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Pamela Fagan Hutchins | ADHD in a Divorced Family: The Clark Kent Chronicles
See the look on that boy’s face?  Here he is acting silly 

w/his sister and step-sister.

When I married Clark’s father, I didn’t know two things:

1.  He had ADHD

2.  Our marriage would end after 12 years

I’m not sure what impact foreknowledge of either fact would have exerted on my choices in 1992, the year we married, but the fact is marriage and parenthood involve lots of “future unknown” moments.

It is 2010 now, and the past is certain.  I had a beautiful son, Clark, in 1995, known to many of you that read {a mom’s view of ADHD} or “Road to Joy“.  Clark has ADHD.  Clark’s father and I split up nearly six years ago.  Since then, Clark’s dad and I have attempted, as best we could, to split parenting time and duties equally.  I think this makes us somewhat unique.  So unique that we confused our attorneys and judge.  But we wanted to send a clear signal to the kids that we loved them equally and believed in the other parent’s abilities.

How did this custody arrangement work in practice?  For starters, it required us to live within walking distance of each other.  This is not a divorce blog, so I won’t bore you with the mundane issues, like “I preferred never to see this person again so why do I run into him at the Kroger grocery store every week?”  Kidding.  Sort of.

As to custody, for our neuro-typical daughter, the arrangement works fine.  She’s organized and navigates the weekly transitions with ease, if not always with a perfect attitude.  “I don’t want to go back and forth,” she whines some weeks.  I’m lucky, though.  Even when it isn’t my week, she comes over after school and bothers me while I try to finish my work day, until her father is through with his and comes to pick her up.  The blessing and the curse of a home office!  (I love it)

The arrangement doesn’t work as well for Clark.  We’ve known this for a long time.  Clark has enough trouble organizing himself in one space.  Transitioning week by week is hard for him.  We tried to set up environments requiring him to tote as little as possible back and forth. But the stuff that trips him up can’t be duplicated.  Does he have his worksheet from Algebra?  Today is a debate tournament — did he leave his suit at the other house?  It was clear the strain of preparing to transition, transitioning, and failing in the transition stressed him out.

From day one, I have asked/offered his father a primary space for Clark at my house.  His dad, understandably, didn’t want to give up the time with him.  Until recently.

Last month, Clark’s dad, tears rolling down his face, told me the time had come to let Clark maintain primary residence at my house and see his father every other weekend.  It hurts me on behalf of his dad to even type this.  I know how much he hated making this decision, but HE DID IT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF HIS CHILD.  Thank God. Clark needed it.  And, as his dad explained to Clark and me, he has ADHD, too, and he was not the better parent/household for Clark.  Which is not to say he wasn’t great, he was and is.  He simply concluded that he could do BEST for Clark by giving him stability and stillness at La Hacienda de Hutchins.

Clark was elated.  He adores his father, but he hated the stress.

So, how’s it going so far?  Well, awesome, really.  Clark is still Clark, and he still has ADHD.  But our collective stress level has plummeted.  We have far fewer fire drills, running back and forth between houses, unable to determine at which one he left/lost what — usually his meds.  He does his work in the same place at the same time with the same rules and same supervision every day.  He suffers under the eagle eye of his VERY non-ADHD momma :) which means an endless stream of prompts.  As in, “So Clark, what do you think you should do next?  And then?  And how about now?  Did you write it down?  Could you write it down?  If I begged you on bended knee would you consider writing it down?  Would you just pretend to write it down so I could have a moment of peace?  Thanks.”

I’m very happy.

How about you guys?  Do you any of you parent from split households?  How do you handle it?  How does it work for your neuro-atypical kid(s)?  Your neuro-typical kid(s)?

Until next time,


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22 Responses to ADHD in a Divorced Family: The Clark Kent Chronicles

  1. Christina says:

    What the heck – one more high five for Clark, please!

  2. LBDDiaries says:

    The link doesn’t work – two https or something – help!

  3. Oh, that must have been such a very hard decision for his dad. I’m glad to hear it’s working out for you all, though. And I guess dad gets a higher proportion of quality (fun) time when he sees Clark on weekends, so I’m sure there are benefits for him, too.

