ADHD and other challenges…

The life of motherhood unceasingly calls us to serve and to love. Great discernment is necessary every step of the way and I sometimes feel I need to be doctor, teacher, healer, chef, servant, director, and scheduler along with friend, protector and guide. This list is not exhaustive…

When our precious babies come to us wrapped in softness and need, we cuddle, caress, nurture, feed, bathe and hold. Though temperament exists from the beginning, the initial requirements are basically the same from child to child. As they grow into toddlers, we soon recognize the differences between them and we tailor our relationship and handling of each child to their particular needs. When with them day in and day out from the very beginning, we adjust, accommodate and normalize according to the particulars of any given child. When they venture out to join other groups of children, no longer limited to the safe haven of home and immediate family, we begin to see challenges unique to each child.

I well remember having my sister’s children come over for visits when they were younger and I would question, “why in the world can’t these kids be still?” Especially her adorable eldest who could manage to wallow around until she spilled off of a bleacher seat into the floor at a ballgame! I later learned she often fell out of her desk at school. Hmmm…strange behavior to mother of Heather who was physically still and calm from birth, who presented no physical challenge to manage whatsoever. Heather was also trustworthy from toddlerhood. I could say, “don’t open that cabinet” and she would simply obey. Noah, however, would have had to at the very least hear why the cabinet shouldn’t be opened by his own little hands and would likely request that I open it for him so he could see…THEN, he would be satisfied to leave it alone and would obey. Different children, different procedures for ensuring the desired outcome. What lessons we learn in parenting…

Erick and I marveled while Noah was still in the womb at the amazing amount of activity he displayed. I laughed when Erick asked if I thought it could possibly be giving us a glimpse into his personality. I thought, “how silly!” Little did I know!!! My little wiggle worm burst onto the scene and even from the first days of infancy not only was he active, he was noisy! A test was conducted to determine if he was in distress because of his constant grunting before we even brought him home from the hospital though a wise nurse offered, “my guess is, this little one is going to be a talker because he appears to be in no distress whatsoever as he offers his little sounds.” Prophetic words indeed!

Noah made motor noises with his mouth ongoing for a very long time when he was still preverbal. If he heard it, he mimicked it from so early on. We delighted in his precious little sounds and became accustomed to it as it was from the very beginning and we accepted it as part of who he was. No problem, right? Well, not so when you join 10 or so others in school. Clearly, a teacher could not teach and children could not learn if humming and motor noises were continually permeating the classroom, thus our trials began…And may I offer, he came home from preK-4 and shared that he had fallen out of his desk, a reminder to me of his Lewis Cousins who were known for such as well.

I was reluctant, to say the least, to give Noah ADHD medication. After all, he is quite bright, learns well, makes excellent grades, is socially well-adjusted. But then I learned from his 1st grade teacher that his frustrations were growing. He had difficulty completing work assignments on-time, made errors as a result of distractibility, etc. What to do??? I tried schooling him at home this Summer to see if I could manage to aid him enough to avoid need for medication. I quickly realized the problem was not something that could be willed away, manipulated away, or accounted for enough to alleviate the troublesome symptoms he had. Noah would try so hard and then cry with frustration when he would recognize on his own that he had mentally wandered away from the task at hand multiple times preventing completion. So back to the Neurologist we went, to the one who diagnosed him over a year ago. Another funny note…my sweet sister accompanied Noah and me to his appointment for testing. As we were leaving, I shared with her that indeed Noah had been diagnosed with both hyperactivity and attention deficit to which she responded with her characteristic smirky little grin and offered, “I could have saved you a lot of money.” Wise guy!!!

One medication trial lasted a little over a week and was stopped by the doctor when he learned Noah was having abrupt crying spells each day four hours after taking his medication. It was disheartening for many reasons. The obvious, my son was suffering emotional ramifications from the medication. The other, it was amazing the difference in his ability to focus during those 4 hours before “the let down” as they call it. He would follow me around reading to me with enthusiasm and great joy! He could focus like never before! Yes, he had learned how to read, but keeping his mind on it for extended periods had been near impossible for him until he took the medication. The skeptic that I had been died a sudden death when I saw the amazing results of medication in treating Noah’s attention deficit. Nevertheless, we had to stop the medication.

He was then put on another stimulant. This one made him feel terrible from the beginning. He had restless legs, moodiness, nausea and difficulty sleeping along with decreased appetite. It was stopped after a week and a half as well. Then on to a non-stimulant trial. I cannot begin to tell you my disappointment to find a tablet that could not be crushed, broken, etc. for my 7 year old to swallow. Both of my kids and my grandson all have a sensitive gag reflex (they get it from me) and the only way to get this medication down was to swallow the pill whole. The first time was such a trial! We tried putting it in yogurt, jello, pudding, applesause…you name it, we tried it. The poor child tried and tried and tried without refusing to continue. Yes, he cried and I felt terrible over it, but what to do???

We have battled for 2 weeks now trying to get the hang of swallowing tablets, trying to navigate our way through the side-effects of fatigue, headache, and bouts of depressed mood. Yesterday we went back to the doctor and were encouraged to give the medication 2 more weeks of time for Noah’s little 48 pound body to adjust. He has been such a trouper and we have been faced with the challenge of clarifying to him our reasons for engaging such a tedious and difficult process. He pronounced yesterday that the medication was NOT helping him. I quietly asked, “did you get any tally marks for talking during class today?” His reply, “no.” I then asked, “did you complete all of your class work on time?” His reply, “yes.” I came home to find two tests from Friday, both of which he had made 100s on. I encouraged, “Noah, I believe it is helping.” Now for getting through two more weeks and praying the bothersome side-effects subside and the benefits remain.

Parenting is hard. Each child is different. Being a Mom or a Dad requires us to recognize the unique gifts and challenges of each of our children and to encourage growth around both. Noah is an amazingly creative and imaginative little boy. He is disinterested in sports…we noticed that right away when on the basketball court his first year playing upward basketball he was wielding his imaginary sword as he charged down the court quite clearly in another world, one far more interesting and enchanting than the one the rest of us inhabit 🙂 I have told him, and I completely believe, that God has gifted him in a special way and will use those gifts for good in His own time. As for the challenge with his attention, I have told him we all have our own particular challenges to address and that we, as his parents, will partner with doctors and teachers to help him learn to manage and to be successful. This process of searching for the right medication has given me many opportunities to share with Noah about struggles others have with mental and physical problems and how we sometimes have to endure unpleasant conditions in order to reach goals. I’ve validated his great courage and efforts that have been clear over the course of the Summer. I’ve talked with him about growing up and how, though in the past many things could be done for him, from here forward will require his efforts and his accomplishment.

Wow, what a journey motherhood can be. Everyday provides opportunity to teach important life lessons and to build on the relationships we have with our kids. We do this, as parents, while simultaneously managing our own lives outside of motherhood. I’ve been preparing to return to full-time work for the first time in over 7 years as we’ve maneuvered through these med trials and all it has entailed this Summer. We do this tenderly and wholeheartedly, knowing one day these precious little ones will be all grown up, living on their own and hopefully soaring as they should living as God intended them to do, displaying all the gifts and talents He has given to them for His honor and for His glory. May we parent well and treasure the moments we have with these gifts from heaven that we call our children.

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