Vacation or Trip

We just got back from a lovely fall break vacation in Gulf Shores. my boys love the ocean, the beach and especially SAND! So we knew they would have a good time. And boy, they did. But it was exhausting.

I came back to work this week and during staff meeting one of the other counselors asked me if I had a "vacation" or a "trip"? And I was like, "what"?? He explained the difference to me as a vacation is where you don't take your children. And I said, "oh, we took a trip, definitely. LOL.

I guess family "trips" are really for the benefit of the kids. I mean, we made great memories last week. Memories I hope my kids will remember forever. We saw the Blue Angels practice, my 6 year old was blown away. Griffin is 3, so I don't know if he will remember much about the trip, but I know every time he visits the beach he falls more and more in love with it and that is something he will carry with him forever.

We definitely had our highs and lows. Thankfully, the lowest low was on Tuesday. We had been at the beach and was coming in. Carter was especially hyper, not listening to anything we were saying. There was a family behind us and they had the calmest three year old. Here my kids were acting like wild men and he just stood there holding on to the wagon he was helping dad bring up from the beach. Ugh. Why can't my kids act like that???? I can't even remember what happened on the way to the elevator but I remember being embarrassed. When the boys got in the elevator and started fighting over who was going to push the button, Greg and I both lost it. Poor Carter. He gets the brunt of our frustration. Griffin does everything his big brother does so we get hyperactivity times 2!!! At the worst time!!! Ugh! We raised our voices and grabbed Carter's arm to get his attention. I am not sure what else happened, all I know is I felt like a big, fat failure.

I really felt defeated the rest of the night. I got up the next day and was reflecting on the previous days events and saw where the breakdown occurred. We (or I) should have stopped our family while we were leaving the boardwalk after rinsing our feet off and before we got to the elevator. We were tired, Greg an I had our hands full so it was difficult keeping a hand on the boys. We all needed a time out. But we kept pressing on. Add to the pressure I allowed to feel by this family behind me (who had seemingly perfect acting kids) and THAT prompted more of my frustration than my kids behavior.

Let me explain that. I had a big PRIDE issue. I was wanting my kids to show everyone we were good parents by acting the right way. If my kids act appropriate in front of other people I am a success. If not, that means I am a bad parent. What if they judge me, or talk about me? Why can't I train my children? All the negative thinking comes in and whispers lies into my ears. It raises my blood pressure so I react by saying things loudly or speaking through clenched teeth. It's not pretty. And afterwards all I feel is shame.

Once I looked at the situation I realized where communication broke down. Why we were frustrated and what we should have done differently. Loosing my patience or raising my voice doesn't really help train my kids.

So, I started training them. What do you do when an elevator opens?? We wait and make sure no one is getting off. We talked about being polite, waiting and taking turns, etc. We learned to take turns pushing the button to the elevator. The rest of the week we practiced these things. I remembered that I have to go touch Carter on the shoulder to get his attention when I am giving him a task or wanting him to respond. We have to repeat, repeat and repeat again.

So I don't have the calmest kids. Maybe I am judged more than other parents (or am I?). I love it when my kids cooperate and follow through on tasks and directions. But the truth is, that doesn't make me any better of a parent than their acting out in public makes me a bad parent. It's just that sometimes kids cooperate. Sometimes they don't. My job is to take each situation and use it to train or apply consequences so that maybe the next time they will remember. It's not a reflection on me. It's just part of the job. And some days, well, the job goes smoothly and sometimes it doesn't.

At least that is what I keep trying to tell myself.

Getting back to our vacation or "trip", the rest of the week went way smoother and Wednesday was the best day of vacation EVER!!! When you have small kids  they aren't going to know how to act and certainly aren't going to act perfectly. What I hoped I learned from this is that each opportunity is a teaching opportunity and how I handle makes a difference in helping my kids learn how to behave.

Now to plan a VACATION, not a trip, for Greg and I! HA!!! Anyone want two kids for a long weekend???!!!! LOL!!!

Opening Up about ADHD

Yesterday was a rough day. We have been dealing with a diagnosis of ADHD for our oldest son for a few months now. He also has some sensory processing issues, especially with touch and hearing. And while I wholeheartedly agree with the diagnoses, sometimes I just don't feel up to the challenge of having a challenging kid. Yesterday was one of those days.

This morning I heard an interview about labeling children on the Today show. To see the interview, click HERE Needless to say, it grabbed my attention. While this interview discussed ADHD, among other diagnoses, the family presented in this interview has three kids, yes, THREE sons with ADHD. Yikes.

Anyway, the mom in the interview is very open about sharing her families struggles with ADHD. I have yet to be that open, mainly because I want to protect my son. It's my job. But, on the other hand, as others have told me that I have an audience (albeit small) that would benefit from sharing our family struggles with this disorder.


But I don't wanna. LOL. (that's my best 3 year old impersonation). I know it will be very healing and cathartic (and hopefully, sometimes, funny) it also opens my boy up for attention and judgement. It opens my husband and I open for attention and judgement. And I think we get enough of that anyway, why would I want to add to it?

But, I know in writing about our struggles it might help someone else, or that other person may feel less alone by reading our story.

