I feel like changing the lyrics of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song to “Your ADHD is like a rollercoaster, baby,” because that is exactly what raising my child with ADHD feels like. Let me explain.
The Beginning: At the beginning of a rollercoaster, particularly if it is your first time, you feel anxious and nervous, because you don’t know what to expect. Although my husband and I had our suspicions that our then five year old daughter had ADHD, I was still nervous as hell to hear the doctor’s official diagnosis. At the time, I had no idea how to handle my daughter’s ADHD and for the first time as a parent, I was scared out of my mind, because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to help her.
The Dips: When you are plunging down the steep rails of a rollercoaster, most people are screaming at the top of their lungs (That would be me). Most people who had their hands up at the very top are now clutching the bar protecting them and holding on for dear life (Again, that would be me.) ADHD can be difficult to manage at times and even though a person with ADHD may have the best intentions, they often get distracted and lose focus. My husband has ADHD. I met him when he was fourteen years old, which was when he had made the decision to stop taking his medication. Through the years, he learned what worked and what didn’t work to manage his ADHD without medication. I know not everyone is able to do this, but in my husband’s case, ADHD got easier for him as he got older. Children with ADHD however have a difficult time understanding and managing their ADHD, because it is so new to them. Hell, the world is new to them. So when they are experiencing chaos in their lives, they don’t know how to handle it and they rely on their parents, teachers, and doctors (the “bar protecting them”) for help, support, and guidance. With time, our children will learn how to manage “the dips” on their own and trust that the “bar” will always be there for them when they need it. And maybe, just maybe, our children will not only learn to face those steep dips head-on, they will enjoy the ride by letting go of the bar and putting their hands up.
The Ups: You know that fun sensation you get on a rollercoaster when you feel like you are flying? In ADHD land, those moments are what I call successes. There are many success stories I can tell you about my chid and her ADHD. Some are small and some are large, but when it comes to ADHD, any type and size of success is an important one. For example, even though it felt like I used up a year’s worth of patience just to help her study for her spelling test and social studies test a couple of weeks ago, she not only aced those tests, she got the bonus spelling word correct because I practiced spelling with her so much that week. She has had success in other areas too that she previously had trouble with. She used to have this habit of interrupting her friends when they were talking, which of course annoyed her friends and left my daughter feeling embarrassed. After doing some role playing with her and reading her the story of My Mouth Is A Volcano a couple of times (Great book for young children with ADHD, by the way), she learned to control her impulsivity and wait for it to be her turn to talk.
The Upside Downs: I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love loops and corkscrews on rollercoasters! Why? Because they are fun and different! Children are goofballs by nature, but I noticed that children with ADHD are extra silly, which is one of my favorite qualities about my child. Brains of children with ADHD are wired differently, so it’s no surprise to me that they act differently than other children as well. I want to be clear here that when I say “differently,” I mean that in a good way. There are three different types of ADHD: 1. Inattentive, 2. Hyperactive-impulsive, and 3. Combined. My daughter was blessed with the combined type, which means that in addition to me having to repeat myself the entire day (Love you, baby girl!), she is always on the move and doing things in unconventional ways. You will literally find her upside down sometimes. One of her favorite ways to read books is laying on the couch upside down.
The End: Finally, the rollercoaster has come to an end, but is there an end to ADHD? Not really. Raising a child with ADHD is one wild ride, but it is definitely a ride worth getting on with your child. There is never a dull moment in our lives, that’s for sure. Yes, there are many “dips,” some steeper than others, but there are also many “ups.” Enjoy those ups (and upside downs). Embrace and enjoy your child and most importantly, embrace and enjoy the wild ride together.