Tag: parenting can be hard

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.

 

 

 

 

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Pollyanna Loves Swim-Up Bars

I did something right today.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I’m really bad at all things social interaction, and I actually helped a stranger feel better today, rather than just making them feel uncomfortable.

Go me.

Seriously. I have noticeably alienated every one of the other kids’ mothers at my son’s school who have tried to talk to me. It’s a real problem. I get nervous, blank out, stutter, and freeze up. And then the weird things come out of my mouth, like some sort of poorly done German film noir I have to watch in mortification, while I have the usual brain self-dialogue.

Oh my GOD, what is wrong with me? Why did I just say that? Why can’t I say normal things like normal people? Why would she want to know that? You’re so fucking weird, Tawni. Stop! Just stop now, while you’re ahead. Shit. No. Why didn’t you just stop? See? You’re just making it worse. They’ve got the freezy eyes of discomfort. You made another one have the freezy eyes of discomfort. She’s trying to politely escape. The eyes are flicking around wildly, searching for an escape. Congratulations. You’ve turned yet another human into a frightened horse trapped in the stable of your social ineptitude and insanity. Let her go. Save yourself! Run from me! I’m a fucking monster! Be free, horsie! Balls. Why do I talk… ever?

Anyhow. A guy was dropping off his daughter at my son’s kindergarten this morning. It’s a small private school. The kindergarten classroom is upstairs, and consists of fifteen kids. The teacher is amazing. Very smart, hands-on and loving. I adore her. More importantly, I trust her.

I hugged my son goodbye, and he started immediately working on some artwork. I have always been blessed with the most nonchalant-about-my-departure child in the whole world. He never went through the separation anxiety phase he was supposed to, and has always given me a cheerful wave, hug, and see you later when I leave him with others. Not a single cling. I got so lucky, and am immeasurably grateful for this little mercy, as I am a huge pussy a total empath. I honestly don’t think I could walk away from my crying child, even though I logically know it’s okay.

As I was walking out the door, I noticed one of my son’s classmates, a little girl, because she was sobbing big, weepy sobs while the teacher hugged her and helped her put her coat and backpack away. I looked up in time to see her worried daddy going down the stairs, obviously feeling awful about leaving her there crying.

I was on the flight of stairs above him, and we met eyes. I gave him the Ugh Face, and said, “It’s so hard to walk away when they’re upset like that, isn’t it?”

He looked so sad. He looked like he was about to cry. And as I mentioned above, I don’t really know what it’s like to walk away from a crying child fraught with separation anxiety, because my son has never had any, but it seemed like the thing he needed to hear.

He nodded, and I said, “The important thing to remember is that she will have completely forgotten about it and be playing with the other kids in about thirty seconds,” and I smiled gently. He smiled back.

Well I’ll be damned. You seem to have said the right thing for once, dipshit. No freezy eyes of discomfort! You even got a smile on his face!

We were both headed to the front doors leading out to the parking lot, but someone cut me off because the women who bring their kids to this school are rude, oblivious bitches busy people with places to be, but he made a point of holding the door for the women who cut in front of me, and held the door for me too. When I made it to the door, he looked me in the eye and said, “You have a really nice day,” with a grateful smile.

I told him to have one too, and walked to my car with tears in my eyes because I was so fucking happy to have helped make somebody feel better. I helped! I helped! My inner Pollyanna was hugging herself and leaping around clumsily as I drove away.

And then, when I picked my son up from school in the afternoon, someone had brought their new puppy upstairs to the kindergarten, and she let me hold it for, like, five minutes. I made someone sad feel better AND I got to hold a puppy today! It was a good day.

I like to think I’m complicated, but sometimes I’m pretty simple inside.

***

My husband won Sales Rep of the Year again at his work. He also won last year. He’s really good at his job. You’d be surprised at how useful a drama degree is in sales.

With the award comes an incentive vacation that the company chooses every year. Last year it was an Alaskan cruise. I was not spoiled enough to not be excited about a free vacation, but really, honestly, if you asked me what my dream vacation might be, somewhere cold and still in the United States while trapped on a big boat with the elderly masses and the rotovirus would not have been my first choice.

We had a good time. Of course. Alaska was gorgeous. I saw whales. We got the honeymoon we never had with 24-hour room service included for free. And it was especially nice after four years straight of parenthood without a break to not be a small person’s bitch-servantmommy for an entire week. But my husband and I both got deathly ill as expected. It took three weeks, two sets of lung x-rays, and a few rounds of antibiotics to get me back in ship-shape afterward. (Ahhaha. Ship-shape. Get it?)

