Monday, April 29, 2002

April 29-May 3, 2002

APRIL 29, 2002

When my kids were younger, it was easier to get blood from a stone than to get blood from them. How well I remember the team of nurses that had to be rushed into the examining room when my daughter needed to be stuck. I’d hold down her legs, somebody else would hold down her arms, somebody else would hold down her head, an extra person would be needed to keep her body from wriggling, and the doctor or nurse in charge of the needle would have to dart in and try to find some subdued flesh with a vein in it. I was pretty sure they called in extra personnel to work whenever we were on the schedule. My son, they didn’t even bother with -- he had to go to the lab, and be tied to a papoose board. This was not fun for him, or for me. I felt like both my son and the technicians must consider me the worst mother in the world, although for entirely different reasons.

This past week we went for blood again, and I have to say, it was better. Which does not, of course, necessarily mean that it was good.

Our pediatrician’s office no longer does blood-letting, and although I was pretty sure it was my daughter who had spoiled them for it, the doctor assures it’s just a matter of cutting back and specializing and everybody’s doing it. So we all went to the lab, and we all waited 45 minutes, and then the kids were called to the back. And honestly, I’m amazed, but my daughter did great. I turned her head toward me and we talked about how badly she was going to kick her papa’s butt in one-on-one basketball that afternoon, and before we both knew it, it was over. Easy as pie. No restraints, human or otherwise, required.

But my son ... He had been full of bravery going in, but that’s before he realized that giving blood involved having a needle plunged into your arm, and that realization caused him extremely loud consternation. He started screaming he didn’t want to do it while the nurse was still swabbing his skin, awkwardly pinning down his arm with hers (I coulda told her THAT wasn’t going to hold). I started counting, because counting often calms him, but he kept screaming as the needle went in, yanking his arm and nearly flinging said needle across the room. But the needle stayed in, and since he was crying for his Scooby Doo doll, unwisely left at home, I started counting in a Scooby voice. That got his attention; he looked at me with teary eyes, amazed either that I had come up with such a comforting idea, or that I was willing to make that much of a fool of myself. I don’t know what must have disturbed the people in the waiting room more: The sound of a screaming child, or the sound of a grown woman shouting “Rirty-run! Rirty-roo! Rirty-ree! Rirty-roar!”

But the lab got its blood, and we got out of there. My son has announced that he is never doing that again, so they better have got enough. In truth, I’m not so very eager to ever do that again myself.

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APRIL 30, 2002

My kids are in the throes of the annual standardized testing at our school, and notes have come home recommending lots of sleep and hearty breakfasts. Yeah, thanks, we usually keep them up all night and send them to school on a cup of strong coffee. I take a lot of this stuff with a grain of salt; it would take a lot more than a good night's sleep and a good breakfast to get my daughter successfully through one of these things, and my son's performance is more likely to be disrupted by the hoopla and messed-up routine surrounding the test than by a late bedtime.

So when my son brought his homework notebook home yesterday and one of the assignments read, "Go to bed at 8 p.m.," I had to laugh. And that's all I had to do. In our house, it's unusual if we even get dinner on the table by 8 p.m., much less homework done and baths taken and teeth brushed and sheets tucked in. At our house, going to bed at 8 p.m. would be the equivalent of being sent to bed without supper. I guess I could have heated up a can of Beefaroni for the kid at 7:30 and made sure he kept his curfew, but the fact is, I'm not ready to give him up at 8 p.m. The school gets him for six-and-a-half hours during the day; I want him for at least that many. Usually, we wrestle him into bed around 9:30, and that's about the time he got there last night. Didn't get that one piece of homework done, but had a nice evening nonetheless.

