November 6 – Yes, we actually pay someone for this advice.

After two years of seeing the psychologist, Dr. Rita, there were a few key points that were hammered (gently) into our heads. Arguing with Doodicus is pointless. Of course, logically any one knows this, but we are talking about illogical arguments. The other day Dood told me that he was running out of loose leaf tablet paper that he uses for his math assignments. I took one of the dozen tablets we had left-over from last year and starting tearing out pages along the perforations. The resulting shitfit was spectacular. He told me that his teacher wouldn’t let him use it because the paper wasn’t the same. These are the illogical statements that for whatever reason, Sparring Partner and I would try to address, first calmly and then with ever-increasing frustration and anger. It was the type of confrontation that Dr. Rita has worked with us to avoid. Instead we are to agree with Doodicus: yes, the paper IS different, and please let us know if she refuses to accept your work because of it.

“His brain is stuck,” per Dr. Rita. Dood will take a thought and zero in and obsesses over it, which is compounded by his anxiety. Dr. Rita once very wisely said, “You can’t use logic to win an illogical argument.”

More recently, we were reminded of the old chestnut, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” This is in regard to how much time Doodicus spends on video games, which has been quite a bit lately because he hasn’t had to bring as much homework home, and he hasn’t shown any interest in extracurricular activities. As it was explained yesterday, hungry kids aren’t as particular about what they eat as long as they get to eat; thirsty kids aren’t as particular about what they drink as long as they get a drink; bored kids aren’t as particular about how long they get to use their video games as long as they get to play.

It’s easy to sit back and think, “Well, duh!” when things are calm and quiet and you’re in the eye of a storm, but when you’ve been sucked into the edge of a storm by an 11-year-old who seems to be a magnet for conflict, then it’s a major exercise of restraint.

We have to learn to not to get sucked into an argument. We don’t have to prove we’re smarter. Even when we’re likely not.

November 5 – Progress

Too tired to do much more than announce that due to Doodicus’s progress and maturation, after this afternoon’s counseling session, we will go from scheduling once every four to six weeks to once every eight weeks, if not less frequent than that unless the need arises.

Touch wood.

Tomorrow

Things have been not so good lately, but each time I sit down to draft it out, 600 words later I have deleted it and closed the window. One of my friends from Facebook posted on one of my wall updates how I never seem to be happy, and frankly, the words stung with their accuracy. I have not been happy.

It’s not because there is a sense of “buyer’s remorse” over our moving Doodicus from a private school to a public in the hopes he would have access to more…more what? Yeah, well, that’s hard to explain. And the remark about Buyer’s Remorse came from the psychologist, not from Sparring Partner, myself or Dood, but it kinda sums things up nicely.

It’s not because Sparring Partner’s dad is slipping slowly away in a too-small nursing home room. The giant man whose presence in any room could not simply be ignored – not just because of his size – but because his distinct Bostonian voice could drown any cacophony of Midwesterners, has become an almost empty, cancer-riddled shell. Or that my mom’s Alzheimer’s is progressing in what seems like light-speed ever since Aitch started going to school and we see her less frequently. Talking with her about how the kids are adjusting to school, or the home projects, or just little stories about day-to-day happenings is like trying to write on a chalkboard in the middle of a rain shower.

My unhappiness is not because my son had a crisis that shook us all to our very quick; that incurred a standing appointment with the behavioral health department every other week, that made me ache to go back in time and tell him a thousand more times a day that we love him more than anything. I should have hugged him more even though he always wiggled or turned away. Especially when he wiggled and turned away.

It is that culmination of emotional weight and stress and a feeling your life is spinning wildly off course even though there was never a course to begin with to follow. I know it will slow down enough so I can catch my balance. Yesterdays always seem much simpler, and certainly less of a burden. They are the days that no longer have long lists of things to-do and the things un-done. They are just simply the days that were. Tomorrows are hard because they are filled with expectations, anticipations, dread and worry.

I am hoping just for better tomorrows. Maybe even happier.

Contrary

The transition from a private Catholic school system to a public school has neither been as bad as I had imagined or as good. I would be delusional to think that this would have gone picture perfect, but I would be a pessimist if I thought it was going to be rough.

The week before school started, I sent an email to his homeroom teacher introducing Doodicus. It wasn’t a formal 504 Plan with a list of accomadations, but it wasn’t a hey! my kid is perfect! you shouldn’t have any problems! kind of letter, either.

I recently decided that instead of him keeping a devoted notebook for each and every subject, which was not only the teacher’s preference but Sparring Partner’s as well (and one we tried first), he is to keep all of his subjects’ notes on divided ruled paper in what we refer to as The Case. I bought a set of 8 dividers that have pockets on both sides (Avery brand and they are AWESOME), which I labeled in order of his class schedule, and then put in several sheets of ruled paper with the reinformed sides for note-taking.

