Friday, December 31, 2010


It can be tough to be a mom today. 

Moms are expected to be everything.  To cook amazing meals that are healthy and use only organic ingredients.  To keep a nice home with personal touches worthy of a Martha Stewart inspection.  To be fully involved with their kids' lives and provide just the right mix of assistance and independence.  To balance work and family with ease.  To be mom, wife, friend, and helper. 

Failing any one of these - even remotely - can be a blow to a mom's self-esteem. 

Add in some sort of challenge (say...ADHD) and your mom-esteem really takes a beating. 

There are days when I feel invincible, like the best mom on the block.  On those days, I am sure that God delivered my son specifically to me because no one else could give him the same balance of encouragement, structure, and love. 

Then, there are the rest of the days. 

It is really hard to keep up your mom-esteem when your son is screaming at you.  Because you have made his life miserable.  Because you said it's time to turn off the TV.  Or because you want him to put the stick away. 

School is really hard on mom-esteem.  I don't know if there ever was a time when parents weren't judged by how their kids do in school.  But I know that the stakes seem awfully high these days. 

Typical conversation:  Other mom:  "Did your son finish his project on his favorite world culture?" 

Me:  "What project?"

Other mom:  "You know, the one where they have to bring in some example of another world culture.  Trevor chose Malaysia and we are making nasi kandar for the whole class."

Me:  "Did I miss this?  I don't know anything about this." 

Other mom:  "Your son is in the gifted program, isn't he?"

Then there's doing homework. I mean, they do teach this stuff in school, don't they?  Some days, it just doesn't seem that way.  And I feel utterly incapable, which is hard to take for a well-educated woman who generally thinks she can do it all.  But how do you explain the executive, judicial, and legislative branches when your 8-year-old just doesn't seem to get it?  Or make a strong-willed child read a chapter book when he really wants to read a picture book he knows by heart?

Of course, ADHD itself is hard on mom-esteem.  Yes, the main body of evidence suggests that these kids are born this way.  And living with Dylan's undiagnosed dad would suggest that there is a definite genetic component to it. But then there's the suggestion that pesticides are a factor.  That lack of exercise exacerbates the symptoms.  That guten or casein or sugar or dye are to blame.  There's plenty there to beat up the old mom-esteem. 

And if you aren't willing or able to radically change your whole life to see if it makes a difference?  It's a wonder we moms even get up in the morning. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

To sleep, perchance to dream

I love to sleep.

I always have, really.  My mom said I slept through the night in no time as a baby, although I think my grandmother was slipping cereal into my bottle. 

I excelled at sleeping in as a teenager, and continued on into college.  When I met my husband, he would laugh at how long I would stay in bed on weekend mornings (although he has become a lot more like me in this respect).

Because of how much I love to sleep, I worried about having a baby.  How could I stand the lack of sleep that went part and parcel with having a baby?  How would I endure the frequent wakings and feedings?  How could I do all that and get through the workday?  And it was rough.

Dylan was not a good sleeper.  I had acquaintances tell me that their kids slept through the month at three months (hated them), at six months (yeah, right), and certainly by a year (nope).  It wasn't until about 16 months that Dylan finally started sleeping through the night.  And boy was I tired.

Even after he got better at it, he still woke up during the night several times a week.  I let my husband take care of those nighttime wakings.  After all, I'd had to get up much of the time when he was a baby and I was the one getting up early in the morning to get us out the door on time.  And I needed the sleep.

For Randy, it was not a big deal.  He climbed into bed with our son, settled him down to sleep and either slept there himself for a while or stumbled back to our bed and feel asleep.  I would've been awake after all of that.

The one thing I was adamant about was bedtime routine.  Randy would beg me to keep Dylan up so we could enjoy more time with him, but I insisted on a regular sleep schedule.   Every night was pretty much the same:  have a bath, play soft music, read a story.  Tooth brushing was added when he got older.  As homework was added to the mix, nightly baths became more of a few times a week thing.  But in general, bedtime was routine and successful.  Dylan got quite good at falling asleep and staying asleep.  It was something I could count on and, as much as I loved sleep, reveled in. 

Then ADHD entered our lives.

The fact that ADHD meds lead to sleep disturbances is well known.  And in reality it's not the drugs themselves, but the rebound after the drugs have gotten out of the system.  Just as I feared what would happen when Dylan was born, I was afraid of how the drugs would affect his sleep.  And my fears were warranted.  Since Dylan has been on Daytrana, bedtime has become a huge challenge for everyone involved.  And while I like the way that Daytrana helps Dylan stay on task and keep his cool, I don't like the rebound effect.

