Where do I start? Even as I start to write I feel guilty for almost venting about what I am about to vent about. But I do it in the hope that it will reach so many other parents and let them, and myself, know that it is ok to feel like this. Like what you may ask? Well, how I feel about my children with ADHD and my mum guilt. This is going to be honest and raw. I may need a wine.
I have mentioned in previous blogs how my daughter with ADHD is in fact a twin. Her brother is a very chilled out boy. He has his moments, like most kids, but is generally easy to parent, good at school and has lots of friends. My daughter, my darling fizzy daughter with ADHD, has never been easy to parent; has struggled at school and has therefore not found it the easiest to make friends.
Probably because they are twins, the differences were very noticeable from an early age. I was a chilled mum of twins. Even my midwife told me so! I was so happy to have had kids. I was 36 and beginning to think that I would never have children. Well, the Daily Mail told me weekly that my eggs would be gone, I had left it too late, I was a walking hag! And who does not believe the Daily Mail?
There I was, married mum with two bonnie babies, girl and boy! Who could ask for more? I was as happy as Larry (whoever he is). But despite being chilled, I did see small differences in the babies. DS was a very giggly baby! Everyone loved his laugh! It was infectious. DD was a little more serious, but nothing major.
When they learned to crawl, DD would not go on her knees, just hands and feet. To be honest I could not blame her. We had hard, hard floors! I would not have wanted to crawl on my knees either, we even bought her knee pads. I did not know that this was the start of the sensory issues that are prevalent with ADHD. Who would?! I mean who buys baby books that discuss special needs? You buy the baby books that show you how big your baby is at each week, what they are capable of and compare them to the size of a fruit or vegetable. No one buys the ‘just in case’ book. No one buys the books that tells you to watch out for signs of some neurodiversity in your child.
Aside from the crawling, there was nothing major to notice. They were both super-active babies. DS was a climber. Climbed everything. I had to stop going to the home run music club. He would scale the bookcases, tables, staircases whilst everyone else little angels banged a drum or tambourine! DD would use the time I was retrieving DS to crawl off and open cupboards, always on a mission to find what was behind the next door. I gave up. Neither of them seemed to want to go round the Mulberry Bush or have any empathy for poor smashed up Humpty. I just consoled myself with the fact I had spirited, inquisitive babies. And what is wrong with that? I mean, other than keeping me on my toes and fit, I liked the fact that they were so full of life.
They went to nursery, three mornings a week from 21 weeks. Cannot deny I loved the break. I was living in Dubai and had no family support, so this was a miracle to me. We pre-warned the teacher that DS was a climber and they told us not to worry, they were used to climbers! I loved them.
So, when I got a call to come in for a chat one day after school, I thought oh gee, what has DS done now? I walked in. Three teachers sat across a table from me. It felt serious. Like a very formal interview. Albeit we were all sat on tiny chairs. Then my children’s teacher started. It was not about DS, but DD. She was a tad feisty, wasn’t this normal ‘for girls’? Apparently not. She was seriously defiant. Would not sit on the floor for storytime, would drag a chair over and sit like an adult. Would not participate in anything unless it was on her terms. I felt like saying, ‘Welcome to my world!’ but I did not think they would appreciate that…
They mentioned she sat in the W position when she did sit down. Well, a lot of children do this right, you know when they look a bit like a pretzel with their legs? Or I thought? Apparently, that hinders neurological and motor development due to limited movement and strength of the core. I must have missed that chapter in my baby book.
I sat there half agreeing with them but half thinking so what? She is a toddler, right? She cannot be the worse toddler they had ever met, could she? I mean, she was harder than DS, when he was not scaling a palm tree, or climbing out his cot, but I could cope, couldn’t I? My (ex) husband said she was just feisty, like him. That did not really inspire me, but I had kind of accepted that explanation. That she would grow out of it.
But she did not. And it got worse and worse, and more difficult and more tiring by the day. The more books I read, the more strategies I tried to tame my toddler, the worse it got. I felt like a failure. The only thing keeping me sane was DS. I thought, he is doing ok with my parenting, I cannot be that bad, surely?! But every day I was being dragged down more and more. Always embarrassed to go to play groups or play dates for how she would behave.
Twins are hard enough having to juggle, without one of them having the temperament of Mount Vesuvius. She would blow and I would try my latest technique for toddlers, and she would blow more, and I would try something else, all the while eyes of other parents on me. I just felt like one un-holy failure. Like this is my child, I SHOULD know what to do. But I did not. I would look at other mums, having fun with their kids, having a wee little chat with other mums over a coffee in between minor snack interruptions. Ha! I could not even get a drink in case it was lobbed at me. I would feel absolute envy. Pure, unadulterated envy. And then guilt.
I absolutely love my daughter, with every bone in my body, but I just wanted life to be easier if I am honest. Raising kids is hard. I know no one really has plain sailing when it comes to kids. But oh my, DD was a complete and utter handful, and I was at my wit’s end. I just wanted to have a nice day out with some mums and get to spend some time with my chilled-out DS. Was that too much to ask. I mean it was his childhood too after all! The lion share of my day was spent with DD, pacifying her.
Obviously, I knew something was not quite right. With neurological disorders there are rarely any physical ailments, so you tend to think it is all in your head! And even if you do not think it is all in your head, others will. And that makes you go bonkers in itself!