While the down-side to this system will be that when the teachers want the kids to turn in their notes, he will have to open the D-rings and hand over the loose papers instead of a notebook, AND that if he loses the binder he loses everything (which nearly makes me nauseous just thinkintg about it), the disadvantages to the other system (one notebook to each subject) are not as easy for me to accept. He was bringing home the wrong note-book to use to study tests or not bringing them home at all, or if he did bring them home the night before a test, he had nothing written in them and by then it was too late. The other issue I discovered is that while each notebook was labeled with the subject, all of them that I brought home after my meeting with his teachers last night had notes in them from at least two different subjects. His notes consisted of a few words at the top of the page and the rest a series of doodles. Then a couple blank pages, more doodles, then a page with a definition or two written on them and usually from a different class. There’s no way they would ever be effective for studying. Sorry, but I tried it their way, it’s time to try mine.

After the meeting with his teachers yesterday, which I initiated, I cleaned out Dood’s desk. Chaotic doesn’t even begin to describe what I encountered. Aside from the mess, we found three pieces of homework that were due today so I brought them home. When I showed Dood, he went into a full-on meltdown, yelling how he never gets any free time. He can’t seem to understand that if he gave himself less "free-time" at school (not using the study hall periods or the after school access to the study center effectively) then he would have more time at home to do what he wants.

Last night was also suppose to be the parent’s meeting with the music store to talk about the band, orchestra and rentals, which Dood really wanted to go to as he is interested in learning to play the flute. The meeting was at 6:00 and it was nearly that time, an hour after we arrived home, that he had finally stopped yelling at me and got to work. There was no way I was going to be able to take him to the meeting, have supper, and still get homework done by bedtime. I never said a word about the meeting until after he was done for the night (not done with homework, mind you, but it was bedtime), at which time we had to break the news that we just couldn’t add band to our schedule.

He of course broke down into a fresh wave of tears, this time in grief instead of rage, and I felt like an absolute shit for taking that away from him. We could only promise him that we would consider the option next year, but that just made me feel worse to know that he would have to wait a whole year to try something he wanted to do now. I tried to make him understand that it wasn’t a punishment, but that we just don’t want to have these fights every night over what needs to be done first before he can just chill out with a video game, or watch TV, or play with his sister. Getting him to practice an instrument was just another battle I personally do not feel up to taking when I am so battered from the ones now. That’s probably why I still so badly want to say yes, because the reason I’m saying no feels entirely selfish.

Make Your Next Anxiety-Filled Meal a Manwich Meal

Doodicus races radio control cars on the weekends with his dad through an RC club. He’s been doing so for at least five years. While he likes the actual driving, he leaves the pit work up to his dad as he prefers to pass the time on the park’s playground equipment or riding his bike on the walking path. Sparring Partner in turn makes sure to replace the shocks, charge the battery, change the tires, etc., on the car based on how he reads the track or Dood’s driving performance.

A couple weekends ago, they raced on a ridiculously hot day (in my opinion, they should have cancelled, that’s how hot it was). They couldn’t keep the dirt track wet enough as the 100+ temperatures just instantly sucked the moisture out of it no matter how heavily they watered between races. They eventually gave up watering, which meant the track became supper hard and supper slick.

Now for a little racing blah-de-blah stuff that actually does end up relevant, so bear with me: If you’ve ever watched a car race, whether it’s something like NASCAR or Formula One, you may have noticed that instead of having “nubby” or treaded tires, they are completely smooth. The reason is simple: the smoother the tire’s face, the more contact it has with the track’s smooth surface; the more contact, the more control. Now let’s look at Rally Racing or Off Road Racing. Those tires have exaggerated treads, studs or “knobs” to provide grip on an uneven and unstable surface.

Back to RC racing: the exact same principals apply except it’s scaled down considerably. They normally race studded tires because it’s a dirt tract, but on this particular day, the track couldn’t be kept in the condition they would have preferred in the time they were allowed. And to make a long story short, Sparring Partner changed Dood’s tires from studded to slicks. However, because Dood wasn’t use to the handling of the slicks, he accused SP of sabotaging his car so he wouldn’t do as well.

Doodicus went into a tirade of tears and yelling and there was absolutely no way we could get him to understand that SP was only to help him out. Even when we asked, “Why would we want you to do poorly?” he could not get beyond the idea – the IRRATIONAL thought – that his dad’s actions were not to help him.

Now hang with me, because I’ve got a similar story that revolves around Sloppy Joe’s.

Doodicus is a terrible eater. Fruits and vegetables haven’t passed his lips voluntarily in years. “Weird” foods are off limits, i.e. casseroles or crock pot meals. He prefers plain, unadorned food: steaks, pork chops, the occasional hot dog (but it must be XYZ brand in html color #CC3333).. Sometimes he’ll even eat a hamburger or a *gasp* taco! It’s exasperating. Once he confessed to liking Sloppy Joes at daycare, so I happily bought a couple cans of Manwich. I personally love Sloppy Joes. They’re easy to make and easy to use for left-overs. The first couple of times, they were a hit. Then one ill-fated night, he took a couple bites and suddenly clutched at his throat in a melodramatic way, “There’s onions in here!” He refused to eat them from that point on. By the way, there were no onions.

Fine, whatever, kid. Everyone else in the house likes them, so the other night it was on the menu (hahaha! we don’t have a “menu”! Our meals are based on what’s in the pantry and my mood du juor.). Sparring Partner thought he could help diffuse what battle there was sure to come by actually reading the ingredients from the can to Doodicus to prove that there were no onions involved.