It's like a cruel joke, really.  Everyone needs good sleep, but someone who has trouble with distraction and impulsivity really needs good sleep.  And just when he needs to be calm and easily soothed, he is getting wound up and ready for battle.  It's so frustrating.

We started him on melatonin shortly after he started the Daytrana and at first it worked like a charm.  But lately...not so much.  Worse, he doesn't want to follow the routine.  He suddenly hates to brush his teeth.  He wants water, this special book, that toy in bed.  And he wants to sleep in our bed.

This last issue is partly my fault.  One night I had a terrible headache and asked Dylan to climb into bed and read to me instead of the other way around.  Apparently, he liked it.

When he was a baby, we did co-sleep with him part time.  It sure made nursing easier.  And soothing.  And sleep (for me).  But as he got older and bigger, we called it off.  You have your bed, we have ours.  If necessary, Daddy will lay down with you in yours.  I never got into that habit because I didn't want it to be an option on the table.  But now it is.  And I can't seem to put that genie back into the bottle.

I don't remember how going to bed was for me at Dylan's age.  I know I was generally more self-sufficient, but my mom may have read to me.  And, of course, I wanted to sleep.  The rebound keeps Dylan from wanting to sleep.

With this being vacation week, everything is even more out of whack than normal. I'm hopeful that school and homework will get us a little more on track, sleep-wise.  Because I need my sleep.  Dylan needs his sleep.  And we need peace at nighttime.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back to our regularly scheduled programming

Visiting with family is a joy, especially when you do not live close to family and your family is small.  That is, it's a joy, until it's not.  Then it's just torture waiting for it to end. 

The worst part about having family live far away is the fact that when you do have visits, they are long visits.  Sometimes, even made longer by the airlines who trick you into extending your trip so that you can get the best deal. 

We just finished our marathon Christmas visit.  My mother-in-law arrived on December 17th, a week before Christmas.  My mother arrived on the 20th and just left today, on the 29th, so we have had guests in our house for almost two full weeks.

Our mothers are completely different, especially in the way that they relate to our son, Dylan.  To Grandma (my mother-in-law), Dylan is the perfect child.  He never does any wrong.  If he is not behaving, I get the feeling that she somehow thinks that it's our fault, that we have certainly provoked him in some unnecessary way.  During Katrina, when we evacuated to her home outside of Atlanta, she fed him Oreos and ice cream for breakfast.  To her, he is the prince and all of us are merely his servants.

My mother (Nana) sees things far differently.  For starters, Dylan is not a girl.  One strike against him at birth.  And his ADHD sometimes leads him to be difficult, distracted, and demanding.  When it starts, you can feel her disapproval permeating the air.  I begin to think that I'm telepathic because I know I can hear her thinking, "This child needs a good crack on ass."  Being from Boston, that is exactly how she would put it.  When I'm trying to be utterly calm and dispassionate, I know she feels that I'm not putting him in his place.  That I'm discussing things that don't deserve discussion.  He should be punished and that is that.

Today was not a good day.   Grandma had already gone home.  Nana and I were going to breakfast and before we left, Dylan began ordering me around like he was the dictator of a small country.  Not good behavior and I was not fulfilling his requests.  For a non-oppositional child, they would have realized this and changed tactics.  For Dylan, that was a challenge that escalated and suddenly, not only did he want me to fix him breakfast, he wanted to come with us.  Obviously, his behavior did not warrant breakfast out and I told him as much.  Much crying, demanding, and gnashing of teeth followed, along with him getting dressed quickly and insisting he was going.  He soon realized,, however, that he was not going anywhere and he lay crying on his bedroom floor as we left, when  my mother said she was glad it was us dealing with him and not her. 

I lost it at that point.  I had been dealing with these little digs all week.  (That is, all nine days.)  There had been lots of eye rolling, lots of sighs, and several comments about "that child!"  I told my mom I was tired of the disapproval and wished she could accept my child for who he is.  Her response was that she had tried.  Not that she was trying, but that she had tried.  Her efforts, it seems, were in the past.

The next several hours were painfully long until I could get her on her plane.  It's back to the three of us.  It's FAR from perfect.  But we are no longer specimens in a family research jar.  We don't have to try harder, which only led us to perform worse.  We can get back to the routines that keep Dylan and the rest of us on track.  We can work on Dylan's behavior without judgment.  We can recognize when he is being oppositional and defiant without it being our fault, and continue to try to help him learn better ways of getting through life.