by Adela Baker, CACP
Yesterday, around noon, I met my son at his day camp. I had taken the time to make and pack a well balanced and colorful lunch: his favorite sandwich (bologna with mayonnaise) his favorite veggies (carrots and bell peppers) his favorite fruit (watermelon and pineapple chunks) a small can of V8 and a couple of surprise chocolate chip cookies. He had spent the previous day fishing with a friend, and had spent the night away, so I hadn’t seen him in a while. I missed him!
I don’t know who spotted whom first in the melee of sweaty kids, but he ran up to me and in the most furious voice yelled at me, “Why are you here?!” He could have punched me full force in the stomach and it would have had the same effect. The nanosecond of shock, becoming aware that I was holding my breath and wanting to cry, seemed like hours.
I exhaled and slowly inhaled and exhaled again. “I love you. And I brought your lunch.” “I love you too,” he replied. “And I’m sorry that I yelled at you. Thank you for putting so much time and effort into making me a nice lunch. I really appreciate everything you do for me. You are The Best Mom Ever!” And he gave me a big tight bear hug.
Only that last paragraph didn’t happen. Because I couldn’t keep my cool. And he couldn’t either. It was a short but ugly confrontation I hope nobody heard. And while I did not say or do everything I felt, I certainly did not in that moment behave perfectly. And my kid certainly didn’t either. And I know that I cannot expect perfection from him or from myself. But I knew what to do! Only I had to react. And he also knew! Only he couldn’t stop to think and put his knowledge into action. And neither of us was thinking. And both of us felt bad. And I felt like The Worst Mom Ever.
Later that afternoon, when I picked him up from camp, we talked about it. Emotional regulation is an executive function skill that is sometimes not as well developed in the ADHD brain. While these turbo thinkers can slay any creative challenge, they often have difficulty maintaining a level emotional state, and self-monitoring and regulating actions. Those actions sometimes come out as hurtful words. And while ADHD is not an excuse, we can be understanding and compassionate. Not only can we be compassionate with others, but also with ourselves.
Let’s face it. It can be exhausting to be the mom of a kid with ADHD. Yes, I sometimes wonder why life chose me, of all people, to be the mother of this child. Yes, I sometimes resent the hand I was dealt and then feel immediately guilty for doing so. But I know I am not alone. And I know that I am doing the best I can. And I can take care of my kid. But I also have to take care of myself. It doesn’t matter if my kid can’t say it. I can say it to myself, “I love you.”