Tag: kindness

The Outcome Was Not Hilarious

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There‘s a Facebook “ask your child these questions and post the results” quiz going around, and on a whim, I decided to ask my son for his answers. I thought it would be funny. A lark.

He was crying by the second question.

I really feel like I’m cocking up this parenting thing 98% of the time. Am I the only one who feels this way? I always feel like I’m failing at parenting, no matter how hard I try.

 

My son is diagnosed with ADHD. I am also. I’m his genetic link. This feels great, by the way—passing on a brain type to one’s child that makes life harder. No guilt associated with this at all. Nope. Nada. (Also, I’m sarcastic. Did I mention that sarcasm is my favorite defense mechanism?) So basically, I failed my son from the second he was conceived. I failed him in utero. Off to a great start.

Today, I started the meant-to-be-funny test verbally to see what my son would say. Here’s how it went.

 

WITHOUT prompting, ask your child these questions and write EXACTLY what they say. The outcome will be hilarious. 😂

Interviewed: M, 10.

 

Me: What is something I say a lot?

Him: I love you.

 

(Okay, we seem to be off to a good start. I am such a loving mother. Yay, me!)

 

Me: What makes me happy?

Him: When I do the right thing.

 

I looked at him sadly. His answer broke my heart.

My son then started crying. Tears rolling down his face. Because this is what it feels like to be a kid with ADHD.

This is also what it feels like to be an adult with ADHD.

You feel like your inability to control impulsive behavior, your easy distractibility, and your problem finishing things (on which you aren’t hyperfocusing) all make you a bad person.

Because your behavior is corrected constantly, you also feel like you’re failing all of the time. At everything.

 

Eventually, if you’re like me, you may become chronically anxious, overthinking and hesitating before every decision, because you’re so used to making the wrong choices.

You may often freeze from indecision and fear, lest you fail the people counting on you to do the right thing, one more lousy time.

You may worry they will stop loving you, or leave you, because you can never seem to make people happy, no matter what you do.

You may grow up feeling alone in the world, and unable to trust anyone, because nobody ever stays. You will then blame, berate, and emotionally beat yourself up for not being able to maintain a healthy relationship with another human.

 

It really sucks.

 

We try so hard to choose our battles and be gentle with our son, but the reality is that when someone is constantly impulsive—to the point of being a danger to themselves, or an annoyance to others—you have to say something.

Present parents teach their children how to behave appropriately. If these teachable moments are happening all… day… long… the emotionally immature recipient of your “life lessons,” no matter how gently you present them, starts to feel like a failure. Quantity trumps quality eventually.

And being human, you’re sometimes not as kind or patient as you should have been—especially when you’re correcting the same poor choice for the 100th time, and that behavior is something your child should have mastered years earlier.

Sisyphus has nothing on the parents of an ADHD-brained kid. We wish we were only rolling a damned rock up a hill all day. At least then we’d have the luxury of not worrying about how we’re making the rock feel as we roll it over and over again, and what kind of a rock it’s going to grow up into because of our ineptitude.

Having a child with a developmental delay is like having a toddler for 3 times longer than you should, and you will want to punch yourself in the face. Often. Sometimes a pillow in a bedroom behind a locked door will have to do, because we need faces to see, eat, communicate, and other important crap like that.

 

When I’m handling it well, I feel like there is nobody as patient as me in the whole wide world. I am the Queen of Patience. I am an angel in the form of a middle-aged woman, sent down to guide this child to adulthood with love and light and also a lot of laundry.

When I’m not handling it well, and I lose my temper, I feel like the shittiest human who ever walked the planet. I am the Queen of Shit. I am Satan in the form of a middle-aged woman, sent down to ruin the life of an innocent boy with snappish remarks and nagging and also a lot of laundry.

I know he’s just a kid, without the life experience or perspective I have, and of course he’s not going to inherently understand everything. He deserves the same chance to make mistakes and learn from them the rest of us received. So unfortunately, when I am not at my best, “Queen of Shit” is written on the sash I wear to complement my gown made from the tattered fabric of parental shame. I don’t deserve a tiara.

 

It’s a frustrating cycle, and it kills me because I was the same kid; misunderstood and angry all of the time. I still lack self-esteem. I still have a chip on my shoulder that flares up if I feel I’m being treated like I’m stupid—a bitchy, defensive chip that my husband “enjoys” dealing with on the reg. I still feel like I’m failing all of the time. And I so desperately want life to be better for my son.

