What it’s really like to parent a kid with ADHD is a challenge in and of itself to articulate. ADHD shows up in so many different ways in so many different kids, combined with their personalities and your varied parenting style, it’s hard to say exactly how your experience is compared to mine. SOME things will likely be similar.
You’ll never be able to fully trust him.
You will make a list. You will post the list. You’ll go over the list. You’ll double check the list. You’ll check the suitcase.
And then it’s entirely likely you’ll end up on a five day trip without any of his clothes because he forgot to put his packed suitcase, which at one point in the process was BY THE DOOR, in the car. You have double check every. single. responsibility he is given to do and it is almost a shock when he manages to accomplish one of them. Then the guilt of feeling that way about your most beloved child can make you want to go hide under the covers.
You constantly have to remember to ask him if he remembers. It’s exhausting.
The emotional dysregulation component of ADHD can ruin a good attitude, a good day, or any kind of good feeling.
It’s possible that when a toy breaks while you’re on a phone call, in the car, driving down the highway, your pre-teen child with ADHD will throw a screaming fit and when you pull over to protect the other kids, he might run away while you’re parked. While you’re trying to give him time to calm down, you’ll end up waiting for almost an hour. On the side of the road. Because a toy broke. A child who is almost the size of a grown person will throw himself on the ground scream-crying and be unable to stop.
People with ADHD really do feel things THAT deeply and really can’t control it. They want to. But they can’t.
The other co-morbid classifications will level you as you realize your child really is “special needs”.
Somehow the diagnoses feels like the Nazi’s use of “special treatment”.
Children with ADHD often have problems with motor control, especially fine motor skills, which can cause impairments with simple life skills, like properly holding a spoon or a pencil, tying shoelaces, and buttoning. When you’re in upper elementary, people, especially peers, don’t have a lot of patience for kids who can’t do things they consider to be “normal’, and don’t have the insight and understanding to be gentle with that messy, klutzy kid.
It’s disconcerting to see your nearly adult sized offspring still drool when he’s not thinking about it. It’s almost horrifying and definitely embarrassing to see him never remember to chew with his mouth closed and to curl hunched over his food shoveling it in like the Beast in that porridge eating scene in Beauty and the Beast. It’s awful to remind yourself that he genuinely can’t help it. As a parent of an ADHD child, it’s disheartening to know that he still has to somehow live in this world, with these standards of decorum. You want to protect him and teach him and you always feel like you’re failing because he can’t stop doing it.
ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder often go hand in hand. SPD can manifest in a lot of different ways. In our house, it’s like a St Bernard puppy trying to carry water in an overfull bucket while trying to walk on ice.
The impulsivity most people know about as part of ADHD can feel like a torture session.
The interruptions in your own train of thought will drive you to distraction and irritation- to levels of frustration you didn’t know you were capable of. His brain works so fast, and connects to his mouth at lightning speed; he’s trying to guess what you’re about to tell him before you have half of your sentence out of your mouth. You will be asked questions, and before you’ve even formulated an answer, and responded to half of his first question, he’s off and running on several other tangents and rabbit trails, interrupting all the while, and you’re lost and confused and annoyed. When you have ADHD or are a Highly Sensitive Person yourself, it’s not only aggravating but truly physically painful.
The Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria is real.
The startling fact is, you could say something as innocent as “Oh man, I still see dishes in the sink which need to be put away,” and he’ll hear, “You’re a terrible person who did a terrible job and why do you even try, you terrible person you?!” Which then, (see point 2) his perception, which even though it may have no basis in fact, is very real to him, and then often turns into a half-hour, sometimes hours long, scream-crying session about how you don’t really love him.
ADHD is invisible.
My kid is attractive and bright. He carries himself confidently despite his setbacks and misgivings and misconceptions of himself and others around him. From a distance, you would never know there’s something “wrong” with him. Outsiders would attribute some of his missteps to bad manners or bad parenting, not ADHD. It’s hard for him to see any subtleties in communication and he misses many social cues. It’s difficult for peers to be patient with him in his misunderstandings and interruptions. No one knows the challenge it is for him to sit in a chair for a couple of hours.
People don’t see how fast his brain is moving and how he’s jumping from one thing to another with electron speed, faster than even he can keep up with. It’s impossible for people to know how hard he’s trying to be like everyone else, and how desperately he craves acceptance, and is blearily aware of his differences. It’s knots-in-my-stomach, brain-on-fire when he’s going someplace new. I wonder if I should warn the moms to have a talk with their kids about acceptance of differences or if it’s better to wait and just see how it plays out. You’re constantly doubting yourself, wondering if you made the best decision in this circumstance, wondering if you had done something better or could have done something differently in that one.
Parenting a child with profound ADHD is a lonely challenge. It’s hard. Experts don’t really understand ADHD, its causes, or how it exhibits itself in various ways in different people. Other parents whose children also have ADHD are dealing with their child’s individual manifestations of the diagnosis. No child is like your child.
And that’s the beauty of it.
Your child is uniquely him or her. Your child brings joy and an individuality to the world because they are so concretely completely who God created him or her to be. ADHD makes things more difficult, and it also gives you the opportunity to know that you rose to the challenges and persevered. It gives you the chance to know your abilities and to stretch you past what you thought you could do.
What’s it really like parenting a child with ADHD? It’s different for everyone. It’s impossibly hard. It’s exquisitely beautiful.