On good days, my daughter's differences are invisible. She seems like a cheerful, quirky, kind 8-year-old, and she totally is all of those things. On bad days, though, she's a different kid. If you see us, you might wonder why a child her age is still throwing tantrums, biting her siblings, making loud noises, blinking, or repeatedly using the "f" word. Most of the time I try not to lose my sh*t, but I have so many questions for the mom who raises special needs kids with such grace. Mainly, how do you do it? Because, honestly, I constantly feel like I'm flailing.
I hesitate to ask these questions, though, because I know that we don't have things nearly as bad as other families, and I know these parents have a lot on your plate. For the most part, my daughter is healthy, and my partner and I are able to get through each meltdown, meal time, and bedtime struggle, relatively unscathed. I feel weird voicing my difficulties, knowing how privileged we are, but at the same time, I need support, ideas, and some friends who've been there and get what it's like to have kids who experience life differently.
When my daughter turned 3, she changed from a typical toddler into a sad, angry "threenager" who threw violent tantrums when things didn't go her way. Her doctor said that she was adjusting to our move to a new home and the birth of her brother, but something just seemed off. When she was 4, I left her dad. She became so hard to manage, especially for a single mom with two kids and only two hands. Again, her doctor said these were "normal" responses to change. I wish he could have come to our house at bedtime or when I struggled to get her dressed in the morning. When she started school, it was clear to more people than just me that she needed help, which was validating, but also made me feel like I had failed.
It took my partner and I years to get a diagnosis for her. It was a relief to finally know the "why" behind her behavior and challenges. We learned that her trifecta of conditions — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) — frequently occur together, but can be hard to treat, because the treatment for one condition can worsen another. Getting any child to swallow daily medications can be a challenge, let alone one who is often violent and defiant. It seems like whenever I find a strategy that works, she changes her mind,or something happens to make me feel like a total failure. So yeah, I have some questions for other moms who seem to manage, when I can't seem to catch a break.