Backpedaling to Find Yourself

Getting out on my bike is something I absolutely love to do. It’s one of the only times I’m ever truly alone, thinking full, uninterrupted thoughts. There’s something about the correlation of pushing harder and flying faster through the air that fuels me. I’ve never really admitted this to anyone, because it’s pretty weird and probably a sign that I have serious work to do within myself, but…inevitably, every time I’m pedaling out there, I sob.

The first few times it happened I wasn’t fully aware until the tears stopped. Sometimes it’s a horrified stare I fly by that even makes me aware it’s happening. Now, I mostly feel it coming on and I channel the deep power of that emotion to push like never before. Yes, I’ve fully embraced the sobs because NOTHING else had revealed what I had been holding on to – and I needed to let it go. Parenting an ADHD+er is a really tough job that you just have to barrel through to get to the other side. Caring for and unconditionally loving your complex ADHDer while trying to figure things out doesn’t leave time for sifting through your own feelings and scars.

Norrine and I talk all the time about the toll of the constant cortisol we’ve had running through our veins during tough seasons with our ADHD+ers. It’s like the infant/toddler years where you’re just eating off the plates of your kid leftovers, haven’t showered and are just running around trying to keep up with caring for everyone. That’s meant to be a short season not a decade or more.

Can you relate? Do you have stockpiled emotions? Have you lost yourself in some ways? It’s common to end up here but you don’t have to stay. Take some quiet moments to think back and remember what you love – what you NEED. For me it was getting back on my bike. For Norrine it was getting back to a nighttime skincare routine – which she’d abandoned since her son was born TWELVE YEARS AGO. She’s on day fourteen of keeping it up and I’m about to get my pom poms because – YES! And we’re cheering you on too because today can be your day to do the one thing that brings you back to YOU.

Grab Your Helmet it’s a Bumpy Ride

My eyes aren’t open yet but my heart is already racing. Despite the early morning’s peace I know what’s coming and I instinctively start suiting up mentally. Every step on the way to his room has me waffling between false confidence and trepidation and it really doesn’t matter what I tell myself because I know exactly what happens once I open that door. What I didn’t know is that this mental ballet would be my life for years.

My calm and optimistic “Good morning” was consistently met with instant push back, shouting, bargaining and anger. Our entire morning routine was explained and re-instituted daily as if it had never happened before – brushing teeth was an unwelcome surprise and clearing breakfast plates an unplanned annoyance. There was always inevitably a lost item to be found as I was already in the car waiting and our chaos would spill out of the house and onto the driveway with impatient car honks or most of the contents of his book bag rolling under the car as he finally ran out the door. But that wasn’t the grand finale. That would come on our approach to school drop off when his squeaky voice would politely ask “Mom do you have my shoes?”

I never imagined everyday tasks being this hard EVERY DAY. I didn’t expect starting my day to feel like I was being shot out of a cannon. There’s just so much I DIDN’T KNOW – including understanding what my ADHDer was going through. The stress left me feeling wired and worn. The chaos was exhausting. But more than anything I felt like I was doing a horrible job despite working really hard.

I NEVER IMAGINED EVERYDAY TASKS BEING THIS HARD

EVERY DAY.

This was a lonely and hard place to be – but it wasn’t forever. Let me clarify: things are still sometimes hard but they’re not what they used to be! I remember instinctively reminding myself: “Our story doesn’t end today,” as I’d pull over after drop off to collect the brain matter that’d oozed out of my head earlier. The crazy that can come with ADHD doesn’t define you, your ADHDer or your family – it’s just where you are right now in the journey.

So in those moments when you’re WAY up there shot into the clouds by a cannon of crazy, take it all in. It’s only for now – it’s not forever. Answers come in time and they bring understanding which propels everyone to a saner place. No matter where you are on this bumpy road, shed your self doubt and keep showing up every day with more love than the last. Remember YOU are exactly who was meant for this job and your story doesn’t end today.

YOUR STORY DOESN’T END TODAY.

