One of the reasons I gave up my day job recently was to motivate Kurt to get back on track with his life. He’s had a difficult transition over the past two years since he left school and has suffered periods of depression and self-doubt at times, countered at other times by the ADHDer’s insatiable desire to experience the most of life by being irresponsible, drunk and fancy-free.
Which means that to the outside world, I guess, it looks like he’s functioning. Sadly, though, things are never that clear-cut and the rules are simply not the same when it comes to ADHD kids. You can do everything by the book, and it is still impossible to get them to learn from their mistakes, even with consequences. And oh, how I wish that “tough love” had worked, but it doesn’t or hasn’t so far with our son and when you really think about it, rehabilitation programs for depression and other disorders are about giving those people love, time and compassion through therapy.
I read a wonderful post recently written by the mother of two children whose first child was “parent manual perfect” and whose second was a “monster”, and how it feels to be the parent of “that child.” For the most part, kids are comparable to each other once you leave the poisonous environment of “mothers’ group” competition and can accept that they develop in different areas at different stages. The author had a friend called Jenni at the stage that she was in the throes of preening over the perfection of her first child and Jenni was struggling with the child hell, and she admits now to privately maligning her friend for bad parenting. That was until she produced her own little bundle of horror.
I can identify with Jenni – although now that Kurt is older and I no longer have to deal with the daily condemnatory attacks from school or too many direct comparisons with the children of friends, I am more at peace with it. And anyway, I don’t feel as responsible for his choices and differences now because ultimately he has to take responsibility for himself.
If it were that easy. The problem is, he doesn’t and each time we put that on him, the result is a crisis of confidence leading to emotional breakdown. Medical professionals such as psychs and pediatricians and your GP understand mental illness, but they don’t know your child the way you do. And I’m sorry, but when you witness your adult son in genuine distress, you have to make a call and question if tough love is the only solution. Any parent would do the same thing.
A few weeks ago, after almost two years of the tough love strategy, imposed in the main to combat addiction issues rather than mental health issues, and with no tangible results to show for it, the old man and I decided to try another approach, as we watched Kurt hurtling towards his next crisis. We decided that instead of berating him for his lack of focus and achievements and nagging him daily to make steps towards progress/being normal – (even though you know those steps will be small, because your expectations change when you have kids like these, even though you need ear muffs to block out to the judgements of others who continue to accuse your ADHD kid of being naughty or lazy) – we decided to cut him some slack.
Yes, ultimately he does have to manage independently in the real world, but perhaps, we decided, we need to accept that journey is going to take him a few more years. And we are tired, and surely daily combat in your own home is no good for anyone’s health.
Anyhow, we decided to focus on what steps we could help him with to get him back on track, and decided to start with his driver’s license, in an effort to build his self-esteem and give him a taste of the independence he so desperately craves.
Attaining your driving license is a grueling process here in Australia – rightly so, after the loss of so many young lives before recent regulations were changed – and kids have to do 120 hours under supervision before they can take the test. Fortunately, after ten years of back-to-back viewing of every season of Top Gear, Kurt has always had an enthusiasm for the concept of driving and is, in fact, a natural driver, so we knew it would make him feel good about himself to pass his test. This, in spite of my knowledge of the appalling statistics of accidents of kids with ADHD.
And after three weeks of intense arguments instruction, he passed his test. First time.
The old man and I teared up the center, he out of pride, and me out of abject fear for what this achievement meant. But within a couple of hours, Kurt was on the road, solo, so I did what any proud parent does and put out a warning with his number plates to all my friends and followers on social media.
It was a small shot in a long game.
Fortunately, we’re mature enough not to let the fine for driving in a bus lane ($285) that happened TWO HOURS AFTER HIS TEST and the parking fine ($285) the next day demotivate us. I hasten to add, though, that in the spirit of recently reinstated tough love, he will be paying for both.