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MAY 1, 2002

My son broke a picture last night. He was goofing off, throwing a plastic inner tube around with great gusto, and wound up knocking a picture to the floor, where the glass shattered. I should have been mad, but here's the great thing: He was mad at himself. Genuinely remorseful. Able to see the connection between his fun and the unintended consequence of the broken picture. Concerned with the feelings of the person who gave us the picture, and whether she would be mad at him. He told his Scooby doll that maybe he would say it was all the doll's fault, but then decided to own up to his transgression. For a 9-year-old with FAE, this is pretty big stuff, and if I have to lose a picture to find out that he can make these connections and take this responsibility, it's a small price to pay.

Now if I can only get him to recognize his fault, feel remorse and sincerely apologize every time he calls his sister "stupid," I'll really be getting somewhere.

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MAY 2, 2002

I was scanning the special-needs parenting section at my local monster-mega-bookstore, as it is my hobby to do, and noticed that ADHD is still far and away the topic of choice for special-parenting self-help writers. For every book on, say, autism or hearing impairment or learning disabilities, there were easily three on attention deficit/hyperactivity. They ranged from pro-medication pep rallies to moderate behavior-’n’-meds solutions to virulent anti-medication screeds. One of the latter posited that the whole problem with ADHD-diagnosed kids was not their brain chemistry or their self control or bad schools or doctors overeager to medicate but thoroughly, solely and without debate their PARENTS, whose selfish lifestyles, neglect and demand for a quick fix are damaging their younguns. And I had to wonder: Who exactly is going to buy this book? Are there parents so self-loathing that they’ll pay $15 to have somebody flagellate them so severely? I scanned it for a few good behavior management tips and then left in on the shelf. Hah!

But if there are differences of opinion in parenting books as to whether Ritalin is a savior or a scourge, there seems to be no such doubt among children’s books. Well-meaning children’s book authors seem to be taking it upon themselves to explain to young people what it feels like to have ADHD, and what a good thing it is that medication can make it stop. One book I found stuck between the parenting tomes featured a turtle that looked very much like Franklin of Nick Jr. fame. This particular young turtle, the story explained, was not slow like other turtles but too, too fast. The story ended with the Mama turtle giving the little hyper turtle a little pill, and everybody lived happily ever after.

I figured that book might just be a one-of-a-kind item, but a few days later I noticed a novel in my kids’ Scholastic Book Club flyer about a boy who is happy to be taking medication for his ADHD -- but then he goes to visit his father and the dad, a medication non-believer and big hyper guy himself, flushes his Ritalin patches down the toilet. The book club blurb explains that the kid has to decide what’s more important -- spending time with his dad, or the nice in-control feeling he gets from the drug. And however we feel about Ritalin, is that really a message we want to give our pre-teens -- kids, if it’s a choice between a parent or feeling good, go with the drugs? I wonder what the parenting books in the Keep-Your-Kids-Off-Drugs section have to say about that.

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MAY 3, 2002

Still feeling in a bookish mood, I surfed over to this morning to see if I might be able to find special-needs books on something other than ADHD at a bookseller with an even greater selection than the monster-mega bookstore down the highway. I clicked my way to the parenting special needs section, and then considered the categories offered: “Hyperactivity” was, of course, full of ADHD books; “Disabilities” was ... full of ADHD books (not to deny that it’s a disability or anything, but if it has its own category, shouldn’t it be out of this one?); and, finally, “General,” which turns out to be the place to find books on special needs that are not ADHD (although a smattering of them crept in here, too).

I’m happy to report that, at least at the moment I checked in this morning, the top best-seller among general special-needs parenting books was The Out-of-Sync Child, supporting my hunch that within the next few years, sensory integration disorder will be the new ADHD. Of course, there’s only one SI book making much of an impact on bookshelves, as opposed to about 7,000 ADHD books, but surely that will change in time. Other books in the top 10 included two on Asperger syndrome, two on autism, one on explosive kids, one on defiant kids, two (natch) on ADHD, and one called The Child Whisperer, which claims to offer “a gentle approach to improving self-esteem and confidence.” If they make it into a movie with Robert Redford, then maybe I’ll give it a look.

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