I think we are pretty fortunate in that we have a diagnosis. That in and of itself helps. Because not having a diagnosis makes a parent feel like a failure a lot of the time. We asked, "what are we doing wrong?" Carter can be challenging behaviorally. I don't mind it so much, except when we are in public. Because, honestly, I feel it reflects negatively on me as a parent. Why?

Hello! I am a psychotherapist that specializes in, guess what? Children, adolescents and families. I cannot tell you how many kids I have dealt with that has had this diagnosis. It is really, really different being on the other side of it.

I mean, I teach parents how to be good parents or to increase their parenting skills. Imagine how discouraging it is when you are trying to teach your child and your child does not cooperate? Especially before a diagnosis. I felt like a failure, a lot. I felt confused. I felt discouraged. I felt like something wasn't right but I didn't know what it was.

Carter was in childcare part time since he was six months old. It wasn't until he was two that we first heard a teacher (very unprofessionally) use the term ADHD for him. I was extremely angry and handled the situation by talking with the Director of the program. Thankfully, it was the day before the end of the school year. He went that final day and we did not return in the fall.

The next year was equally challenging for Carter. He was in a more structured environment and honestly, I loved his teachers, but I think they expected too much out of three year olds. Even though they were awesome, Carter didn't get as many chances of positive reinforcement as I would have liked, and that includes from me as well as the teachers. I was told Carter had a very difficult time sitting still. I cried. I went to the pediatrician. The ped said he was too young to do anything about diagnosing him at that time.

During Pre-K Carter did great. He was at the same school. Each day I picked him up I held my breath. I kept asking his teacher how he was doing? How was his behavior? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did. His teacher said he acted like a typical four year old. She had a hard time getting him to write, which for a boy is not unusual. And she said that if he didn't want to do something, he didn't do it (sounded familiar). My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, maybe Carter was growing into becoming more mature and being able to control himself. He was by no doubt active and always had been, but it seemed that maybe those nagging feelings in the back of my mind about ADHD could be put to rest.

But during the second 9 weeks of Kindergarten he started having issues. Never anything behavioral, more affecting his academics. By the Spring of his Kindergarten year Carter had been diagnosed and was on meds. It made a dramatic difference in his ability to complete work and staying on task. We knew as painful as it was, we had made the right decision. We could see a huge difference ourselves, in how Carter behaved and how much more positive we could be with him.

Being on medication, however, does bring side effects. Yucky side effects. I don't like them. I don't like how it changes my kid's personality. We have lots more meltdowns now. He's moody. He has what appears to be anxiety, but who knows for sure. We have him in counseling twice a month because, as a therapist, I know kids with ADHD are more prone to depression and anxiety (and other lovely disorders that I'm not going to mention, like ODD). With counseling, he is able to learn about how to control his outbursts, anxiety, and how to self-sooth and calm himself. I was able to teach him some things, but it really is better coming from someone besides your mom.

My history is working with kids who are at-risk. Below poverty level, lack of parental supervision, lack of resources, etc. So, I know Carter is not exposed to those risks as those kids are. At-risk kids tend to have more of the severe disorders I mentioned above. I keep telling myself Carter has A LOT going for him. And he does.

Socially, he has always been able to make and keep friends. It seems like everybody knows who Carter is at his school. They are always coming up to him and saying, "Hi, Carter". I'm not going to say he is popular, but, with a kid who has ADHD I would say he is doing pretty well in the social department. That is HUGE!!!! I hope it continues to be positive.

Carter is funny, smart, creative, loving and very, very caring. He has a lot more attributes but these stand out the most.

Of course, Greg and I do all that we can to help Carter and figure him out and I spend alot of times on my knees praying that Carter is able to be all that he can be. That God would use him and this diagnosis for His glory.

You know, I would like to say that since I am a therapist that I am the PERFECT mom to have a kid with ADHD. Well, I am the perfect mom for Carter, but I am very imperfect. I lose my temper. Sometimes I raise my voice. I get overwhelmed. Frustrated. Exhausted. Sometimes I am not very loving, patient or kind to Carter, especially when he is very hyper. I hate it when I lose it in public. Lately, that seems to be happening while I am trying to check in both boys at church. LOL. Talk about humbling. I had to go the the Chidlren's minister a few weeks ago and apologize one Wednesday night because I was so frustrated with my boys that I took it out on the check-in people at church. I'm pretty open about my shortcomings. I am thankful for grace and hoping that I am also making improvements along the way.

Anyway, here we are. I hope to write more openly about this now. And I hope to protect Carter. I want to do both. I need to do both.

If you are a parent dealing with a difficult, challenging kid and don't know what to do and feel like you are at the end your rope, go talk to a therapist and see if an evaluation is necessary. Believe me, they are not going to diagnose your kids unless they need to be diagnosed. They are trained . They are professional. You have options. You have choices. We went the medication route. You don't have to. But sometimes having answers and interventions can make a huge difference. I can tell you having a diagnosis helps me to feel like not so much of a failure. And to know that while Carter is challenging, we have interventions. We just have to work harder. And that's okay because he is worth it.

More to come....thanks for listening.