    • Pamela says:

      It was SOOOO hard for his dad. I am grateful to him. And he did say, “I know this means you get all the hard time and hard things,” which I really appreciated that he understood. Now his time with Clark *is* much higher quality and lower stress.
      Thank you, Rachel, you are perceptive.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eric Hutchins, PamelaFaganHutchins. PamelaFaganHutchins said: ADHD in a Divorced Family: The Clark Chronicles […]

  5. Ally says:

    Wow, so happy for your son, for all the right reasons. And for his dad, for making probably one of the hardest decisions ever, and for doing it for the love of his child. I have a fried with ADD who has a daughter with ADD and a chromosomal deficiency adding a learning disability. Sometimes decisions best for everyone are really hard!!

  6. I have been divorced for quite a while now. My kids have always had my house as thier primary residence and they go to thier dad’s every other weekend. Neither of my kids have ADD or ADHD and they still have to plan what to take and make sure everything comes back home, etc. I cannot imagine how Clark did it for so long. My kids have friends who split their time between parents and they have stated that they really would not like that because you feel like you would not have a permanent place. My kids have their own rooms at their dad’s house and stay with him over extended periods over the summer, but they are always relieved to come back home.

    • Pamela says:

      I have always hated the arrangement. But I did have empathy for their father, who is a great dad. I am glad it is over and working well. He is less stressed, too, I think.

  7. It’s so good to hear that you and your ex-husband have made Clark’s well-being your number one concern, and not your differences with each other. Both my boys went through split-home situations because of my divorcing their Dad’s. We all worked very hard to keep the households as normal as possible, given all the variables. Wasn’t easy!

    • Pamela says:

      No, it isn’t easy, is it? Good for you. It’s been easier for my kids than Eric’s, and I’m really thankful for how well my ex and I were able to align on best interests of kids, even if nothing else. :)

  8. Heidi M says:

    So sad for Clark’s dad, but my gosh, what a selfless decision that shows his love for his child. My “Clark” has struggled off and on with that very issue but it has diminished somewhat over the past year or so (thankfully). Partly because their dad remarried and moved 45 minutes away, so the back and forth was drastically reduced, and partly because he’s just maturing a bit and learning to adjust when he drops the ball. Kudos to you for taking it all on, P ~ sometimes I find it difficult that I always seem to get the hard stuff, but I know he’s better off that way.

  9. Louisa says:

    I made the same difficult decision with Miranda last year. Miranda was doing every other week between my house and her fathers house and had problems staying organized. As difficult as it was for me to let Miranda go to her dad’s every week I did it for her. I am lucky enough to get her every weekend and she loves coming to her Momma’s house. I know it was difficult for Dan to make the decision but as parents we want what is best for our children. I know Matt is taking on the “hard stuff” but he is good at it. After reading your Clark chronicles it makes me wonder if Miranda is ADHD too. I do not want to start her on medications. What are the first steps for evaluating a child for ADHD?

    • Pamela says:

      You and dan both did something hard and unselfish. ADHD is usually exemplified by a lack of focus and hyperactivity — 3-4 mannerisms at once. Add is the inattentive type — no hyperactivity. Depending on the symptoms and their severity, there are tons of things you can do to help, short of meds, especially if you work with a good counselor.

  10. I grew up with divorced parents. Spent most of my time with my mom. It wasn’t until my adult years that I realized how lonely Christmas and Thanksgiving must have been for her since my sister and I were always with my dad. It was tough to be split between the two. I admire your fairness and willingness to stay so close so your children can have time with you both. That is very loving and evolved for the two of you and offers such a great example to your children!! You rock:) But we knew that already.

    • Pamela says:

      I give my ex a lot of credit here. He splits time between two cities to make it work. He will have no regrets, when they are older.

  11. I just read what I wrote, I meant to say that we were always with my dad during holidays. During holidays and school vacations. WHat I wrote didn’t really make sense:)

  12. Sandy says:

    I am not a parent, but I do commend you and Clark’s father for considering the children first and not “making them pay” for the marriage problems. If only all children of divorced parents were treated this well!

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