ADHD is a b*@#$! (I vowed to keep it real, right?)

If my son’s inability to stay focused were due to an obvious brain injury or intellectual delay, his inattentiveness would never be questioned as a lack of motivation or not trying hard enough. If my son had physical and developmental delays that were obvious just by looking at him, he might not be chided for crying when teased at the age of twelve. If my son had a vision impairment, his inability to copy down instructions from the board effectively wouldn’t be a constant source of criticism. Maybe, just maybe, if he had a tattoo on his forehead that read, “I was born with a brain that is different from yours,” teachers, friends, strangers at the grocery store, and, yes, even sometimes his parents, wouldn’t question the validity of his struggles.

But my son, Ricochet, does not have a disability discernible just by looking at him. He has ADHD and learning disabilities — differences in his neurology and physiology that can be just as debilitating as cerebral palsy or blindness, but invisible to the human eye. The contrast between expectations and capability is stark but invisible with behavioral disorders, including ADHD.

So I struggle. I struggle to discern when a disability is at play and when Ricochet really is being lazy, suffering a lack of motivation, or doesn’t know how to start cleaning up his room. I struggle with fairness in consequences and punishment. I struggle to get his teachers to really, TRULY see my boy — his weakness and his strengths. I struggle to help his teachers discern the difference. I struggle with a broken heart when his peers test his gullibility or he has yet another full-blown autistic-type meltdown.

This momma really struggles. The challenges of a new school year, a new school, and the newness of starting middle school have pushed us to the brink over the last ten days. Ricochet’s anxiety is boiling over, and mine is too. We are stuck deep in the muck of invisible challenges. Despite moving feverishly to free ourselves, we are merely moving in place.

ADHD is a b*@#$! And parenting a child with ADHD is no picnic either.

Currently, my most challenging struggle is constantly anticipating a meltdown at school. We’ve had one already this school year, so I’m on high alert. The knots in my stomach get tighter and tighter to the point of nausea the closer we get to the school each morning. My head feels light as I glance in the rear view mirror at Ricochet’s face but can’t determine his mood at that moment. My heart begins to thud rapidly as I pull up to the curb. Please get out, please get out, please get out, my subconscious pleads. I hold my breath as I roll to a stop and wait to hear the door lever snap.

If he gets out and trots along toward the door, my mind does a silent happy dance and the corners or my mouth instinctively reach for my ears. I immediately feel the tension release it’s grasp from my body. We made it through one more day without questioning being at school. {Phew!}

But the memories of school meltdowns (not so far) in the past hijack my psyche each and every morning. It’s an automatic defense mechanism. It’s torturous. I tell myself not to worry — to save it for when something actually happens — but I have no control over it. As I begin to compile school days without incident (currently three since the last school meltdown), I tell myself that I need to employ my go-to motto in times like these: Who Cares?! That’s a whole lot easier said than done.

I talk myself through it. What happens if he has a meltdown at school? Will he be kicked out? (no) Will I look like a bad parent? (maybe, but that doesn’t matter) Will the school staff understand that a meltdown isn’t a temper tantrum? (probably, based on our experience last week) Will he miss a lot of school? (maybe, but we can work on that if it comes to it)…

Yet, my fear hijacks my mind and my body every single morning. I can’t change my son’s brain, so I can’t stop meltdowns. I can work on acceptance though, and that’s the task I’ve assigned myself for the here and now.