The Importance of Tears: Parenting with ADHD

Disclaimer: This was originally posted on Medium. As I start this new blog adventure, I felt the few posts I wrote there would make sense to include here.

For some reason that I can’t explain, tears seem to be important. Tears of joy. Tears of sorrow. Tears of remorse. Tears drawn from our laughter. Tears pulled from our pain. My life has been full of tears. I cry easily and at the most ridiculous things. An emotional manipulative car insurance commercial can get me. It always comes down to tears from one source or another.

As a Dad trying to figure out ADHD in my young kiddo, again tears seem important. But unlike all my other reasons for tears, something doesn’t click here. The other day my kid was really frustrating me. I can’t even remember exactly why. Probably related to our morning schedule and not getting up and moving fast enough. I finally had to put my foot down (not literally) to get the kid out of bed and up and running for the day. I was mad. My kiddo knew it. There was silence as we both got ready to head to school. In the car it was silent. All sorts of thoughts were screaming through my head. “Is this being taken seriously?” “Does my kid even feel bad for messing up the start of the day?” “Is there even a grasp of the idea of ‘starting on the wrong foot’?” And in silence we drove. In the past I would badger my kid with these questions. I’d use my “condescending parent voice” which is supposed to be full of knowing authority but really just makes you sound like an asshole. And almost always my child would break and there would be tears. And I would be satisfied, because in my mind tears meant the “lesson was learned”. Tears meant I’d made my point, stuck the landing, hit the target. Oh man, how wrong I was in that line of thinking.

On this drive I didn’t make the same mistake. I let the silence go on. And somehow in the midst of that silence I didn’t see a stubborn kid who needed to be “talked down to” by a parent. I didn’t see an oblivious kid who didn’t know what was wrong about that morning. What I saw was a kid sorting out the morning in their own time, in their own way. You see, my kid doesn’t need tears the way I do. And when the tears do come, they come for a better reason than an emotional commercial on television.

This is just another example of my attempts to be the parent my child needs me to be, which doesn’t always align with what I think I’m supposed to be. I have to know what makes my kid tick, not what makes me tick. And be a parent from that angle. I think too many times, we see the world through our own eyes, when we should try to see it through the eyes of our kiddos. And my child’s eyes are so much different from mine, and tears far less important. That doesn’t mean my kiddo doesn’t FEEL the same things I feel. It doesn’t mean that my kiddo doesn’t GET IT, when there’s a point to understand. Just that my kid processes things differently. More silently. Perhaps more thoughtfully. So I will keep trying my best to see things from this new viewpoint, and maybe tears won’t be so important anymore.

When “Different” is the new “Normal”: Parenting with ADHD

Disclaimer: This was originally posted on Medium in March 2018. As I start this new blog adventure, I felt the few posts I wrote there would make sense to include here.

I don’t like problems I can’t fix. I don’t like things that I can’t change. I don’t like contributing to someone else’s failure. I don’t like giving up without a fight.

These are all challenges I’ve had to confront as I’ve come around to the ADHD of my kid. I can’t fix this. I can’t change this. I contribute to my kiddo’s struggles with my own failures. And I feel like admitting it’s real, is giving up the fight for normal. These are my struggles. And they weigh on me.

I don’t want my child to be different. I’m okay with different, if that means weird hair colors and a bombastic form of individuality (which is very much my kiddo’s personality). By “different” I mean, different in how learning happens in school. I don’t want my kiddo to be behind other classmates. I don’t want homework to be impossibly difficult. I want a kid that is “normal”. These are OKAY things to want as a parent. Who wants their child to struggle with school? And lately I’ve felt myself shutdown a bit, the feeling that any action I take will only make my kid feel worse, or make me feel worse, or both. So I’ve chosen inaction, which turned out to be, you guessed it, the worst choice of all. I am teaching myself that when you don’t know what to do, just stop trying to do anything. And that will get translated to my child, one way or another.

So here is my Truth. At least the one for today that hopefully re-ignites my engines. My kiddo has ADHD. That means things will be harder and more work will be required. That’s the easy Truth. Here’s the harder one. My kiddo doesn’t see things the way that I do. My child needs more time to process things than I do; needs space and time alone. Needs my patience more than needs my advice. Needs my silence as much as my voice. Needs me to be less worried in the moment we are in, and just be in the moment we are in. Needs me to be okay with being different. Needs me to not see my adoption of this attitude as giving up on a normal child. My kid needs me to be happy with life the way that it is (knowing life is always a transition from one thing to the next).

I think a lot about the world. I think a lot about how we go about our days. I believe that the main goal of our lives is to be better tomorrow than we were today. And I am starting to realize how my desperate need to have a “normal” child is holding me back from this ultimate goal. The only way I can be better tomorrow, is to start by being my best self today. And my kid doesn’t need anything more from me than my attention, my patience, and my time. And so tomorrow I will hopefully look back on today with happiness that I was my best self, and then set out to be even better in all the days ahead.