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An ADHD Child and His Not-a-Morning-Person Parent

An ADHD Child and His Not-a-Morning-Person Parent
“Hello. My name is Bonnie, and I am not a morning person….Oh, and I have an ADHD child.”

Notice which order I put those in?

I didn’t define myself by my atypical child.

I took ownership of my own issue. = First step to getting honest and dealing with the core issue: me, not my son with ADHD. (For more on my family’s struggles to make sense of ADHD, refer to the section of blogs dedicated to this subject matter and scroll through to see if anything interests you. My Reading List page also has a list of books that I found helpful.)

This blog is about the little morning explosions that happen when you take a very exuberant ADHD child straight out of bed in the morning and combine that with a sleepy mom who hasn’t had her coffee yet and barely got the first two kids out the door on their earlier buses. The Not-a-Morning-Person Mom. That one.

And it’s also about why I’m the one who has to change.

My almost-nine-year-old Tigger bounces out of bed like a ping pong ball shooting aimlessly around to eventually make it into the right slot—except that, in his head, he isn’t aimless. He’s accomplishing (or attempting to) about 12 things and processing many new ideas at once.

And…he’s eager to share them.

At 7 AM.

Contrast that with my sleepy mind that floated through the past 40 minutes getting the secondary school kids in my house out the door, and I’m still trying to retrieve the thought as to whether or not I packed both of those lunches, and did I tell them I wouldn’t be here right when they got home today?

I might even be thinking about the laundry. The pile of dishes I left last night. The fact I still have yet another lunch and snack to pack. And have I even stopped to use the bathroom this morning?

Is the coffee machine on? Did anyone turn it on yet?

While I’m still on Thought One and a Half, along comes my delightful, hyper, mostly happy youngest son who wants to share every thought in his head.

Right now.

Before coffee.

And I’m an introvert who not only hates morning but thrives on quiet in order to function and process.

“Oh, God, this is where I always feel like I fail.”

And I can get all grumbly, whiny, snappy, snarly, and inward right now. I can certainly get my selfish on. And I regularly do. But his disorder is here to stay. He can’t wish it away. He can “work on” coping skills and body regulation,

but he can’t stop having ADHD.

But I can find ways not to be grumbly, Not-a-Morning-Person, impatient Mom. I can go to bed and get up earlier. Start the coffee sooner. I can ask God to help me handle the bounce of life, energy, and mind from 7 AM until school drop-off. I have the warm hand of Jesus to hold. I can consult Him. I do not have to fail if I ask for His help. The thing is: I will fail if I don’t. I might stumble along and get a few things right now and again, but without the faith that God is carrying us both through these moments without wounds and fallout, I will not be whom I need to be for my son.

Since I pretty much analogize in coffee in my sleep, I will now share one here. (Aren’t you glad I don’t express these analogies in every blog?–wink!) I was thinking that my Little Man is like the air bubbles being blasted into the milk to make a nice frothy topper to the espresso drink. He comes in with full force and makes something flat and boring like milk burst into foamy, airy bubbles that soar above the dark espresso.

I’m the dark espresso…melancholic and weary, heavy and pensive in the morning, and in comes Mr. Bubbles of Life to make the drink more interesting, more varied, lighter. I am the strength under the foam, perhaps, but my strength can either encourage and support that lovely foam, or I can flatten it back to ordinary hot milk, with no vim and vigor—How boring!

My words and my attitude are choices. I can choose to see him as a complement to my personality and embrace the gift of us blended together in the wee, challenging hours of the morning, or I can squash his spirit, his mind, his heart.

It helps to get honest. I hope, if you have similar struggles as a parent (with either typical or atypical children), that you can feel some camaraderie in the struggle in my “get real” moment. I find that being honest about the journey brings me fresh perspective and offers hope that I can do better—not perfect, but better.

I want to “delight in blessing” every chance that I get. I want to “spring forth fresh water” and not muddy it up with my own salty murkiness.

How about you? How do you cope with these struggles? I’d love to hear from you.

