Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative bounced me to the editor, who offered me a running blog on their website.  I felt a little nudge inside my heart.  I saw those steel-grey eyes.  Now, it was time to get my child’s consent.

“Will it help other kids?” Lee said a hopeful smile

“Does your daughter know you’re writing about her?”  The man spit out his words, his steel-grey eyes drilling into me.  My fellow writers shifted in their chairs.  I felt like a bug pinned under a microscope.  No one had ever asked me this question in all the previous conferences I’d attended.  I shook my head no.  My cheeks burned under his gaze. 

The workshop leader said, “If you have personal questions for Jennifer, please ask her after our class.” 

I’d just read an essay of a morning when my child’s ADHD had spun out of control.  Desperate to cope, I’d written the story, looking for perspective.  Now, I felt my struggles had been human, might give other parents hope, and this workshop was my way to see if other writers agreed with me.  But, I hadn’t thought to show it to Lee, who was only nine years old.    

When the bell rang for lunch, the man leapt out of his seat and came over to me.  “You should wait until your daughter is old enough to give you consent.  She may never forgive you for writing about her disabilities.  Think about it.”  He strode out of the door.

As I watched him leave, I wondered if he was right.  My heart hammered, and a wave of shame rippled through me.  I pushed out of my chair.  If I kept my child’s ADHD a secret, under lock and key, then what message was I giving to her as her mother?  Lee needed courage, not fear, to face her challenges. 

I’m not here to sweep Lee’s disability under the rug, I’m writing to advocate. 

I returned home and told Lee I was writing about raising a child with ADHD, the ups and downs of our days together.  Since it wasn’t going anywhere yet, I didn’t see why I had to ask her approval.  Over time, my essays piled up, and I started to look for a place to publish them. 

When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative bounced me to the editor, who offered me a running blog on their website.  I felt a little nudge inside my heart.  I saw those steel-grey eyes.  Now, it was time to get my child’s consent.

“Will it help other kids?” Lee said a hopeful smile.

“More like the moms and dads.  But I won’t do it without your permission.  And, I’ll give you a pseudonym.”

In my attempt to find ways to parent my child and understand her ADHD, I’ve written over fifty blogs.  I’ve gone public on social media and been interviewed on Instagram.  Lee is now 21, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude for her support.  Any shame I ever felt has long been forgiven.

 

 

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Writing About My Child

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Sometimes A Great Notion

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Sometimes A Great Notion

Sometimes A Great Notion

Sometimes A Great Notion

The summer after my father passed away, my family rented a beach house in Lincoln City, Oregon.  What better way to remember him, I thought, than revisit a time that still felt magical?  I’d been a young teenager and a budding actress when Dad took us on location for Sometimes a Great Notion.  Thrilled to be around movie stars all summer, I’d relished every moment.   

One of our first stops was the Salishan Coastal Lodge, where my family had spent many fun hours.  As my husband and I walked from the lobby into the old, familiar restaurant, I thought I saw the same booth, just over there, in the center.  I pictured my father sitting with Paul Newman, who directed and starred, and co-star Henry Fonda, next to Paul’s wife, Joanne Woodward, with their friend, the director, George Roy Hill.  Closing my eyes, I traveled back in time and heard my father tell me the story I’d loved so much from his memoir:

“…Paul, Joanne, Fonda, Hill, and I were having lunch.  Paul, as usual, sat with his back to the room so as not to be recognized.  A woman spotted him, however, and approached us with a menu in hand.  She wanted Paul’s signature for her daughter, Nancy.  Paul explained that we were having lunch now, but if she notified the studio, they would send her an autographed photo with her daughter’s name on it.  With that, he thought, she’d go away.  As she started to leave, miffed, she suddenly recognized Fonda. 

“Mr. Fonda!  I didn’t see you there!  Would you please sign this menu for my daughter, Nancy?”

Henry turned on the charm.  “I’d love to.”  He took the menu from her, wrote down something, and then handed it to Hill, who grinned a huge wide grin before handing it to Joanne.  She, too, smiled and shook her head, handing it to me.  I couldn’t quite believe what I saw and gave it to Paul who burst out laughing before handing it back to the woman.  The note said, “Dear Nancy.  Paul Newman is a shit.”  It was signed, Henry Fonda.  The woman walked off without even looking at it.  What a nice surprise for her daughter.”

“Would you like a table?”  The restaurant host shook me back to the present.  I pointed at the booth in the center. 

“That one,” I said, giving my husband a wink. 

“Are you sure?” the host said.  “It’s a big one.”

I could feel Dad laughing, a slight whisper of air moving past my shoulder.  “Yes, that’s the one.”

  

 

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Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

...When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative...

read more
Sometimes A Great Notion

Sometimes A Great Notion

The summer after my father passed away, my family rented a beach house in Lincoln City, Oregon.  What better way to remember him, I thought, than revisit a time that still felt magical?  I’d been a young teenager and a budding actress when Dad took us on location for...

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... To hell with what other people thought or the obstacles I might face along the way.  I signed up for the CHADD conference and my world did a 180.  From doctors to psychologists, to educators, to other moms in support groups, I found my ADHD community...In my...

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Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

… To hell with what other people thought or the obstacles I might face along the way.  I signed up for the CHADD conference and my world did a 180.  From doctors to psychologists, to educators, to other moms in support groups, I found my ADHD community…

In my recent interview on Building Blocks Parenting, Carlee Krichmar asked me if there was one take away, a piece of advice I could give other parents raising children with ADHD.  Three words popped into my head that had given me the way forward and taught me how to believe in myself again. 

