It’s a bone-chilling 14 degrees outside. Through the foggy car window, I see Seth bounding out of his house in jeans and a T-shirt to greet us, jumping up and down in the snow with the energy of a 3-year-old. I laugh and say, “He hasn’t changed a bit, has he? Still our bouncy boy!”
As soon as possible, he gives me his usual giant bear hug, and, laughing, says, “Hi, Mom!”
It’s early February, and my husband and I have come to celebrate Seth’s birthday with him and his wife.
Born on Valentine’s Day, our second-born stole my heart from day one. I’d gaze at my little bundle and imagine the amazing person he’d grow up to be. Confident in our parenting skills after our first, well-behaved and quiet son, I assumed child number two would follow suit.
Climbing up the kitchen drawers, onto the stove, and reaching into the cabinets above the range-hood to retrieve his favorite snack, Seth had no fear of danger.
Throwing toys from every shelf and storage container into one big pile in the middle of the toy room floor, he had no sense of order.
Singing constantly and loudly, jumping and bouncing and running with more endurance than the Energizer Bunny, he had a motor that wouldn’t turn off.
At naptime, I would find him with books from which he’d ripped the spine, chewed the cardboard into a ball, and then proceeded to stick the ball up his nose. Once or twice, he came to me with panic in his little blue eyes saying, “Mommy, it stuck.” I’d get out the tweezers and cautiously remove the lodged spitball from his nasal passages.
Even reprimands, time-outs, and punishments didn’t seem to make a difference.
My frustration reached the boiling point often and losing control, I would yell. With my face red, eyes bulging, and neck muscles protruding, I must have resembled a crazy cartoon character, because rather than saying a penitent, “I’m sorry, Mommy,” in these tense moments, Seth giggled. Afraid I might hurt him if I didn’t walk away, I would escape to my bedroom, close the door, fall onto my bed, and sob.
When he was four, Seth became a big brother. It stretched me to my limits as I adjusted once again to breastfeeding, diaper changing, and sleepless nights. I wanted to bask in the initial glorious moments and soak in all it meant to have my first daughter. I wanted a little peace and quiet.
Seth would not give me what I wanted.
During that time, I hit one of my lowest points as a mom. Sitting in my rocking chair nursing my baby girl, I prayed that God would help me “like” my little boy again. I knew I’d always love him; there was no question about that. But there were so many moments I just didn’t like him. His loudness. His boisterousness. His in-your-face-at-every-moment-ness. It was all more than this too-tired, stressed-out mom could take.
He started kindergarten at five. At our doctor’s recommendation, we brought him to a psychologist, and test results confirmed my suspicions of ADHD.
I immediately asked the doctor, “Will he have learning problems? Will he grow out of it?”
With the calmness of a professional accustomed to dealing with worried parents, he replied: “This may seem like a huge deal right now, but imagine 15 or 20 years from now. Focus on the big picture. He’ll be fine and someday do great things.”
That future picture was very fuzzy and difficult for me to see. Much less believe.
We started Seth on a low-dose stimulant. Once he could slow down and control his impulses, the sweet boy I fell in love with at birth stole his way back into my heart.
Every morning we could count on him to wake us by jumping into bed between us. Every night he’d stop by for his goodnight hug from mom and dad (something he didn’t outgrow until he went to college).
He loved exploring God’s creation in our backyard, playing video games, and building Lego sets. Like his dad, he was drawn to technology. Like his mama, he had an ear for music and singing and learned to play my trumpet. Unlike us, he also learned guitar, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele. And boy, did he make us laugh!
He also made us cry. Despite his many abilities, living life with an attention deficit was tough. We’d pray together and have heart-to-heart talks, as he grappled with the “why me?” of having ADHD. School was a struggle, and making friends was difficult as subtle social cues often flew right past him.
Driving to his counseling session after a particularly rough week at home and school, Seth’s eyes filled with tears, and his voice cracked as he asked, “Why did I have to get ADHD? Do I have to take medicine for the rest of my life?”
I looked over from the driver’s seat at my tender-hearted, sensitive son. “You might, buddy. But that’s okay. Some kids need glasses to help them see better. You need medicine to help you focus better. Just remember: your ADHD can’t stop you from being anything you want to be. And you’ll do great things someday!”
He looked out the window, sniffed and wiped his eyes, wanting to believe me. As a mom, I realized that my job was not to protect him from the heartache and pain he’d surely encounter in his life but to give him the tools to manage them. As the tears welled up in my own eyes, I attempted to focus on the road ahead.
Over his birthday dinner, Seth shares new hopes for his career path, one that has been a mix of biology and technology, combining his love of nature with his knack for computers. He turns his attention to his wife as she shares stories of her job as a teacher. He beams as he talks about his church and the music ministry he is a part of there. He cracks a few corny jokes and makes us laugh.
I smile as I recall the journey we’ve been on and laugh with the boy that once made me cry. Looking back now, the memories of frustration, guilt, and struggle are just a fuzzy picture.
And I can clearly see that God had this bright young man in mind all along.
Linda Hanstra is a school Speech-Language Pathologist by day, writer/blogger by night. After 26 years of raising four children along with her husband, she’s now facing the challenges and reaping the rewards of her new role as “empty-nester.” Linda enjoys lush, peaceful bicycle trails and says, “biking is a great metaphor for life: not without struggles, but with surprises around every corner.” Linda writes about faith, family, empty-nesting, biking, and other topics at www.lindahanstra.com.