Memo to my son:
As I tell you nearly every day, there’s no out-loving your mother. I love you completely, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Nothing you could do will ever change that. At this particular point in your career, you should be very grateful for this unconditionality. Just sayin’.
P.S. Diet cherry coke cannot enable you to fly.
Once upon a time, I had Monkey all figured out. Oh, sure; Chickadee is complicated (an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, covered in… something… probably something sticky, knowing her), but Monkey was my simple child. Always happy. Easy to entertain. Friendly to all. Fearless. Adorable.
And he’s still those things, only not; and I am left trying to be the mother he needs while mourning the child he used to be.
My son is no longer happy and carefree. He is frustrated, he is often in trouble, he is more and more incensed at perceived injustice against him. He rarely eats; partially because he cannot seem to sit still long enough to do so, and partially because he doesn’t seem to know when he’s hungry. He is by all accounts quite bright, but meeting the bare minimum at school.
I have spent the year telling myself story after story: He’s adjusting to kindergarten, he’s bothered by his allergies, his blood sugar is low because he forgets to eat, he’s young, he’s a boy, things will change.
Things are not changing, unless I want to acknowledge that they’re getting worse.
Once upon a time, Monkey was this family’s port in a storm. Chaos swirled around him, and he sat in the middle, unperturbed, shining (and often, laughing and singing) for the rest of us as we all grappled with our own demons. Maybe he didn’t get all he should’ve. Maybe I was so busy trying to hold myself and his sister together that I didn’t notice that he needed more. Who knows.
Now I watch as Chickadee tends to him after repeated meltdowns. The wounded has become the healer, and croons to him and pats him and furrows her brow, feeling his pain. Don’t worry, Buddy, she tells him. You’ll be able to read that book soon. You’ll get to pick next time. You can start a new paper. You’ll get it with practice. She hovers as I hold him, trying to stop his flailing and crying.
Now I meet with his teachers, again, to discuss what I think I already know. We all keep saying the same things: This isn’t like him. This isn’t how he used to be.
Now I go to Chickadee’s therapist, not to talk about Chickadee, but to talk about Monkey and ask for insight. I hear what I know is coming but frustrates me anyway–too soon to tell, need more time, several possibilities. Have patience. His behavior can be modified. It’s just a matter of figuring it out.
I do what any wits-end parent would do after hearing “possible ADHD” multiple times, and decide to conduct my own experiment, because although it’s stupid, it at least makes me feel like I’m DOING something. I give Monkey a small glass of iced tea with breakfast. Just to see. We get to school, and his regular teacher is out. Whoops. What reports I’m able to get that day indicate no change.
Then I do what the wits-end parent does the day after said failed experiment, and give him an entire can of soda with breakfast the next morning. (Spare me the hate mail. He asked for heroin but I told him not to be silly.) I weigh the possible confounding factor of all that sugar against the possible toxins of aspartame, and opt for the latter. Today, his regular teacher is in, and I tell her what I did, and to please watch him for any change.
Shortly after lunch I call in for a report, and am told in no uncertain terms that I should not try THAT again. “He… well, he stood on top of a boulder and flapped his arms and insisted he could fly. For the better part of an hour. No more soda, please.”
So it’s a bust. Not ADHD. Probably. Maybe. Well, let’s see what Dr. Google has to say.
Dr. Google says that no improvement with caffeine means it’s not ADHD. Unless it’s ADHD and it wasn’t ENOUGH caffeine. Or unless it’s a certain KIND of ADHD. Or unless he has a sensitivity to aspartame or any of the other chemicals in the soda. Or unless he’s hypoglycemic. Or unless it’s an alternate Wednesday when the moon is full and Mercury is in retrograde.
Monkey comes home and announces, “I think that soda calmed me down. Can I have it again tomorrow?” He seems nonplussed when I report that we’ll be going back to organic milk.
Once upon a time, this was my easy child, with nary a care in the world. Now I’m lucky to catch glimpses of the old Monkey, the one who was always laughing. The child who I once felt confident I “knew” how to care for is now as much of a challenge to me as his (much more difficult) sister. But even after a day spent redirecting, correcting, and repeating myself (with less and less patience), this moody little boy will lock his arms around my neck, all elbows and knees and puppy-scent, smile up at me, and insist that I’m the best mother in the entire world.
I think he just wants more soda.