Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Parenting Ain't for Sissies: On being an ADHD Parent

Let me begin by stating that I love my children with a depth and intensity that cannot be measured. I live for them and I would die for them. My first thought in every decision I make is “how will this affect the kids?”.

Mr Pieman is my middle child. He is artistic, kind, empathetic and blindingly intelligent. He is handsome, with clear blue eyes and an angelic smile. He is charming, a lover of nature and an ardent collector of beautiful and interesting objects (sea shells, coins, marbles, rocks…the list goes on). He stands up for the undefended and has a deep and profound sense of justice. I adore this boy with everything in me and I am amazed that my husband and I managed to produce this incredible specimen of humanity.

This is my son on well-controlled, carefully monitored ADHD medication.  To ensure that he is able to enjoy life, and that the world receives the best version of him, Mr Pieman is on Ritalin LA. 

Without it he is completely non-functional. He doesn’t eat (he can’t concentrate for long enough to finish even a sandwich), he doesn’t sleep properly, he bullies his siblings and schoolmates, and is basically a walking force of mayhem and destruction. 

The worst of it is that, without his meds, he is completely incapable of learning how not to do or be any of these things. He simply has no idea why his behaviour is a problem, and even if he did, I doubt he could change it. That little piece of his neurochemistry that kicks in between impulse and action, that says “hang on, this is a bad idea” is offline. It. Is. Not. Available. 

A learning disability like ADHD means that not only is a child incapable of learning at school, he is equally incapable of learning anything else, including how not to be an asshole.

(For this reason, I really don’t care if random people on the Internet or elsewhere don't approve of our decision to medicate him. They are not living in my home with the unmediated version of my son.) 

My current #1 problem is that I cannot administer his medication before 6:30am. If I do, it wears off too early, and that results in unpleasant interviews in the school principal’s office. In our case, it takes a good half-hour to 45 minutes for the Ritalin to kick in, and this means that most school mornings are simply awful.

Although I intellectually understand that my son’s behaviour (pre-Ritalin) is not really within his control, when I am in that moment where, for the fifth day in a row, he is dancing naked in front of the mirror fascinated by the bouncing of his eight-year-old genitalia, having genuinely forgotten that he is supposed to be putting on the underpants that he has in hand (after I have reminded him to do this oh, about four times), something in me explodes. 

I become a violent, raging bull, focussed on one thing and one thing only: getting my son to do EXACTLY what I say, EXACTLY when I say it. I am, in that moment, incapable of caring about the fact that my behaviour borders on abusive, is not helpful, and is quite possibly damaging my son. 

In that moment, I am frustrated, anxious, scared and completely overwhelmed by the job of not just parenting this child who swings dramatically from angelic to impossible, but merely getting him dressed and out of the house. And in that moment, I don't know how else to do it. 

Please, don’t judge me. I already judge myself more harshly than you ever could. Living inside my head after incidents like this is bad enough.  

Don't cite poorly researched articles by unaccredited “experts” writing for new-age/christian-fundamentalist-vegan-home-schooler websites that state ADHD can be solved by going gluten/colourant/meat/carb free or meditating/homeschooling/praying - unless want to place yourself directly in the path of my psychotic bull. And if one more person with well-behaved children smugly informs me that it’s a discipline problem, I will f*cking discipline YOU.

If you want to help, offer me a cup of chamomile tea, comfort me through my self-flagellation and offer a play-date.  At YOUR house. I’ll make sure his medication has kicked in before he arrives.


  1. I love you for this! I must threatening to beat my girl half a dozen times in the mornings! I dont feel quite as bad now!

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