James 3:9-12, James, brother of Jesus speaking, ESV

With it [tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Psalm 109:17-18, David (not yet king) speaking, ESV

He loved to curse; let curses come upon him!
He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him!
He clothed himself with cursing as his coat;
may it soak into his body like water,
like oil into his bones!

 

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What’s Really Behind the Things That Drive Us Nuts? [Excerpt]

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Today, Espressos of Faith offers a fifth excerpt from Not Just on Sundays, due out this month. The book often features the smaller moments of life and what they can teach us if we zoom in to see what might really be going on—how God can be showing us something huge in the ordinary of the day.

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Not giving a creative person the time, space, and materials to do his “art” is like slowly starving him from the inside out. I am trying to find that balance, and I am learning from my youngest guy. His hands are not the strongest, and his fine motor skills need to develop and be refined, but he sees himself as an artist as he shapes Amazon.com boxes with endless materials to create amazing treasures. I have to remember that although all of the assorted scraps I call “trash” (like Dum Dum wrappers) get under my skin after a while—when he stocks them up like a squirrel—he sees future masterpieces. What I like to think I see in words, he sees in everyday stuff around him.

Okay, Little Man, if you need a card table in the family room with endless junk on it and a used mailing box—and that keeps you from begging for more screen time—then have at it, Child! Can’t wait to see what you make. Maybe we should sell a few of those items at our lemonade stand this summer to afford storage for your recycling, er, I mean art studio.

That was a lovely story, wasn’t it?

I wish I could say my perspective looks that delightful and calm all of the time.

It doesn’t.

I occasionally rage. But it is an area I am turning over to God so He can help me find a way to bless instead of speak labels onto my children.

I’m not a big fan of any label. The label “ADHD” may help a child get the help he needs on an IEP, and within the context of a school system, that may be entirely appropriate and helpful, but I do not want to look at any of my children as limited by their weaknesses.

I don’t want to say: “You forever will have attention issues.”

I want to say: “It will be awesome to see how God uses all that phenomenal energy for creative works to bring Him honor someday and help people!”

But this takes daily praying through what may perplex me or drive me nuts and asking God for words that cancel out the:

“You never wills,”
“You always,” 
“You have to stop XYZ-ings”

that our kids hear every day.

Some of it is necessary. A lot of it is not. Here’s what it looks like when I ask my Father in heaven to give me words. (I won’t taint your minds with what it looks and sounds like when I don’t. You’re welcome.)

I was challenged this past weekend to speak to my kids more about their God-given gifts and abilities, how the Lord is shaping their hearts, and whom I see them growing to be. It builds on some of what I have already been doing, but I love saying:

“______, you have been given a tremendous heart for others, tender toward people and all of God’s creatures. You are sensitive to the hurts in others and respond with great compassion.”

Or “______, you have been given a warrior spirit to stand up for injustice and speak His Truth when He calls you to it.”

Or “________, you have a kind, gentle heart that speaks quiet strength, safety, and protection. You lead softly, with delightful humor and deep thought. You know His Word inside and out, and now may it go from your head to soak deeply into your heart.”

And, really, what’s actually behind the things that get under our skin is simply that: our own skin. We are just as annoying and frustrating at times. But we’re adults and have more authority to misuse or mishandle.

Or to bless.

James 3:9-12, James, brother of Jesus, speaking

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

 

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Grace That Changes: One Forgiving Moment at a Time [Excerpt]

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Today, Espressos of Faith offers an excerpt from the upcoming Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, due out this month. 

Cover design: Traci Carmichael Art 

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I performed an interesting social experiment in the past year at a favorite establishment in my town. Folks working there weren’t very friendly, to the point I dreaded going in. So, I tried being very kind every time I went, going out of my way to clean up any mess we left, saying something encouraging at the counter, and in general bringing in a consistent smile, no matter what attitude came back at me. I went in more regularly with my kids, having them do homework and lingering, looking for opportunities to bless. It took a few months, but then suddenly, the staff not only knew me by name, but they started going out of their way to also be kind: They brought my kids free food, helped me more with questions I had, and apologized for mistakes even when I didn’t complain. Although I’m sure I’m not the reason the entire establishment is friendlier, I was able to show my kids that kindness begets more kindness. Even they have noticed a difference.

