When Patrick & I went for the 5th sonogram of my pregnancy with Andy I was about 16-17 weeks pregnant. Id lost so many pregnancies that I was considered “higher risk” so I was having more sonograms done than normal. This particular sonogram was to determine if our baby was at risk for Spina Bifida. As that had ben the cause of the loss of our first pregnancy. We’d told the sonographer we really didn’t want to know the sex. We had a healthy 1 year old baby girl at the time and surely didn’t care about the sex. I only wanted healthy. And I completely assumed it would be a girl. I was a girl Mom. Thats all I knew. So when she first placed the scanner on my belly and it just happened to be perfectly placed over the baby’s VERY obvious penis it was clear we were either having a baby with 3 legs or a boy. Even I could tell.
And what the ever loving fuck was I going to do with a boy? Holy shit. I only knew how it felt to have a girl. How would I bathe him? How would I hold him? How would I teach him to pee? I was extremely unequipped to deal with this. About as unequipped as I’d been before I had Maddie. And lo and behold….as biology often does….it all got figured out. I never knew I could love anything or anyone as much as I do my kids. That moment they were born, I was born. My heart grew. My soul was completed. And my girl is amazing. She’s very smart, funny, sarcastic, talented, she cheers, does DECA, does well in school and socially and overall is a pretty amazing person.
Andy was what the PC police would call “a handful”, “hyperactive”, “hard to discipline”, “strong willed”. In other words…he was an asshole. He climbed walls, ran away, escaped his crib at age 11 months, never listened and generally drove us nuts. But that kid loved me. He wouldn’t hug or love on anyone BUT me. He’d drive me crazy all day misbehaving to the point I’d want to lock him in a closet then crawl up in my lap and hug me so tight I thought my heart would burst. There is NOTHING…and I mean NOTHING like the relationship between a mother and son.
Relatives and well meaning people (of an older generation) suggested that he needed to be spanked, corporally punished….you know- beat the shit out of him. Id tried time outs and every other thing in the books to discipline Andy. To no avail. So I listened to those people. I spanked him. Several times as a toddler. And all of these years later I stand here and say UNEQUIVOCALLY, without a doubt, 100%….. I regret that. I should have NEVER EVER laid a hand on that child. He became aggressive when I started physically punishing him and biting other kids and his sister. I pretty quickly realized that hitting someone doesn’t exactly teach them NOT to hit. It had absolutely no positive outcome for us.
As Andy entered school it was a never ending schedule of conferences with teachers and administrators and advisors. It was meetings about behavior and how to get him to do homework. It was special schedules and rewards and consequences and tutors and hours and hours and hours and hours of tears. And frustration and anxiety and feelings of failure as a parent and anger and not understanding what we’d done wrong. What I’d done wrong. And so I listened, again, to the people tell me he needed to be medicated for his severe ADHD. Against what my heart told me to do. I was tired. And I was desperate. And we were all pretty miserable. And the years continued, the grades made no real improvement and the hate for school only grew. On top of that…the medication had some pretty YUCKY consequences. And this kid BEGGED me by 6th grade to stop making him take the meds. He looked me in the eyes and said “please, please do not make me take it anymore.” And I decided something in that moment….I decided my son’s LIFE and happiness and peace FAR outweighed my desire for him to excel in school. For him to get A’s and Bs. For him to “fit the mold”, “follow the crowd”, and ever be a teacher’s ideal student.
Andy is hilarious. And bright. And artistic and talented with complex structures. He’s witty and and has a lot of common sense. He makes me laugh. He apologizes when he hurts my feelings. And those things I know. What I DON’T know…is if the disease his father has is hereditary. No one knows. My kids are acutely aware of the possibility of them having Ataxia. So am I. Every second of every hour of every day. You can’t let that knowledge run your life. You can’t let it keep you from doing things, from moving forward and living your life. But you know what you CAN let it do…..you can let it help you see all of the beautiful things in your kid with ADHD. The coolness in him. The artist in him. The way he sees things differently. It can give you the perspective that he may not excel in a traditional classroom or aim to go to Harvard…..but he’s HERE. In this moment, able to ride his bike and laugh and draw and hug me. And every moment that he can do those things is a moment I am grateful for. My dear friend lost her 11 year old son this year. An hour long argument over getting a B instead of a C in Science seems a little ridiculous in comparison. Perspective.
Would I be happy if he got better grades? Sure. Would I be happy if he was more organized, more driven? Sure. Id certainly be happy getting less emails and calls from the school. But I love that kid more than life itself. I love his blue eyes. I love his crazy hair, his dimples, and his ability to make me laugh. And for all of the people who told me “stop breastfeeding…he needs milk to supplement”, “spank him- he needs discipline”, “put him on meds so he can sit still”…..shame on me for listening. Shame on me for thinking for one hot second you knew what was better for my son than I did. Shame on me.
Being just like everyone else is so fucking boring. So lame. So expected. And so unoriginal. I hope with all my heart he knows that he should embrace all of the things he is. And forget the things he isn’t. That straight A’s don’t make you kind. A teacher’s award doesn’t mean your compassionate. Sitting still for a 90 minute Economics class doesn’t make you any better than anyone else. In fact- it means you miss 90 minutes of doing something more fun. I make no apologies for the way I parent him. And I hope he NEVER makes any apologies for who he is. All I ever wanted for either of my kids was to be healthy, happy and peaceful. Because without those things…..what in the world would all the rest mean anyway?