Occasionally, I post conversations with my fifth grade daughter here. They have been funny and entertaining until recently, when other things about her behavior have started to suggest that a visit to the doctor is required. All of this is frustrating, fills me with both a terrible sense of urgency to help her, and yet gives me hope that finally, after years of enduring what we thought were personality quirks, there is an answer that will give her a new sense of focus and take care of certain compulsions that she has. Life here will change for the better.
Last night, I talked about a recent conversation with my daughter where I said, in a moment of complete quiet and joy, how much I love her and how I treasure her company. Her response: “Mom, if you were to throw chocolate in the ocean, would it float? What would happen to it?” Yesterday, again during a drive home from an errand, I paused to tell her again how much I enjoy being alone with her. She responded by asking, “Are we going to the grocery? Oh, wait, yes we are. I remember that.” Note that I had discussed the grocery with her as we got in the car after the last errand, discussed it again en route, and then suddenly she could not remember where we were going, nor could she realize that she is part of another conversation taking place.
This morning, my daughter lost her thumbdrive. We discovered this ten minutes before we were due to leave for school. Because she obsesses over certain things, and will toy and play with objects past the point that a child her age would, she had not followed repeated directions to safely store her drive in her school bag front pocket. I understand this, but even asking her about the homework’s back-up copy was hard:
“Sweetheart, did you save a copy of your presentation?” I asked gently.
“Well, I decided to study Mesopotamia and not do the Sumerians.”
“No, honey. Did you save a copy of your program on the computer?”
“Well, I did not want to do the Assyrians. There was nothing on the Assyrians,” she said.
“No, listen!” I said before asking again and slowly emphasing the words of my question. “Did you save a copy of the program you wrote on the hard drive of my computer?”
“Yes. Yes, I think so.”
She sat down at my desk, found her files, copied them to a new drive. When she was done, I brushed her hair and assured her that soon, we would see a doctor to help her. I said that she does things she cannot control, we know this, but she must try to remember, and try to meet us halfway. By the time I delivered both children to school, I was already exhausted with worry. I mailed the checklist and written interview that the pediatric psychologist had sent me last week. Both children will be evaluated, but for now, we have to wait for papers to be read and processed. For all of Tiny Man’s challenging behavior, his sister’s quiet and absent-minded ways have taken on a new meaning and her needs seem to overwhelm his right now.
I no longer get as angry. Even frustration is waning. Instead, I am moving to a sincere sadness. My daughter lives in her own world. She is suffering at school because of this. She is often lost in thought and I have to check her emotions. She forgets things, loses things, has a raging case of Pica, is unable to keep up with her classroom workflow, has incredible impulses regarding the need to shop, fidget, or dive into activities without waiting for instruction. Her grades yo-yo, homework takes 3 to 4 hours a night, she frequently wakes for potty breaks at night, and she seems discontent during her quiet moments.
Interestingly enough, her step-mother has been instrumental in helping support our daughter. This trouble is bringing us to a reconciliation that I had not anticipated, an unexpected blessing and relief in a time of hardship. Without this woman bravely coming forward and risking herself to my scrutiny and my ex-husband’s defensiveness, I might not have known as quickly what we think my daughter’s problem is, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. The step-mother assured me that ADHD is a multi-faceted problem. While my daughter does not exhibit overactive behaviors, she does all these other things that take away from life at home and at school. I am entirely grateful for this support and understanding.
For years, I was asked by strangers, friends, and family how I had raised such a sweet, cooperative daughter. I was told how lucky I was that she was so normal. Define normal. I had always thought she was, especially compared to so many kids I knew who were severely and profoundly challenged with physical and emotional disabilities. How, when, and why did this baby girl progress to suffer the challenges she faces?
We could have worse problems. We have already faced such things. There are remedies for my daughter’s issues and time is on our side. I know this. And I can be joyful that I have the support not just of my loving husband, but an ex-husband, his wife, the elementary school faculty, and my family. Soon, a doctor will be able to objectively examine both our children, make decisions, and eventually, everything will be okay—for a while before a new obstacle presents itself.
I guess you could say that’s normal.