It was the eight-year-old’s birthday today. I asked him how he felt about about being eight and he said Well, it’s a lot like being seven, except now I’m eight. Somewhere there’s a league of children who oversee children everywhere, laughing at me and shaking their heads, wondering why I ever speak.
I watched him open his presents, a gleam in his eyes when a box peaked through the wrapping paper. He was breathless, trying to contain his excitement as Batman toys and LEGO kits littered the counter.
As he sat with a mouthful of cake and a new toy in each hand, it’s difficult for me to make the connection that this is the same kid, who last night, with his shoulders slumped and his head on the table, told me he was tired and just couldn’t do his homework anymore.
It had taken him a total of two and half hours to get it done.
Last year, after watching him struggle with school, we took the the eight-year-old to a psychologist (a goddamn psychologist!) who diagnosed him with ADHD. A super bright boy, though, he said, like that would somehow make everything so much better.
Carl and I were shocked and devastated. Why had we taken so long to realize that our son had some issues? We’re his parents – aren’t we supposed to know our own child? I guess, maybe, we were in our own bubble of denial. We didn’t want to think our sweet, little boy had any problems. Did this somehow make us failures as parents?
All this time since he’d been in school, Carl and I were pushing him to get his work done in a timely fashion and when he didn’t get it done, when we couldn’t get it done, we just assumed he wasn’t trying hard enough. When the psychologist told us about ADHD, he compared it to having a faucet. Sometimes, just a little water comes out and barely fills the cup. Other times, the water comes out just right and fills the cup appropriately. And other times, the water comes out too fast and the cup overflows. This is how the eight-year-old’s attention span works. And now I think I have to pee.
We bought books and read everything online. We were overwhelmed with information, but determined to find ways to make his life a little easier. And for the most part, it works.
Sometimes, though, days get crazy for all of us, and I forget that our son has ADHD. It’s not like a cast that you see and are reminded of daily. So yesterday, he sat in our office getting his homework done while I cooked and fed the baby and yelled at her to stop throwing your GD food on the floor! When he asked me to initial his homework agenda, I looked at his work. He had gotten all his math and reading done, but he had done the wrong spelling homework and had only worked on five words, instead of the 15 he was assigned for the week.
I felt the anxiety and frustration burn through me. What have you been doing for the past two hours? I asked him, my voice a little louder than usual. He looked up at me and shrugged his shoulders, I was doing my homework, but he could see in my eyes that I was upset so he took his work to the kitchen and sat down and tried to finish it, even though all he could do was just stare outside and talk to me about Batman.
Fuck – I felt like an asshole, the world’s worst mom. I tried to fight back the tears as I apologized to him. I told him I’d email his teachers and explain what happened.
I don’t have to finish my homework? He looked surprised.
You’ve done more than enough today.
Can I go play LEGO Batman? The excitement took over his voice once again and a smile was plastered all over his face.
Sure, bud. Sure.
Screw homework. Birthdays and Batman always come first. ALWAYS.