My beautiful daughter, who also happens to have ADHD
daughter, ADHD, parenting struggles
She is beautiful, blond, tall, thin, smart, funny, giving, kind, courageous and tenacious. She is also sassy, rude, greedy, mouthy...and I love her with all my heart. Her beauty amazes me every day. My daughter and I have gone through hell and back. And now? Now we recover.
My daughter is 14-years-old and today is her 8th grade graduation. This fall my baby, my youngest, my greatly desired daughter, will enter into high school. It's been quite a journey. I have 3 older children that were born one right after the other, and when the youngest of those three was 6, I had my youngest daughter. Her siblings, as well as her father and I, were thrilled. She was, is, beautiful. She was a peaceful baby, all of mine were, and she has always been greatly loved. My kids couldn't wait to take her to show-and-tell at their elementary school, and because I volunteered often in my kids' classrooms, she became a regular there at the kids' school. Once she hit the terrible toddler years, we got a glimpse of what was to come. She would throw these immense and endless temper tantrums, she wanted EVERYTHING at the grocery store, she was a picky eater, she was tenacious like no other toddler I've seen, and I've worked with kids since I was 12-years-old. Still, we loved that little bugger. My older kids now say, "Remember when blank was in the terrible two's and we waited for her to grow out of them and she never did?!" She would turn our lives upside down, then turn around and be the sweetest, most clever and hilarious kid you could imagine.
Around her 9th birthday and 4th grade school year I started to wonder, like my other kids wondered, why had she not grown out of the terrible 2's. Why was she still throwing temper tantrums? Why was she so blatantly disobedient and non-responsive to discipline? Why was she so angry? Why could she not focus? Then I had a parent/teacher conference with her teacher (at the same school she had visited regularly as a baby and toddler) and I asked the teacher, "Could my daughter possibly have ADHD?" The teacher looked at me as if to say DUH! But what she did say was, "Oh yeah, she totally has ADHD. I have to put her seat in the back of the room because she is so fidgety that I can't stand to have her by my desk." I was like, WTF? I was actually kind of pissed. Then she threw out a disclaimer by saying, "Well, I'm no specialist, I can't diagnose her." I went home that day and made an appointment with her pediatrician ASAP.
I got her into the doctor pretty quickly, and he did his tests, I had the teachers fill out paperwork, and all that fun stuff. We got our answers pretty quickly and very easily; not only did she have ADHD, she had ODD as well. ADHD I was well aware of since I work in a special ed department. ODD? Not so much. I had heard of it, but really didn't know about it, and if you don't either, it is this; Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Yes, it sounds as lovely as it is. Good news was my angel, yes, that is was I call her, would keep it together at school because she has a great fear of getting called out and in trouble at school, but would come home from school and melt down completely. I tried to take it as a compliment that she felt safe with me, therefore having her meltdowns, exhibiting her displeasure, exercising her defiance with me. Yes, you detect sarcasm, though on a good day, I did try to think that way. (Side bar, when my older daughter was in charge of the younger, and the younger would act up, the older would bring her to me saying, "HERE IS YOUR "ANGEL!" Doing the air quotes and all.)
At this point I should also say that the perfect storm was happening in my marriage, and it was imploding. My ex had started drinking again after years of sobriety and would lash out in rage and my daughter who did not understand why she was feeling the way she was feeling, or acting the way she was acting. It isn't an understatement to say that she was tormented. He would yell at her, swear at her, undermine me when I was trying to discipline her, then yell at me when I had gotten to the end of my rope with her and was losing my temper. Instead of helping me out, he would demean and yell at both of us. At times, he got violent with her, but out of respect for her, that is all I will say about that. He screamed at me, "Why did we fu*$%ing have her in the first place?!!" He would look her in the face and scream, "I can't get any peace in my own fu*$%ing house!!!" Then, out of guilt, he would buy her gifts, elaborate gifts, expensive gifts. I knew that when I found myself telling him to get his hands off her or someone from her school would be calling CPS, something needed to change STAT.
Needless to say our journey into ADHD, ODD and meds was my daughters and mine, and her doctor's. Just us. Her father did not get involved at all in the doctor's appointments, teacher appointments or the decision to put her on medication. I was alone in all that. I prayed and prayed to God that He would give me the right answers, I did not want my daughter turning into some over-medicated zombie. I was petrified about putting her on medication, until I had a friend say, "Well, if the meds don't work, take her off of them!" As simple as a statement as that is, it was an ah-ha moment for me, like duh, Deanna. So, we, her doctor and I, put her on the lowest dose of Concerta possible, and we waited. And it worked. Now, I am not advocating meds for everyone with ADHD and/or ODD, but I am saying that for us, for my daughter, it has worked. She could cope and manage much better, she was more calm, slept better. Her insomnia and night terrors were fewer and farther between, and she was doing better in school. She also went to counseling once a week, and I was really trying to be more proactive in every way I possibly could, even though my marriage was falling apart. I know I made many mistakes, and it haunts me to this day. My sweet, beautiful girl and I both sunk into a deep and severe state of depression, both battling PTSD, and we have fought like hell to get out of it, and we are.
Finally, the divorce came, we moved into our own smaller property and home without her father. It's been 5 years since her diagnosis...FIVE! Wow. So many changes, some I will probably blog about later, but for now, my girl is leaving middle school and about to enter into high school. I am so proud. Her grades aren't great, but my girl smiles a real smile now. My girl has real friendships and relationships with family now. My girl sleeps now. My girl rarely has night terrors and nightmares anymore. My girl is sacred, she is treasured, and she is His.