Here we are, a family of nine. Myself, my husband, and our 7 kids. That right there freaks most people out. Then I tell them, but wait, that really isn't the messy part. The messy part is that fact that my husband and 6 of those 7 children have severe ADHD and we seem to be doing our best to cover almost every co-occurring condition possible. Sometimes reaching opposite ends of the same scale. We have, for example, members of our family with sensory processing disorders. In some strange twist of fate we have both those who are super sensitive to sound and one who is under responsive and tends to be very loud. We have dylexics and I am pretty sure we have some undiagnosed hyperlexics.
The answer was undeniable, we would share our lives in hopes that other families could find refuge in our struggles and triumphs. In hopes that others wouldn't feel so alone. In hopes that many could understand ADHD from real life place instead of technical scientific terms. In hopes that they could find empowerment.
I am always grateful for the compliments people give me regarding the blog. It keeps me, a rather private person, continually inspired to keep posting. I appreciate everyone of those acknowledgements. Today, though, I have been thinking about some unexpected gifts that have come to our family by sharing the antics, good and bad, with the world.
Removing the shame and embarrassment of ADHD
I remember visiting with a friend at a reunion and as she spoke of her son's mental health issues her voice lowered to a whisper. What she didn't know was despite her whisper he heard his name and attuned his ear. He realized he was the subject of a hushed conversation. She never saw his face but I did. To me his face read shame and embarrassment. She meant to talk in hushed tones to respect his privacy but in the process she inadvertently sent a message that his situation was not one to speak openly about.
It is important that our kids, no matter what they may struggle with (and everyone struggles with something) never come to a place where they feel that they are broken. I don't care who you are, what your trial is, we all need to feel empowered to be successful. If we teach our children, directly or inadvertently, that they're broken then how are they supposed to fight to overcome their challenges. In addition to controlling the message that we give our children we have to fight the messages they get from their peers, from other adults in their lives, from the world. It's a constant battle.
One way that our message has influenced our mess is by letting our kids know that we are not ashamed of them, that their disorder is just a challenge and that as they work on it they will learn to manage it. It has been a forum for us to show our children that challenges are just stepping stones to success and to show them that their are many aspects of their ADHD that make them fantastic people.
Growth through self-examination and communication
It was my husband, Mark, who pointed out that the blog has helped us to use our experiences for growth. We discuss what I write about on the blog as a family all the time. It gives us the opportunity to break down different situations and rework how we might handle them differently. That communication is a hallmark in our home and has had the most influence on how our kids are turning out. In fact, we communicate so much with our kids that it often freaks other people, especially their friends, out. I can't tell you how many kids have come through our home and said, "You talk to your parents about that?" in bewilderment.
There is so much that we've been able to help our kids through because they're used to communicating with us and are able to come to us for help in coping with situations and conflicts. There is so much that the rest of the world takes for granted as innate understanding that ADHD kids and adults have to work at understanding. It's our job as parents to help them learn those skills; communication is key to learning as is being able to deconstruct situations.
Our message has given us a great tool for using our mess as a teaching tool.
ADHD awareness turns into self awareness
ADHD is tricky, though it's underlying causes are the same, the way in which it really manifests itself often varies, it's completely individual. For example all of my ADHD kids and my husband struggle with inattentiveness but there struggle looks different from the outside. One child embraces that inattentiveness entirely and really doesn't stress about it at all. Another obsesses about it and quadruple checks everything. One should be more concerned, the other should relax more.
Our message shines a spotlight on our actions, encourages self awareness, self acceptance, and growth. Our message helps us acknowledge and manage our mess.
I had a dream the other day that we were living in one crazy apartment complex where our kitchen window, which had no glass in it, opened up onto a thoroughfare of complex activity. When that window was open people could see straight into our kitchen, they watched what was happening in our house, freely would stop by and visit all while gazing into my kitchen. My kitchen is never clean, despite heroic, monumental efforts, it's never totally clean. I felt a little awkward with my messy kitchen hanging out there for all the world to walk by and see. No one mentioned the mess. That's not why they stopped. They stopped to be apart of our family, to share in our love and acceptance, to become a part of our mess and our message.
I am fairly sure I had this dream because I am going to be on a local television station tomorrow to talk about ADHD Awareness Week. I'm nervous. One thing that our message has taught me is that from our mess there is a valuable message shared. One that can only be shared by making ourselves a little vulnerable and honestly opening our lives to other. Truth is, the risk is worth it for us, for our children our message has changed how we handle our mess for the better.
In honor of ADHD Awareness Week I am going to be posting daily, make sure you check back for the latest. At the end of the week our family has a big announcement to share with you!