Normal Is Overrated

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Today I watched a Pixar Short titled “Float” with my son. I’ll give a brief description so *spoiler alert*. It’s the tale about a father and his little boy, who is quite special. The child is able to float in the air, completely of his own accord. At first, the father is amazed and just looks at his child in wonderment; then he sees neighbors and rushes to hide his boys gift. Of course that doesn’t pan out and he ends up hiding inside the house with his child. I’ll end my recap there, you can check out the film for yourself on YouTube but what started as a whimsical lil’ clip I was sharing with my eldest kiddo turned into a very personal realization moment.

After the film itself ended, they posted “Dedicated with love and understanding to all families with children deemed different”*. Reading that was almost like a forehead slap. It made me go back in my mind and replay all the moments that other characters were staring and glaring at the boy and his dad, and the dad is apologetically chasing after his child only to end up yelling “Why can’t you be normal!”* in desperation. How they spent a lot of time indoors more or less hiding from society and the dad has to prep the kid before they can even go out for a walk.

It made me wonder…have I ever felt that way about my child?

I already knew my answer…

It’s hard not to feel shame saying this but yes I have wished my child was “normal”, I have wished my child was simpler and easier to handle. I don’t mean to, but I am guilty of comparing my son to other children in his age group and even family members. It never feels good to say that I have done those things; all I can do is give myself grace and always do better each day. This got me to thinking “What the hell is normal anyway? Why do so many people (if not most) want to be considered normal?”

Like, real talk. Tell me if this sounds familiar: it’s good to stand out-but not too much. You should be yourself and authentic-as long as you still fit into the “norm” and aren’t too far off that spectrum. You can have fun and be silly-but don’t look crazy or sloppy. Maybe it’s just me but I’ve certainly felt those pressures in my daily life. We all want to fit in, that’s part of human nature. But this notion of “normal” is something intangible. Normal can and does mean SO many things! What’s normal for one may be way weird for another. We as humans seem so adamant on putting ourselves and others into pre-packaged boxes. Then, how do we prevent it happening (and doing it) to our children?

Acceptance. Accepting our children exactly as they are and learning to see the beauty in the conditions they may have. Letting them just BE; be themselves and be free. At the end of the film the father accepts his son for who he is and enjoys him as he is. No pressure, no chains or ropes, just pure love. Here’s the kicker though, everyone is staring! I thought this was really important because in typical films we usually see everyone accept the outcast, but here it was just the son and father having their moment; and the dad stopped caring what other people thought. Which brings me to my second realization.

Don’t let the opinions of others get inside your head, especially with your child.

It’s hard to do and can be kind of a gray area because you want to listen to professional advice and make adjustments where needed when working on behavioral issues. But if you let those facts and knowledge through while keeping opinions out, I feel like that is key. People can have their opinions. They can also have them to themselves and it’s ok (in fact it’s good) for you to tell them so. I know firsthand how hard that can be, and how people can take it the wrong way but that’s on them-not you. Plus professionals don’t usually take things personally.

You have a right to keep as clear a head as possible when being a parent, and if that means telling family members, friends, or otherwise “Thanks but we know what works for us” then by golly, more power to ya! Raising a person is hard enough without dodging all the crap that others think you should do.

I was really impressed by this little film. It got my heart and mind stirring. I hope you will take the time to check it out and see if you can gain something from it as well.

My Child Also Has ODD

This post may contain affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

Because why not!? Hahahahaaaaaaa*laughing turns to crying*

I’m kidding. I’m fine, seriously. But yeah, at one point I was dreading this diagnosis. We already suspected ADHD to be a factor but it just wasn’t accounting for ALL of the push back we were receiving. When we finally got into a psychiatrist he said something along the lines of “Oh yeah it definitely looks like he’s got ODD as well” and I just….sorta felt my heart sink and my stomach drop.

