Do you ever feel like no one out there understands what it’s like to parent a neuro-atypical child?

I do.

Even the people closest to me haven’t always seemed to get it.

My husband does, but he didn’t.  Not until he’d lived with us for a year as Clark’s step-dad did he finally accept that he could not do by strength of will and caring what we had not been able to do for Clark before, which is make him “mainstream”.  He truly believed that with him supporting me, we could get Clark to turn in homework, make friends, and tell the truth.  Now, Eric gets it, and he helps tremendously, but he can’t “fix” it.

My friends don’t.  They hear anecdotes about Clark and say, “oh my kid did that once last year.”  Um, yeah, so do our four other neuro-typical kids, but the difference with ADHD is EVERY DAY, multiple times a day. “Have you tried _____?” they ask me.  “It sounds like he needs accountability, and organizational skills.”  *Sigh*  Tell me truly: have any of you ever had a suggestion made to you about how to “fix” your ADHD child that had any impact, let alone truly worked?  I suspect there are very few raised hands out there.

My parents didn’t.  Last year, when Clark was 14 — he is 15 now — they asked me to let him move in with them.  I know they didn’t mean to suggest I was failing as a parent by doing so, but let’s just say that they believed it was in his best interests to let them have a try.  I declined, gently.  I said thank you for offering.  Inside, I cried.  What was I doing wrong this time?  What did even my parents believe they could “fix” that I couldn’t?

It wasn’t/isn’t that I am angry with my loved ones.  I appreciate that they care.  After awhile, though, my teeth are worn down from gritting, and my jaw is sore from clenching.

So it is with a poignant sense of relief and (yes) vindication that I tell you about the short conversation I had with my mother last week.

“I wanted you to know that the reason your dad and I asked you to let Clark live with us was because we live in a small town where all the kids have more opportunity to participate and shine.  We thought if Clark just experienced one small success, at anything, that everything would turn around for him.  That if he could build off a success, he would find motivation to succeed at many more things,”  she said.

I stared at her over the top of my venti skinny cinnamon dolce latte at Starbuck’s, tightening my stomach in anticipation of what came next.  Ready to paste on a smile, bite my lip, and make anything she said OK.

“We were wrong, and I’m sorry,” my mother said.

This is not what I had expected.

“Thank you, Mom, thank you very much, that means a lot to me.”

“We realize he had some big successes this year in debate and socially, but that didn’t change a thing about how he thinks or operates.”

My words came out in a rush.  “No, it really didn’t.  He’s maturing, he has meds, but he still has ADHD, or something like it, God only knows where he really is on ‘the spectrum.’  He will never think like us.  He’s brilliant and creative and different, and he wears lacrosse gloves to weed the flower bed and stuffs trailing wads of toilet paper in his nose to keep out the dust when he’s mowing.  He wants to drive more than almost anything but can’t remember to pick up his driver’s permit paperwork at school with a text from me, a written note to himself, and a reminder from his girlfriend.  He doesn’t turn in homework that’s in his hand as he walks past the in-basket. He’s the same boy that in 5th grade read Harry Potter without realizing a paper on his desk was a test and that everyone else was taking it but him.  He may always blurt out odd and inappropriate comments.  He may struggle with gaming addiction all his life.  He may never understand the importance of truth from his “there is only NOW” focus.”

I took a breath, then smiled.

“But he doesn’t need to be like us, Mom.  He’s a lovable little sucker just like he is.  All 6 feet of him.  We don’t need to fix him, we just need to help him survive growing up in a world where the rules for success are set by and for people like us.”

“And pray he has a great personal assistant some day,” she said, and reached across the table and patted my hand.


And, thanks Mom.  I love you.


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22 Responses to Everyone wants to fix him, and me.

  1. Ann says:

    That’s it. I am done reading your stuff anymore. It always makes me cry. It is so good to know we are not alone. Meg is doing so much better but there are still days that I shake my head in wonder and I am so often hurt (usually by my well meaning mother in law) and seldom handle the situation as well as you seem to. Pamela, thank you so much for sharing this. I know it is not always easy to open up. I especially find the lying hard to admit to but it is one of our biggest struggles.

  2. Pamela says:

    The lying kills me. We just got word this week that Clark is commended for his state exams in Social Studies and Algebra. He is coincidentally going to fail both of those classes for the entire year and have to take summer school. And there has been a lot of lying and unturned in work along the way. Argh!

    I am glad Meg is doing better. Really, Clark is too. It is baby steps. Baby steps. Baby steps.

  3. Eric Hutchins says:

    This one is just so spot on. Hard to leave a comment that adds anything.