Open Your Hand

There’s something you should know about us at Two Moms and ADHD.   Our kids fall into a category we’ve labeled ADHD+.   That + means it’s not the simpler version of ADHD where meds help a hyperactive kid channel energy through sports or mask the unfocused child with productivity.  These ADHDers mostly fit in and look typical. ADHD+ is a complex mix of ADHD and one or several of the comorbid conditions that can come with it.  These cases usually mean social/emotional skills are impaired, so relating to others is not going to look like it probably does to you and me.   This reality is profound.  There is no briefing, workshop or pamphlet to explain. These truths reveal themselves over time, requiring shifts in parenting along with some in our hearts.  

Norrine’s kiddos are extremely likable.  They’re highly academic, have interesting hobbies and they value people. But their ADHD is compounded with mood disorders, autism, sensory issues and anxiety.  So while sounds of beautiful piano playing often fills her home – the sounds of giggling girls at a sleepover won’t.  Packs of nerf gun toting boys won’t be running through her yard but stacks of books and science experiments are plentiful.  Things look different than she thought they would. Her kids don’t know the difference and because their conditions create a rigidity and anxiety over playdates – they love things the way things are.  But let’s be honest, as a parent this can be heartbreaking.  Many expectations for your child are lost and you may not realize it – but you’re grieving.  If that’s you, please know you’re not alone and we get you! 

Having an ADHDer is already tough. When its layered with other conditions its exponentially harder.

Letting go of expectations is a requirement on this ADHD journey.  It’s what enables your clenched fistful of hopes to open so that you can receive the beautiful blessings meant just for your child.  It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

Are there dreams for your child you’ve had to let go of? Maybe some unexpected celebrations too? We’d love for you to share in the comments.

Knocked Down But Not Out

“I get knocked down but I get up again,” I’m mindlessly singing with the radio after drop off and a sudden surge of energy hits me. This sentiment seems all too true and I turn the radio up, belting out how strong I am in the face of challenges.

Ali and I spend lots of time helping each other get back up. When one of us is down, we text or call the other – not because she has the answer or can fix it. Honestly, the other one can’t really make us feel that much better. What we can do for each other is be present, listen, acknowledge, and lessen the loneliness of parenting complex ADHDers. When I call, Ali stops and enters the place I’m in. The place of dashed dreams, broken hearts, fruitless doctor visits, stupendously stupid school meetings, and sits down in the glass shards of parenting with me. And she LISTENS. And she KNOWS. And in feeling understood, I begin to imagine getting back up. She doesn’t rush me, she lets me lead the way to getting back up again because she trusts that when I get knocked down, I’m strong enough to get up again. 

Now let’s be real, if complex ADHD knocks me on my fanny, what’s it doing to my kid? The same thing. He gets knocked down. It might be with friends or sports or school, but his ADHD creates numerous obstacles. Sometimes he’s an Olympic athlete, gracefully leaping over the hurdles and I watch in awe and clap silently (and honestly, sometimes out loud, while shouting with joy). Sometimes he tries and the whole hurdle collapses on him like some horrible stop-motion film. Sometimes he just looks at those hurdles and they seem sky-high, and he collapses with anxiety.  

For a few years, I grabbed my pom-poms (ok, I don’t really have pom-poms but you know what I mean) and started in with the positive talk: “Come on, you can do this, it’s one hurdle, you’ve done lots of hurdles, I know you can do this, you are awesome!” And then I had a revelation–positivity isn’t an effective treatment for the Triple AAA of ADHD, Autism, and Anxiety. There’s a time for positivity and for role modeling resiliency, but when my kid is knocked down, I need to do what Ali does. Sit. Listen. Be still. Listen. Love. Trust. And when my brave, wise, complicated, resilient boy is ready, he will get up. Because he gets knocked down but he gets up again. And again. And again.

What Do You Make of Your Child’s ADHD

My fourth grader ADHD+ daughter brought home one of those “awards” from PE class this year. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it because she, like me, is not athletic. I assumed it was a “nice try” award since I didn’t think she had what it takes to be a winner in gym class. She, like many ADHDers, isn’t that coordinated or patient enough to work at a sport.

The next day, her name was listed as one of a handful of fourth graders that met the school fitness challenge. (Am I a bad mom if I can’t remember what it was?) I paused. I re-read. I scratched my head. My girl? My teeny-tiny midget of a child who hates exercise and being hot and sweaty and all things competitive?

