The Agony and the Ecstasy: from the Clark Chronicles

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).

Above is 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.

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.

Above: Clark’s younger sister.  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!

Above exchange:  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 ;-)

Below: So, as I said earlier, 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.

Above and below: I know something awesome is happening, but relying on Clark to figure out what it is…well, it’s nearly futile.

Above: Finally, we connect — I have an answer. And it’s great news!

Below: 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.

Above: 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.

Above:  I was asking on a Tuesday … departure is Wednesday.  *sigh* I’m so used to Clark’s responses they only make me a little crazy!

Below:  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.

{Uh oh.}

Above: 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.
Below: I don’t know about you, but I’m sure hoping Eric has an easy morning…with Clark (I’m not worried about the girls). Oh no. We can see it coming….

Above: Eric is up and staying positive but then (dun dun dun DUN)…

Below: Unbeknown to me yet, 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.

Above: At this point, while I know nothing about Eric’s discoveries or difficulties, I do know how a normal morning with Clark can try a man’s soul. I let the “asshole” comment slide 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! :-)

Below: So I check in with Eric and learn the deets.  I fire another text off to the Wonder Kid.

Above: Notice the “no contest” from Clark. 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!
Below:  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 texts like those from that last string.}

Above and below:  What a great moment — hey, they’re in your future, too, no matter how it looks now!

Below: We still discuss our fears. This is a big one.

Above:  We will watch closely, but for now, we think — knock wood — things are going the best they have ever gone.
Below:  Then I decide to try to reach Clark. Read the last two texts on this screen (the others are from previous days, where he was completely unresponsive, by the way: his phone is uncharged or forgotten at home many days, still).

Below:  Remember how Eric said Clark had all his chargers? Welllll…


Above:  His post on my Facebook wall says: I forgot my phone cord..but I swear to God I had it before!!!!

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.

And of course I found his phone cord in his room…

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.  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 Houston…in 15 minutes…Dallas is 4.5 HOURS from Houston!
p.p.s  It was a 4-day trip, and he took 4 of his “ped’s” (concerta) with him.  He returned home with 4 pills left.  Argh!  THAT BOY.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother’s Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger’s Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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adhd and school, attention/focus, Pamela Hutchins, parenting/FAMILY ·

About the author

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother's Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger's Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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