My son has ADHD. I am fine with it, Damien is fine with it, he takes his Ritalin every day including weekends and we have both seen some incredible changes in our relationship as well as in his school performance. He is now bringing home certificates for his research and artistic capabilities; he gets silver awards for the speech festival (which he loathes); he has qualified for his gymnastics provincial colours three years running (this year he even qualified for the national competition); he gets merits for his class work; he does his homework; he completes and hands in projects on time and I no longer dread school parents evenings! Granted, putting Damien in a private school with nice small classes has made a world of difference too, but even BEFORE we changed schools we started seeing a difference. Yet I am still hesitant to mention it to anyone. The one time I decided to broach the subject openly in conversation, I was questioned ruthlessly as to whether he ACTUALLY had ADHD or if his teachers and I just couldn’t cope with him. I was totally gobsmacked to say the least! That ANYONE could look me in the eye and ask me if I had a reason for medicating my son. I should have said “I did it for fun” just to see how she reacted. That I am a single parent has nothing to do with my decision or with Damien having ADHD. I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone that we tried everything and anything else first. The (non-existent) ADHD diet, very specific multi-vitamins that are supposed to help, countless psychiatrists, psychologists, OTs, speech therapists, GPs and specialists were consulted. We even had his hearing tested! That Damien was poked, prodded, ECG’d, tested, examined and analysed until he wanted to have a fit if I mentioned seeing a doctor. He started developing a complex about himself- the fact that he had to see so many doctors when he wasn’t feeling sick started making him think there was something wrong with him. Then we discovered the doctor we have been seeing for the last three years. He prescribed Ritalin, and one of the huge differences between him and the other doctors we’ve seen, is that he actually monitors the dose and Damien’s performance using input from me and from his teachers. One of the aspects I battled the most with, was convincing family and friends that he couldn’t always help his behaviour. That the connections between action and consequence didn’t exist for him most of the time. I mean, bad behaviour is bad behaviour right? Wrong. In Damien’s case (and many children like him) he just doesn’t think because he can’t, he doesn’t know how. Plain and simple. He tricky part of course is where to draw the line between what he can’t help and when he’s misbehaving. I have to keep reminding MYSELF, several times a day; that he doesn’t think before he acts or speaks, that I must look him in the eye when I give him an instruction (and even make him repeat it). Make no mistake- our life is far from being a picnic- but having a decent doctor and the correct, monitored dose of medication means that we can actually have a conversation now. That he can visit friends and go to birthday parties alone without me panicking about him driving the other child’s parents insane! That I can leave him to read books while I browse elsewhere in the shop without me worrying that he’s going to be climbing the shelves or opening all the packaging. The level of trust in our relationship has gone up a thousand-fold! Obviously there are lots of things we still argue about- like keeping his room tidy, that he shouldn’t be borrowing or exchanging toys with friends, remembering to pick up after him self and wash out the bath when he’s finished- but these are the same things other parents have to argue with their children about. Every disorder or illness must be treated when it can be. No-one gives you grief for prescribing anti-depressants or chemotherapy when it’s necessary* so my point remains this: Why do I have to justify putting my son on medication to treat his disorder?
How can I put into words the feelings and emotions I experienced this weekend?
My baby boy has qualified for the team that is going to represent our province in a national gymnastics competition! Every time I think about it I want to giggle and cry and scream all at once! It’s really hard to put it into words.
This would have been a pipe dream three years ago. After he was diagnosed with ADHD when he was five, we spent several years bouncing around between psychiatrists, psychologists, specialists, GPs, treatments and support groups trying to find something that worked. I read every book, visited every website, joined up for every free newsletter I could lay my hands on.
Then, three years ago, I found a doctor on the internet who specialized in treating ADHD and who lived in our country (yes I was a little surprised).
Since we started seeing him on a monthly basis and getting proper treatment our loves have completely turned around. We don’t fight with each other like we used to. He is actually doing school work and homework after a few years of literally empty books.
One thing I had to learn to keep in my mind and in my heart is that no one can tell me how to do this job, and no one can tell me my choices are wrong or right when it comes to a solo act like mine. I have to weigh up the pros and cons of everything. Suing his father for maintenance or not; buying a house or renting for a few more years so I can afford private school; buying a new car or buying a second hand car; moving away from family to have a better job or staying close to my back-up… it happens all day everyday.
Going without so that I can provide for my son- I don’t think it ever stops… but that’s not what it’s about. My boy is a brilliant, intelligent, creative, well adjusted, sociable, likeable kid who is adored by friends and family alike.
It’s a lot of stress and we are after all, only human. I try never to let anyone tell me I made the wrong choice. As long as my baby is happy and healthy my choices and decisions can’t be all bad. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, its people jumping to conclusions when they learn what our little family set-up is. Like those people who assume someone who is blind must also be deaf and yell when they speak to them. And people who assume that my son was diagnosed with ADHD and is being treated with Ritalin because I couldn’t cope.
And there really are people like that!
Anyway, without my family I wouldn’t cope. They regularly tell me I have done well and they are proud of me and I try to remind myself of that every now and then.