That seemed to have worked as he sat down with the rest of us and dug in, taking first one, then two and then a third! bite of his Sloppy Joe. And then IT happened: “Mom! You put onions in here!” “No, I didn’t.” “Yes, you did! I bit into one. I can FEEL it!” The exchange devolved into yet another teary tantrum, complete with dramatic gagging and threats to throw up. He even went so far as to say the company who made the mix were putting onions into it and not listing it on the ingredients.

At our appointment with Dr. Rita yesterday, somehow this story came up. He looked at Doodicus and asked him calmly about why he didn’t like the sandwich. “I know I think there’s onions in it!”

Back up and read that again: I know I THINK there’s onions in it!

This is an Irrational Response.

“Uh…duh,” you might be saying, but get this: whenever you try to rationalize with someone who definitely holds irrational thoughts, you keep that irrationality alive in them. If Dood was rational during that race, he would have eventually responded to our explanation for the change in his tires with, “Oh. I didn’t know that there are different tires to help me when track conditions change.” A rational child who might have exclaimed, “You snuck onions into my Sloppy Joe!” would have quickly realized that some rogue Manwich employee was not going around throwing bits of onions into the mix before it was canned.

However, trying to rationalize with Dood means he must try harder to believe his irrational thoughts are true, which leads to us trying harder to rationalize with him and the vicious vortex of suck becomes ever deeper and broader and encompassing.

When Dr. Rita explained that to me, I literally gave myself a face-palm. WE are maintaining the irrational thoughts Dood has every day! “This is a different brand of bacon! It tastes funny!” “No, Dood. See, it’s in the same packaging as the last time.” “You are just taking out the new bacon and putting it into the old package!” “Of course we’re not doing that! Why would we?” “To get me to eat it! It’s not the same!” and wouldn’t YOU want to convince – to rationalize – with him that you are not trying to pull one over on him?

Instead? When he brings up an irrational thought (You’re trying to make me lose! You’re putting onions in the sandwich! You’re buying the wrong kind of bacon!”, we are simply to respond, “No, we’re not. It’s time to race (or eat),” and that’s it. If he persists, which Dood WILL do, we are to respond: “You already know the answer.” or “I’m not going to answer that,” and what should eventually happen is he’ll realize the world will not end if he does end up eating an onion, or coming in last at his race, or getting dropped off on the west side of the school as opposed to the east (another irrational argument that has recently come up).

If you don’t have a child who suffers from anxiety or other challenging behavioral issues, this post probably won’t make sense to you. But, oh, if you do, I hope you had a Lightbulb Moment as enlightening as I did. And I have Manwich to thank for it.

The Other Half Needs an Ass-Kicking

I have to vent or I’ll not be responsible for bludgeoning my husband with this laptop…

If you have a child with ADHD, you know that sleep is an anomaly. They DON’T sleep well, especially when on any kind of drug regimen. While Doodicus heads to bed at 9:00 p.m., it’s not unusual to find him still awake by 10:00 p.m. And then he’ll be awake by 5:00 a.m. It’s not all the time, I’m just saying it’s not unusual. AND I GET THAT. It’s just how his brain functions.

Tonight, after Sparring Partner tucked Dood in, SP sat down next to me and told me he was talking to Dood and the Olympians getting up at 3 – 4:00 in the morning, every morning, just to train. Dood told him that sometimes he wakes up then, too. SP then said, “You need to tell your body to go back to sleep!”

I listened to this slack-jawed. “That just tells me you haven’t got a clue how his ADHD affects him. You aren’t listening to me. You aren’t listening to him. You don’t read the articles I send you about ADHD. You. Don’t. Get. It!

…so I’m sitting here steaming, watching the Olympics.

He then asks, “What do you think the temperature of the pool water is?”

I shrugged, disinterested.

He immediately flips open the iPad to google it.

He doesn’t want to use the resources available to him to understand how ADHD affects not just Doodicus, but our whole family dynamic, but he’ll look up the fucking temperature of the fucking pool water!

Don’t be surprised by tomorrow’s headlines, “Ritual Killing? Man Found in Quiet Nebraska Rural Community Strangled by USB Cable: iPad Duct-Taped to Genitals”.

P.S. By the time I finished writing this, I’m not as furious. Just fuming.

Handling an Explosive ADHD Child…the response from the Psychologist

I sent a photo of the picture Doodicus drew to Dr. Rita. Below is his response. Thank you all for your previous comments, because you each touched upon a point that the doctor echoed in his email:

I appreciate the note—I am glad you told me about this. It can be terribly scary for parents, and terribly difficult to know how to proceed.

First, I should say that this is not an uncommon before [sic?] for kids. As far as risk assessment goes, the behaviors you described do not indicate a significant degree of risk (for instance, he is not discussing means of hurting himself that he has access to, he is not acting on these statements, etc). Many kids make these kinds of statement and draw these kinds of pictures without appreciating the implications. This behavior is especially common among kids with ADHD, because a certain degree of emotional dysregulation goes along with the hyperactive and inattentive symptoms.

In terms of management, I would recommend several interventions:

1) Convey to [Dood] that these statements are serious, and will be handled as such. They are powerful words, and not to be taken lightly.

