My 14-year old son has ADHD. He is also a near-genuis, hilarious, dearly-loved and the most well-adjusted member of our family. When I think of Clark, I hear the Natalie Merchant song “Wonder:” “they say I must be one of the wonders, God’s own creation.” Clark ROCKS.
We always knew he had unique traits (don’t we all??), but we fought the ADHD label/diagnosis for many years. Instead we would empathize with each other that he was disorganized, his father’s child, “out to lunch,” and “would be fine when he grew up and had a great secretary.” Type A slightly OCD woman that I am, I just believed that I could engineer a solution, that my will and need for control were stronger than anything Clark’s genetics could put in front of me.
We employed every suggestion we could find to help him, short of medication. No matter what we did, Clark was still Clark, and that meant he was the kid who would leave the kitchen with an assignment to put up his folded laundry, forget it by the time he reached the living room, and happily re-enter the kitchen to sit down and read “The Ranger’s Apprentice” without understanding why his mother’s face was turning purple.
I will write about our experience with medication in a future blog. I will also talk more about the other approaches we have taken – what has not worked and what has worked somewhat – as well as the impact on the rest of the family and side issues such as gaming and computers.
But in this blog, I want to introduce you to my son.
Last year (8th grade), Clark received a commendation in all four of the standardized “TAKS” (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) subjects. He participated in band and lacrosse. He played a primary role in his middle school play, “The Naked King.” And he almost drove his parents crazy with his general Clarkisms along the way.
At the time, Love and Logic Parenting was the method Clark’s counselor asked us to use to teach Clark responsibility for his own actions, in conjunction with the assistance Clark was getting in organizational skills – the staggering amount of assistance Clark was getting in organizational skills, which he absolutely hated, both from the counselor and us. The premise was that we clearly state that the child is responsible for a certain behavior (i.e., turning in completed homework) and that if he chooses not to do the behavior, he is choosing the consequence that goes with it (i.e., yard work). Logical, right? Loving, too? Sure…but, it didn’t work AT ALL. Not a single bit. It worked amazingly well with his non-ADHD siblings, though, so it was not a total waste.
To give you just a taste, I offer up this VERY one-sided Instant Message conversation between my husband (trimon29) and me (pamelafhutchins). This exchange is about yard work Clark was doing as a consequence for not turning in completed homework.
pamelafhutchins 4:39pm: i told him to go outside and start the yard work/mow at 410. then i took a long shower
pamelafhutchins 4:39pm: i started getting ready in the bathroom
pamelafhutchins 4:39pm: at 4:33 i heard noises in the kitchen
pamelafhutchins 4:39pm: it was clark
pamelafhutchins 4:40pm: “getting a snack”
pamelafhutchins 4:40pm: i said go back outside you should have done the snack before you started the yard work
pamelafhutchins 4:40pm: he said no, i haven’t gotten started out in the yard yet
pamelafhutchins 4:40pm: i said impossible, no snack takes 22 min
pamelafhutchins 4:40pm: he said he made a sandwich
pamelafhutchins 4:40pm: i said that doesn’t take 22 minutes, 22 minutes is a 3 course meal
pamelafhutchins 4:40pm: he then said he’d go right outside
pamelafhutchins 4:40pm: but he came right back in and said he had no gas so he was going to pull weeds instead of mow. i said ok. he asked me to show him which plants are weeds so i did
pamelafhutchins 4:41pm: he came back in 1 minute later and said there are thorns
pamelafhutchins 4:41pm: i said get gloves if you are concerned about thorns (as you know there were barely any stickers on those plants and no thorns)
pamelafhutchins 4:41pm: he went looking for gloves
pamelafhutchins 4:41pm: couldn’t find any (he said)
pamelafhutchins 4:41pm: he went back outside WITH HIS GIANT LACROSSE GLOVES ON, with the fingers that have the size and flexibility of a Polish sausage
pamelafhutchins 4:41pm: at this point, i became frustrated
pamelafhutchins 4:41pm: i told him to get the gloves off and get outside
pamelafhutchins 4:41pm: i explained to him that it was 4:36 and that we were leaving at 630 for his sister’s concert and that I was dropping him at his dads
pamelafhutchins 4:41pm: because he had at least 2 hours of work to do in the yard as he had known since last night
pamelafhutchins 4:42pm: and he couldn’t go to the concert without a shower, but there wouldn’t be time for him to shower because he had to finish
pamelafhutchins 4:42pm: and that after this i couldn’t trust him to stay at home alone and do the yard work without supervision, so he had to go to his dad’s
pamelafhutchins 4:42pm: AND this was after a very difficult 5 minute conversation trying to get a straight answer out of him about his grades and what his teachers said about any need for extra credit in his classes given all the homework he hadn’t turned in.
pamelafhutchins 4:42pm: i had to stop him over and over when he would say something nonresponsive designed to make me think he had actually talked to the teacher, and i’d say, that’s not what the teacher said, what did the teacher say, and it turned out he hadn’t talked to the teachers
pamelafhutchins 4:42pm: so then he started crying because he wasn’t going to get to go to the concert
pamelafhutchins 4:43pm: and i only yelled one time, which is a miracle at this point
pamelafhutchins 4:43pm: and i said stop with the tears, this was your choice to waste 40 min, i told you that we had things to do that you might not get to do if you didn’t get finished so maybe you’ll learn from this but if you don’t it will be the same tomorrow
pamelafhutchins 4:43pm: but either way, get outside and get going on the yard work
trimon29 4:44pm: i am still here, take a breath
trimon29 4:44 pm: LACROSSE GLOVES? you have got to admit, that is pretty funny….
pamelfhutchins 4:45 pm: ask me tomorrow and maybe it will be funny then…
pamelfhutchins 4:47 pm: ok i admit it, it’s funny
Emphasis added. Note that it truly is a miracle that Clark survives his mother; yelling only once in this lengthy exchange was quite an achievement for me. Intellectually, I know yelling does no good, except to occasionally keep my head from exploding off the top of my neck.
Our learning from the scenario above? That Love and Logic don’t overcome the wiring of an ADHD brain. Some behaviors just aren’t a choice Clark makes. Some are, though, and one of our challenges is to keep him from gaming our system by using ADHD as an excuse for bad choices, especially as he becomes more savvy.
Lacrosse gloves…it was pretty funny.
What’s your favorite story involving your beloved ADHD child? Please feel free to comment. Share with the rest of us so we can all celebrate our human frailty together. Over the next few months, as I go over other humorous situations and the failed parental solutions Clark has lived through, I would love to hear from you about things that have and have not worked. I’m hoping I can get Clark to blog on here once or twice, too. Fear not: Clark’s is a story of great success by the time we get to “the end.”
NOTE: Clark reads every blog I ever write about him, and there have been many over the years. He frequently battles with me/keeps me honest over our sometimes divergent views of the facts, although I have explained to him that truth should never get in the way of a good story. The big surprise is that he loves being the subject of my writing. He knows one thing for sure: he may test his mother’s patience, but he is a very loved kid.