At the Piggly Wiggly yesterday I was talking to my favorite cashier, Elaine, about my 8 year old son, LittleJ. “He’s been doing his homework so far this year,” I said as she was ringing up my spaghetti squash, “But he just writes whatever. I don’t know if that really counts.”
“He doesn’t understand it?” Elaine asked. Elaine, in addition to being a fine cashier, is also a mother and was an elementary school teacher’s assistant before she retired and became
my therapist a grocery store clerk.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “He doesn’t read the directions or the problems and I don’t know if he can read it and is choosing not to, or if it’s because he’s off in space” here, I make a motion with my hands to indicate my child shooting off to the moon, ”or if he actually can’t read it.” Indeed, my children’s teachers so far have told me that they think he’s capable of doing the work…but he just doesn’t. At home we see glimpses of ability, but only if we sit with him, and when we do that it’s less likely that he’ll actually focus and do the work and more likely that he’ll take the opportunity to push my many buttons, say mean things, cry, or pick his nose.
“He usually just chooses some random number from the word problem and plugs them in to answer spaces. He doesn’t even bother to try.”“He wants to get it done,” Elaine suggested.
“Yes, and he doesn’t care if it’s right or wrong. So I honestly don’t know if it’s a can’t do situation, or a won’t do. Maybe some of both.”
“Well, bless his heart, then,” Elaine said, and the woman standing behind me in line nods in agreement. “That’s all you can really say about that.”
Yes, bless his heart. In North Carolina, where I live with LittleJ, 8, his brother, BigJ, 11, and my husband, “Bless your heart” isn’t as sweet as it sounds.
“Bless your heart” is a phrase you use when you’re talking about someone for whom you are feeling both sympathy and snark. Like: “Bless her heart, that Judy, her rear end has gotten broad as a beam.” Or, “Bless his heart, Uncle Jones. He was passed-out drunk at Thanksgiving again.”
It’s appropriate to the LittleJ situation because being with, parenting, teaching, hearing about a child like him makes you feel two main emotions: loving sympathy, because he’s so cute, can be so sweet, and has so many issues; and complete and utter frustration, because he’s so hard to figure out, can be sooooooooooooo annoying, and often acts more like a 2-year old than the 8-year-old he is. The homework being one example. The nightly refusal and screaming fit to eat the dinner he ate with gusto the night before (and which he eventually does eat, once he’s been in time-out for a while). The name-calling and swearing, followed by the apologetic, over-the-top flurry of kisses and hugs. Never knowing if a simple request will be followed by compliance or a fist-clenching, red-faced refusal. The seeming inability to write, but the astonishing ability to draw.
I could go on and on with examples of the love him/hate him mess that’s LittleJ, but I’ll save it for other posts. In the meantime, here’s the lowdown on my kid: he is adopted. He was probably exposed to alcohol in utero. His birthparents may have had emotional problems. Hard to know since it was a closed adoption from Russia. Since we’ve been taking him to specialists, starting at about 24 months, he’s been diagnosed with severe anemia and Pica
(eating non-food items), SID (Sensory Integration Dysfunction)
, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
, ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)
, Mood Disorder
, PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not to be confused with PDD-NOS, which is on the autism spectrum and which we’ve been told doesn’t apply to LittleJ
although apparently there is not such thing as non-autistic spectrum PDD), lack of coordination and trunk strength, and although the doctors have been vague with us about what this means, he also takes a medication typically given to people with bipolar
(and it’s been very, very helpful. Interpret that however you want.) He also has poor Executive Functioning
and has scored low on IQ tests, but if you met and spoke with him you’d think the psychologist administering the tests had to be out to lunch the day she gave them to him, which wasn’t the case at all.
We’ve tried every single ADHD medication
on the market to help him with his attention issues – and most worked…for about 2 hours at a time (they’re supposed to last a lot longer than that.) We’ve tried all the mood stabilizers and a fair number of anti-depressants, too. We’ve tried medications to help him sleep (because did I forget to mention the KID WILL NOT SLEEP?) and vitamins and herbal remedies up the yin yang. We’ve tried therapy and therapies and special diets. Some things don’t work. Some things do, kind of. But then they stop.
All of these diagnoses fit my child, or have fit him at one time or another. He is a puzzle. Everyone says so – his doctors, his therapist, his teachers.
And especially his parents, who will never stop trying to figure out this particular puzzle.
So really, sometimes there’s not that much to say. Except, perhaps, “bless his heart.” And bless ours, too.
Related posts: attention/focus, CO-MORBIDITIES, General ADHD, ODD, parenting/FAMILY, SID