2) Identify the emotions [Dood] is experiencing in relation to these thoughts. He will have difficulty with this, so will need help. For instance, what he is really saying is that he is frustrated, angry, sad that he is not getting what he wants, etc.

3) Emphasize your concern and love for [Dood], and the reaction you have to him making these statements (this has a duel benefit, both modeling appropriate emotional expression and explicitly stating how much you care about him). Let him know that you are worried and scared, regardless of whether he meant it or not. He said it, and you believe what he says, and so you are scared, worried, etc.

4) Consider a natural and logical consequence, such as restricting access to the sources of the imagery he used. For example, where does [Dood] see bombs and missiles? If that is in video games, letting [Dood] know that you are really worried about him and want to keep him safe. Taking a break from those images might help. (the logic on this one will likely be transparent to you, essentially, saying these things will result in losing video games. However, were [Dood] older and his threats more serious, i.e., I am going to drive my car into something or take all the pills in the cabinet, we would talk about doing the same thing—restricting access to means and methods. Limiting contact to imagery is a downward extension, with the added benefit of introducing a cost to these kinds of statements.

5) Normalize the feelings. Letting [Dood] know that he can be angry, sad, frustrated, desperate, uncomfortable, lonely, etc., and these are perfectly fine feelings to share with mom and dad. You can hear that he is having those feelings. Of course, it will not change bedtime, shower location, or other environmental matters, but it is important to you that he shares these emotions and you can help him manage them.

6) I know this is a tall order, but try to take as much steam/pressure/heat out of the situation from the beginning. If you see him getting agitated, or feel yourself getting agitated, it is time to take a break. This is especially difficult in urgent situations, but also especially important. You, and potentially [Dood], will already be somewhat upset because you have to move quickly, so the fire is already stoked. You don’t want to add to it. He might say something inappropriate or loud or disrespectful. Wait to discuss consequences until you have the time, energy, calm head to implement it.

Hackles

I got this note from my son’s teacher today. Please tell me this is nothing to get defensive about…

Good afternoon!
I intended to drop a note yesterday, but got otherwise involved after school…[Dood] had a pretty good day (yesterday), seemed more settled, more organized, more able to focus on tasks at hand.
Today started out in a much different way, back to flitting all over the room, neglecting simple morning responsibilities (even with several reminders to…i.e., fill in the lunch chart, pick up the book bag, take off the jacket, get your chair). He is my morning prayer helper this week and just couldn\’t stand still long enough to do even that job…his hands were up above his head, he was fidgeting and unable to stay in one spot.
I am more than a little concerned about our field trip to [the Capitol] next week (Thursday). I know mornings are often not good or at least unpredictable for [Dood]. Please give me some helpful information (re. meds, etc.) for that early morning departure and ride to [the Capitol] (remember, we leave @ 6:15 a.m. that day). I also am curious about the ride home and what we can do to make it the best possible trip for him and his companions.
I truly want the experience to be a positive and enjoyable one for [Dood] (and for those around him).

My Angel Does Not Poop Fluffy, White Clouds

We meet again with Dr. Rita this Friday. I like your ideas of the reward system, but I’ll admit to being an asshole of a mom and stating it’s just easier on many days to wish I could thump Doodicus for being a real butt. However, since this is about HIM and not about ME, I’ll get some more ideas from the doc on how to implement a system that doesn’t backfire by bringing more attention to Dood at school. Seven- and eight-year-olds don’t notice that a classmate is walking around with a keychain of privilege cards or that the teacher is keeping a sticker chart. Ten- and eleven-year-olds will, and being the blood-thirsty heartless, little vultures that they are, they’ll go straight for his soft underbelly.

Let’s talk about Aitch for a bit now, shall we? She’s got me wound so tight around her little finger, my head is up my ass…twice. "Mommy, will you lay down with me? Just for a little bit?" she wheedles sweetly. And I perch myself carefully on a sliver of the bed she gives up for me. "You’re the best mommy," she sighs. "I love you," at which time she strokes my face with her still babyishly soft hand and tucks her feet between my knees to warm them. I’ve been lulled by her angelic nature.

She wrote her name on a piece of paper the other day, without any assistance. Sure, the "E" was backwards and the "L" was upside down, but it was her first autograph. She drew a picture of a person that same week. Again, without any insistence from us, and then came running up to me with a coloring of a very large-headed, stick-figure with three legs, tree branches for arms (per Aitch), and purple hair. She said it was me.

She’s as subtle as a hammer. Days spent at daycare means her "indoor" voice would rival a howler monkey. And she isn’t just loud, it’s constant. She’s either carrying on a self-monologue, singing or humming. My favorite is her trying to sing the Lion King’s opening credit’s song. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear she was speaking in tongues.

What I’m really enjoying is her personal level of responsibility. When we ask her to get dressed for the day, she’ll happily skip to her room and come out just a few minutes later ready to go. Sure, she’s most likely wearing a yellow-striped tank-top under the purple polka-dot, long-sleeved t-shirt, zebra-striped leggings and a green tu-tu, but hallelujah! She. Is. Dressed. Most of the time, she’ll even remember to put the empty hangers in the hamper and shut off the lights to both her room and closet.

Doesn’t she sound positively PERFECT??

