Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sticking my neck out

I’m going to stretch out my neck and get a little personal. Please don’t chop off my head.

We are in the middle of trying to figure out, yet again, what is going on with Yo-Yo Boy. I have hesitated to say anything because my mother-hen inclinations make me fiercely protective of his (and my) privacy. But on the other hand, I’ve very much wanted to share something of our experience because rolling about in the throes of tough parenting issues is a lonesome-y place to be. I know that Mr. Handsome and I aren’t the only ones taking a tumble in a manure pit—other parents are also struggling mightily.

This post is for those who have learned one way or another that our children are not our own, and I don’t mean in the standard oh-isn’t-it-so-cute/annoying-that-they-have-their-own-minds moments. I’m talking about the gut-wrenching distress that comes from watching your child struggle with inner hurts that you cannot see or even understand, let alone figure out how to help. To those of you who get that, I am writing this.

I’m writing this for the rest of you, too, those of you who haven’t experienced this agony firsthand because any understanding and insight we gain only serves to make us stronger and more compassionate. For that, I am willing to stretch out my neck.

I’m not sure what exactly I should say, except that I’m scared and worried and very, very tired. We went through some extensive testing last summer and the results were ADD (there’s definitely an H in that diagnosis, but I find it easier to say, and type, without it) with maybe some mood disorder thrown in for good measure. (Let me insert here that part of this whole experience has been downright comical, that is, if you’re inclined to see things in that way. I used to think ADD was mostly a made-up diagnosis, something that got created as we moved towards a TV and junk food culture. Children are supposed to be active and hyper and distracted, I thought, and I still think that to some extent. But I also now know that ADD is a real condition, one that can be harmful if not handled properly.) I feel that I can handle ADD; I can work with it. But this mood disorder whatchamacallit is a whole different animal. It turns my child into a monster. It scares him, and it scares us.

For awhile there (a couple months, maybe) things were fairly stable. The medications were taking effect, and they were working. We marveled at how much fun Yo-Yo was. Loving him came easily, naturally. We relaxed—it felt unbelievably grand to be off the eggshells and walking on solid ground. And now everything’s erupted again. Mr. Handsome has had to come home two days in a row to help.

It’s hard for me to share this because I don’t want to be judged, criticized, and misunderstood. I’m afraid people will point fingers and say, “Have you tried this?” “If you would just do this...” “This is because you (fill in the blank: homeschool, lived in Nicaragua, eat refined sugars, had foster children, have four children, live too far out in the country, nursed him too long, didn’t nurse him long enough, fight openly with your husband, make him—Yo-Yo, not Mr. Handsome—wash the dishes and other sundry chores, let him have a Mohawk, showed him Monsters Inc when he was little, were too restrictive with him, were too lenient with him, permitted, nay, encouraged him to read the Harry Potter books).”

I alternate between doubting myself and finding pieces of sustaining truth. Other people have been key in helping me discover those uplifting nuggets of truth. In particular, two exchanges have helped me tremendously. One time my girlfriend and I were discussing another family that was having some serious issues with one of their children. I was going on about how mad I get when other people get so bent on figuring out what the parents did wrong, and I said (more or less), “At the times when parents least need it, they are subjected to tons of well-intentioned finger-pointing!” (of which, I must clarify, I have done and still do more than my fair share).

My girlfriend stopped me mid-rant and said, “You do know, don’t you, why they do that?”

I shook my head.

“Because they’re scared to death it will happen to them. They think if they can just figure out what not to do, they’ll be safe.”

Looking at it from that angle has helped me to understand and deal (more) graciously with the questions and comments. We’re all scared. We all need grace.

The second exchange happened at book club when Sue S., upon hearing me pour out my exhaustion (I can’t do this anymore) and insecurities (he would be better off somewhere else), said emphatically, “He is lucky to have you. He needs you more than anybody else. You are what he needs.” Bless you, Sue. Thank you for trusting us.

Those two exchanges pretty much sum up what parents of struggling children need (or at least, what I need, so I therefore think that everyone else needs!): 1. Others to let go of their need to analyze our situation so they can “understand.” 2. To be sincerely encouraged—cheered on, if you will. It sounds silly, superficial even, but we need a squad of cheerleaders (no mini-skirts necessary, though pom-poms are welcome) to jump around waving their arms and doing high-kicks and back hand-springs, all the while chanting, “You can do it! You’re the best! If you can’t do it, nobody can. Yaaaaay, Parents!”

We need to be trusted. Under normal conditions, this is hard to grant to others and to ourselves, and it is even harder when in a crisis mode, fragile and scared. But if we lose our confidence, then we are useless for our hurting child.


Now, several days after this latest bottoming out, things are going better—the tears, whining, and yelling have been manageable, and there has been a good amount of laughter mixed in—so I’m hesitating to publish this post, ever hopeful that the dreadful experiences of the past few days are no longer pertinent. But I know better. I know that he will spiral again, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week.

However, just as the bad doesn’t discredit the good, likewise the good doesn’t discredit the bad. It’s all bundled together into a bulky, messily-wrapped package—a gift I am sharing with you.

Please, dear ones, let me keep my head.


  1. I pray, dear one, that you can keep your head. I'm a tad old for high-kicks and back hand-springs, but I'll wave pom-poms for you with all my might!

  2. Great post; thanks for writing it.
    As to your comment that once upon a time you did not believe there was any such thing as ADD-- I always say, people who have the luxury of "not believing in" ADD are fortunate indeed.
    Those of us who live with it do not have that option.

  3. In the spirit of encouragement, you can weather this. I understand, from a different perspective what you are dealing with. My sister was... challenging. It is hard on the parents, it is hard on the sibling. But eventually it gets better. No lie, it took quite a few years to get to that better. Years that included late nights, unpredictable mood swings, and a year apart when my parents put her in a facility in Texas for all our sake. We sometimes don't quite believe that we are there, still waiting for that middle of the night phone call. But our family is stronger having come out the other side still intact. Seek out resources available to you, don't be afraid to tell your story, to use your connections, to lean on each other. Having you for parents is the greatest blessing Yo-Yo has in addressing and handling his challenges.

  4. I admire your courage and self-awareness and willingness to share your struggles. I have some ideas and resources for support. You can email me privately.

  5. I can't say I understand what you are going through cause I don't. But I can say you and Yours are in my prayers. God already has it all figured out.

  6. You can do it! You’re the best! If you can’t do it, nobody can. I mean it.

  7. goes a long way. We'll be praying. I mean it.


  8. My favorite cheer:
    Rah, Rah, Ree, Kick them in the Knee!
    Rah, Rah, Rass, Kick them in the...other knee!


  9. I'm sorry your having such a hard time with him! It's so hard to be a parent and not second guess EVERYTHING you think and do when your child is not always just happy, bubbly, and obedient. We are always looking for answers somewhere... I once read, and firmly believe, that God gives us each the exact child that we're the perfect parent to care for. He knows that YOU WILL DO all the right things to help mold your child into who He has him planned to be. I can't exactly understand what your going through but I'll pray for you and am here with a non-judgmental, listening ear if you need to blow off some steam. :)

  10. Thank you, thank you, face-to-face friends and bloggie friends---you are all sweet and kind and lovely. Hugs and kisses to you!