So you know. I’ve been poor my entire adult life. I’ve never been able to afford vacations. I was genuinely happy to get Alaska.

But wait. It gets better.

This year, the incentive destination will be… drum roll… COSTA RICA!

Or Costa Fucking Rica, as my husband called it when he sent me the confirmation text that he had won the trip.

Costa Fucking Rica.

I can’t believe it. This is a vacation spot I would have chosen. I am a warm weather girl all the way, and grumpily wait for spring every winter under an electric blanket, with a stack of books next to my bed. I am so ridiculously excited about this vacation. I scream inside with excitement every time I think about it.

Costa Rica! Eeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Here are some pictures of the beautiful resort at which we’ll be staying:



My husband is excited about the golfing opportunities. I might actually be a very brave girl and go to the spa for the first massage of my entire life.

I’m really weird about strangers touching me intimately. The whole idea of a massage sounds so sexual and intense to me that I’ve been afraid to get one my entire life. How do you turn that part off? How do guys not get boners during massages? If someone is rubbing me like that, it’s kind of on, you know?

And heaven help me if my masseuse is attractive. I got a really hot gynecologist at Planned Parenthood once, and it nearly ruined me. I turned red and splotchy and could barely talk to him as he stared into the depths of my nethers. If he hadn’t already seen my vagina, I would have given him my number. Humiliating.

But I want to move past this. What kind of a freak has never gotten a massage? I can’t die without ever having gotten a massage.

The website also mentioned a swim-up bar, and I decided that there really isn’t a more perfect creation in the whole wide world than a swim-up bar. I would have a swim-up bar in my living room if I could afford it.

So if you’re going to be in Costa Rica this summer, come join me for a drink. You know where to find me.

My Parents Are Exhausted and They Don’t Have to Enjoy It

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I was so tired I wasn’t sure if his shirt was real or a very literal and accurate hallucination.

The below piece by Toni Hammer is brilliant, and spot-on for me. As I read it, I mentally screamed, “Yes! Thank you!” because I thought I was the only one. Being told to “enjoy every moment” of parenthood by well-meaning strangers has always had the same guilt-tripping effect on me. “Is there something wrong with me?”  I’ve wondered, while feeling mildly ashamed.

I’ve felt flawed, or emotionally cold, because I don’t yearn for the baby days or look back longingly to when my son was an infant the way I often hear friends saying about their own children. At all. (Okay, maybe the smell of his baby head, but that’s it.) Those were the hardest days of my life. I didn’t yet know my son had ADHD neurology, so I felt bewildered, and like a constant failure. We tried every suggestion from every family member, friend, pediatrician, or book — yet nothing worked for us.

Our son was such a difficult baby and toddler that when combined with a hard look at our finances, we decided to stop at one child. We were being financially responsible, but I often wonder if we’d had a quiet, easy baby the first time around, we might have had the two kids I always wanted.

In fact, even though he’s 9 and much easier, I still often find myself looking forward to my son growing up, becoming easier, and less high-maintenance. So when people tell me to “enjoy every moment,” I’m acutely aware that I haven’t enjoyed every moment, and it makes me feel bad.

Am I a terrible parent because of this?

My son didn’t sleep more than 2 hours in a row for the first 9 months of his life, and then we were still only lucky to get 4-5 hours in a row. I didn’t enjoy a moment of that. I did, however, become clinically depressed from sleep deprivation and start hallucinating because I hadn’t experienced REM sleep in 9 months.

Once he started to walk, my son never stopped moving, but did stop napping by age 2. I did not enjoy that.

He went through a phase where every single time I gave him a bath, he shat in the tub. I did not enjoy that.

He didn’t fully potty train until he was nearly 4-years-old. I did not enjoy that.

Kids with ADHD neurology have a developmental delay in the part of the brain that controls executive functioning, and are generally at least 2 years behind same-age peers emotionally, so we experienced the “Terrible Twos” at age 4. And in case you were wondering, it’s a lot harder physically to carry a wildly thrashing 4-year-old child throwing a fit away from the scene than a smaller 2-year-old, and so unbelievably humiliating. I did not enjoy that.

My son has changed my life for the better and taught me so much. And obviously, there are many, many beautiful moments involved with having a child… but they aren’t all beautiful. And they aren’t all enjoyable. In fact, sometimes things happen that we’d rather forget. And that’s okay.

Great writing… check it out:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/toni-hammer/please-stop-telling-moms-to-enjoy-every-moment_b_6498336.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000037