ADDitude magazine last weekend by Frank South, aka ADHD Dad. It just so happens his post was about his twenty-three year old son, who sounds suspiciously like he is carving a similarly dodgy career to that of my own son at the moment, but the piece was written in such a humorous vein it made me laugh out loud about all the stuff that in reality hurts like fuck, and made me feel not quite so alone with my problems.
Here’s the link: Letting My ADHD Son Make His Own Mistakes
One of the comments from a reader was, ‘sometimes, it feels good to coast’, and at this particular time, that struck a chord.
I haven’t written in depth about Kurt for a while; not since he dropped out of school almost six months ago. I’m over the disappointment of that now *sniff*; to be honest it was a huge relief once the decision was forced on us made. How we got through those hellish years of being the scourge of the education department, the accusing calls from schools, the sniffy letters home and the awkward interviews with head teachers who couldn’t disguise the fact that all they really wanted to do was get rid of the problem, (our problem), I’ll never know.
We had known forever that Kurt was never going to thrive at school, nevertheless, we had to encourage him to stay on for as long as possible to give him time to mature and grow.
Kids with ADHD need routine, and school provides a framework until the point where what goes on in the classroom becomes more stressful than the calm that routine provides.
Since then we’ve been coasting in relation to Kurt’s immediate future; exhausted, dejected and not really sure where we’re going next. While his peers from school have since revised for and sat their HSC exams, we’ve gone under the radar and attempted to ignore the disappointment the build up to their results highlighted and the bright, predictable futures that lie ahead of them.
And while it has been liberating for Kurt to have the major pressure of school taken off his shoulders, it has also proved a more calming time for the rest of the family, not to have to carry the burden of that external pressure of what our son should be doing all the time, and the natural feelings of failure associated with that, that are so hard to shake off.
Our boy is much happier in himself these days.He smiles a lot more, sleeps better, is much less angry and oppositional and has integrated more with the family.
But there is little in the way of motivation in terms of his next steps, which is frustrating when I revert back to judging him by the same yardstick as ‘normal’ kids, and I have to remind myself constantly not to overlook the major leaps and bounds in other areas we have made, which are so easy to forget once they have been achieved. The fact is, that he is still a boy really, with an ADHD age of around fifteen.
He has a group of fellow, crazy, mixed-up kids for friends, who dabble in the same impulsive behaviors he does, but who are loyal to him.
Not the set of pseudo lawyers and doctors I foresaw as his peer group in the delivery room all those years ago, but they are ‘real’ kids from normal, unprivileged backgrounds, all striving to make their way in the world, just slightly less conventionally than we did. They don’t play sport at the weekends, but I’ve disciplined myself to stop fretting about how they do spend their time.
Sometimes it’s important to take the brave step and distance yourself from the pressure of success, of those inbuilt aspirations that your child will turn out to be what everyone expects him to be. Being a mother to Kurt has taught me many things; primarily, that being a successful parent isn’t about what qualifications your kids leave school with, which team they play for or how much money they’ll earn.
It’s about how big their heart is.
There have been moments in the last few years where I’ve doubted the size and functionality of my boy’s heart and I’ve felt scared for him and for us. We still have many days when we take one step forward and three steps back, but I’m proud to say that giving Kurt time to develop away from the pressure of expectation and the ignorant judgments of people who don’t want to understand him, has shown me that his heart is big, it is healthy, and it beats strongly.