God, I don’t want him to feel like I do. I don’t want anybody to feel like I do.

 

I asked why he was crying, and he said, “I’m crying because I don’t know what makes you happy.”

 

Oh, my heart. Ouch. And then I started crying. I opened my arms and he came over to the couch and jumped into my lap like we do at the start of every day.

I hugged him for a long time. I told him that he makes me happy because he exists, and not only when he’s doing the right thing. That I am trying to teach him how to be a good person when I correct his behavior, and making mistakes is normal because that’s how we all learn to do the right thing.

I told him I will always love him, and that even when he’s doing something that doesn’t make me happy, I love him just as much then. I told him I’m only trying to help him learn to make good choices, and that I will never love him any less, no matter what he does.

I told him he makes me happy just by being here.

 

I’m trying. I’m trying to make sure my son doesn’t feel like a failure. I feel like I’m failing at parenting while I try to make sure my child doesn’t feel like he’s failing at being a human.

I recognize the duplicity of the above process, but I don’t have a better solution.

 

Failing. Failing, failing, failing.

 

*****

 

After I dried his tears and told him the test was supposed to be fun, we continued. I wanted to salvage this moment. I wanted to lighten it.

 

Me: How tall am I? 

Him: 5’9″

 

(Correct!)

 

Me: What’s my favorite color? 

Him: I don’t know? Blue or purple or something? 

 

(Close. Blue-green.)

 

Me: What is my favorite thing to do?

Him: Write on the computer?

 

(Correct!)

 

Me: What makes you proud of me? 

Him: That you do everything for me. You’ve kept me alive for the last 10 years!

 

(Jesus. It’s nice to be appreciated, but keeping you alive is my job, kid. I feel kind of bad about his answer. I am officially promising Future Me will never guilt trip my son. Do you hear that Future Me? He appreciates you. Like, biologically. No guilt trips.)

 

Me: What is my favorite food?

Him: Burritos?

 

(Correct! Well, actually, my favorite food is artichokes, but they’re expensive, so bean burritos with cheese and green sauce are my number one comfort food. They have been since I was a kid in Phoenix.)

 

Me: Do you think you could live without me?

Him: No! I couldn’t!

 

(I smiled and kept it light, but seriously. What kind of a needy, Disney-movie-moms-must-die kind of question is this? My son freaked out recently, when, at almost-11, he saw the REAL beginning to “Finding Nemo” on TV. It was his first favorite movie, and I skipped past the “mom dies” beginning every time. Because damn, Disney. That’s some heavy shit to drop on toddlers. Stop it.)

 

Me: If I could go anywhere, where would it be?

Him: I don’t know? An island?

 

(Wrong, unless the island was never sunny and not surrounded by water, which would make it not an island. The vast endlessness of the ocean freaks me out, and I am extremely photosensitive. He got the solitude part right, though, if that’s what he meant.  I’d love a cloudy, cool climate and a house alone in the forest.)

 

Me: What is my favorite show?

Him: Your medical shows.

 

(Correct! I love all medical shows. If I could go back in time and change my college major, I would choose nursing instead.)

 

*****

 

This was the end of the test.

My son is a volatile, high-strung, emotional and extremely empathetic human, just like me. We feel everything in the world. It’s exhausting. The ADHD brain type doesn’t help.

So I should probably mention that I’ve also made him cry over his pancakes by jokingly making the Mrs. Butterworth’s maple syrup bottle exclaim, “No! Don’t drink my lifeblood, little boy!”

He’s run crying over to me after a group of shitty kids stomped a cool bug he was watching.

He cries over sad shows on television. He’s a sensitive soul. But still. Today was a reminder to be as gentle as possible with my son, as often as I can muster it.

 

What a hilarious outcome. Thanks, stupid Facebook quiz.

 

 

 

 

Something Shimmering and White

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It was one of those transitional periods on the Timeline of Me. I was unhappily exploring the post-divorce state of flux through which 60% of all married people must statistically travel. Unoriginally as the thousands of country music songs on the subject might imply, I was using alcohol as my navigational system.

Having failed at what trendy writers would flippantly dub my starter marriage, I was looking for something; the next good thing. I didn’t really know what it was yet, so I hoped I’d know it when I found it, and wouldn’t be too drunk to say hello.