I hate that even I got caught up in the stigma a diagnosis can create, but I knew from all of the reading and research I had done that ODD was what I call a heavy diagnosis. It’s typically not given easily by practitioners and usually coincides with ADHD or…conduct disorder. The latter of which can be dangerous. Thankfully, our son didn’t have conduct disorder and his counselor chalks that up to us being so involved during his early years and working with him on a constant basis to get through those really rough patches. My gray hairs would have to agree!

So he has ODD….now what?

Well there is a chance (however slim it may be) that he will outgrow the ODD symptoms. Experts say by roughly age 8, this could occur. We still have a little over a year to reach that bench mark and I have high hopes! He’s come a long way with the therapy and medication, and he seems to be calming down and handling his anger a lot more productively. Everyday I see more and more improvements in his self-regulation skills. He does a lot of it on his own too which is just so gratifying. I have to say I am very proud of all the personal growth he’s done in such a brief period of time .

So the plan is we continue medication, we continue therapies (we’re gonna give equine therapy a go next!), and we continue to build upon lifestyle improvers like mediation, self-reflection, journaling, and seeking life outside of screen-time (because screen-time makes his symptoms worse). Maybe in a year or so he’ll need less medication, or none at all, to help him manage his symptoms. Maybe he’ll need the same dose or more. Either way I’m ok with whatever comes because we will handle it together, as a family.

Are you someone who has ODD or know someone who does? What has your journey been like? Leave a comment below.

My Child Has ADHD

This post may contain affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding ADHD and it’s symptoms. I was guilty of it myself. I thought it just meant the person was full of energy and had a hard time sitting still. Boy was I wrong. ADHD can present itself in a number of ways, only one of which is the hyperactivity it is so commonly associated with. There’s also time management, distractibility, defiance, difficulty controlling emotions, difficulty in school, difficulty in making and keeping friends, low or zero impulse control, and so many more. Just like each person with ADHD is unique, so is the ADHD itself.

I also feel like there is a lot of stigma against those with ADHD. You get pegged as difficult to work with, hard to be around, and troublesome. None of this is inherently true. Those with ADHD want to do well and be accepted. They are great people, who do not always have control over something they did not choose for themselves. As the parent of a child with this condition, I find that sometimes other parents aren’t so keen to view my child with understanding eyes.

On a typical day, with medication, you wouldn’t know my son has ADHD and ODD (his teacher literally just told me this earlier this week). He listens, plays pretty well with others, is intellectually engaged, and overall well behaved. If you are a new adult to him, he will listen to you and show you respect. However, without medication or if he’s having an off day, the tables are completely turned. He’s defiant and mouthy, he throws fits at literally every possible moment, he struggles to be kind to others, and he tries to manipulate the situation, so you can forget about even trying to do anything that’s out of the normal routine for the day.

I have to remind myself in those times that it’s not him, it’s his condition. It really can be easy to forget that he doesn’t truly hate me when he’s yelling it as loud as his vocal cords will let him. However I also know that he makes choices, and the only way to guide him into making better choices on a consistent basis is to have appropriate consequences-both negative and positive-for his choices. So no, I can’t let him get away with anything-like EVER. It’s a fine line between “pick your battles” and “don’t let him forget who’s in charge”. A VERY fine line.

What makes it all the harder is that he has ODD on top of the ADHD. This was a diagnosis that…..scared me…half to death, if I’m being honest. I still have the unsettling fear that my son will follow in his biological fathers footsteps*(this is an article I’m not ready to write yet), but I am working daily to let that fear go because it’s not mine to own. You can read more about ODD here but to simplify, it makes him push back against authority. AKA me. I am the main caregiver, parent, nurse, chauffer, chef, PE teacher, counselor, and maid to both my boys (and also my husband, shhh ). Meaning that my son and I are together whenever he is not at school or asleep.