Yeah, well, before you hate me any further, I’m going to tell you Aitch’s dirty, little secret. She won’t poop in the potty. Oh, sure, she’s been potty-trained for nearly a year. She’s only had a couple of daytime accidents. But that ONE time she actually gave us a No. 2 in the potty was so traumatic, she utterly and adamantly has refused since then. Want to see a normally agreeable child figuratively lose their shit when they literally need to do so? If you don’t act quick enough for her liking, she’ll go put on her own diaper. Not a pull-up, mind you, but a diaper. She diapers herself.

After the first few months of her being potty-trained, we tried so hard to get her to try pooping (again) in the potty, but we only succeeded in causing such major constipation that we had to provide enemas and mira-lax. I have had a child before who refused to be potty-trained on both levels so I knew it just wasn’t worth the fight. It makes everyone unhappy and even unhealthy. In fact, knowing that it took us over eight years to finally feel confident that Dood wasn’t going to come home from school with "damp" underwear, I have given myself permission to wait out Aitch’s rebellion for at least another two years before I get my own panties in a twist. She’s never had an accident. She always waits until we’re home before the urge hits her. On our trip to Disney World? She regularly came to me in the morning to announce her intention, did her deed, and away we went to the parks and never had to give it a second thought.

I guess if there’s a potty-training issue to be had, she’s got the "easiest" kind. She asks for the diaper. She stays in her room (as required) until she’ done. She then gives us a shout. We get cleaned up and away we all go. There’s no impossible to reach awkward-tushy-spot on the toilet. There’s no embarrassing public call-out in the Target bathroom, "Mommy! Wipe my butt!" Of course, I would like to not have to buy diapers and would love to finally move the diaper pail into a recycle heap, because as wonderful and as sweet and as loving as she is, her shit STILL does stink.

In this case, I’m not calling out for help. It’s more of a hey, we may LOOK like we pretty much have it going on in the Big Kid department, but in reality we are letting a nearly four-year-old continue to dictate parts of our lives I would much rather have back for myself. Especially Sparring Partner who has brought her to the edge of Meltdown City before remembering there are much bigger battles to be waged and won coming our way, including prom-season. I don’t care if it is another 13 years away. She just better watch her step because if she even tries on a dress with cleavage cut to the naval, I will not be afraid to remind her how it wasn’t that long ago she was crapping in her pants.

Therapy Session No. 2

I took Doodicus to his second therapy session this morning. Dr. Rita (that was his nickname the last time, right?) had called and spoken to Doodicus’ teacher before we arrived to ask for himself how Dood was doing in school. After he told us that the teacher confirmed the concerns from our first appointment, Dr told us quite bluntly that the medication – 20mg Daytrana patch – isn’t working, and that we would need to schedule an appointment with the psychologist, Dr Herring. In a way, I was glad to hear this because it meant that things can be better for Doodicus, but I’m very worried about the adjustments we’ll have to face.

We spent 90 minutes with Dr Rita discussing how the pervasive feelings of how Dood thinks he does nothing right. We talked about a 504 plan and an IEP, details of what’s involved forthcoming. I just can’t get into it now because honestly, I don’t have enough information. But it’s finally happening. Dr Rita also thinks his teachers are woefully-prepared to deal with his ADHD, and told us that Doodicus’ failure to thrive this year is directly AND indirectly related to the personnel at his school. Sure Dood is responsible for staying organized and completing work and paying attention, but he’s also responsible for making sure the teachers DO THEIR JOB AND HELP HIM stay organized, complete his work and pay attention! His teacher’s suggestion this past fall that included assigning a “buddy” to help him get his assignments written in his assignment book was just another confirmation that his teachers are clueless: it’s the teacher’s job to make sure his assignments are written down, not a classmates; and there’s the added concern of how negatively this could affect Doodicus by creating a situation for additional stigma.

As for the teacher’s repeated admonishment that fourth graders should no longer require everyday review of their assignment book by the teacher, Dr Rita said children with ADHD work at approximately 75% maturity and responsibility level of “normal” children. Another indication that his teachers don’t get it because they want to treat all the kids the same, and obviously they are not.

In case you weren’t sure before, we like Dr Rita very much. He seems genuinely concerned and also confident that we will make things much better for all considered. Let me share this last little tidbit that made me a believer in Dr Rita: The clinic’s policy only allows appointments to be scheduled two out at a time. This was a concern because it would mean it would be almost impossible to get the slots we needed, which were late evenings, if we wanted to eliminate our need to take a whole day off from both work and school since four hours alone are devoted to travel. He personally came up to the front desk with us and had the limitation lifted from our account and I was able to schedule appointments approximately every three weeks up through this summer.

The other extra step he took was even more remarkable. The psychiatrist’s FIRST available appointment happened to be in three weeks on a Friday, and only because someone had just cancelled. The initial problem with that was we wouldn’t be able to see Dr Rita the same day as he sees patients at a satellite clinic on Fridays. Trying to coordinate both appointments on the same day was proving to be a statistical nightmare as Dr Herring’s next available time wasn’t until June and we really need to get Doodicus switched to medication that actually HELPS. Dr Rita said it was important enough that he would make this one-time arrangement and come into his office that same Friday. We now wouldn’t have to make two trips in one week!