There was a party house in our smaller college town that my friends and I often called home. It was one of those lovely, interesting-but-crumbling Victorians with high ceilings and windows full of old glass that seemed thicker at the bottom, time-melted over the view of the past.

The homeowner was an older musician with a free spirit and a lot of weed. There was a steady river of alcohol moving through the house, along with the streams of young, searching girls, trying to find themselves by getting lost. In simpler words; I fit in perfectly.

On this night, a large group of us had watched a touring band play their music at a local bar. The band came back to the party house with us to drink and be merry. Cigarettes were smoked, music was turned up, neighbors were tolerant. I found myself sitting in a corner with the guitar player of the band, drinking beer and effortlessly talking. We were clicking as intellectually as slobbering drunks might click, and he seemed like a really nice guy.

While we chatted, we got on the subject of music. He asked me if I liked a band called The Church, and agreed when I enthusiastically told him that their song Under the Milky Way was one of my top ten songs ever. It is a wistful, moody, gorgeous song that I still love to this day.

This was mentioned in passing, one topic in a series of many, and we didn’t dwell. Conversation moved onward, and soon, he did too. Someone joined our discussion, and under the guise of getting another beer, the guitar player I’d been talking with left the party. His sudden disappearance registered briefly, but I kept drinking, and like most coherent thoughts, the event was washed away in the tide of alcohol.

The party wound down. The owner of the house had extra beds, and being in no shape to drive, I was offered one. I gratefully accepted and stumbled to the spare room.

I had just settled under the covers to pass out when I heard a knock at the door. I sleepily asked who was there as the guitar player from earlier poked his head in the room. He was holding an acoustic guitar and asked to come in. I said that would be okay, and he walked in, sitting down on the edge of my bed. I sat up against my pillow, the wall behind me nobly bearing my beer-relaxed muscles and hothouse flower demeanor.

It was one of those very moonlit nights when the world feels like daytime soaked in honey, and I could see his face clearly. He noticed my curious glance at the acoustic guitar and explained that after we talked, he had gone to the band van and learned a song for me. I somewhat numbly took in what he was saying, not really comprehending what was happening. He stopped talking and started playing the guitar softly.

Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty, sound of their breath fades with the light, I think about the loveless fascination, under the Milky Way tonight,” he sang quietly.

It was the song I had mentioned earlier; the pretty song I loved by The Church—now a lullaby for a lonely, drunken girl. The lyrics couldn’t have been more appropriate for me at that place in time; feeling small, meaningless and alone as one does standing under an endless night sky, wishing I knew what I was looking for, like the chorus repeated.

The subtle performance was a heart-wrenchingly earnest auditory hug. It didn’t feel like a flashy musician’s attempt to dazzle his way into my pants, it felt like an offering; like a little, hopeful flicker of candle light to hold inside when I was feeling dark.

After he finished, I slurred that it was absolutely beautiful. He smiled, tucked me back under the covers and told me to sleep well. He then left the room without attempting so much as a goodnight kiss, preserving the moment as something I would always remember fondly, rather than becoming just another groping stranger I would try to forget.

The next day we all woke up hung-over and rumpled to have coffee, with the friendly morning banter of people bonded through vices of the night before. Before the guitar player got in the band van to drive to the next town on tour, he handed me a CD of his band’s music. We hugged in silence, and they drove away.

I later opened the CD to find he’d written a message. It said, “You have the most amazing aura I’ve ever seen.” It made me cry, because at that point in my young, dysfunctional life, I couldn’t believe someone would say something so sweet to me without ulterior motive; with nothing to gain.

He had achieved the nearly impossible; he’d made a sad, insecure girl feel special and appreciated as a human being. This stranger I’d known one night had managed to do something more romantic, thoughtful and selfless than the guy I was drinking to forget had ever done in the years we were together.

I have kept the CD as a reminder of the worthiness of my soul all these years, occasionally pulling it out during moves to open, read, and carefully pack into my nostalgic belongings. I never spoke to the guitar player who gave it to me again, but when I think about that night, I smile, and sincerely hope he has had a wonderful life.

 

*The video for Under the Milky Way, by The Church:

 

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(Photo credit: “Milky Way Road” by Landolfi… please contact me for removal, or to share a link to this talented photographer. I think this picture is gorgeous.)