Since our daughter, Eliza, became mobile, we knew she was unique. The pace of our parenting seemed dialed to the only setting she came with: full speed.
You all know the feeling of trying to keep your little person out of the dog food AND the Tupperware in the same minute. You remember trying to eat a sit down dinner with 9 month old or a toddler in your lap. It’s like that- only it isn’t situational. Before, we could place the trash can up high, keep the bathroom doors closed, and block off the pet food with a baby gate. This comes with toddler territory. But Eliza was a new kind of fast. She was a blur. All. day. long.
Kids with ADHD process things at lightning speeds; they often have a sensitivity to all things sensory, and observe or perceive much more than the rest of us. It’s like a panoramic vs standard photograph. She was seeing in wide screen. Couple these talents with intense curiosity and heightened impulsivity, and you’re all going a mile a minute just trying to avoid disaster. But that isn’t all- their long -term processing is less developed than other kids, and almost like teens, they seem to have a belief in their own invincibility. Cars in the street? Meh. Heights? Shrug. Poison? Well, how will it taste?
There is no healthy fear. Before she could swim, she would see water and dive in with abandon. She would open the front door to wander out and visit strangers or neighbors alike (sometimes through their front door without knocking). Speaking of strangers, of course, she’d never met one. She would strike up a conversation and sit beside (or on) anyone and everyone. Ink had to be guarded, mud was her best friend, and she liked to pour things just to see the crash or splash. There was a moment with a fish tank when she was two (almost three?); it took all of 3 minutes for her to scatter a million minuscule tiny yellow granules from the bottom of the tank all. over. the room. Despite employing a shop vac, we were finding those little things years later.
I remember thinking, “The others didn’t eat dirt and CHEMICALS at this age,” while dialing poison control about her ingesting Ajax before I could get it out of her hands. For nearly a year, Eliza kept cutting and cutting her bangs. No matter where or how high I hid the scissors, she always found them. Finally, she admitted that she was cutting them because she didn’t want bangs anymore. She wanted her hair to lay flat like Sam’s. Oh, goodness. I explained the growing out process, and bangs were no longer a problem.
She once got a popcorn kernel stuck in her ear. When I asked why on Earth she would put a popcorn kernel in her ear, she promptly replied, “The other one fell out.” At three, she landed her feet the opposite direction she was facing while jumping on the bed and sustained a spiral fracture to her femur. While in the wheelchair to accommodate a cast that ran from her chest to her ankle, we took her to the park, where she wheeled herself into the pond! Then there was the alligator snapping turtle. No matter how many times dad warned her, she couldn’t stop poking his face- CHOMP! She was lucky that poor little finger was still attached.
It was around this time that a friend/ fellow church leader was offering some support/ counsel in regard to my leadership role. As an aside, he asked Matt and I how things were going with our family. I sighed one of those long, weary sighs that overwhelmed mothers sometimes do, and told him about the intensity we were living every day just trying to keep our kid alive. He smiled and nodded. He told us some reciprocal tales of his son when he was younger, and then he said something Matt and I have clung to like a life vest.
He said that at some point, he and his wife looked at each other and decided that they could justifiably be angry with this boy nearly every moment of his waking hours. Justifiably. Or… they could choose a different response.
When things around here get intense (and they are MUCH less intense than they used to be), Matt and I sometimes whisper to one another, “Justifiably.” We could be angry. We could yell. She could spend large amounts of time grounded or in time out or chained to her bed… (just kidding on that last one- we don’t actually have chains.) OR… we can hug her. We can hand her a towel to clean up the mess. We can hold her hand or stay with her while she finishes a task. We can tell her we love her. We can teach her (and ourselves) to take a deep breath. Oh, how I need to do these more!
Because whether or not our anger is justified, it certainly won’t help her love herself or manage her impulses. And in the end, isn’t that the goal?
***Please note: this story was told with consent from Eliza. She approved this message.