On a related note: The reason for the opening with Dr Herring was because the clinic had just brought in a N.P. (Nurse Practitioner). The scheduler said she couldn’t schedule us with the NP because our insurance wouldn’t cover it. When she said that, I replied, “I’m not going to limit our care to what my insurance will or will not cover. If we have to pay out-of-pocket, we will.”

I overheard a woman the other day talking about how her daughter’s insurance “kicked her out of the hospital.” I’m not going to get all preachy about this, but her insurance did NOT kick her out of the hospital. The discharge planning department didn’t have enough medical necessity from the doctor to report to her insurance the need for her continued stay unless she wish to stay and pay out of pocket for the bed. Just FYI.

OK, need to get this published before my internet crashes again. Plus I need to research 504 Plans and IEPs. Why do I always feel that the more information I have, the more time I feel I have wasted on being ignorant?

If I Had Known Then What I Know Now

You know that feeling of queasiness that makes you breathe just a little deeper and slower while you squeeze your eyes shut and tell yourself over and over again, “I will NOT throw up. I will NOT throw up.”? Of course, you do throw up and after wiping the snot from your nose and the tears from your eyes, you actually feel just a tad better?

Well that was how things were up to that last post with IT being the puking.

I feel better, but only just a tad.

I was friended recently by the woman of the husband/wife team who we gave the baptism classes when Aitch was a newborn. I remember how grateful I was when at each class Aitch would want to nurse so I would get to escape with her while my husband listened to the blah-blah-sacrements-blah-blah-blah. I will call this woman, Britt.

She’s also a fellow parent from Doodicus’s school, but while we are “meh” about the whole religion thing, she is a hand-to-God pious, righteous woman. We would seem to be complete opposites spiritually. She’s also perky and cute and has a nanny and one could easily assume she’s a trophy wife. But each time we’ve run into each other, we can’t seem to stop talking. About whatever! The kids being assholes. Husbands being assholes. Ourselves being assholes. There’s this dark side to her that I’m sure I can develop, given time.

I explain that so you can understand why I accepted her friend request on Facebook.

She sent me a message the other day and wants the link to my blog. She’s been the only person I’ve known in real life that I’m friends with on Facebook that has asked. I don’t make it a secret that I have one, I just don’t publish it on FB (if you see it, it’s because of my settings). In short, I told her I wasn’t ready to share this site with her but I didn’t send her the link to my old blog. I figured if she could get past the first 100 times I wrote shit, fuck or damn, then I knew she’d have potential.

Before I sent the link, I thought I’d read through the first few pages of posts, something I haven’t done in a long time, just to make sure it didn’t link back here somehow. Now I suppose if she dug through the comments she’d eventually find this blog, but if she’s going to go through that much torture, well then she deserves to find this pile of crap.

Anyway, I found a post that referred to some of the troubles we were having with Doodicus when he was still X Boy, still an only child, still undiagnosed with ADHD and I wanted to kick my own ass. Like this one (password protected but remember what this is still, right? think of a model plane…) or crap, this one; posts where I had exclaimed, “What’s wrong with my little boyyyyyyy???!!” and now I think to myself, “Well, duh, Woman. How could you not see that he has ADHD?”

It was a bumpy stroll down Memory Lane.

I know there’s been a couple of you who are facing some difficult decisions about what’s the best way to evaluate your child and figuring out what’s “normal”. You know what? There’s no Normal; no Standard your child should meet . You have to go with your gut. Not your heart. Your heart will throw you under a fucking bus. Go with your gut, because you have nothing to lose by being diligent. If I hadn’t swallowed a bit of pride, I could have lost everything.

Followed by the Lows

I hate to follow-up a series of posts about the Happiest Place On Earth with a post that could very well be one of my unhappiest, but honestly, I predict there will be even more unhappy.

Doodicus saw a child psychologist a couple of weeks after our return from Disney World. I’ll have to go back a couple of weeks before that to explain how we got there.

After the meeting with his teachers and principal in November, it didn’t seem as if any of their proposals to help improve the situation at school were implemented, including assigning him a “buddy” to make sure assignments were written and homework brought home. That being said, the things seem to hit an even keel. In other words, it didn’t get worst, but it didn’t get any better.

Then I got a call from his teacher: Doodicus got into a classmate’s backpack and took some candy without permission. I was very upset and called the district school’s psychologist, the one who had evaluated Doodicus to figuratively cry on his shoulder and to plead on Doodicus’s behalf, “He’s not a bad kid. I don’t know why this is happening, and I want him to get help.”

Melodramatic much?

I don’t take my son’s snooping through a kid’s backpack and taking candy lightly. At all. Personally, I don’t see it any differently than stealing something from a store, or even out of a stranger’s house. In fact, after I picked Doodicus up from school that day, I drove him by the police station and told him the next time, we’ll go straight to the station and he won’t be coming home with me. He’s only ten, you might say? I would have been way more lenient if he had been four, five, maybe even six, but not ten.

So I am back to worrying that I’m not doing enough to make sure Doodicus can succeed not only in school, but in life generally. I hate feeling like there’s some doubt as to whether his behaviors are a result of ADHD or to lenient parenting. I decided to be proactive and schedule this appointment with the pediatric psychologist. I was hoping we would go in, spend some time talking, review his history, and be told to go home and keep doing what we had been doing – we’re doing great!