I asked her about it. She explained to me, in her customary matter of fact manner, that it didn’t have to do with speed, but with strength. “And, Mom, it’s like the t-shirt.” I’m trying to follow her lightning fast conversation leaps but I was lost. “You had to wear a t-shirt?” “NO, MOM, IT’S LIKE THE T-SHIRT.” (Puberty’s beginning to set in, so there was an edge of “you’re sooooo stupid” which I ignored as practice for the next eight years of living with sarcastic, venomous, blood-sucking pseudo-humans, but that’s another post).

I tried again. “What’s like the t-shirt? Help me out here.” She finally understands she has to verbally explain it for me to get it. “It’s like the t-shirt you keep buying me, the one that always says, ‘Though she be but little, she is fierce.’” She might not have long legs to run, or stamina to run for miles, but she is fierce and strong. And that day, she made the most of what she had and she came out a winner.

Derek Jeter said, “It’s not about what you have or don’t have. It’s about what you make of what you’ve got.” Parenting ADHDers is the same. To succeed, you have to figure out the child you’ve got and how to help them make the most of themselves, without worrying about what they do have or don’t have.

Work Around It

One of the most unexpected decisions I’ve made as a parent of a complex ADHDer was the decision to enroll him in a special needs sports league. That was NOT where I thought I was going to end up when I married someone who played football in high school. And like most ADHDers, even complex ones, he doesn’t look or seem like someone who couldn’t function in a regular youth sports league. He doesn’t have a physical disability, beyond some fairly common coordination problems, and he doesn’t have an intellectual impairment.

What he does have is an exceptionally tender heart and a revolutionary way of looking at the world, which I’ve learned isn’t uncommon in complex ADHDers. My son hates competition. I spent years trying to school him in why games are fun and that it doesn’t matter who wins or who loses. He didn’t buy it, but that didn’t stop me from trying to sell it. One day, a few summers ago, it finally clicked for me. On that day, my husband was watching the Red Sox play and my son was asking him to turn it down because it was too loud but he kept cheering on both teams. I stopped to watch him. “Go Sox! Good try! Way to swing the bat! That’s ok, they caught the ball, but you did a great job! Go Yankees, way to run the bases! Good try even though you didn’t catch the ball! You’re doing amazing!” He was full of love for the GAME and the PLAYERS and their efforts. I was humbled. And then nearly in tears when he turned to me and asked, “Why would someone even INVENT a game where some people win and some people have to lose?”

Wow, did I feel small. Here I was, trying to teach competition while my kid was trying to teach me love. At that moment, I began listening to what my kid needed. And what he needed was to play ball without some crazy invented idea that someone has to win and someone has to lose. So we signed him up with this amazing special needs youth sports organization called Buddy Baseball and every spring and every fall, he’s out there cheering on every single player from both teams. I thought his ADHD+ was an obstacle and we would have to give up on sports. Instead it was an obstacle we just had to work around in order for him to play ball!

Find Your Own Greatness

ADHD and sports seem tailor-made to go together. We all know that middle schooler who is never focused in school but on the field, she looks more alive than anyone else. We’ve seen the teen who drags himself to school late and without having homework done but races to practice–and even remembers his equipment! Sports can be where ADHDers find their place, their purpose. 

We thought we might be Two Moms with ADHDers and pom-poms too. Turns out, we aren’t, and we aren’t alone. Our kids struggled in sports from right about the time they outgrew diapers (like at those pee-wee leagues) and they never quite grew into bats, balls, courts, and nets. Between the two of us, we’ve seen it all–the ADHDer who chased butterflies instead of the ball, the ADHDer who climbed the backstop instead of running the bases, and the ADHDer who studied the clouds instead of the plays. If you have that kid, you’re not alone in not having the next athletic phenomenon with ADHD. 

We let it go, reluctantly at times, and eventually made peace with the fact that our ADHDers were going to set the world on fire (well, maybe literally) with their tech skills (gaming anyone?), or their leadership abilities, their caring for others, or maybe theater and performing. We let go of our own hopes of what their greatness should be, took our chairs to the beach, and watched and waited for OUR KID’S own innate, individual greatness to emerge.

Playing Isn’t About Winning

When I was in graduate school, a bunch of us got together to play in a city recreation volleyball league. I went because my roommate was going. I’d never played a sport successfully in my life. I was awkward, chubby, lost in my own thoughts, and not particularly motivated by any physical activity, much less sports. But when we created this volleyball team, Karen stepped up to become our captain. Karen was fit, smart, quick, and had played a lot of volleyball. She happened to be able to teach me enough about volleyball that I actually wasn’t embarrassed to play. That’s the one and only time in my life I felt a sense of confidence, esteem, and satisfaction in a team uniform.

