I never read the book, saw the movie, or heard the song, in case you were wondering (The Agony and the Ecstasy).

But I live it every day.  With Clark, the ADHD Wonder Kid.

Clark, age 15.5, has progressed slowly, with maturity.  We still count as our best days the types of days other parents read about and say, “Oh, my kid does that sometimes.”  :-)  Well, our other four do, too, sometimes (for more on that, see below).


Eric's text to me about one of Clark's best days, when I was traveling for work. Not included is his first text which said, "I was able to wake him up and get him to take his PED." (PED = "performance enhancing drug", Clark's preferred nomenclature!)

For those of you with younger ADHD kids, you know how much progress this text exchange represents.

Consider, too, Clark’s progress socially and in school activities.  He did not have a single friend during middle school.  Watching him try to interact with kids his age was like watching Pepe Le Pew, the little skunk from Looney Toons; the kids scattered away from Clark like his odd behaviors were a foul stench.

When he entered high school, he matured just enough that he leveraged his talents (theater) with his brain (genius IQ, like many of your kids) and his let’s-call-them-quirky traits (thanks a lot, ADHD) and found a niche: debate.  As a sophomore first year debater, he blew us all away with his dramatic, aggressive, freaky intelligent, and ADHD-like style.  See “Not Up For Debate.” In this, his first year, he missed qualifying for the state tournament (Texas “5A”) with his cross examination partner by 1 vote.  He even found a girlfriend in debate.

Clark on Facebook talking with other debaters about how close he and Yingying came to a coveted state qual in CX, in his first year.

Yet, our struggles with academics and LIFE continue to challenge us, with Clark, like those with none of our four other neuro-typical kids ever did; sure, they had rare Clark-like days and dished out their own problems, but…all four together were easier than Clark.  Note in the first text to Eric, above, I don’t ask about our two teenage girls, and I didn’t edit that part out.  They are fine, and I know it.  Clark is…Clark.

Kids are kids -- all of ours present unique "issues".

The hardest issues day by day remain turning in homework, truthfulness, and following instructions.  We can’t tell whether it is intentional when we ask him to put up his clothes, he promises he will, and then he does not.   All we know is that with 100% certainty, he will not do it unless we stand and watch until he finishes the task, whereas our other kids with 75% certainty will eventually do it when asked.  Is this part of the present-orientation that drives us mad — the inability to take seriously future consequences for behavioral choices, because they aren’t RIGHT NOW?  Or is it defiance by a kid who knows that he can wear us down?  Occasionally, our frustration shows.

So, I’m about to give you a 100% unedited look into our life when we get frustrated — the electronic evidence, if you will — because it so clearly demonstrates that agony/ecstasy of ADHD parenting, and what our ADHD teenager is like.  The reason it is all caught electronically is we text when I travel.  I don’t travel much, but I happened to travel at exactly the right times to catch a trail that I thought might resonate out there with you ADHD mom readers.  I hope it helps at least a few of you!

Have a great week,

Pamela aka Clark’s Mom


Clark must keep his clothes put away. Chaotic room = chaotic mind. Another "have to" -- no electronics after bedtime in his room. He is more likely than not to stay up all night reading, playing games, or texting. No sleep = chaotic brain, too. Well, some of you may not talk to your kid this way, but I told you we get frustrated and I was showing you the unvarnished version ;-)

So Clark missed state quals, but his coach invites him to come to the state tournament and watch the team, to prep Clark for next year.  What an honor!  Clark is elated…and pretty much loses his mind with excitement, ha ha.  And then it gets worse/better; it is the agony and the ecstasy after all.  He misses qualifying for NATIONALS in a different debate event, one called public forum, by 1 vote again, a few weeks later.  Now, watch this next exchange carefully.  Note how he is always a half step off answering the question asked.  You have to keep asking.

I know something awesome is happening, but relying on Clark to figure out what it is...well, it's nearly futile.

Finally, we connect -- I have an answer. And it's great news!

If we thought it was hard to wrestle him down before, oh my, now it’s impossible.  Our attempts to communicate with him (obtain a straight answer to a question, often repeated multiple times) fail, more often than not.

Communication nil. Don't you love it when your kids expect you to read their minds? It's only his expensive drivers' ed class, after all.

I'm so used to Clark's responses they only make me a little crazy!

So against this backdrop, I leave town for work.  Eric, who is a great and patient step-dad, must go it alone.  And, of course, that means things go south for him, too.  He works late on a project, only to discover as he leaves at midnight, that everything he did that day was built upon an error.  Twelve hours of “redo” await him.

Uh oh.

Don't you hate it when you go to bed late knowing you have to get up early, and then you can't sleep? And the stress dreams! Yuck. I don't know about you, but I'm sure hoping Eric has an easy morning...with Clark. Oh no. We can see it coming....

Eric is up and staying positive but then (dun dun dun DUN)...