I became pregnant with DS2 when the twins were 18 months. Truly blessed to be able to naturally at 39 but I will not lie, I did wonder how it was all going to work. But life finds a way and bonnie little man was born two weeks before their third birthday. He was beautiful and smiley, and we were all in love with him. Yes, it was tiring and hard work, but it was fine, he was a super chilled baby. Looking back, I guess he had to be!
My messy divorce came soon after and the children and I all moved back to the UK. Her mainstream UK school immediately got her in with CAMHs and so that journey began. So here I now was, a single mum we three kids three and under, one with possible ADHD. Aside from the usual clubs that I managed to get them into I was also doing weekly CAMHs visits, with the other two in tow.
Any other spare time was in meetings with the school discussing target sheets and star charts! I was so over it I wanted to yell STOP at the top of my voice. ‘STOP, I WANT TO GET OFF!’. This most definitely was not what I had signed up for. I had always wanted to have children and be a mother. You read everything you need to know on healthy pregnancy and then how to raise a happy child etc. I had not read how to raise a neuro-diverse child, plus two others on your own at 40!
Roll on 10 years and we now have an ADHD and ODD diagnosis, plus dyslexia and dyscalculia. An explanation as to why it has been such a struggle for her, and for me. It made it feel better in a way. I mean, now I understand ADHD or rather now I am gaining an understanding of ADHD, I understand my daughter so much better. I understand that it was not my parenting. That it is a neurological disorder that affects learning and behaviour. It is real.
That does help in some way. But, and here comes the mum guilt, I still wonder why she had to have it. I know, I know, it is not her choice. But I look around at other mum friends with their kids, who obviously have ‘kid’ problems, but nothing like this and I am grateful it is not a physical disability or life-threatening one. I feel guilty for even feeling hard done by, but I still cannot help it. Only 1 in 4 children with ADHD are girls!
I would like to know what it is like not to have a mainstream school call you constantly for behaviour that is out of my child’s and my control. Not to be made to feel like a bad parent because ADHD is still not really understood as it should be. ADHD affects 3-5% of kids. It should be more understood in schools than it is.
I feel jealous when my friends discuss GCSE options and what might be next for their son or daughter. Honestly, I will be over the moon if she gets her maths and English. Believe me, I am not a pushy mum, I do not believe education is the be-all and end-all in life, but I just want some normality for her. For her to be able to discuss school plans with her mainstream school friends without her calling herself thick!
I want to be able to go on holiday without fear of her kicking off at the age of 12. She is nearly as tall as me, and it frightens me that I cannot keep her safe from herself anymore. I would like to go to a restaurant without something causing her to lose it or swear badly in front of people. I do not like swearing, I detest kids swearing, yet I have two children who swear. Two children with ADHD. Oh yes, not her twin but my youngest is also displaying ADHD signs. He is a very hyperactive, fidgety boy, very bright and in my opinion easy to manage than DS, but still a handful.
Why?! Why did I have to marry a man that did not turn out to be quite what I had been promised that I had to leave? Why did I have to have a mum with Alzheimer’s who could not help me? Why did I have to have two children with ADHD? WHY WHY WHY?! Yes, that was my meltdown. Of course, I know my beloved mother would much rather be the fabulous grandma that she was so destined to be. Of course, that is not her fault. And of course, my daughter did not choose to have ADHD, she gets so upset by the way it all makes her feel. But I am only human, and there are those days when you just want to scream and shout about your life and vent!
I guess I just wanted to experience what life would be like with ‘normal’ kids. To prove that it is not me. To prove that I would be a fabulous mother really if I had kids that could be raised the normal way, instead of having 79,000 strategies in place for each individual crisis that occurs daily. It is tiring, it’s draining and it truly makes you doubt yourself as a person.
I have joined a few ADHD parenting groups and when I posted the other day about how it all makes me feel sometimes and the mum guilt that I experience so often, it was so refreshing to read the responses. I had so many replies telling me that they all felt the same! It was not just me. They all asked why? They all then felt guilty about asking why? A problem shared is a problem halved and all that.
The responses made me decide to write this post. I want other parents to know it’s ok to feel like this. To know we are allowed to feel overwhelmed on days. It is bloody hard work, and it is still not very well understood. I constantly feel I must justify my parenting when I know I am doing the best for my kids. It is tough. But we do have amazing kids. Who are trying their hardest to thrive in a neurotypical world where their neurodiverse ways struggle to fit. That is not their fault, that is generally society’s fault for still not having the awareness that we are not all the same.
Hence this blog. I am trying to raise awareness about ADHD and the struggles we ALL go through. I am trying to make the neurotypical understand the neurodiverse rather than the neurodiverse having to understand the neurotypical. ADHD is still such a misunderstood disability. Yes, it is classed as a disability. Many people think it is over-diagnosed when in fact it is most definitely under-diagnosed. Many people think it is still just naughty children. It is one of the most frustrating things as parents of children with ADHD that we must face. Even with your friends of neurotypical children, there is still the odd look or the odd question that makes you know they still do not ‘get it’.
Keep going mamas and papas. We are all doing a great job and we are do love our kids! Allow yourself to acknowledge the struggles we all face as families. We are allowed to have a vent. Just choose your audience. Find support groups, be it on Facebook or another social media platform where you will not be judged for feeling the way you do. Write to me using the contact forms. Join my small private FB group.
We are doing an amazing job. xx