It’s almost 8 a.m., and we need to leave the house in 16 minutes and 42 seconds. Two of my children are dressed, fed, and ready to rock and roll with happy, smiley faces. There was an altercation about the one-legged, broken dinosaur, which suddenly, during a fight, became the most loved toy ever! But after tears, shouts, and rants, the small altercation is over and my three-year-old and five-year-old start playing Mummies and Daddies again.
I run upstairs for the tenth time this morning and try to wake my 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, from her slumber. She pulls the covers over her head and demands that I close the blinds.
“You have to get up, get up now, this is ridiculous,” I yell.
After being calm and loving for the last hour, my voice is louder and sterner, but this approach never works, so I calmly try and use the “pasta in the jar” method (this also fails). I run downstairs and continue getting myself ready, checking on my other kids, and feeding the dogs. I run upstairs and Sarah is now hanging upside down on the bed.
“I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I’m so tired,” she wails.
Things aren’t good. I see the look in her eyes, the frown on her face, and her body language looks sad and lost. Last night she was as hyper as a jack-in-the-box. She spilled bath water all over the bathroom floor and she jumped and danced on her bed, doing that wide-eyed crazy laughing! I have learned that what goes up must come down. This morning, she crashed.
Every night I place Sarah’s clothes in the middle of the floor (otherwise she forgets to put them on). I lay out everything in the bathroom: toothbrush, toothpaste, hair bobbles, and sun block. As much as I try, Sarah doesn’t use any of them. Today, my three-year-old and five-year-old got dressed, made their breakfast, and packed their school bags. I watch them, smiling and excited about the prospect of a new day, and I stop for a moment and pause. As much as I want to scold Sarah, scream at her, and tell her that her brother and sister are better behaved than her, I don’t.
I remember how hard it is for her.
Today, I see a little girl lost. I see a little girl that probably has so much going on in her little race-car brain that she needs me to help her. She needs love, guidance, understanding, and patience. I remind myself that the sky won’t fall if we are we late today.
If we are few minutes late leaving the house, we won’t remember it in a few days, but how I manage this moment is crucial for Sarah. I go into her room again—we now only have seven minutes to get out of the house—and as I watch her (still upside down), hair flying everywhere and staring into space, I hug her.
“Mummy loves you, Sarah. What do you need, what can I do to help”? I ask her.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me today, Mummy,” says Sarah.
Sarah starts to cry, and I hold her.
What is going on in her mind? How can she be so upset when she hasn’t even got out of bed? How can she feel like this when she was so happy last night? I wish more than anything I could see into her little brain and take all this away.
“Mummy, I’m having a hard time in school. Some boys have been mean to me. I’m getting told off in school, and I have fallen out with my best friend.” She cries.
As I hold Sarah, I see sadness, bewilderment, and a lost little soul. She struggles with who she is, and she wonders why she is different than everyone else. My husband and I talk about ADHD as a positive thing in our house, but she sees that she’s different and, at times, it is overwhelming for her.
She tells me how she struggles to concentrate on what the teacher says. She often zones out and stares at the writing on the board, only to realize that she didn’t heard a word the teacher said. So she stares blankly at the piece of paper in front of her. She watches in fear as her peers start writing. She has no idea what she is supposed to write, but she is too embarrassed to ask the teacher. She tells me how she forgets everything and never knows where anything is.
I hold her even tighter; the day can wait.
I tell her how much I love her and that one day her ADHD will make her a success. I tell her about all the amazing people in the world who have ADHD — the artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, dancers, and musicians. They struggled in school, often leaving school before completing their final exams. I tell her to do her best; I encourage her to talk to the teacher if she’s missed something and to always be brave.
We speak of resilience (and this kid has bucket loads of it). We talk about empathy (she has very little; it’s just the way that she’s made). But I tell her that one day those two things will be her greatest asset! She is fearless and confident, and she thinks outside of the box, beyond her years. Those are the things that can’t be taught; those are the things that we love about her.
She smiles and hugs me and says, “Thank you, Mummy, thank you, I love you.” I help her get dressed, and we come downstairs (we now have two minutes to get out of the house). Breathe, Susy, breathe.
She quickly eats some Cheerios. I often make protein-rich, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free pancakes for her (it exhausts me to think about making them, frankly), in the hope that it will increase her concentration in school. But too often, the only thing I can get Sarah to eat is a bowl of Cheerios, and that’s OK. I believe that more than diet, or anything else for that matter, love and connection help kids with ADHD the most. But that’s just me.
Sarah didn’t have time to take her supplements or use her essential oils. I decided that today was going to have to be a sunblock-free day, too. When she’s in sensory overload, there is no way she will put sunblock on! I go with it, and realize that it’s only one day.
We grab our bags, find our smiles, and leave the house. Sarah seems happy; her blue eyes are smiling and sparkling again. Things could have gone so differently. I don’t always get it right, but today I did, and I’m proud of myself. More importantly, I am proud of Sarah.
We arrive at school, and I watch her run off to class. I hope she has a good day. I hope she manages to concentrate better and has fun at recess and lunchtime. I take a deep breath in and out: We made it. We survived another morning.