Friday, July 12, 2013

In Response to my Dear Friend's "ADD" post...

OK, so admittedly my dear friend posted his most recent with this disclaimer, "I post things that are offensive not to offend but to make you think about what and why is it offensive...This is me warning you..."

He then posted a photo of his kid being unruly in church with the caption "ADD: Awaiting Dad's Discipline - Dear single mothers it is a parenting issue not a mental issue." 

Full post is here.

Dearest Micah,

Be glad that I've known you for so long and that I can see your instigating yet open-hearted spirit behind this bold statement. And while I do also get frustrated with our society's propensity to slap a label on every sluggard habit and handicapping sin and call it some kind of disease or disorder that needs some sort of pharmaceutical to heal it - But, I must say that I heartily disagree with the premise of your photo-statement, that such disorders as ADD and the like are merely the results of a lack of fatherly - or any quality per se - of discipline or training. 

I have been uniquely blessed to have at least one child with pretty severe case of this disorder. I have been even more blessed that she has an identical twins sister wihtout the same bondage. They are similar in intensity, spirit, name it. But one child carries a suitcase of ADD, SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) anxiety disorders and potentially also ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) - though this last diagnoses has been disputed among providers. Oh, and her twin has only SPD. The road has been a challenge with both of them, even though they are only 8 now, but for the one with the more 'labels' it has been much more a challenge.

Before I knew of these diagnoses, I also carried around a suitcase of guilt for 4-5 years that I and my DH must be bad parents, and not have wise enough or firm enough discipline. I had genetically identical 5 year olds that were struggling with tantrums, and fighting and bad moods and all kids of problems - many related to SPD (before I knew what SPD was). Then, I had another set of genetically identical twins - though that may sound a curse, it was a true blessing from above, because in them, and in raising  them in much the same way as their older sisters, I realized, that they were made of different dust, and like their sisters their similar temperaments must be related to their similar genetics. They learned easily what behavior is good or not and craved my approval and affection enough to not wish to displease me. And they trusted me when I warned them of dangers. They were very enjoyable, but I knew I could take no pride in it as if it were a result of my wisdom or doing. It was then I understood why other mothers and teachers would look down their noses at me when struggling with my oldest set of twins, "spirited" and tenacious. Afterall, if you do the right things of course your children will turn out right, right? Bad kids have only one or two problems: bad or altogether absent parents...right?

Then please explain to me why my one daughter seems incapable of learning proper behavior from poor consequences. Its as if she likes to smash her head on concrete blocks. Over and over. She may cry in pain every time, yet something about it looks so enticing that she does it again, forgetting that it will still hurt the same next time. I did the 'right' things, I gave them choices with consequences for their actions. At one point, I gave her a sticker chart so that when she got just 10 stickers - not even consecutively, we could go to the restaurant of her choice when she earned them all. All she had to do? Answer when I called her name - not obey, not come running, not even verbalize...just simply acknowledge in sound or gesture or any manner that she heard me call her name. That's all. She failed over and over at this. One day, when I called her name and she did not answer, I brought it to her attention that should would not get a sticker again and she began crying and hitting her head and saying "Why am I so bad!?" It was at that point I realized...she wasn't bad. not at all. She was sick. Her heart desired compliance, but her heart somehow wasn't connected to her brain. She did not need discipline, or consequences or encouragement... she needed healing, love and lots of understanding, compassion and most of all, intense help learning to cope with and conquer her condition, potentially for life.

  Once I realized this, our family was, in a sense, freed. I was freed from the guilt that I somehow was responsible for the poor and challenging behavior my oldest set of twins. She was freed from intense pressure to perform outside her range of ability, even if other kids younger than her were able to do more. But one important thing we were not free from was the directive to train this child up in the way that is right just for her. She still needs to know right from wrong and  needs to find ways to overcome her impulsiveness and obey all that the Lord has commanded. We are still on that road, and now realize that it will be a long one for her, and not easy for any of us. It is the road that has so far lead us to homeschooling and doing my best to handle her gracefully, not angrily and sternly. I know we have and will make more wrong turns and have to back track at times. But with God's grace, we are building the road with love and wisdom, paving it with grace and walking on it in the light of His Word. let's move on to your musing about "Why it is offensive" as you seek, because, ahem, it is. It is the occasional case that misbehavior is directly linked to a lack of appropriate discipline which a single mother who can't or won't provide it, IMHO. I don't know how often, because lets face it, until kindergarten and until having the experience of also raising 'normal' kids, I myself couldn't discern if it was my poor parenting or her built-in challenges. I don't think the research or resources to determine the answer to that question exist, in part, because we can, and are often pressured to drug our children rather than heal them and train them - we have in a way, eliminated or blurred the control group. I am not belittling all use of medication for mental illness, but the truth is that these disorders are not caused by a lack of pharmaceuticals in a person's body...there is something at the core which is 'out of order' in them, often in the brain. And the brain is highly resilient and plastic. You don't heal a broken arm with pain medication alone, and I believe every person deserves a chance and true healing the best we can attempt it before resorting terminally to lifelong medication as a crutch. That is the road we have chosen and why we have chosen it anyway.

But back to the single first question is, why potentially could she not provide the training her child may need? I may not be a single mother, but I can tell you from the time I get up to the time I crash in exhaustion at night, there are several times throughout the day that I  have (of my 5 children) more than one kid at a time crying, fighting, throwing a tantrum or secretly doing some other misdeed simultaneously. There is only 1 of me. I can only speak to or comfort and train 1, perhaps 2, children at a time. I see my middle kids now developing 'middle child syndrome', needing more one on one attention than I can possibly give them and I stay home all day and don't even work outside the home!  I'm afraid that single mother is not going to have a chance at giving her kids the level of attention she wants to, no matter how wise and well-intentioned she is, especially if she has kids with special needs. She is probably carrying around a suitcase of mommy-guilt. So you want to make her already-heavy heart even heavier? Do you love that rowdy child of hers in the pew? For the love of God...go show her some love! Spend a Saturday with your kids doing a project at her house, babysit her kids while she can go get a haircut or have lunch or dinner with a friend or even spend some one on one time with one of her kids, go fold her laundry...every Tuesday. Don't do it once, do it every month, or every week so she has some ongoing support. And take 'single mom' broadly...divorced, separated, widowed, military, husband travels for work alot. How about single guys - do you avoid dating single moms? Maybe you just never thought of it, that God would actually call you to marry someone with "baggage", but all people have "baggage". Their baggage is just cuter, louder and poops more. Single moms need us all. So let's stop blaming them for all the things they can't possibly do themselves, and lets reach out to them instead.

Some books I really, highly recommend on the subject are Dr. Sears "ADD Book" and "Discipline Book" and "Fussy Baby Book" as well as a book called "Nurtureshock" by Bronson and Merryman.

Peace out brother...and I hope no rotten tomatos have given you a bad hair day. :)