Bit Of A Loose End…

I was watching my favourite TV show today, which is now on season 5 – Parenthood.

I’ve spoken about it before because I enjoy the show immensely. Its a big family, like mine. There are adopted children, a (no longer) illegitimate child, a single mom, fertility issues, a special needs child, the family’s parents remind me of my own… I identify with the characters and their situations.

~~ CAUTION - SPOILERS IN PICTURE LINK ~~

~~ CAUTION – SPOILERS IN PICTURE LINK ~~

For some reason while I was watching today’s show, I had a bit of a revelation.

I raised my son on my own – with help from a loving close family – but I was a single mom. I also had special needs issues to deal with with my son’s ADHD Combined Type, so not only did I feel like I had to prove myself as a parent to teachers and doctors and a community at large, I also had to get my son the help he needed to get through school. I started working on support for other parents of children with special needs and creating awareness of ADHD, and I worked full day and weekends as our little family unit had only my income.
I worked my tail off every day.

Make no mistake – I love the life I have led, though I still wish I had been able to (or tried to) do more for my son…

Now my son is a grown up. He’s also doing something he’s loved all his life and he’s happier than I have ever seen him! Seeing and talking to him makes my heart sing!

But every other day I feel like there’s something I am supposed to be doing… I’m no longer fighting with schools and teachers and doctors. I don’t have all kinds of appointments to keep. I don’t get the phonecalls I used to dread…
I fill my time with the causes that are close to my heart – supporting other special needs parents and working with SA Guide-dogs – and I work from home so my time is very much my own, and every now and then I feel like I’ve let something slide.
I feel like something is not getting the attention I am supposed to be giving it, and I almost find myself feeling a little guilty about the fact that my son’s ADHD is no longer as HUGE a stress-about-it-how-can-I-fix-it-why-my-son factor in my life as it was just a year ago.

I still worry about him, and about his future, and I still wish I had done more when he was at school, but I have it easier now and once in a blue moon I have to shake myself and tell myself that thats okay.

On Parenting A Special Needs Child

A while ago, a Facebook friend posted an update that read:

“It’s so easy for a special needs parent to become so wrapped up in advocating for the rights of this tiny community, that their own child fades into the background. I’m constantly aware of how fine that line is.”

Stacey is mom to three little boys, the eldest of whom has De Morsier syndrome, and she is an outspoken advocate for Autism (her blog is here).

Her status really hit home for me and it got me thinking about being a parent to a special needs child, and how I parent my knucklehead.
Many times in our lives, as he and I lived with ADHD and I became more and more determined to create awareness and educate people about the disorder, it became all about me.
How I had to parent a special needs child.
How I had to deal with people’s rudeness and incompetence and crass questions.
How I had to take time off work to get to doctors’ appointments and occupational therapy and shrinks and speech therapy and parent teacher meetings and school conferences.
My son needed far more help to get through every day than I did, but sometimes I was crusading so hard and feeling so sorry for myself that he got left behind.

First of all, let me state very clearly – so there’s no doubt – if your child is diagnosed with ADHD, you are parenting a child with special needs.
ADHD is often called an invisible disorder, and I must be honest – sometimes I am glad for this. If you are a parent to a child with a visible disability or handicap, you are subjected to pitying looks and outright rudeness! Its as if being able to see that someone’s child is different entitles people to ask questions at point blank range.
What’s wrong with your baby/ daughter/ son?
Are you going to fix it surgically?
Was she born that way?
Does he go to a special school?
Oh you MUST try XYZ?
Have you looked into such-and-such a product?
Do people REALLY think that the parents of a child with a disability or handicap of any kind have not ALREADY done – and are doing – as much reading and research as they possibly can?
I get that they just want to help, I just wish they’d think before they speak!