Something I had to learn to do was plan ahead, as far ahead as possible. I started putting away money, as much as I could spare every month, and when I can, I increase it a little bit. I don’t ever decrease the amount I put away. It’s not only for Damien’s higher education but for me too, for emergencies or simply for a weekend away when I feel like I‘ve really had enough!
I know, I sound like I’m bragging, but sometimes I have to for ME. There are so many single moms out there and I wish I could tell them all that it CAN work.
In my case, my son’s father and his family consciously decided they didn’t want to deal with the scandal of an illegitimate child and a teenage pregnancy and such. I also felt that if I sued my son’s father for maintenance I would spend every other month in court trying to get the money owed to us simply because that’s the kind of man I think he was. I didn’t and don’t have the money for lawyers and legal fees to spend on trying to get a couple of hundred bux a month… which doesn’t even cover groceries or school fees. My family and I decided to go it alone with absolutely no contact from my son’s father at all- no money, no gifts, no visits, nothing. He agreed and that’s how it stayed. I am grateful to him for keeping his end of our bargain, but I still have nightmares about my son’s father arriving on my doorstep and demanding to see him. Since it’s been so long he doesn’t have a leg to stand on legally and I have less stress about that now than I did when my son was a baby. I have also never hidden from my son what happened. Obviously I tell him only what he can handle for his age and understanding. But he knows that his father and I were in love when he was conceived; that he looks like his father (a spitting image); what his fathers name is and that when he turns 21- if he wants to- I will help him track the man down (as much as I dread the idea, I am going to have to deal with it eventually).
I must be honest, what I battle with is “spoiling” my son- purely out of guilt of course I know- but I do tend to spoil him. I try hard to limit it to birthdays and Christmas, but I really have a hard time saying no to THINGS, like toys & take out (especially since I like them too). But discipline is a whole ‘nother area… I am very strict on things like age restrictions, caffeine, bedtime, good manners, tidying up after ones self, finishing homework and such like.
There is nothing tougher than raising a child – alone or in a regular family with two parents – and I wouldn’t recommend single parenthood to anyone- not even celebrities with lots of money.
That’s what’s on my mind today.
Well, anticipation fast turned to disappointment on Friday night when Damien and I set off for our nearest shopping centre to see Star Wars Episode III, only to discover that it wasn’t showing at this particular chain of movie theatres! So, off we went to the internet café around the corner to see if any of the other shopping centres nearby were showing it. Unfortunately, the one that did have it was just a little further away than I was prepared to drive – I also knew it would be horribly over-full on payday Friday. So Damien and I decided to see it on Saturday morning at the aforementioned over-full shopping centre. Instead we went to Steers and then went home and got some videos to make up for our disappointment. I must stress again just how excited we were so that you can understand our almost total dejection. We are both HUGE Star Wars fans (not fanatics mind you – we don’t own all the movie “stuff” or talk funny, we just watch the movies* over and over again… ok weird enough), and in the week after Episode III was launched, Damien re-watched ALL five of the previous movies – each one at least twice.
And then* disaster struck! My mother’s maid arrived early on Saturday morning to help me out with the housework (my pet hate) and then nearly left when she saw Damien’s room!!!!! Damien’s room, and the generally untidy state of it, is a constant bone of contention in our lives. For the preceding week (at LEAST) we had been arguing about the state it was in, and on Saturday morning I told him that if he didn’t sort it out enough for the maid to do her thing, we weren’t going to go see Star Wars.
I should have known better.
With Damien, one of the few punishments that “work” is grounding, or privileges being revoked, both for only short periods of time otherwise we both forget about it. Unfortunately, when he is grounded (or his privileges are revoked) then – me being the mommy – I am too!
And now, as I sit here typing this (watching Taxi blink groggily at me after my cell phone woke him up) on Sunday night, it struck me that having postponed the movie for a week – providing Damien can keep his room tidy – we may never actually get to see it on the big screen! You see, that’s just how our lives are. I can’t just ignore the punishment and go to see the movie anyway. Naturally that just defeats the object of the lesson, and – I admit it – I suffer from what I have started calling SMS (single-mom-syndrome) and one of the symptoms is that when I have money I have a hard time NOT spoiling my baby. And Damien is all but incapable of keeping his end of deals like this one, even when the reward is something he REALLY wants. The ONLY way I will ever keep his room tidy is to empty it completely and pawn all his stuff, or do it myself.
I am beginning to think that certain behaviours are related purely to the male chromosomes. Like the cliché about men being incapable of putting dirty washing in the washing basket – despite the basket being 2 inches from where they just dropped their dirty clothes. Or like always remembering to lift the toilet seat and I don’t even mind it being permanently up! And it’s not like he has anyone to copy these bad habits from either.
Anyway, after sherry and homemade soup at my folk’s house, and using their washing machine ‘coz mine is STILL broken, my brother, sister in law and myself watched the European F1 (a better day for Ferrari than the last few races). I wish you could see how excited my 10 month old nephew gets when he sees motor racing on TV!
Till next time, goo’night.
The only mystery about the cat is why it ever decided to become a domestic animal ~ Compton Mackenzie.