I have been up four times already. I had good intentions. I laid my head down at 9:30. I took two melatonin and began reading – my third book in two weeks – and I waited. Sleep never came. Restlessness did. The first time I got up was for chap stick. The little cup that I hoard my favorite sticks from the boys, hidden behind a picture on my bed side table, is empty. I venture all the way thru the house, put up the garage door head to my car parked outside, and find a blue raspberry stick that was a favorite until it melted in the heat of the sun. I scoop some out of the cap and carry it with me back to bed. The second time I was up I had to go to the bathroom, or at least I thought I did. The third time, I thought I might die without water. The fourth time, I was so hot I had to change clothes. Now I am cold. I’m up again, this time searching for a the perfect sweatshirt – not too hot not too cold not too heavy not too light not too small not too big. It will be hours before sleep visits me.
I’m no stranger to nights like these. The auto-immune disease I have mimics this restlessness. But tonight, that’s not it. Tonight it’s something different. Snippets of the day re-play in my mind. The article posted and shared on facebook claiming “Study in the Netherlands Proves Recess Cures ADHD” screams at me. The comment I didn’t write, “If you could “cure” ADHD with recess don’t you think we would have done that already?” taunts me. I should have said something, provided some education on what it’s really like for a kid with ADHD. Recess or no. I was dumb enough to read the comments – Parents are lazy. Kids are lazy. ADHD isn’t real. Medication is criminal and parents who allow that poison into their children should be held responsible. Parents should pay more attention, get off their phones, try harder. Kid these days are entitled and fragile. Kids wouldn’t struggle if their parents didn’t suck. At least that’s what I hear in my head when I read each keyboard warrior word. Every comment playing on every fear I have of how I have parented my ADHD boy(s).
The sweet relief we both (all) felt when we made it to the last day of the last trimester last year is still tingling in my heart. It holds the hope that we can make it thru again. I try to grasp that feeling, hold on to it, keep its hope and promise close to me. School orientation is tomorrow. And just like every year previous my mind is racing, rapidly firing, trying to create and compose the perfect speech that will propel us into the new year, a good year. I compose emails to teachers in my mind, I lay out a plan, I consider options for rewards and for consequences. I rack my brain for something new, something transformative.
I give up on the book and go to the ADHD parenting support sites I follow, in search of back-to-school tips and strategies. All of which I have read 8 million times, but somehow reading them again provides me comfort – although it does nothing to bring me rest. Things will be different this year. If we can just get the right teachers, the right classes, start on the right foot – maybe we can both spend the year not hating every effing second. Maybe we don’t have to spend the year feeling like a square peg being shoved into a round hold.
My restlessness knows better. School isn’t set up for an ADHDer to be successful. It’s not, and you can’t convince me – or my boy – otherwise. For him to be successful – and by successful I don’t mean having good grades, he usually manages to get that done even though it’s an uphill fight – I mean for him to feel successful. For him to feel like he belongs there. For me to feel like he is understood and safe there. For me to feel like sending him to school every morning isn’t a method of torturing him in a way that will forever brand his spirit with shame.
I switch back to reading my book again. I will never sleep if I keep searching for an answer. It’s now 3 am, the count down in my mind begins … I have to get up in 3 and a half hours. My mind wanders to a conversation I overheard – a teacher claiming she hated the class of students that were coming up for her to teach. She has heard since they entered the district that these kids in that graduation year are awful. She hates them already. I get that, I really do. I don’t feel anger at her – I just feel sad. I feel it personally. I know my kid has been a casual discussion among teachers. I have too many teachers as friends to not believe that to be true. And I don’t even begrudge them that. But the thing is, he is more than what you see in 8 hours at school.
Up again, this time making the rounds, kissing each forehead as they sleep. I won’t give up. I know my son(s) didn’t always make it easy in a classroom. I know that their behavior can be obnoxious, irritating, dangerous, disrespectful. I also know they can be funny, witty, intelligent, engaged and excited. There is a very fine line between the two. I will help, support, advocate, demand, and encourage success in the classroom this year just as I always have. I will also listen to him when he tells me how miserable he is. I will not tell him to feel differently. I will encourage him to find his own voice, to find his own passion, to expect the best of himself and to understand that teachers are human and they don’t always know, even if you feel they should. I will hope that he will see a version of himself he likes, that he will believe me when I tell him his brain is beautiful – even if it’s fucking difficult.
Please don’t confuse my anxiety and stress over sending him back to school with a lack of understanding that my boys are responsible for their actions and how they choose to conduct themselves. Admittedly, their conduct isn’t always stellar. It isn’t even always acceptable. And it is their responsibility. The older they get the more I understand that I have spent far too much time and energy saving them from themselves when I should have let them fail. I get it. I know. And every facebook post giving me 13 things NOT to do when raising teenagers reminds me if I have forgotten. But tonight my anxiety resides in my chest because I so much want him to feel good about himself. To know what he’s capable of. I want him to feel compassion from others when he can’t be quiet – and he can. not. be quiet sometimes – when he can’t stop moving – and he can. not. stop moving most times – when he can’t remember where his assignments are or when they were due or what was supposed to be handed in. Compassion. That’s what I want for him. From me. From his dad. From his brothers. From his teachers. From himself. His brain works differently. Not wrong. Not incorrectly. Not dysfunctional. Different. And thank God it does. Because that brain, that brain is a beautiful thing. As long as he believes in it, he will move mountains. (And when he does I will send every teacher who ever sent me an email telling me his biggest problem is “he doesn’t try hard enough” a big Fuck You thank you note. Just saying)