It’s hard enough being the parent of a child with ADHD. It’s made harder by judgmental people who are ignorant enough to watch an ADHD meltdown.
I’ve always taught my children not to stop and stare at something that doesn’t concern them. It’s amazing how many people have clearly not been taught this…
I remember being in a supermarket with the three of them. Yes, the horror of having to do a weekly shop with my young three (18 months and four and a half-year-old twins) still sends shivers up my spine. We had managed to do the shop, largely due to a huge bribe of a packet of sweets of their choice if they promised not to bicker. I can’t say it was a bicker-free excursion, but it was enough to allow me to remember the essentials for a change.
So, there I am, offering them a choice of sweets, the first mistake. Far too much choice to offer my ADHD daughter. The boys browsed for about a minute before selecting the biggest bag that was on offer to them, obviously!
DD however changed her mind constantly. It was like she was picking something that was ultimately going to affect her entire life. To her, it was life-changing, but to me, well I just wanted to get in the queue and get home as quick as I could before an eruption.
At last, a sweet was selected. Hurrah!
We get to the queue and unpack the groceries, I started putting this trip down as a win. Silly me. She changed her mind.
I did try convincing her that she had the best sweet ever. We could always get the other one next time. But no, she wanted the other one. I said I couldn’t leave the queue now. Groceries were on the belt, a child in the trolley, one holding on but DD was standing firm. I said it was now too late for this time but next time we could get the other one. But no, she wanted the other one.
I said if she wanted to change it, she would have to go by herself. Convinced she wouldn’t because she actually didn’t like not being able to see me (and I her!). But she went! I did panic but I honestly didn’t know which children to stay with at this point. Thankfully, she returned before I’d packed my shopping back into the trolley from the conveyor belt to go and find her.
Yay, she had returned but returned with a face like thunder. She couldn’t find the one she had wanted. Firmly, yet nicely, trying to disguise the bubbling panic rising inside me I said that it was too late now and we would get it next time. I got an Ugg boot to the head and an audience from the surrounding aisles. At this point, I wanted to run but I was blocked in, shopping everywhere, and eyes watching. What do you do? I said I didn’t appreciate that, to please collect her boot and to come help mummy pack. I got another boot to the head and now aisles 4, 5, 7 and 8 watching.
I felt like doing a tap dance to entertain my new crowd. Maybe provide some popcorn to add to their enjoyment?
They wanted me to shout at her and discipline her, THERE and THEN of all things!
I just wanted to educate them THERE and THEN, ‘You CANNOT shout at a child with ADHD to calm them down THERE and THEN!’ unless of course, you want to escalate the issue further.
ADHD children cannot regulate their emotions, you have to do that for them. If you start shouting at a heightened ADHD child they will explode and the whole shop will feel the wrath. The disciplining part, the reasoning, must be done later. Only when they are calm and can understand what you are explaining to them.
Obviously, I didn’t have time to educate the onlookers. The priority is always your child. You must somehow shut out the stares and parent your child as only you know-how. Whatever works to get you all safely out of the shop.
And that is exactly what it is, an invisible disability. A disability that so many are still so unaware, ignorant or in denial over. It is so upsetting to watch people judge your child. Look at them like they are naughty little monsters who need stricter parenting. They don’t see the amazing child that literally CANNOT help how they are feeling or how they react. Believe it or not, they don’t want to be like that! The remorse they feel after is heart-breaking. The standing and staring people are not helping anyone. Quite frankly I’ve been close to throwing an Ugg boot at their heads!
People do say you should ignore it, which is by far the best answer. However, it is difficult to always do this when you yourself are not in the right mindset. Sometimes you just feel a little of that red mist rising up in you too. You want to ask if they want a signed photo or ask if they indeed need anything? A friend of mine told me they have asked the onlookers if they would like help in understanding ADHD? Or lucky you not having this in your life!
It is hard to just ignore, but I would absolutely encourage you to.
Focus on your child/children/you.
I was lucky enough to go away on holiday this year with a friend, and her children. She ‘gets it’ whoop! We were sitting by the pool and my two ADHD kids rowed about something so trivial, like breathing too loudly. It kicked off and sunbeds went flying! Because said friend ‘got it’ she quickly whisked one of my ADHD children away. No doubt with the promise of some bribe like ice cream, so that I could focus on the other one.
My son was so heightened at this point he continued to kick and scratch me whilst screaming and swearing. Obviously, it was ridiculously noisy and I’m sure highly ‘entertaining’ to an onlooker. I just wanted to shrivel up and disappear. Of course, people want to see what is going on. It is human nature. But once you have realised it’s a child and a parent and not something that involves you, surely you know to look away? I couldn’t get over how brazen the stares were. I was so angry that grown adults just watched! But, I didn’t have time to deal with them. I had a child who was so amplified now I needed to focus on them and be there for them.
Whilst hugging him in, I did give evils over the top of his head to anyone who was still looking. It helped and actually seemed to embarrass them. Highly recommend it once you have your child calmer.
My wonderful friend was shortly able to return not only with my other child now calmed but with two cocktails in hand. Love her! If only at every kick-off we could have a friend with cocktails to lend a hand life would be so much easier. But for the times they are not, I suggest an evil stare back, an imaginary lob of an Ugg boot to their head and most importantly, keep a chilled bottle in your fridge for later, you deserve it.
I have started a private support group on Facebook for parents and carers who need support with their child with ADHD. It’s a friendly place to chat with others. Please do click this link ADHDinchildren to join. And for anyone on Instagram, I’m there too ADHD Mum.
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I think you’re an amazing mum. Thank you for this blog and please have a lovely holiday. We’re off to Wales as I couldn’t face the airport COVID-19/ADHD/autism perfect storm.