We are not.

Approximately half way through the hour-session, I brought up the fact we were discussing moving him to a different school next fall. When I looked over at Doodicus, his face was red and there were tears in his eyes. I stopped, stunned. The doctor, Dr. Ashley, asked Doodicus why he was upset. No response. We let him breathe through the moment and calm down and at that time he admitted he not only was scared to go to a new school and leave the friends he knew, he was scared of how the teachers will continue to treat him if he stays. But the scariest moment came when Dr. Ashley asked if Doodicus if he had ever thought about hurting himself. I can recall that Doodicus has been so upset in the past over a punishment that he wished he hadn’t been born, so it came as a punch to the heart when he confirmed he has more recently thought about self-harm.

My initial concerns for making the appointment – the lack of organization, the oppositional behavior – they are now nothing. This anxiety Doodicus is feeling is not uncommon for children with ADHD and Dr. Ashley mentioned it may or may not be related to the medication, but these emotions are priority. Obviously. It was surreal to be told by his doctor to make sure we remove any instruments he may mention in crisis, because while being ten is old enough to know better about getting into other people’s things, it’s way too fucking young to be so anxious and considering that there’s an extreme solution. I won’t even say the word. I can’t.

16 January, 2012 13:23

I won’t blame you for thinking Sparring Partner and I are at the minimum, morons. We are kicking ourselves here, trust me. It’s easy for all of us to talk smack about the current situation Doodicus is experiencing at his school because it is happening at his school. The job-setting comparison is a good one, but sometimes leaving a crappy job is like leaving the devil you know for the devil you don’t. What assurance do we have that the public school would be any better equipped?

That’s a rhetorical question, obviously.

My husband and I had a serious discussion about what this next fall will bring as it specifically relates to moving him to public. The idea scares the shit out of me. He will go from a class of 50 to approximately 400. His body will literally be in constant flux, moving from room to room and the poor kid’s anxiety levels will be through the roof.

You probably don’t remember this, but I distinctly do. Remember the incident at daycare that got us “fired” from the care-giver’s services? Doodicus kicked one of the other kids in the head. This had been the proverbial straw for the care-giver. We were fortunate to find the daycare Doodicus currently attends but for weeks – WEEKS – when I would pick him up from there, he would sob and sob and sob. He had no friends. No one liked him. No one played with him. One time, I pulled over to the side of the road and parked the car just to run to open his door and try to comfort him from the cruelty of it all. He never got over feeling it was his fault for losing everything that was routine to him.

So here we are, six years later, talking about the very same thing, racing time and the boiling points to see if it will be a voluntary decision or if the private school will make the decision for us.

I know realistically that I am only make excuses. He’ll adjust. He has adjusted. We would have put him in the public system after sixth grade anyway, so aren’t I just expediting the process and doing us all a favor by just doing it for the fifth grade? Wouldn’t it just be equivalent to ripping the band-aid off instead of lifting it slowly, hair-by-tiny-hair?

More rhetorical questions.

One other issue comes to mind, and someone touched upon it in the comments: Aitch. If Dood stays at Private, they would be in the same school. At least until he hits seventh grade. That would give them two years “together”. But really? Would they even see each other that much? If we put them BOTH into public next year, they wouldn’t be in the same school anyway (the public school system has a middle school for just fifth and six graders). We thought about going ahead and keeping her in the private school since she’s already registered for pre-K, but then we worry how would Doodicus handle the fact that while SHE keeps to go to the school where all HIS friends are, we are shuffling him off to be amongst strangers. Illogical for you and me, but not for him. Wouldn’t he perceive that as more of a punishment than us trying to get him the help he needs? I can answer that one: yes, that’s exactly how he’ll think of it.

I casually mentioned to Doodicus the idea of going to a new school next year. I said we think the public school might have teachers who are more equipped to help him specifically with his needs. He told me that one of his friends went to public and then came back to private. This other child told him the teachers were mean. The kids were mean. He then bluntly told me that he doesn’t want to leave “his” school.

You all know I don’t expect answers. Life would be too easy if all one had to do was to ask the internet and to get a clear and concise response. Sometimes I need more than just to hear myself think.

13 January, 2012 09:19

These episodes at school are like the big storms coming through. One is never prepared enough and it seems like only when you’re snowed-in under 100 inches of snow do you feel the brick hitting you on the head which triggers your ass to get to the store to buy the damn shovel you’ve been putting off for six months.

I mull over my head the things I really, REALLY want to say to the school’s teachers and principal, but what keeps me from utterly losing my shit is that I know it will be Doodicus that they’ll take it out on. Each year I seriously consider buying ADHD informational flyers, books, packets and handing them out, but I don’t want to come off as passive-aggressively telling someone who supposedly has an educational degree how to do their jobs teaching MY kid.

What really bugs me is that we go through this every damn year. The web-adage: lather, rinse, repeat, comes to mind frequently. Before I can even finish the question, “Why aren’t they better prepared for a child like mine?” I answer, “….because they blow them out of their tuition-padded doors and into the free public school system when parents realize they are paying to have their child treated like crap.”

IMHO, of course.