So, I keep thinking how deliberate the choice is to love and bless. It doesn’t always flow naturally; it is a minute-by-minute choice, but if we employed this same idea everywhere—the car that cuts in front of us for a parking space, the tired clerk at the market counter, the pharmacy technician who doesn’t need one more prescription coming in when she’s already so behind—how many people could we each reach with love and grace? Too much in this world tears us down. What if that pharmacy clerk was going to go home and drink herself into a stupor again tonight because of problems weighing on her unbeknownst to me? What if the impatient car parker is also impatient at home with his kids, snapping at the least little annoyance? Do we need to cause him more angst, or could grace perhaps make a small dent, leading to bigger dents, in the way he daily functions? Could our choice to extend grace turn around a despairing, tense, hopeless attitude? All I know is grace changed who I am, and the people who offered me grace in my own bad attitudes deserve so much credit; they overlooked the ugly in me and encouraged the beautiful. Grace changes things, one forgiving moment at a time. My mouth can’t hold poison and antidote all at the same time. James, brother of Jesus, said it best:

James 3:9-12

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

And here is a fun one for you. I thought it was amazingly descriptive to wear cursing as one’s garment and have it enter one’s body like water and bones like oil. Hello, songwriter! Modifiers and analogies make my heart jump!

Psalm 109:17-18, David (not yet king) speaking

He loved to pronounce a curse—
    may it come on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing—
    may it be far from him. 

He wore cursing as his garment;
    it entered into his body like water,
    into his bones like oil.

Summertime presents some nice opportunities for learning how to relate better to one another. I bet if you’re a parent of kids still at home, it does in your house too. One of the rules of my house is: “If you come to any of us with accusations, anger, or emotional response of any kind, you may not walk away when you are in the middle of receiving a response. If you are not prepared to hear out a response to a problem/accusation you put forth, you should not present it in the first place.” I told my children that I know adults who do this to me all of the time. They drop their emotion down but run off and sulk without sticking around to hear another perspective. Any issue or relationship worth working out deserves to have both people heard. We better ourselves with stronger, committed relationships if we learn to develop this one important concept. I see this as part of the blessing/curse idea. Working through misunderstandings or upsets needs to be approached from a stance of blessing. Blessing invites openness and vulnerability. Cursing shuts relationships down. I don’t want cursing to enter my body like water or my bones like oil as the Psalmist depicts for us, which suggests to me a “soaking in.” Toxic interactions have a way of soaking in and permeating so many areas of our lives. Grace and love do just the opposite; they cover us:

1 Peter 4:8, Apostle Peter speaking

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Along the same lines, I had a difficult “issue of character” discussion with one child at bedtime one night. It wasn’t a huge deal, really, and it was only one area of correction, but this child struggles to receive constructive criticism no matter how delicately it is presented. I waited to make sure it sank in and shared that we all have to be able to take feedback and ask God if it’s something He wants us to correct. Then, because this child bruises easily from feedback, I spent the falling-asleep moments listing all of the things this child does well, areas where I am very pleased, and at Item Number 20, the slight smile gave way to slumber, and peace climbed beside us and laid its head on the pillow as well, a welcome companion. That is not how I conduct myself every day, but when I consult God and come from a standpoint of blessing, informed by His living Word, it is a much more peaceful way to do life.

Just as mourning comes in waves, so does His grace. It rides in on constant tides like a covering of love that soaks into every pore until it fills the heart. There is never grief without grace, if we’d only learn to keep our feet in the Living Water, facing the oncoming surf, not fearing the raging storms, but instead standing steadfast to receive as He gives. If only we stood there in great faith and expectancy, we’d quickly find He never ever stops giving. We’re the ones who lose hope or courage and walk away from the source. His waves of grace chase us and lap at our feet, desiring to heal, to nurture, and to be received, but if our backs are to those waves as we walk away, we never even know what was there for us, what we failed to discover as we walk back inland to where discouragement and fear are ready to take hold and plant roots—only because we gave those dark thoughts permission again. I don’t want to give them permission anymore. I want to sit in tide pools of never-ending grace at the feet of Jesus. If you trust Him, you can sit there too!

 

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