Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Good Talk

My phone rang the other day, an unfamiliar number, a nervous voice on the 
other end.
"Hi, Liv.  This is M.  I'm so and so's mom.  I have a couple of questions, I hope they're not 
too personal.  But I've heard you speak about this before and I was wondering if you 
could give me so insight.  I just don't know what to do".
The woman was the mother of a child in Isabelle's class.  We know each by face, 
everyday pleasantries here and there, but we had never really spoken before.  She 
was calling because she was concerned about her child, she's been noticing some 
problems, both academically and socially, but she was scared of the letters: ADD.  She 
was so nervous, very aware of the personal nature of the conversation, not wanting 
to intrude in our family's personal business or offend my in any way.
I opened up to her instantly.  I could hear it in her voice: the guilt, the shame, the 
self-doubt.  She was so worried for her child but was afraid of the possibilities.  I 
understood how she felt because I have felt the same way.  When Isabelle was 
diagnosed with ADD, I felt like I had failed her.  I went over and over it in my 
mind, wondering what I could have done differently.  I blamed myself, Shawn, her 
school.  I felt sad that she would have to work so hard to overcome those three letters: 
ADD.  She would have to learn how to focus, she would have to be so self aware and 
develop efficient study habits: skills that come naturally to most children.  My little 
girl would be faced with social stigmas, she would go through periods of feeling 
inadequate.  My heart felt like it weighed a ton as I imagined all of these scenarios in 
my head, processing her future and how we would overcome this.
But that was just it: we WOULD overcome this.  WE would.  Together.  After a few days 
of epic mama guilt, I pulled my boot straps up and set to work developing a plan of action 
for Isabelle.  Where to start?
First thing's first: form a team.  Isabelle's teacher was the first person we told about 
her diagnosis.  We discussed her medication regimen and how we planned to change 
our routine to create an ideal learning environment at home.  Her teacher was 
immediately on board, giving us immeasurable amounts of encouragement and 
reassurance.  She moved Isabelle to a desk front and center, right next to her desk so
 that she would be available when she needed that little bit of extra attention.  She 
also recommended a private tutor that Isabelle sees once a week to help her with 
concepts she has trouble with in class and needs extra attention on.
Next: behavior modification.  We took a long, hard look at Belle's diet and cut out a lot 
of sugar, carbs, and processed foods.  We bumped her bedtime up an hour to ensure she 
was getting an adequate amount of sleep each night.  We set up a "homework station" 
that was neat and organized and free of distractions to help her stay on task.  We cut 
down on the amount of after school activities she was involved in, limiting her to 3 
activities per week, so that she didn't get overwhelmed and burned out.  And, 
most importantly, we set aside time for her to decompress and just be a wild and free 
kid every day, allowing her the opportunity to burn off the energy that she didn't know 
how to process.
Third: positive reinforcements.  At Belle's doctor's suggestion, we set up a sticker chart 
on the refrigerator with simple, age appropriate tasks for her to complete each day 
and week. Things like making her bed every morning, feeding the dogs, completing 
her homework, setting the table, and taking her bath earned her stickers.  Each week, 
we agree on a goal and a reward for meeting that goal: going out for ice cream, having
 a friend over, movie night, etc.  She LOVES her sticker charts so much and works 
really hard to meet her goal every week.  Not only does it keep her on task, but it 
teaches her responsibility and self sufficiency.  It reinforces a very valuable life lesson: 
hard work truly does pay off.
And last by not least: be realistic.  Our pediatrician told us from day one: your child is 
not perfect, she will not come home with straight As and perfect conduct every week.  
Learn to accept the reality that she is just a kid, no matter what all the parenting books 
and blogs would have you believe otherwise.  As long as she is working hard, doing her
 best, and trying to achieve small, simple goals: praise and reward her.  We are not 
seeking perfection, we are seeking a happy, healthy child.
I told all of this to the mother who called me, reassuring her that ADD will not keep her 
child from succeeding in life, following her dreams, or being exactly who she wants to 
be.  Getting a proper diagnosis and formulating a plan of care, applying interventions 
as early as possible and setting your child up to succeed are what you need to do, not 
beat yourself up or doubt yourself as a parent.  Society tells us things about parenting 
that are unrealistic: no one's life really looks like a page off Pinterest.  We are all just 
working to build happy, memorable moments that fit our own definitions of bliss.  
Hang in there, work hard, and remember to give credit where credit is due.
I connected with this mother who called me that day, I felt like we both benefited from 
our conversation about our children.  She was reassured, ready to move on to the next
 step.  And I was able to recognize how far our family has come, how much Isabelle
 has grown and flourished in so many ways.  
It was a good talk.


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Marie V said...

I imagine how nice it was to be able to talk and share with this mum, to help her with your experience. It looks like you did a lot for Isabelle, it shows the power we have, passed the phase of worry, to make things better, to care for the ones we love ways we would have never thought we could do. 
Thanks for sharing this honest and vibrant post Olivia. Be blessed dear friend. xx

Nessa said...

I can only imagine how comforting it must have been for her to have you counsel and listen to her.  Sometimes being alone or feeling like you are is the worst part.  

Hilary@BabyMooHoo said...

the work that goes into parenting is astounding, isn't it?  when i think to the road ahead of school-days with natalie, it feels so overwhelming.  it sounds like you and shawn have done such a great job supporting belle's strengths and making accomodations that push her to her fullest potential.  it is inspiring.  i am sure this other mother was comforted by your words & reassured by how much your little family is thriving. 

Olivia said...

You said it right: astounding.  People always talk about how hard it is to take care of a baby.  I would argue that a baby is the EASY part, it's the school age that presents the more challenges to me.  It can be very tiring and we have days where we all just want to cry.  But we push through and keep trying!  We work hard at being consistent and doing the best we can.  That's all any of us can do!!

Olivia said...

So true!!  I felt so alone when we first got Belle's diagnosis, I didn't really have any other moms to talk to or relate to about it.  It was so comforting to us both to be able to talk and offer each other comfort.

Olivia said...

Thank you, my dear friend!!  We are doing everything we can and that's all we can do!  Strive to love her and give her everything she needs!!  

Sweetgreentangerine said...

This is so great!  I am bookmarking this for sure.  You have some great tips in here :)

Olivia said...

Thank you!!  We are a work in progress:)