And this is where you ask, “Why are you paying tuition for a school to NOT provide your son a learning environment suitable for his ADHD?”

Ah, yes. Here’s where things get really stupid. Pull up a chair. Would you like lemon or cream in your tea?

This elementary school has a great reputation scholastically; for the normal child (note how I give you the air-quotes as I say that), that is. While we may (or may not) get the IEP or 504 assistance in the public school system, they are very 30-years-ago in lesson plans. What’s really at the heart of that question is simple: WE don’t pay the tuition. His grandparents, who insist that we educate the kids through this elementary school, pay the tuition. When we originally enrolled Doodicus in the private school, we had no idea that he was ADHD. Not that THAT is any excuse, but more of an FYI. I guess if I’m going to tell you gammy and grampy pay the tuition, I might as well tell the whole story.

So you might ask as you hide your accusing eyes by looking into your cup for an imaginary piece of lint, “Now that you know, why don’t you save your in-laws some money and get him out of that school?” Because we haven’t told our families that Doodicus is ADHD, and frankly, we have no intention of doing so. Two of my four sisters know, but that’s because they took care of the kids when I had my cancer surgery and they had to be prepared for the morning behaviors and to administer his medication. They are also a bit more forgiving, too.

With my husband’s family, they are UNforgiving and out-of-touch. They believe ADHD is an excuse for not being able to discipline a child. In their mind, ADHD is just a bullshit term by doctors to use to lazy parenting. When Dood was diagnosed three years ago, I convinced myself then that it wouldn’t be much longer and the grandparents would be a – how should I say – nonissue. Who knew that they would live forfuckingever?! See? I’m an ungrateful asshole.

But here’s my question: Why should a private school be able to shun their responsibility for continuing their education so they can be better prepared to teach children with ADHD (or ADD or autism or any other learning disability)? In the email I got from his teacher, she said (and yes, I am quoting), “…AND please discuss with him (again) the importance of getting his act together.”

Oh, yes, of course! *gives self a face-palm* It didn’t even occur to me these past six years that I should tell him to GET HIS ACT TOGETHER!

What do you think would happen if she told parent of a child with a visual impairment “please discuss with him (again) the importance of learning to see”?

11 January, 2012 12:17

It’s not been a good week for my son. While it may be the third day of the week, it’s also the third day I’ve received a phone call from him to let me know he’s staying after school because of late assignments. The count is up to five.

His teacher talked to me today. "He needs to take responsibility." "This is not going to work out going into the fifth grade." "He is belligerent." and on and on she went. I want to interrupt her and shout, "You know he’s ADHD, right??!!" I don’t know what else to do right now, hands tied and at work, so I write and hope you will understand.

After our meeting a month ago, things are no better. They are no worse, except for this week. While the teachers agreed that assigning my son a "buddy" to go over his assignment book to make sure it is complete (a total of five minutes would probably need to be dedicated to this concession), this has not been done. We do an inventory of the backpack when we pick him up from school. If the assignment book has nothing written on it, we have no idea if when he tells us just the worksheet is due if it really IS just the worksheet that is due.

I try hard not to doubt every thing he tells us. It’s not fair to him, but obviously it’s not fair to us, or to his class, or to his teacher, but god, this cannot go on.

Before I even dialed my husband, I called the school psychologist. And cried. I plead with him to help us get Doodicus the help HE needs. I hiccuped to him as I told him that Doodicus is a good kid. He’s not deliberately trying to get into trouble and that I’m sure all of his parents tell him that their kid is a good kid at heart and that "they just can’t help themselves!"

You know what he said? He said that most parents do NOT say that when they call him for help. Parents do not stick up for their kids, and my heart broke even more.

The impression I got from his teacher during our ever-so-brief phone call is that Doodicus is a burden to her. That she doesn’t have time to dedicate the time that is required when you have a student who most days is perfectly "normal" so that when he is disruptive and non-compliant, he’s too much to help through. Sparring Partner and I have talked in the past that maybe he DOES need to be in the public school system to get the IEP help he obviously needs RIGHT. NOW. but we see things improve and we stop worrying. Until something like this hits the fan at the private educational level.

I feel selfish for even contemplating the future and how I dread all the problems that come with our local public schools. I feel like a pile of shit for hesitating because I *just* got Aitch enrolled at pre-K at his school. I know she will excel, but that means my son will not. If I reverse the situation, there’s no guarantee that my son would flourish while Aitch would not, right? Maybe they both will be very happy. But of course, they both may be miserable.

This is so hard. As I paced the hallway of the office building I work in, which was the only way to have "privacy", I cried and blubbered on the phone. The psychologist said he would look into getting Doodicus into the handicapped program and now I start the crying afresh. He’s just ADHD, right?? That’s not a handicap!! His "friends" will label him. The teachers will refer to him as "THAT kid". I will wonder if he will ever reach the point of self-sufficiency when he reaches adulthood. How will he get a degree? A job?

And I feel helpless. Like I can never do enough. I feel like I haven’t done enough. And then I remind myself to stop being a self-centered whiner and think about how my son feels right now. He’s aware that the school has the option to expel him and he has to sit in the classrooms and wonder when the other shoe will drop and if we stopped loving him for something he can’t really control. My heart is breaking because I cannot and will not stop loving him.