  4. Pamela says:

    Well, you already left great comments when this ran two months ago on a Mom’s view of ADHD, too. :)

  5. You and Eric are my two favourite parents who I have never met. Your strength, understanding, and unconditional Love for each other and your kids is very inspiring and refreshing.
    I really can’t add more than that. Keep being awesome.

  6. Pamela says:

    Thanks, gene. Could you give our kids a call and tell them that? From time to time, one or more of them think we’re mean, heartless jerks. *sigh* My mom always told me that she was my mother not my friend, and I have remembered that many times where as a parent we have angered our kids, and they have turned to other less “parental” sources to hear what they wanted. Our job is to raise responsible adults to become successful. The bonus is we get to love them like mad along the way, even when we want to kill them.

  7. JennyBean says:

    What a sweet story. You’re a good mom, Pamela!

  8. Just dropping in, reading and leaving a little love note. You and Eric are amazing and I don’t know of any parents who would care more or try more for their kids…than you. Touching post. Thank you for sharing.

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks Terri. They don’t always believe it or understand, but we do. We really really do care, try, and choose the road we think is right no matter how hard it looks.

  9. Tracie says:

    I am so glad that your mom came to you and told you that. It is so wonderful when our loved ones not only support us, but really support us in the ways that we need.

  10. Irene says:

    I didn’t know Clark was broken.

    Have your tried duct tape?

    Gorilla glue?

    Mom was trying to help. She had an idea and was eager to try it out. At least she admitted she was wrong. You could have one of THOSE moms, know what I mean?

    I think as he matures, he’ll make more strides in these areas. When the rent needs to be paid, he’s going to have to be sure it gets paid. So he’ll have his own system somehow, whether mentally or physically, of remembering.

    I think you’ve done a fantastic job in dealing with his ADHD. Everyone deals with it in their own way. You take it one day at a time.

    • Pamela says:

      LOL duct tape – I’m going to try it.
      Here’s our “funny” of the week — He knew going into the last grading period he had to do well in Algebra and World History, but all he had to do we basically get about a 68 or higher (70 is passing). Halfway through the grading period he had straight A’s. Then…he just checked out. The rent was no longer due, ya know? He quit turning stuff in, and he quit telling me the truth. On Monday we learned he was commended (highest scoring category) in all his state assessments this year, including ALGEBRA AND SOCIAL STUDIES. The same day, we saw he was failing those two classes so badly this grading period that he may fail them both (will likely fail them both) for the WHOLE YEAR. He is also failing English, but he will pass English for the year. *sigh*

      My parents are great. Mom is awesome. It was wonderful, in a shared pain way, when she “got it” about Clark and it was awesome that she cares enough to help in the first place.

  11. Grace says:

    Your parents are keepers. But you already know that.

    My nephew is Clark Jr. He’s 8, and last fall was diagnosed with PDD, which means he’s on the autism spectrum but is considered highly functioning. He does some crazy stuff, of course, but now that the whole family knows what’s going on, we understand better how to help my sister and Joe. I guess what I’m trying to say is that people mean well even when they offer dumbass suggestions and sound like they’re criticizing you. It’s because we desperately want to help but just don’t know what to do or say.

    I know it doesn’t make things easier for you or for Clark. And I know that nobody who hasn’t been in your shoes truly understands what you’re going through. All I can do for my sister is listen and let her know I care. And it sounds like your parents have come to that understanding, too.

    • Pamela says:

      What a great sister you are! Yes, you are so right. The offering of help comes from a great reserve of love and caring. I’d far rather get the offers. The frustration that so many parents of special needs kids feel is real and I’m speaking it out today, even though it doesn’t always make sense or seem justified. I feel guilty for getting frustrated 😉 because i know how kind, loving, and helpful my family and friends are. And yet, there it is. The big ugly feeling. Oh well. Shouting it out helps alleviate the pressure.

  12. Sandy says:

    I admit that I am one who doesn’t get it. I know nothing about ADHD, but I do know from reading your posts that you and Eric are fantastic parents and Clark as well as the rest of the gang are very lucky to have you both as parents. This made me cry and I am not even a parent…WTH?! I am glad that your Mom was able to see that the way she can help the most is to support your decisions as parents.

  13. HeidiM says:

    Love your acceptance of that fabulous boy, with all of his challenges… I can relate. And clearly you had a great example in mothering. Susie rocks! And so do you. :)

  14. Cindy says:

    So happy I found this today while out and about stumbling around! I can totally relate to the lacrosse gloves and toilet paper wads, your teeth clenching and the tears, and every thing else. Thank you!

    • Pamela says:

      You are welcome, Cindy. Sometimes it just helps to know we’re not crazy — other parents are experiencing the same emotions. Thanks for commenting.

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