Eric tries to wake up Clark.  It takes three trips upstairs to finally roust him.  While Eric is there, he discovers, AGAIN, all the clothes on the floor and the iPad and iTouch contraband on Clark’s bed beside him.  They are late leaving for school/work.  And I hear from THAT BOY.

At this point, I know nothing about Eric's discoveries or difficulties, but I do know how a normal morning with Clark can try a man's soul. I ignore the "asshole" comment b/c it is meant to provoke me. Besides, it makes me happy. It's a sign of complete normality in a blended family when a teenager feels safe enough to lash out at a step like they do a real parent. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! :-)

So I check in with Eric and learn the deets.  I fire another text off to the Wonder Kid.

It is very cool to read this instead of that last string, ha ha.

What a great moment -- hey, they're in your future, too, no matter how it looks now!

We discuss our fears. This is a big one.

We will watch closely, but for now, we think -- knock wood -- things are going the best they have ever gone. Then I decide to try to reach Clark. Read the last two texts on this screen (the others are from previous days).

Remember how Eric said Clark had all his chargers? Welllll...

...you knew this was coming, didn't you? Because you all have kids like mine. It is the agony and the ecstasy. And, oh, how we love them.

Homework, organization, honesty, iPads, staying up all night, debate, girlfriends, driver’s ed, butting heads with parents (and calling them assholes!)…worry about substance abuse…and soon we have college apps.  The  more it changes, the more it stays the same.   Hang on for the beautiful ride, friends.

Signing out — Pamela aka Clark’s Mom

p.s. My husband Eric wants to get this on the record: he read The Agony and The Ecstasy; in my book, that makes him an intellectual!

p.p.s.  We did not hear from Clark again until he called from an unfamiliar number to let us know he “had left Dallas” and would be in the parking lot of his high school…in 15 minutes…

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17 Responses to The agony and the ecstasy.

  1. JennyBean says:

    Pamela, you’re a great mom!!!

    • Pamela says:

      I cringed when I read back over and saw I try to reason with him by saying he’s giving me the metaphorical finger. *sigh* He seems to understand what I mean (altho he continues to do it).

  2. LBDDiaries says:

    I think you guys are doing an amazing job. Just remember, you just helped point him toward Debate (while dealing with the football thing) and right before that were wondering if he’d ever find his place – and he did! Here’s to more ecstasy and less agony!!

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks, Nan. He has come a long way. And just the few hours since he got home have been a comedy of agonies. Meanwhile, Michelle and Sami have been no trouble at all (or the older 2). Man. Some days. :)

  3. Ally says:

    I think you and Eric are awesome! And frankly, I think Clark is pretty great, too. I’m sure his battles are hard (for all of you), but he’s finding success, and THAT is awesome!

  4. ridgely says:

    Pamela- I stand in awe- I am not a parent- unless you count Sammy… and we sure as hell know I have no control over him. Clark and the rest of his siblings are lucky children to have you and Eric standing by- I’m enthused & excited about Clark’s debate future!

    • Pamela says:

      thanks Ridgely. we used to think he would be the kid who lived with us until he was 37. now we suspect he is going to be a super successful attorney…with a fantastic assistant!!!

  5. Irene says:

    Ooh, it feels weird reading other people’s texts.

    Clark’s gonna be fine! I can see where it’s frustrating…not picking up the clothes (what? Bend over and clutch a pair of underwear? Are you kidding me? and mine have laundry hampers IN THEIR ROOMS and STILL can’t pick up their dirty laundry!!), setting clothes out for the next day (too much trouble), and not telling me about things that need to be done ahead of time. The 19yo is out of high school and I’m still going through the “Oh, registration of spring classes was last week.” Again, ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

    Maybe I should have him checked.

  6. penny says:

    Your Clark stories always make me laugh… Then bring a tear to my eye. How the heck am I going to handle Luke as a teen w/ADHD? I am barely hanging on now when he’s 8. What is killing me is the ADHD behaviors that get under my skin, then ther inevitable guilt since I know he can’t help it. Ugh!?

    • Pamela says:

      Exactly — laugh, guilt, cry. He got home from the tournament and he didn’t take his meds that day. It was too late in the day to remedy the situation, and it’s been … frustrating ever since. But, take hope Penny — Luke will be a happy, resilient kid who finds his niche. I believe this. And you’ll still have all your hair when he’s grown. :)

      I hope you saw the inconcistency I displayed a few times in trying to hold him accountable in ways and to things that I know I should handle differently. Which is part of why I shared it. Because I hope that if other frustrated momma’s see it, they won’t be so hard on themselves. We’re all in the same boat, paddling like mad.

  7. Sandy says:

    You guys seem to be doing a wonderful job with him. As frustrating as I am sure it is at times you both seem to handle it well. I am not sure I could keep my cool like you do.

  8. Rhonda says:

    I got all choked up when I read this, and don’t want to publicly say why. :) But thanks for this!

  9. Eric Hutchins says:

    And it WAS in fact a really good book (The agony and the ecstasy) yeah I know that is random.

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