 “Knowledge is Power.” 

I’d been so scared.  When my child’s diagnoses started piling up on top of each other, like a stack of teetering stones, I kept trying to hide them, deny them out of existence, and pretend everything was normal.  It felt as if I was hanging onto the side of a steep mountain, too afraid to take the next step.  If I didn’t hold tight to my old beliefs, sheltered by my worst fears, then I’d tumble blindly into space. 

         

But the day came when my child, spinning out of control, said, “Mommy, my body moves too fast and my brain can’t stop it.”

Hearing her words broke through my wall of doubt and shame.  To hell with what other people thought or the obstacles I might face along the way.  I signed up for the CHADD conference and my world did a 180.  From doctors, to psychologists, to educators, to other moms in support groups, I found my ADHD community.        

The knowledge I gained gave me the power to come back and give my daughter’s teachers new ways for her to keep up in class.  I found activities she could do outside of school to build her self-esteem.  And I was honest with other parents, asking for their understanding.  Armed with knowledge, I now had the key to help my daughter with strategies and tools to succeed.

Yesterday, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a mother who had given up hope in her child.  Her worries of having her child labeled and the stigma of being judged had left her hanging on the side of that same mountain.  What she didn’t realize, I thought, is what she would feel if she reached out for help.  A solid foothold.  The kind that only comes when you give yourself the gift of navigating a new way ahead.

 

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Writing About My Child

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Sometimes A Great Notion

Sometimes A Great Notion

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Every Child with ADHD Needs a Miss Ellie

Every Child with ADHD Needs a Miss Ellie

Every Child with ADHD Needs a Miss Ellie

I’m excited to share with you a blog published in ADDitude this month, “Every Child with ADHD Needs a Miss Ellie.”  Click on the link for the full blog.

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Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

...When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative...

read more
Sometimes A Great Notion

Sometimes A Great Notion

The summer after my father passed away, my family rented a beach house in Lincoln City, Oregon.  What better way to remember him, I thought, than revisit a time that still felt magical?  I’d been a young teenager and a budding actress when Dad took us on location for...

read more
Knowledge is Power

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... To hell with what other people thought or the obstacles I might face along the way.  I signed up for the CHADD conference and my world did a 180.  From doctors to psychologists, to educators, to other moms in support groups, I found my ADHD community...In my...

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A Lack of Impulse Control on a Saturday Morning

A Lack of Impulse Control on a Saturday Morning

A Lack of Impulse Control on a Saturday Morning

…It’s exhausting, right?   Poor impulse control was, for me, the hardest part of parenting an ADHD child.  Instead of disciplining Lee for urges her brain couldn’t avoid, I learned over time to talk to her about the feelings that led to the impulse.  We discussed ways she could gain better control by looking at the consequences before an overwhelming desire took her down. 

On a Saturday morning, I tiptoed into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.  Maybe I’d have a few moments to myself before Lee, my high voltage nine-year-old daughter, woke up.  Just when I took my first sip, her door banged open like a gunshot.  Little feet raced down the hall.  I sunk into my chair at the table moments before she hurled herself into my arms.     

“Mommy!” 

My cheek pressed into her soft flannel kitty pajamas, and she snuggled her head against my chest.  Just as my pulse started to slow down, she bounced up and ran to the refrigerator. 

“I want scrambled eggs!” 

I grabbed my coffee and followed, catching an egg carton as it sailed toward me through mid-air.  “Jeez, Lee, slow down.”  Throwing open a cupboard door, she got out the mixing bowl and snatched the egg carton out of my hands.

“Careful honey…” 

Lee cracked eggs, then flung them into the bowl.  As she moved back toward the pantry, I fished eggshells out of the bowl and dropped them into the sink.  Lee came back with a tin of cinnamon and dumped half of it into the bowl. 

“French toast!”

I steadied my hands on the kitchen sink, then took a long gulp of coffee.  Yelling would have felt really good right now, but I heard the occupational therapist’s voice, “Breathe before you react, breathe…”  Hyperventilate felt more like what I was doing, but I tried to stay calm as I scooped cinnamon back out of the bowl.   “OK, Lee, we’ll have French toast.”  

A little while later, we took our first bites.  Lee glanced out the window and jumped out of her chair.  “Mommy, a hawk just flew by!”  She threw open the sliding glass door and ran outside.

It’s exhausting, right?   Poor impulse control was, for me, the hardest part of parenting an ADHD child.  Instead of disciplining Lee for urges her brain couldn’t avoid, I learned over time to talk to her about the feelings that led to the impulse.  We discussed ways she could gain better control by looking at the consequences before an overwhelming desire took her down. 

            In the meantime, I tried to reach deep inside myself and find a way to be patient, even when life was spinning out of control.  Although, I do admit to getting through the mornings on many cups of good old joe.

Here’s a great article from ADDitude magazine to help you find some control:

https://www.additudemag.com/impulse-control-strategies-adhd-students/

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Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

...When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative...

read more
Sometimes A Great Notion

Sometimes A Great Notion

The summer after my father passed away, my family rented a beach house in Lincoln City, Oregon.  What better way to remember him, I thought, than revisit a time that still felt magical?  I’d been a young teenager and a budding actress when Dad took us on location for...

read more
Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

... To hell with what other people thought or the obstacles I might face along the way.  I signed up for the CHADD conference and my world did a 180.  From doctors to psychologists, to educators, to other moms in support groups, I found my ADHD community...In my...

read more