This makes it harder, I find, for him to continue respecting me and my authority *said in a Cartman voice*. He pushes more against me than he does his dad (step-dad for those of you keeping track). He seeks time away from me frequently but as soon as I leave the house to do something solo, he misses me. I’ve come to realize that’s because I am his security. He pushes against me so willfully because he can count on me pushing back, reminding him just where those boundary lines are. And for someone with ADHD, ODD, and anxiety (because why not genetic lottery!) they need that reminder and consistency to feel safe; it helps him know his place in the world.

I have a long way ahead of me, being a parent of someone with ADHD, and a lot more to learn as the chapters in both our lives unfold. But I hope to those parents out there who like me, have a little something extra on their plate, you will discover that the struggle isn’t always a bad thing; and in fact can be what keeps you close with your child. Read more about the struggles here.

Helping Your ADHD Child Succeed

This post may contain affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

I think most parents would agree they want their children to be successful, whatever that may look like to each of us. However raising a person with ADHD comes with it’s own set of challenges on top of those that are already standard struggles for parents. There’s the disorganization, difficulty with time management, distractibility, defiance, and of course emotions getting “too big” and causing a meltdown.

These are some key points we utilize in our household to help manage some of those symptoms.

Make charts for daily tasks

This is probably my most favorite go to. This is what got me off my son’s back and gave us both some room for peace. He likes that I’m not reminding him to get his clothes on because it’s been 15 minutes and he’s still just dinking around on the floor with his jammies half off; I like that all I have to say is “Go do your list” and he does! Quite successfully and quickly no less. We keep on him about time management and got him a watch and regularly use kitchen timers as needed to help him understand what 5 minutes actually feels like. He also knows that he doesn’t get to move onto anything else more fun until his list is done and he will be redirected back to the list as many times as it takes. Me being able to say 4 words helps with not engaging him too much because that just becomes fuel for his defiance. Lists have done a lot for my household. He actually has 3 lists; one for morning, one after school, and one evening. They each have there own set of things and I made them in order to help him learn how to manage that later in life (you don’t get your shoes and jacket on until you’ve gotten dressed sorta thing) as I see him struggle with it currently. You can check out what all are on those lists here!

Plan ahead and do ahead

This ties into the list . Mornings are rough for everybody not just our family, but if he/we don’t do stuff the night before we will NOT make it out of the house on time. Part of my son’s list entails him to get stuff done ahead of time for the next day; i.e. laying his clothes out, making his lunch, prepping his backpack, planning for anything he needs to bring to school, ect. This also sets the tone for the evening and helps wind him down prior to bedtime. We’ve essentially created a very productive routine that tells his body “Hey it’s time to chill, bedtime is soon”.

Always allow an extra 15 minutes, better early everyday than late

I’m a type-A personality so not only do I live for organization, I feel my body tearing itself apart if I am late anywhere. Now because my darling child will occasionally have meltdowns in the morning while all the goings on are happening, I have opted to get him up a wee bit earlier so that it is now on him and less on me. By that I mean if we have extra time (because he didn’t loose his $#*!) then he can spend a little bit of time watching TV or playing with LEGOS or pillow fighting his younger brother. This helps ease my mind and helps take the stress off both of us and it’s literally only 15 minutes! This can also be applied to other functions. Kid hates going to the doctor? Just give yourself that 15 minute grace period. So what if you have to wait in the car or sit on the bench outside calmly while they scream. Let ’em. It doesn’t bother you until you allow it to.

Find a compromise for a task that is a struggle

My son hates making his bed. Like cries and tells me “You’re the worst mom ever” when I ask him to do this. And hey, I get it! He doesn’t like to struggle or feel unaccomplished and fitted sheets are the perfect storm for that, even as an adult (I haven’t told him yet that they don’t go away ). So we compromise. I help him with his bed and he helps me with my bed, or some other chore I’d like his assistance on. It has us working together as a team to achieve a goal, he gets the practice and gains some confidence and then he gets introduced to another chore and the theory “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine”. You meet him in the middle and he will kinda be forced to do the same if he wants the help. But skills still have to be used! No whining or being rude or I walk out and remind him when he’s ready he can come get me. And I wait until he is actually ready-not that half sneaky smile pouty face ready. Good ole’ manipulation attempts *sigh*.

