I was coaching my younger daughter’s netball game. There were ten little 7-year-olds running around warming up, when a friend walked over to say hello. “You seemed a bit quiet yesterday,” she started, “Are you OK?”
Cue the waterworks. There’s something about someone asking, “Are you OK?” that gets me going. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I can’t seem to hold it in. But I had a netball game to coach and umpire, so I wiped my tears and managed to mutter, “Not really, but I will be. Thanks for asking.”
My daughter has ADHD. I used to be a nanny and I used to also babysit a lot of kids before that. I was that not-so-understanding person that turned up to a job, felt overwhelmed at such a wild child. I called their parents, told them I couldn’t handle it and I left. Granted I was 16 and out of my depth, but I thought the kids were just wild and I much preferred the easier ones.
If only I knew.
Before my daughter was diagnosed, I would best describe my parenting style as floundering. I showed up every day, and I collapsed into bed each night. The in between hours was me trying to cope, and not understanding what was going on. Why couldn’t she handle when I said no? Why were her reactions so huge and wildly disproportionate to the situation? Why was everyone else’s kid so much better behaved and even keeled? Why could my kid not read social prompts, when everyone else’s could? Or so it seemed?
I read parenting book after parenting book. I cried to my mum and my sisters. I hugged my daughter a lot, and loved on her hard. I was floundering, and I felt like I was failing.
I could handle the boundless energy, and the almost day-long tantrums, but the one thing I couldn’t handle; the constant worrying. Most of all, I just wanted others to adore her as much as I did. I wanted them to see that she was inquisitive, empathetic, open-hearted, and so loyal. Sometimes you have to get past all the noise and quirkiness to see the gold, and some people didn’t have the patience for it.
I wanted to know she would be OK. I wanted to know she would be happy. I wanted to know she is happy, despite the struggles.
Even now, two years after being diagnosed, life is easier. We have more calm. Less tantrums. But other things pop up. Teen ADHD is a whole different game, a social game that I don’t know if I have the nerves for (while also knowing this is not really about me at all, and it’s so much more challenging to be her, living it).
Another friend told me recently, “You need to stop worrying,” as if it was a switch I could flick off and on. I wish it was. I want my brain back to think about other things. Mundane things. I know all parents worry, and I’m not trying to compete for which parents worry most. In fact if there is a competition, I most certainly want to lose it. I don’t like the worry wart I am. It consumes me. It’s no fun for anyone.
That friend from netball, found me after the game, and practically jumped on me. “You know I’m here, whenever you need. You don’t need to carry this worry all alone. Any time, I’m here.” I felt lighter, almost instantly. I wasn’t alone.
So, ask your friends with kids who have ADHD are they OK. We’re probably not. But we will be. We have to be, otherwise who else is there to hold everything together?