I never read the book, saw the movie, or heard the song, in case you were wondering (The Agony and the Ecstasy).
But I live it every day. With Clark, the ADHD Wonder Kid.
Clark, age 15.5, has progressed slowly, with maturity. We still count as our best days the types of days other parents read about and say, “Oh, my kid does that sometimes.” 🙂 Well, our other four do, too, sometimes (for more on that, see below).
Example: NOTE — YOU CAN CLICK TO ENLARGE ANY OF THE IMAGES IN THIS BLOG, THEN USE THE BACK BUTTON ON YOUR BROWSER TO RETURN TO YOUR PLACE IN THIS POST. SOME OF THEM NEED TO BE ENLARGED TO BE READ. AND YOU’LL WANT TO READ THEM!
Eric's text to me about one of Clark's best days, when I was traveling for work. Not included is his first text which said, "I was able to wake him up and get him to take his PED." (PED = "performance enhancing drug", Clark's preferred nomenclature!)
For those of you with younger ADHD kids, you know how much progress this text exchange represents.
Consider, too, Clark’s progress socially and in school activities. He did not have a single friend during middle school. Watching him try to interact with kids his age was like watching Pepe Le Pew, the little skunk from Looney Toons; the kids scattered away from Clark like his odd behaviors were a foul stench.
When he entered high school, he matured just enough that he leveraged his talents (theater) with his brain (genius IQ, like many of your kids) and his let’s-call-them-quirky traits (thanks a lot, ADHD) and found a niche: debate. As a sophomore first year debater, he blew us all away with his dramatic, aggressive, freaky intelligent, and ADHD-like style. See “Not Up For Debate.” In this, his first year, he missed qualifying for the state tournament (Texas “5A”) with his cross examination partner by 1 vote. He even found a girlfriend in debate.
Clark on Facebook talking with other debaters about how close he and Yingying came to a coveted state qual in CX, in his first year.
Yet, our struggles with academics and LIFE continue to challenge us, with Clark, like those with none of our four other neuro-typical kids ever did; sure, they had rare Clark-like days and dished out their own problems, but…all four together were easier than Clark. Note in the first text to Eric, above, I don’t ask about our two teenage girls, and I didn’t edit that part out. They are fine, and I know it. Clark is…Clark.
Kids are kids -- all of ours present unique "issues".
The hardest issues day by day remain turning in homework, truthfulness, and following instructions. We can’t tell whether it is intentional when we ask him to put up his clothes, he promises he will, and then he does not. All we know is that with 100% certainty, he will not do it unless we stand and watch until he finishes the task, whereas our other kids with 75% certainty will eventually do it when asked. Is this part of the present-orientation that drives us mad — the inability to take seriously future consequences for behavioral choices, because they aren’t RIGHT NOW? Or is it defiance by a kid who knows that he can wear us down? Occasionally, our frustration shows.
So, I’m about to give you a 100% unedited look into our life when we get frustrated — the electronic evidence, if you will — because it so clearly demonstrates that agony/ecstasy of ADHD parenting, and what our ADHD teenager is like. The reason it is all caught electronically is we text when I travel. I don’t travel much, but I happened to travel at exactly the right times to catch a trail that I thought might resonate out there with you ADHD mom readers. I hope it helps at least a few of you!
Have a great week,
Pamela aka Clark’s Mom
Clark must keep his clothes put away. Chaotic room = chaotic mind. Another "have to" -- no electronics after bedtime in his room. He is more likely than not to stay up all night reading, playing games, or texting. No sleep = chaotic brain, too. Well, some of you may not talk to your kid this way, but I told you we get frustrated and I was showing you the unvarnished version 😉
So Clark missed state quals, but his coach invites him to come to the state tournament and watch the team, to prep Clark for next year. What an honor! Clark is elated…and pretty much loses his mind with excitement, ha ha. And then it gets worse/better; it is the agony and the ecstasy after all. He misses qualifying for NATIONALS in a different debate event, one called public forum, by 1 vote again, a few weeks later. Now, watch this next exchange carefully. Note how he is always a half step off answering the question asked. You have to keep asking.
I know something awesome is happening, but relying on Clark to figure out what it is...well, it's nearly futile.
Finally, we connect -- I have an answer. And it's great news!
If we thought it was hard to wrestle him down before, oh my, now it’s impossible. Our attempts to communicate with him (obtain a straight answer to a question, often repeated multiple times) fail, more often than not.
Communication nil. Don't you love it when your kids expect you to read their minds? It's only his expensive drivers' ed class, after all.
I'm so used to Clark's responses they only make me a little crazy!
So against this backdrop, I leave town for work. Eric, who is a great and patient step-dad, must go it alone. And, of course, that means things go south for him, too. He works late on a project, only to discover as he leaves at midnight, that everything he did that day was built upon an error. Twelve hours of “redo” await him.
Don't you hate it when you go to bed late knowing you have to get up early, and then you can't sleep? And the stress dreams! Yuck. I don't know about you, but I'm sure hoping Eric has an easy morning...with Clark. Oh no. We can see it coming....
Eric is up and staying positive but then (dun dun dun DUN)...
Eric tries to wake up Clark. It takes three trips upstairs to finally roust him. While Eric is there, he discovers, AGAIN, all the clothes on the floor and the iPad and iTouch contraband on Clark’s bed beside him. They are late leaving for school/work. And I hear from THAT BOY.
At this point, I know nothing about Eric's discoveries or difficulties, but I do know how a normal morning with Clark can try a man's soul. I ignore the "asshole" comment b/c it is meant to provoke me. Besides, it makes me happy. It's a sign of complete normality in a blended family when a teenager feels safe enough to lash out at a step like they do a real parent. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! 🙂
So I check in with Eric and learn the deets. I fire another text off to the Wonder Kid.
And then another. We weathered that storm 🙂 In fact, Eric and Clark had a sit down to talk about it that I sat in on, and they both did a nice job of recalibrating and moving on. Oh yeah, and we grounded Clark from seeing his girlfriend for a week...again! So off Clark heads to school on the day of state. I'm at a client early that day, so Eric shares in the moment. We are all so proud. So happy.
It is very cool to read this instead of that last string, ha ha.
What a great moment -- hey, they're in your future, too, no matter how it looks now!
We discuss our fears. This is a big one.
We will watch closely, but for now, we think -- knock wood -- things are going the best they have ever gone. Then I decide to try to reach Clark. Read the last two texts on this screen (the others are from previous days).
Remember how Eric said Clark had all his chargers? Welllll...
...you knew this was coming, didn't you? Because you all have kids like mine. It is the agony and the ecstasy. And, oh, how we love them.
Homework, organization, honesty, iPads, staying up all night, debate, girlfriends, driver’s ed, butting heads with parents (and calling them assholes!)…worry about substance abuse…and soon we have college apps. The more it changes, the more it stays the same. Hang on for the beautiful ride, friends.
Signing out — Pamela aka Clark’s Mom
p.s. My husband Eric wants to get this on the record: he read The Agony and The Ecstasy; in my book, that makes him an intellectual!
p.p.s. We did not hear from Clark again until he called from an unfamiliar number to let us know he “had left Dallas” and would be in the parking lot of his high school…in 15 minutes…