Schedule down time and self reflection time

This one is something we still are working on. He finally seems eager to do this and gets excited about it on his list. I got him a gratitude journal awhile back and so far he really enjoys it. This one is geared for younger kiddos but they certainly have lots to choose from for all ages. I liked this one because it was simple, straightforward, and still had room for drawing about your day. Meditation is slooooowly coming along. I really love meditation myself but he doesn’t like to be still for so long (hmmm 6 year old with ADHD, can’t imagine why). However he DOES enjoy progressive relaxation in book form at bedtime. This is the book we use here. He feels like he’s just getting a story read to him and he gets to move his muscles a bit but it’s actually helping him to gain self awareness and control over his body. Plus its extremely calming. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend doing so. It’s beneficial for all ages.

Daily outside time, regardless of weather

This is huge for people with mental health conditions and frankly for ALL people. We need nature. I notice a night and day difference in my kid if he hasn’t been able to play outside. It’s centering for him, as it is for me. Even if he’s not “doing” anything in particular, just being in the fresh air and hearing the birds and feeling the wind helps his brain have multiple things to do with itself and thus calms him. I also feel it’s important to get your kids used to all types of weather. I believe it helps them become more resilient, because some days are crumby and some days are shiny but all days exist and you can make them into better days if you choose to.

“One task at a time”

This one comes straight out of his therapists mouth. And it seems so simple but sometimes I think we all need that reminder. When he’s trying to eat a snack and play on his tablet and talk to grandma on the phone or watch his favorite show, I remind him “One thing at a time, you need to pick one”. This also helps him learn prioritizing, which is the most important or what do I actually want to do right now. It helps him slow down and think in a world that gets so caught up with do, do, do!

Weekly clean outs for room, locker, backpack

I am ashamed to say I let this one drop recently. I put it on his list and thought he was doing it completely! Until I happened to put something in his backpack for his teacher and found pencil shavings, pencils, an opened sharpener, and his empty pencil box in there….So I helped him clean it out, no biggy. Until I tried to put the pencil box in the front pocket and found….FOOD! Old food from at least 2 weeks prior . There was a SB&J (S is for sunbutter) with the butter smeared around the inside of the pocket, and carrots that luckily weren’t growing a biology experiment, and stale pretzels. Thank goodness there wasn’t a funky smell yet! I had him clean out that particular pocket solo. Now I check on a daily that this task gets done so there’s no surprises. We also go through his room with him roughly once a week. I don’t usually put my foot down in his room as long as stuff is where it belongs but he likes to stash stuff under his bed. Including trash…and food. We’re working on it…

Responsibility in the household living duties

I may refer to chores as such on here since that’s what most people know them as but at home I prefer to use the term “living duties”. Why? Well because everyone who lives has duties unto themselves and the other members of their household. You like to eat? You learn how to cook and wash dishes. You like to be clean? You learn how to wash yourself properly and do laundry. Plus members of the family might throw a fuss if your personal fragrance is emanating from you at 3 feet away. I am a firm believer and supporter that my kids will one day leave the house and not come home for mama to wash their clothes. And I’ll be damned if my boys think it will become their partners responsibility. No. It’s on them, they need to know how to take care of themselves. And myself and my husband will be the ones to teach them. Make no mistake these baby birds don’t have instinct, they need skills before they can fly. That’s what I’m here for. I intend for my kids to know how to cook, clean, launder, sew, iron, fix, repair, wash, dry, screw, and unscrew just about everything for themselves by the time they are ready to leave my nest. It’s my responsibility as their parent to provide them the tools and skills they need to succeed and the knowledge of where to find the information if they don’t know it.

What are some things that work for your child to be successful?