Thursday, October 25, 2012

when we decided to go from "living with adhd" to "medication"

Dear Ainsleigh,

You are amazing and hilarious and wonderful. You never cease to surprise me. A month ago, I found myself frustrated at how yet another night of homework had been painfully long and by how you just couldn't grasp some concepts. The next day you brought home a math test with a very poor score. I was more disappointed that we had spent two hours going over these exact concepts the night before, only to see that you managed to forget everything for the next day, than I was by the grade.

"I got a D!" you moaned. "I'm terrible at math."

That also got to me. I don't mind you not getting A's, but this is the first time you were assigned a letter grade. And then, for the third time that week, you cried about homework.

After you went to bed, I turned to your dad and said, "I don't know what else I can do. Maybe we need to revisit the medication thing." In the past, I've said this and your dad will calm me down and talk about what else we can do and how great we ARE doing. But this time, he just nodded and said, "I think you're right."

My world came to a screeching halt. (insert hysteria taking shape) What? You agree? Why? Don't you know it's my job to blow things out of proportion and your job to bring it all back into perspective! (insert hyperventilating) I thought that was in our marriage contract. Sidenote: I highly recommend this attribute when you're looking for a spouse. Most of the time, it's really great.

Dad just nodded and said, "I keep wondering if by not medicating, we're preventing her from an easier path. When you have a headache, you can function, but you're a heck of a lot happier when you take that out of the equation." That man is wise.

It was still a bit of a reality check. Over the next few days, I found myself crying a fair amount. In my shower, to your dad, to the pediatrician, to your teacher (that was fun - I started to get emotional and said, "Wait, I thought I was done crying...wait...nope, I'm not. Here it comes." To my credit, it didn't last long). There were two things that made me sad:

1. The vision of you crying 2-3 times/week over homework and being irritable the other nights made me wonder what you were bottling up through the day, only to release at home. The idea that you were trying so hard to do well and follow directions and complete work and still feeling like you weren't succeeding that you had to burst into tears at home just broke my heart.

2. I want you to know here and now and for the rest of your life that this was, in no way, any desire on our part to change you. My biggest fear was that you'd think we don't love you just the way you are. When you read this, unless you've had kids, you will have no idea just how crazy fiercely we love you. You are kind and sweet and thoughtful and helpful and funny and creative. Sometimes I watch you when you're not looking and think, "Holy crud, I got so LUCKY!" That's what I want you to remember. Always.

Your teacher was amazing and after going over the couple problem spots, said, "Now I want to go over some of her successes. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what we have to celebrate." And then he took half an hour to show us all the great things you've done, the tests (not math) you've excelled in, and how your reading continues to be at and above grade level (which, if you'll recall, hasn't been the case in years past). I left that conference with a spring in my step.

Your pediatrician was awesome, as always, taking the better part of an hour to explain medications and side effects and everything else we could possibly want to know. We settled on one, and I've played the fun game of visiting different pharmacies in an attempt to not pay a kabillion dollars.

When we explained the medication, we presented it much the same way the pediatrician told us she tells kids: Some kids have trouble with food and we call it diabetes and they have insulin. Some kids have trouble breathing and we call it asthma and they have an inhaler. (and you've seen Dono use one!) And some kids have trouble concentrating and we have medicine to help that. Except that when I first said diabetes, you groaned, "Do I have diabetes?" Um, no. "Oh PHEW. Wiat - do I have asthma?" No, dear, just let me finish. By the time I got to the last part, you were just kind of like, "Oh that? And a pill will help me? Awesome." I looked at your dad and he looked at me and we exchanged "that was easy" shrugs. The pediatrician had said most kids were relieved and that these conversations were generally easy. She was right.

Since then, you've come home happy. And proud. You've been finishing your seatwork AND having time for personal reading. One day you skipped home and said you not only finished your math pre-test, but you finished BEFORE four other people. You've been thrilled at how you've been finishing homework in under an hour. Not only that, but you've also, and this is the most important part for me, REMEMBERED the concepts being taught.

I don't think we've noticed any side effects, actually. I am thrilled you are still my Ainsleigh. It almost seems odd how easily we've transitioned from "trying hard on our own and feeling decreasingly successful" to "still trying, but with outside help." In the last month, you have cried about your homework exactly zero times. It has been nothing short of amazing.

My only regret is that maybe we shouldn't have waited this long. Maybe I could have saved you some heartache and self-doubt. I'm sorry we have to explore this together, because I'm the parent and you're just a kid and I should know what to do. But I don't. I have spent hours over the past few years reading and worrying and talking to friends and worrying and wondering and worrying. Thinking that you're failing your child and you don't know how to fix it is probably the worst feeling in the world. And it occurs to me that you've probably felt the same way about math. And maybe that's what makes me the parent, because I can find a solution (however slowly). It's hard. Thank you for being patient with me. If we had to divide up into parenting classes, I'd probably be in the "low" group. Like I tell you, though, "Somebody has to be in the low group - why not you?!"

Just so you know, if it did cost a kabillion dollars, I'd find a way to pay it because you are you. You are worth it. You've absorbed this new path with ease (and relief?) and it makes me love you even more, if that is even possible.

Except that it's not. Because, like I tell you every night after you tell me you love me more than I love you: It's not possible.



janine said...

I feel the same way with Maryn....I feel like the medication has actually helped us to see more of who she truly is and enjoy each other more instead of living in our land of frustration. In contrast, Eric's little brother who was diagnosed with ADHD as a child but was never medicated and struggled through school doing his fair share of self-medicating but just started now as an adult on some medication, told me how ANGRY he is that he didn't have that help as a child and how he feels his life would have been COMPLETELY different! It is terribly hard to make these decisions but you are an amazing mom (and joel as a dad) and it's not like you are taking this lightly! funny thing is, i was thinking this morning how relaxed she seemed this morning in piano and we had a great time chatting throughout her lesson without losing track of what we were doing:) she is an amazing little girl and you should be very proud!

Kellie Knapp said...

I LOVE this. I'm really, really happy for all of you. Nothing is more relieving to a mom, than to bring relief to her kids. I felt your fight! You guys kicked butt, and everyone wins. Go Mamma!

laura said...

Oh, yay for Seesee! I'm so happy. P.S. she is so cute I want to die.

NancyO said...

Wow, no easy answers or black and white solutions. You put a lot of time and consideration into this problem and it sounds like you made a good decision. I'm so glad it's working out for Ainsleigh (and all of you). Also, I love the picture of her in front of the door. Where is that?