I'm a busy stay-at-home mama turned 911 Dispatcher with three fantastic kids. I'm an Oregon transplant from the Windy City. Nine years ago we followed a job at Google to the Columbia Gorge where I am constantly on the go making my way around the Oregon wilderness, one graveyard shift, fruit stand, and kids' potty break at a time.
I never really thought of myself as the mom of a "challenging child." I've watched other moms struggle with "difficult children" and I'll admit, I've even felt a bit of pity for them at times. I wondered what that must be like, to constantly be at battle with your own child and the world around them.
And then the emails and phone calls started.
"He's having trouble focusing."
"He's being disruptive."
"He can't seem to sit still."
"He has trouble finishing his work unless I'm right with him."
"He's a good boy, but....."
And then it continued.
"This is becoming a real issue."
"The bus had to pull over today because of his behavior."
"I just can't have your son around mine for awhile. Trouble seems to follow him."
No one disputed that he was smart. That he was kind. He didn't hurt other children. He didn't maliciously cause trouble. But things changed. Little by little, he began to shut down. As his mother, I felt helpless. Things were spiraling out of my control, and suddenly it was MY child who seemed to constantly be at battle with the world around him. He began to lie to avoid getting in trouble. He started avoiding time with us at home, withdrawing instead into solitary activities. He dreaded sports practices, started having trouble sleeping, and became argumentative with us and with his teachers.
He became the most exhausting little human being I have ever loved more than life itself.
And then I realized it. I WAS that mother. My kid was that challenging kid.
Appointments were made. Doctors, teachers, specialists. Tentative diagnoses were tossed around. Therapy discussed. Medication contemplated. And in the midst of all of it, the issues continued. I began to feel that the world was outpacing us. That he was sliding faster than we could help him combat it. I wanted to scream at everyone to just PLEASE give us some time. Understand that we're trying. Believe me that he's a good boy. Tell me I'm not failing. Help me understand him.
And I held him tight while he cried that he "has no friends" because "he is so bad."
I tried to reassure him when he said that his teachers hate him.
That his coaches don't like him.
That he never gets invited to parties.
That other moms and dads don't like him.
That he can't do anything is right.
I tried to build him up as fast as he was tearing himself down. Because I I know his heart.
I've smoothed his hair from his face while he sleeps, still clutching a stuffed puppy.
I've seen him cup a baby chick in his hands with incredible gentleness.
Watched him guide a younger child through an activity with a soft voice and kind words.
Heard him affectionately call out "goodnight, sissy, I love you!" down the stairs to my girls.
Seen his steadfast determination to learn how things work, and why.
I've cried at night where he can't see me, out of sheer frustration.
I've reached out to friends. And they have answered in tenfold.
I think that many of you see what I see.
You see a little boy with a freckled face and unruly hair and a funny gap in his front teeth who sometimes forgets his socks, never ties his shoes, and has a big generous spirit. You see a little boy who can't always communicate what he feels, because he's scared that anything he says will get him in trouble. A little boy who wants to be accepted, but who has a hard time controlling his impulses.
You see a challenging child with a heart of gold.
You see my son.
And to all of you who see him, and who see us, thank you.