Parenting Conundrum

Over the past few years LM’s behavior has become more and more difficult. With his entry into public school and promotion to first grade, things were really amplified.  He hated school and seemed to generally be pretty miserable. He started wetting his pants, both in school and out, up to two or three times a week, sometimes without being aware of when he did it or not caring that he had.  He started lying very frequently.  He had always had a tendency to exaggerate the truth, often speaking in hyperbole, and lied regularly, but it became much more extreme.  He made vicious, unnerving threats to us, to other kids, and even about harming himself.  He became increasingly disobedient and defiant.  He left his homework at school.  Notes, calls, and emails were sent home from his teacher and the principal, telling us that he was not completing his work on a regular basis, distracting other students (to the point that his desk was moved), saying things that were wildly inappropriate for a 7-year-old, and even hitting other students.  He was also finding it very difficult to make friends and had several come and go, becoming his “enemies” after only a few days of being friends.

We started meeting with a child and family psychologist on a weekly basis.  We all (BF, the Ex, and I) really liked him and so did LM.  He would go in and spend about a half hour with the doctor and then the three adults would go in and we’d talk with him for fifteen minutes or so, expressing our concerns, updating him on how LM’s week went, and getting suggestions from him on how we could deal with all of these behaviors.  We also removed refined sugar from his diet, though we let him cheat once in a while.  Well, actually his mom lets him cheat most of the time, but whatever, we still let him have a piece of cake at birthday parties and such.  It took a while, but gradually the threats went away (being replaced by “you’re the worst [parent] in the world” and “I wish you weren’t in my family” both are very charming, I must say) and the wetting has decreased to a few times a month during the day, but he still wets himself every night and has to wear pull-ups (he’s never been able to stay dry at night though, so it’s not as disconcerting).

So we’ve had some successes with therapy, the most important being that he seems much happier, but he still has a lot of behavioral problems.  Some of these are of the “trouble” variety, some are just behaviors that are annoying to others and make life hard for him.  The most problematic of the latter type are that he is highly distractible/has trouble concentrating and has major memory problems, like he can’t-remember-what-happened-yesterday-or-even-earlier-today memory problems.  He seems increasingly frustrated by these and I can definitely understand why.  He also becomes entirely engrossed in some things (like his iPod Touch or television), to the point that he becomes totally unaware of what’s going on around him.  In addition to these, there are the less-than-but-still-problematic problems, like chewing on his clothing and sticking his fingers in his mouth, making careless mistakes when undertaking activities, being unable to follow a short list of instructions, having to be told numerous times to do something, fidgeting constantly, being emotionally explosive, and guessing the answers to problems or cheating to obtain the answer rather than working them out.  He also has difficulty socializing; he doesn’t seem to understand how to have a conversation, is unable to maintain friendships, doesn’t observe social niceties (like saying “hello” and goodbye,” “please” and “thank you,” “you’re welcome” and “excuse me”), and says whatever comes to mind, whether other people are talking or not.

All of this, to me, seems to read like the playbook for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  His therapist seems to be of the same opinion, but he is reluctant to make a firm diagnosis.  The therapist said that “Meth works,” but hasn’t weighed in on whether we should or should not medicate LM, which makes sense since he’s not a psychiatrist.  I’ve tried to talk about it with BF, but he doesn’t really want to talk about it at all and is resistant to medicating LM.  BF’s resistant to the general idea of medication for anything, even though he’s on blood pressure medication.  He’s also anti-homeopathic and eastern medicine; he just believes that they’re crap.  The Ex says “absolutely not,” refusing to even consider such a course, even though she admits to having ADD herself and even tried and had success with Ritalin, but prefers to self-medicate with caffeine instead. Check out these blog entries to see what I’m talking about when it comes to her - Ritalin Diaries Pt. I, Ritalin Diaries Pt. II, Ritalin Diaries Pt. III.

It’s all very frustrating and I’m having trouble with their “against medication just for the sake of being against medication” and being “against any discussion of the topic” attitudes.  I can’t understand it.  If LM had depression (like his mom and me, who both take meds for the condition) or high blood pressure (like his dad, who, like I said before, is also medicated), they’d put him on the drugs, not necessarily on a permanent basis, but at least for a trial to see if they helped him.  That’s all I would like to see, a trial to see if it’s effective and he can tolerate it without major side effects.  It’s got to be incredibly frustrating for LM to have to deal with all of this stuff and to be unable to control himself.  He’s constantly dealing with the consequences of these behaviors and if he tried Adderall or Ritalin or one of the non-stimulant medications, he might have greater control over himself and a greater ability to avoid the negative consequences of the behaviors that he doesn’t have control over.
I feel really alienated by BF’s attitude here.  His refusal to even discuss it with me makes me feel, yet again, that because LM and I don’t share DNA, I’m not a full-fledged parent and my feelings regarding this matter don’t matter.  They may not matter when it comes to legal matters, but they should matter to him.  I feel like he doesn’t think that I have LM’s best interest at heart, that he thinks that I’d do anything to quell the frustration of living with a child who behaves like this and that that somehow makes me unable to see the situation clearly or that I would go to extremes to achieve this goal, even if they hurt LM.  While I, like anyone else, would be happier if LM behaved better, my interest here is mainly that he be given the best possible circumstances in which to thrive, to fulfill his potential.  I would never suggest that we do something that would be harmful to him.  I feel that forcing him to live like this without even trying to change his faulty brain chemistry would be a disservice to him and I speak as someone who’s been hospitalized because of my depression.  I understand how difficult it is to be that out of control and how much medication can help.

I also feel that it would be beneficial to LM’s education if he were formally identified as having the disorder and this was communicated to his school.  He wouldn’t be pulled out of his class or anything, but would have an IEP and be given special treatment at school to help him be more successful in both his studies and the socially.  His teachers and the administration would be aware of the fact that he isn’t just a kid who behaves poorly and needs to be separated from the other children and constantly punished.  At best, they would understand that he’s got a medical condition and work with him and with us, as his parents, to make sure that the roadblocks that are in his way are removed as much as they can be.  At worst, they continue to see him as a problem child, but are forced by the law to comply with the IEP and give service to his special needs.  Either way he’d be better off than he is now.  I think that his mom and dad are both concerned with him being labeled and with teachers pre-judging him without getting to know him.  They don’t want this to become a big “ADD” stamp on his records that forever puts him in the “TROUBLED YOUTH” category.  I don’t believe that that’s the case with schools so much as it was when we went to school.  More and more kids are being identified as having special needs and integrated into regular classrooms.  Teachers have been better educated and forced to deal with these students and their pro-active parents more.  He’s never going to have as easy a time with school as BF or I did, but I’m convinced that it can be easier for him than it is now, he just needs some more help.  Everyone who knows LM can see that he’s an exception little person with high intellectual ability and he probably even falls into the “gifted and talented” educational category, but he’s never going to realize his full potential or qualify for the special enrichment classes that kids like him should have if these behavioral problems are always hanging over his head and getting him classified as a “bad kid.”

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