Look at it this way. If you tell someone your child is asthmatic or diabetic- also fairly invisible disorders- people seldom launch into a diatribe about how its a fake disorder created so drug companies can profit. They’re still quick to make suggestions about treatments and tell you of their own experiences, but mostly the show concern and empathy.
If you tell someone your child has been diagnosed with ADHD however, they don’t ask how you’re doing. There’s no empathy. They say things like, “Ooh is she on Ritalin?“, “Well I hope you’re not drugging him!“, and “Oh I was just like him as a child but my parents disciplined me properly.
Do you know that children with an ADHD diagnosis have a worse quality of life than children with asthma or diabetes? They don’t do well at school, they don’t do well with interpersonal relationships, they’re always in trouble, and they blame themselves.

Is it any wonder that sometimes its all ME! ME! ME!

Listen to me! Help me! Show me! Answer me! Anything!
For me, raising a special needs child feels like I am always on the defensive. Even now, with a grown up son.
Every single time someone mentions ADHD, I brace myself for the slew of jokes and opinions that inevitably follow, tossed about by people who only ever read YOU and Huisgenoot, or watch Carte Blanche. Even if they’re not actually talking to me, I have to all but bite my tongue and I am not always successful.

I am constantly second guessing myself and wishing I’d done more, tried harder.
I probably could have. Should have.
If I’d worked harder perhaps my son would have finished school. Perhaps he would have gone on to some kind of tertiary education, perhaps he may even have become the Marine Biologist he always wanted to be.
Hindsight is always 20/20. And I didn’t know then what I know now.

Its exhausting.

Is it any wonder that my son occasionally faded into the background of my battle with ADHD?

Twinsaver Luxury and TuGo Talk Education

~~as per my Ladybloggers pledge, I was not paid to write this blog post, and all opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.~~

Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about educating people and creating awareness around living with ADHD.
I also love having the opportunity to share my many blessings, and this Twinsaver and Tugo competition provides me with an opportunity to do both.
I get to promote a toy that I think is fun as well as functional and encourages recycling, and I get to help Cotlands by promoting this initiative.

This Tugo Free-Play toy is something my son would have LOVED when he was little! I actually kept a big brown paper bag full of egg boxes, scraps of wrapping paper and fabric off-cuts, toilet roll inners, pipe cleaners, ice cream sticks, and glue, and on “rainy days” I’d pull this bag out and my son would spend hours building and inventing.
I think its a fabulous concept, and if you have a child with ADHD who has a creative side, this is a great toy to pull out of the cupboard when your child tells you he – or she – is bored!

Here’s the press release about the campaign behind the competition.

In April 2013, our passionately South African brand, Twinsaver Luxury will be partnering with TuGo, a proudly South African construction toy to launch their incredible educational campaign.

In 2007 CEO of TuGo Abel Chetty’s son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). ADD inhibits a child from concentrating for long periods of time, which proves to be challenging in classroom environments. Coupled with his wife, Chetty came to the decision to put in place a strategy to help him overcome some of the challenges associated with the condition. The result was the creation of an educational toy set which in turn has also motivated Twinsaver Luxury to join forces and assist Chetty in changing the lives of all our children.

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Available at CNA stores nationwide, Tugo Free-Play is a stand-alone construction set that encourages children to explore their imaginations by piecing together waste products like cores, cling wrap and foil, to create a masterpiece. The campaign aims to raise awareness about these educational toys, recycling as well as raise funds for a charitable cause.

From April to September 2013, Twinsaver Luxury will be collaborating with TuGo for an in-store promotion supported by a fantastic charity initiative for Cotlands.
Each pack of Twinsaver Luxury bought allows consumers to sms a unique code to a number provided on the pack as an entry into a competition. Parents must look out for the coloured cores! For every sms entry received Nampak will donate TuGo blocks to Cotlands for their Toy Library, an area where the Cotlands children can be inspired and educated through. There are also educational prizes up for grabs like a R50 000.00 bursary monthly, various TuGo products as well as an Educational Family trip to the UK.

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Hugh Wilson, Commercial Manager of Twinsaver Luxury says “ we really believe this campaign can make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, education is the cornerstone of making this country great, and being a proudly south African brand we feel it’s time to give back and help make the difference”.
To make a difference alongside Twinsaver Luxury and TuGo, and assist with a monetary donation, sms COTLANDS to 38810. Sms charged at R10, proceeds will go to Cotlands.