I am not where I thought I would be. To be grateful and happy that my child gets up in the morning, let alone early, is far from what I expected from my son’s teenage years.
I hoped he would be a great student, love school as I did, use his far better brain than mine to make the world his oyster. He loved reading and was so excited by school; he used to write plays and poems and draw. He still loves reading.
I am disappointed that he has not turned out as I had hoped, as I had expected. To say less, or to not pretend expectations would be a lie. Was it me? Should I have been sporty mum, done the soccer saturday mornings in the freezing cold, instead of encouraging him to read and participate in maths and science excursions and exams? He had, and still has such potential. But he is disillusioned and depressed. Anxious.
My son has been placed in the Attention Deficit box. In many ways it came as a relief to have someone diagnose something, rather than me yelling and thinking he was simply being bloody minded. Mind you, he can be bloody minded and stubborn to the point of cutting his own nose off to spite his face. As a baby he would make himself vomit food he’d just eaten.
He is Innattentive, which makes me grateful he’s not hyper; this means he hasn’t got enough brain chemicals to make connections, synaptic or otherwise. So he can’t focus on anything for very long, not unless it absolutely fascinates him. And then he might go off on tangents.
At the time of diagnosis he was in his fourteenth year. While the diagnosis may have been a relief for him, it did nothing to alleviate his lack of enthusiasm for school and assignments. So he started on a drug called Strattera. If you look this up on the internet you will be frightened and shocked at first glance. However, dig a little deeper and you realise that all the shock value “research” is in fact erroneous and misleading. It’s worked for my son; he has more clarity and more focus at school. His marks are better. I am so glad he is no longer the bottom of the heap. It’s a bright heap, but still that feeling of being one of the worst amongst your peers is unsettling and not pleasant.
I still ask myself if it’s my fault that he became this way; did the parental pressures and expectations I placed upon him lead him to this point? Perhaps I did not understand how emotionally fragile he was. I could not understand why he was not driven (as I had been). Therein lies the problem; that he is not me, that he is not a girl, and that I didn’t know what to do. I ran away for awhile; ran away to work, to tango, to anywhere else but home.That fourteenth year was hell; I blamed it on hormones, on his father, on computers; I cried at work. At work! I couldn’t function for a few weeks I was so worried about him.
I left him to his father; after all he hadn’t been there for the early years, so it was his turn to parent. And I don’t know if that worked. Picture this: two boys in front of their computers in different rooms, talking to each other by shouting around the house. Or not talking as the case may be, each lost in their different part of the internet. To be fair, his father is a kind boy who loves his son to bits and would do just about anything for him. How many boys have fathers like that?
But I needed a positive male role model for him. Perhaps things may have been different if I had.
No point wishing for what I haven’t got.
Make no mistake, this son of ours is clever; cleverer than his father and I combined. But he doesn’t know how to do anything academic. He can sit exams but he can’t write essays. He would sit in front of the computer screen ‘researching’ – he was staring blankly at the screen, not really reading, not really seeing. It was so frightening to witness. It was frightening to see him descend in some pit from which there seemed no return.
Then at 14 and a half things got better. Granted it was the holidays, but I think hormones settled, the drug started taking effect. He was his old gentle, affable self.
But he remained stubborn on the computer issue. He spent hours in front of a screen playing sometimes, awful computer shoot’em up games. He has other games that are building games. I want to see him interacting with his friends – he does so online. I want to see bodies, hear laughter in the house. Some week ends he doesn’t step outside the house. He can go for days without washing.
And whose fault is that? Who is the parent and the adult? It’s my fault; I used the computer as a babysitter and look where it’s got me. He is completely addicted. He wants to be a games designer (I can hear Glenn Close’s Cruella DeVil in 101 Dalmatians); he has the brains to be so much more, so much better than a games designer. I realised that I did not respect his computer playing abilities or the idea of computers games in general, or in fact, what HE wanted to do with his life.
But he knows so little; so little of life and of the world. How can he lock himself into a future, a narrow future at that? I want him to experience the outside world. I try to explain that all great ideas were harvested from previous ideas, from previous experiences. Is that so wrong? Is it wrong to want to give him a wide range of experiences?
At this stage however I must point out that he is a bit of a liar and an actor. Remember how he could make himself sick as a baby? He makes himself sick as a teenager when there is stuff he doesn’t want to face up to…like late assignments at school. He developped the habit of having a stomach ache when something was due. He himself would deny that anything was wrong; but I’m his mum. I know my son better than he knows himself. Denial has nothing to do with teenage hormones or attention span. It wasn’t until his ailments became more frequent that I realised the relationship between schoolwork and his sickness. How thick was I? I also knew he did better at exams than assignments. Had we stayed with his old school would he have done better? I only wanted to broaden his horizons. We can’t go back now; we can only live in the day, hope for a better tomorrow.
So now he sleeps. Or does he? I’ve taken to coming home unexpectedly to see if he’s on the computer or in bed. Mostly he’s in bed. I feel bad not trusting him. He sleeps so hard that no matter of tickling, slapping, hair pulling or water spraying wakes him. Things came to a head this term: first week of term, 1 day at school. This cannot be right. This cannot be. This is my reality.
So I decided to take a week off work. No sugar in the diet; no computer; get him up and out of the house; get work from school and work with him in small increments. We went to counselling. He has developped a nice rapport with our GP; he talks to her which is more than he does with the school counsellors. She is on his side, tells me he can’t help himself, that it is his brain misfiring that is against him. I kind of believe her. But she doesn’t see his behaviour at home and I still think it’s bloody mindedness. How can a person not get up when persecuted by well meaning parents? His father has been wanting me to take him to a kinesiologist for awhile now. He believes in all that new age stuff. I used to but now am a bit more skeptical. I am worried about the long term effects of this drug he is taking, but it seems to be working. Anyway, this week was the final straw. So the father made the appointment and I drove 2.5 hours with the son. We had a very nice trip, us skeptics.
Kinesiology. I have been twice. The first time helped me, the second time not so much. But I do remember that first time and I think I needed it. The child has never had kinesiology. And it turns out I didn’t know him as well as I thought. He was much more underconfident about his capabilities than he let on. The practioner boosted his confidence and when he left he was standing a little taller.
The kinesiologist asked him questions which stretched him. There were times he didn’t remember, but I could picture exactly what incidents had happened in his life. She reassured him and made him feel worthwhile. I realised there were episodes in his short life of which I knew nothing.
We came home and the son’s vibes were high. He felt like another person. The next morning he didn’t wake up so easy, but he wrote a short assignment in an hour without whining or staring. I am feeling positive. He went to school today, on his bike. Exercise and school; what more could I ask for?
Why air this all so publicly? I just needed to vent and don’t imagine many would read this. But if any of you readers know of any other family in a similar situation, and if my experience can help, please feel free to direct them to read this particular blog. I won’t mind; if I can help someone else, then all the better. Remember, it is not your fault. It’s chemistry and genetics. With love and care it will get better.