Fast forward fifteen years and I had one of those parenting moments I think many of us have that we can see in hindsight are completely irrational given the kid we actually have but seem SO NORMAL at the time. “Of course my kid will play sports. He will play t-ball. She will start with soccer. We will be sitting on the sidelines each and every weekend, proud parents, cheering in the rain with our color-coordinated team sweatshirts on.”

This post is for those of you for whom that thought became reality. If your ADHDer became a child and then a teen who loves sports and is strong, competitive, and powerful in their purpose to play, nothing is sweeter. We have so many role models of athletes with ADHD who harnessed their energy and became world-class athletes–Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Cammi Granato, Michael Jordan, and many others at both the professional and collegiate level.

Sports can be a godsend for ADHDers. It harnesses the power of their hyperactivity, the stamina of their hyperfocus, and their impulsivity turns into competitive drive. If it’s swimming, or martial arts, or baseball, or crew, or anything they feel a passion for and commitment to, go for it! Buy the team t-shirt, dye your hair the team colors, sign up for snack duty, and most of all celebrate your ADHD athlete.

Find Your People

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I remember the shame coming over her horrified face at a first grade class party. Her son was overstimulated, fueled by sugar and he was done. The judgement from other moms was palpable. Their glares consumed her as she consoled the screaming heap that was her son. She over-explained that he’d missed his afternoon meds as I watched her drown in prejudice.

My kid had a great time that day. I was thankful he fit in, was likable and that I was not that woman – but my gut told me I may have more in common with her than any other mom there. By their judgy reactions I was almost glad. My ADHDer was diagnosed later that year.

It wasn’t until the teen years that he stopped fitting in. My son’s once magnetic confidence had waned so drastically that he’d become a homebody. His dying social life meant mine was too since drop offs and meet ups were rare.

It became clear that, despite having many wonderful friends, my tribe lacked anyone that truly understood. They listened and cared, but I wondered if, like the ladies at that party so long ago, they too were glaring on the inside. Not understanding. Judging. Parents of ADHDers can experience a deep loneliness that’s magnified by grieving their child’s losses.

In the seventh grade we joined a school community for ADHD kids. I cried at every parent meeting because I’d never felt so understood. It was as if I’d been holding my breath all those years and I could finally exhale! I could tell my kid was exhaling too.

ADHD can be an isolating journey. The payoff in surrounding yourself and your kids with people who get you is life giving. It brings confidence to be okay with where you are and encourages you to realize the sky’s still the limit. Find your people -they’re out there.

Have a story to share about how you found your tribe? Having trouble in this area right now? Leave us a comment so we can chat.

Finding Silver Linings in the Setbacks

There may be a stretch of time when your ADHDer seemingly abandons friendships. The very things they most enjoyed now spark no interest. An overall avoidance of social situations takes over and the abundance of time they spend alone has you worried and confused.

We know that sinking feeling. The one where you go from wondering what someone did to extinguish your kid’s spark to chastising them for being antisocial. Your mind wanders, wondering if they’ll be loners in adulthood. It can feel confusing and desperate – especially if your ADHDer has never struggled in this way.

We’ve found it’s important as parents to stop and assess what’s happening. Reaching new milestones can be difficult for our kids. Is elementary school ending? Are they starting junior high or high school? These are times of huge growth socially and emotionally for any child – it’s important to remember that ADHDers tend to lag in this area. It’s scary realizing you’re not on par with your peers. Or there may be a lack of awareness on their part: they KNOW there’s a disparity but don’t UNDERSTAND why.

It’s vital for parents to connect these dots so we’re able to guide our kids. Take advantage of the extra time together to just BE with our kids. One of Norrine’s best bits of advice to me over the years was: Your bond is the most important thing. Invest your energy in building it. This advice has been invaluable in giving me the perspective to remember that every step back is a chance to gain better footing. Take those times to just sit, listen and understand. This will give you the insight into what your child needs. Whether you decide to intervene with a social skills class or meeting with a counselor, your ADHDer won’t forget how you met them right where they were, with love and understanding.