You’ll have to forgive my mood in this post. I have a particularly nasty chest infection. It hurts when I move, laugh, talk, or- you know- breathe. Pudding is also home ill with tonsillitis. She complained about her head hurting at the weekend, and took an extraordinary (for her) five hour nap on Sunday, but since we visited the doctors and got her medicine, she seems back to herself.
With one exception.
Because she had a fever, we didn’t give her her usual medication for ADHD. Sometimes Pudding is doing so well, I forget what a vital component medication has been for her. Then we take a break, and I remember.
I remember Pudding before she was five, with a body and brain that seemed to be in overdrive. And now, even though she is ill, it is just the same. Her body can’t get the rest she needs to recover. Her brain is seeking stimulation that she just can’t handle at the moment. She needs to rest, and that is the one thing she can’t do.
I never wanted to put Pudding on medication. I looked in vain for another way. We tried a few ADHD treatments where we felt the side effects were worse than the results, and then made a last-ditch attempt before giving up. Her particular chemistry found the right match, and the hyperactivity reduced considerably. It isn’t perfect, she still struggles greatly with attention, but her engine isn’t in overdrive any more, and slowing down just a little has helped her in every possible way.
Honestly, I don’t know if the child who couldn’t sit for even 20 seconds would have been welcomed into a mainstream class. I’m not sure if the child who skipped through books so quickly that every single one we owned was torn from its bindings would have ever slowed down enough to learn to read, or write. I know that she finds it easier to get through her various therapies now. I know that she is able to learn now. And play. And swim. And do all the other things that kids can do.
She may have made this progress anyway, but seeing her these last couple of days makes me think it would have been slower, and harder. The faster her wheels spin, the deeper she sinks into a rut.
I’m not saying that medication is for every child- far from it. Stimulants were terrible for Pudding, and a spectrum child seems far more likely to have atypical side effects. I still want to be the idealist mother who could find another way. But I know we made the right choice for our kid. I know that she is happier, feels better, when she can calm herself.
So what really ticks me off, is when I read yet another unscientific article about how ADHD (and sometimes ASD) is a construct of our times. Sometimes people actually send me these articles, wanting to help, I suppose, but doing quite the opposite. I can think of a dozen other ways to help other than telling me I’m doing it wrong. Sometimes I read, sometimes I just delete. They always read the same. Parents and doctors don’t let kids be kids, and if we just let our children play outside, or kept them off candy/ computers/ TV, or gave them the right diet/ vitamin/ parental attention they would be fine. Let kids be kids, and don’t turn them into zombies!
When the truth is- I just want to let my kid to be a kid, that is all I’ve ever wanted. This is one of many ways I help her to do just that. I wouldn’t even care about how exhausting her condition is for me, if it wasn’t even worse for her. There is no magic pill, but if there is something that helps her, perhaps even reduces the risk of harm coming to her, I’m going to keep on doing it.
And if there is anyone who thinks Pudding’s ADHD or her autism aren’t for real….well, they’re more than welcome to come here and get a dose of reality. Because much as it hurts at the moment to chase around a child who can’t keep herself out of harm, it hurts a whole lot more to be judged for doing it as well as I can.
Pudding is a child who was born knowing her own mind, and just waiting for her body to cooperate with its orders. She has some real struggles with her motor coordination, but I know one thing about her- if she can do something, she will do it. She was born independent.
Sometimes I have to persuade her that she needs help. I have to wait patiently as she struggles until I’m allowed to assist. If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, you know that patience is a work in progress for me. Somehow we get by, and her fierce determination means she gets to be just as independent as she wants to be.
Cubby, on the other hand, has never been one for independence. This kid loved being the baby, and was quite content to remain that way. Whereas Pudding’s limitations are hurdles, Cubby’s are more like barriers. He has always needed some persuasion to move forward.
But things are changing. Earlier this year he decided he was ready for toilet-training, and that was that. He is starting to dress himself, and get better about feeding himself. As all the skills he has been learning in occupational therapy start to come together, he is finding he actually has a use for them.
And then Pudding- always one to go it alone- has become more clingy. She began refusing to go upstairs or downstairs without me. Then asking me to go with her to the bathroom. Other times she doesn’t need me at all.
Sunday was Mother’s Day in South Africa, but Cubby let me know that tough guys don’t do cuddles. Later that morning it became evident that tough guys do still scream and pound on the bathroom door if their mummy needs a shower.
Both kids seem to be in an ongoing battle, and I suppose that is this thing we called childhood, mixed with a dash of disability. And I’m in this ongoing battle between holding back and offering support. I suppose that would be motherhood, mixed with a dash of disability. Somehow we muddle through together.
Last night I tucked Cubby into bed in his new flannel sheets (we’re moving into winter here). They were so soft and cuddly, he told me he didn’t need me any more!
And so, as we muddle through these Independence Days, I find I’m not needed in the same way, or as much as I’m used to. I need to adjust too. But on those days when I still need to be needed, I just sit at the computer and try to write a blog post.
It works every time!
Today, is my birthday.
Yesterday we were hanging around the mall, waiting to meet up with a friend who was arriving at the adjoining train station. We ducked into a shop that sells grooming products as Spectrummy Daddy needed something for his shave. While in there, I saw some expensive-looking face masks. Normally I wouldn’t consider spending so much, but my skin was very dry after a cold, and could have probably used a little extra moisture. Before I had a chance to pick it up, a sales assistant pounced on me.
“You’re skin is beautiful!”
Is it, really? I’m no stranger to this type of a pitch- they do it all over the world. In a hair salon, the stylist will tell me they love the thickness of my hair, then proceed to tell me the colour is drab and I need highlights. Or my natural colour is gorgeous- and no grey!- but it is in terrible condition and I need to buy their special treatment.
Only, I don’t. I choose to cut my own hair at home instead- it isn’t like I have the time to spend in a salon anyway.
And yes, within minutes, the lady is applying a gel that costs R800 to “even out my skin tone”. That isn’t enough, and she moves on to the dark circles under my eyes. She is talking anti-oxidants and free radicals. The benefits of rooibos (but not drinking it!) and how I shouldn’t put chemicals on my skin as it ages.
My skin is stinging and shining as this special formula only available in London or Paris (wait, where am I?) seeps into my pores. Which are too large, there is another product for that. So I’m not really listening, I’m just waiting for her to stop so I can get out of there and wipe the stuff off.
I should be vulnerable to this. My feelings should be smarting just as much as my epidermis.
I should be reflecting that I’m about to turn another year older- no spring chicken any more. I should be thinking that the last time I saw my friend was in Luxembourg, when Pudding was five days old and we were just out of hospital. I remember my friend saying I looked great- you couldn’t tell I’d just had a baby, and I mumbled something in return about being sleep-deprived. Hah! Pudding slept better as a newborn than she has in the six subsequent years! If I thought I was tired then, what am I now? If I didn’t feel my skin looked fresh then, in my twenties, how does that compare to now?.
But I’m not.
I just really don’t care, and it is truly liberating! Maybe my skin is a little dry. Maybe my hair could use a trim. But really I’m okay with how I am. With who I am. It has taken 35 years on this planet to get really comfortable in my own skin.
No sale for this lady- I don’t even bother with the face mask I would have bought had she not told me how ugly I am! Instead we head to the bathrooms and wipe the gunk off my face.
We head outside and I embrace my friend, and we marvel at how long it has been…at how much has happened since we last met. Does it show in my face? Maybe…but I wouldn’t change a thing!
Once upon a time I needed a cosmetic fix. These days I realize I was never broken. That might be the best birthday present I’ve ever given myself.