Last year at the very start of school Norrine and I met up after dropping our kids off. We were both thrilled and surprised to find that each of us were uncharacteristically optimistic about the school year for our complex ADHDers. “This could be our year!” we both exclaimed as we shared our laundry lists of all we’d put in place to ensure success. By three o’clock that very same day we were texting each other the gory details of our derailed plans. In just one day our sure successes evaporated. It was utter emotional whiplash.
Let’s just say it turned out to be an incredibly tough year for both of our kids, which meant a white knuckle ride for us moms as well. So much planning and prepping went into that year and we thought we’d left no stone unturned. But the reality is our kids are complex. That makes our situation complex. And the best laid plans are not going to take us to the finish line because there is NOT a magic formula.
Recently, in light of the upcoming school year requiring lots of decisions to be made, Norrine said something profound to me: “We’re looking for the right school for right now. It doesn’t mean it will be forever.” Nearly a dozen school years flashed through my head. Yes – this is absolutely a fitting way to weigh the choices for 2020, but if I’d only heard this sooner to give me a framework for every school year that’s already passed.
I’d never considered school a choice to be weighed in the temporary. Instead, I’d looked at it as a community to belong to – something to get behind and support – a partnership to be made. Also, there was this unwarranted value I put on keeping siblings at the same school back when the ADHD seemed more manageable. I overvalued school communities without truly assessing their ability to address my student’s very specific needs. A nurturing learning environment doesn’t mean it’s nurturing for my ADHDer. A classroom philosophy offering autonomy sounds flexible and accommodating – but it also shuts down my child with anxiety. Many schools offer out of the box attractive options, but it just doesn’t mean it’s a fit for my kid.
There’s also the reality that needs can change like a spinning game show wheel: kids change – puberty happens – meds need tweaking – academic challenges shift and missing social cues with peers can cause all new head-scratching situations. Spin the wheel – needs can drastically change on a dime.
It’s hard to believe we’re just weeks away from my ADHD+er’s senior year. I can’t even recount all the mistakes made in getting him to this point. Some were colossal. Some were smaller, consistent missteps that led to bigger pitfalls. I could lament forever about it all. But instead I’m going to look at all the good in my kid – his amazing strength, bravery and resilience. He never gave up. So I won’t either.
And that’s a good reminder about what works, not just on this journey but on any one. Keep going. Keep trying. Be strong. And always keep an open hand.