Last night, after putting Emily to bed, I spent some time with Avery. This has become our new norm: some one-on-one time before he goes to sleep. Last night, though, was a little different. Before we settled into our usual board games or other activities, we spent some time chatting. And, while we were chatting, I was observing. Unemotionally, non-judgmentally, just observing.
This may seem like a little thing, or a strange thing, or certainly something not worth mentioning. But in some ways it was kind of a breakthrough. You see, we have been having a rough couple of weeks. While we’ve struggled with Avery’s behavior for a while now, on and off, a week or so ago things seemed to be getting worse. Earlier in the summer, he had been behaving at camp, and then his behavior started sliding downhill. When things seemed to be escalating to a point I was uncomfortable with, I decided to be proactive. He said he had been getting bored at camp (and, knowing Avery, when he’s bored, he tends to misbehave, so this seemed like a potential cause of the issue). So, since parts of camp were boring, I decided to look into other camps. He loves science, so I spent hours searching and looking into different science camps. And I found one that had availability last minute, that he could start this week. He was excited; I was excited. It was right up his alley.
His behavior at science camp was worse than it had been at the other camp.
What on earth was going on? I got emotional. I got frustrated. I got disappointed. He enjoyed the activities — at least the ones he was able to participate in without getting kicked out. He said he liked the people — yet he wouldn’t listen to the counselors, and he kept getting in the other kids’ way. He wanted to be there, but he couldn’t behave enough to be able to stay. So, after a day and a half, I pulled him out of camp.
For a while now I’ve known a few things about Avery: he has poor impulse control, he has a different way of looking at things when it comes to his behavior, and he has to constantly be moving (with the exception of a very few activities that hold his attention). We’ve suspected for a while that he may have ADHD. He’s a good kid. He doesn’t want to misbehave. He just can’t help it.
So what’s a mom to do?
I cried. I got depressed. I brainstormed. I held my little boy. I told him that no matter what, I love him. But I wanted to help him. We have to move past this. So, surprise, surprise, I turned to books. We went to the library and took out books geared toward kids that he could read on his own – about feelings, behaving, self control. I started listening to a book that fits Avery perfectly and could help guide me in my endeavor to help him. And last night, encouraged by the book I had been listening to, I observed him.
What did I learn?
Avery is amazing. He is smart, and sensitive, and affectionate. But I already knew that. But watching him without judgement (despite his flopping around, throwing a stuffed animal in the air, and doing other things I would normally criticize), I really saw how, despite his inability to slow down, he picks up everything. He’s still listening when I talk. He’s still processing and thinking and learning. He just can’t calm his body. And he can’t control his reactions to things sometimes. That sensitivity can sometimes make him over-emotional. But during our chat I learned that he’s more than willing to try things to help him. He doesn’t want to misbehave any more than we want him to.
And so, over the next days, weeks, months, it will be one of my biggest goals to help my little boy overcome these concerns. The book I’m listening to describes certain skills as “executive functions,” and some kids just struggle with one or several of them. Not surprisingly, kids with ADHD are often among those kids. And impulse control and emotional processing are just a couple of these skills. The book offers information and guidance on how to deal with deficits in these skills. I’m hoping this book will help me help him.
Avery has so much potential. He is a gifted kid, with a passion for life and learning. And I want him to be the best he can be. Not for my sake or his teachers’ sakes, but for his sake. He deserves it. And I won’t give up until he gets there.