Robin Williams and My Son

I felt like a spider watching prey approach its web as I waited, eyes dancing, behind a curtain protecting my identity. The man approached, whistling without a care. He flung open the hinged lid of our trash can, threw a gloved hand over his nose and doubled over. I couldn’t help myself. I burst out laughing. “That poor man!” I convulsed. I half expected to hear sirens after he reported us to authorities – a homicide.

Rewind four hours. The warm, sunny, July day had started as uneventfully as any day with a two and four-year-old can. It was Thursday, trash day. And it seemed to be taking my husband longer than usual to move the can the ten yards to the street, so I popped my head out into the garage.

“Do you smell something…foul?” he questioned, a pained expression emblazoned across his face.

Venturing toward the open garage door, I sniffed the air then jerked back. “Did you put a dead body in your trunk?” I joked. We burrowed behind boxes, lawn tools, and bikes, the source evading us. The breeze rippled through the garage once more and, in unison, we exclaimed, “The freezer!” Full of “on sale” meat, my husband warily pulled open the door, hoping, wishing…fearing. The stench of the rank contents assaulted our senses. He nearly lost his breakfast.

“How?” he pondered. Inspection revealed the temperature dial set to “off.” We knew who’d struck again! The task of disposing of the bodies was left to me…and the unsuspecting trash man.

 

My husband and I were duped when our first child, a compliant, determined, self-mobilized little girl entered the world two and a half years before our son. Based on our experiences raising her, we naively thought parenting was not so difficult. But our son seemed hell-bent on shattering our bliss.

To say he was curious was an understatement. Buttons, dials, anything he did not understand, fascinated him. A few examples: smearing the contents of his soiled diaper all over himself, his walls and carpet at one-and-a-half. The events recounted above, at two. As a teenager, we changed the password on his computer to revoke his privileges for a time. He reinstalled MS Windows, effectively circumventing his problem (what kid does that?). Denise the Menace had stiff competition with this one.

You will understand then why my husband and I felt stretched. Some said, “Enjoy this time, it goes all too quickly.” I wanted to respond, “You have no idea.” What does a parent do to shape and mold a child in hopes of producing a responsible, contributing member of society when that child ignores reasonable boundaries or refuses to learn except by experiencing society’s consequences? While the challenges we faced have produced fodder for my protagonist, Andy Smithson, in my middle grade fantasy adventure series, the net result for my husband and I: being humbled, frustrated, and at times despairing, as our son grew.

Lucky for the boy, he was a cuddly kid who loved to laugh and knew no strangers. A common scene in our home was him, arms bursting, bearing a foursome of stuffed animal buddies, searching me out. I contributed personalities and voices. As for a tender heart, my son was known to give a new toy to another without hesitation.

We had him tested after fifth grade and results confirmed he is ADHD—put another way, he is off-the-charts brilliant, but cannot organize effectively nor control many of his impulses, impacting anything as seemingly simple as putting him to bed to spending to grades and everything in between. Motivating him to do anything uninteresting…a trial. But, direct him to something that captured his attention…look out! I empathized with the families of Robin Williams, Bill Gates, Adam Levine, Michael Phelps, Walt Disney, Einstein, da Vinci, Mozart, Newton and others with ADHD.

Hormones triggered the first welcome hints of maturity and I began to see some positives developing. My son’s unwillingness to conform to our punishments translated to resisting pressure from peers and I saw him begin to lead. His problem-solving ability translated into being good at building things. He was still challenging, but for the first time, I had hope something good could come of it.

Now, after all the struggles of the last nineteen years, my son leaves for boot camp with the Air Force in a few days. For my husband and I, we have instilled in him what we could; we have persevered and given him our best. Now it is up to him. He will face challenges that will test his mettle. But I know he has what it takes to soar and he will change the world.

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39 thoughts on “Robin Williams and My Son”

  1. Letting go was one of my biggest challenges as a parent. Watching our children transition to adulthood and leave “the nest” is so hard….but they can fly. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your comment :). With our daughter, I knew she would do well for herself, but with my son…after all we have worked through with him… We know he will soar, but it’s been challenging getting him there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Regarding the freezer – you have my utmost sympathy since somebody inadvertantly unplugged our freezer. After removing the dead body, the several attempts at removing the stench failed, we gave the freezer away. Also, having raised four sons, watching them grow and mature was many trials but we now have 8 grand children with a set of twins on the way. God’s gift to me was grand children, proving again, that if you don’t kill your own, He rewards you. Now, if only my kids realize that! (ps: I’m sure they will.)

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    1. LOL! Bob, you’re too funny… But I completely agree, if you don’t kill your own in the process of raising them, you might well be rewarded with grandchildren. Not there yet, and thankfully so, but I do look forward to that day 🙂

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  3. I have not experienced this season of life yet. Mine are teenagers. But I can see how letting them go can be fearful. I have been told it is the hardest part of parenting. I only hope I can do it with as much grace as my parents did.

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    1. Nichole, you are right…letting them go is scary, especially with the potential pitfalls our son is capable of putting in his own path. But I know my husband and I gave our very best (he demanded it). We held nothing back. In that, I know there was nothing else we could offer him and I am at peace.

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  4. As a parent, I have found the hard way that the best approach is to love and appreciate children for what they are and what they can do, not try to push them into behaving like someone they are not. BTW, are you certain that your son has ADHD and not Asperger’s Syndrome? Not that labels matter. but from your brief description, that sounds closer.

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    1. Scott, I think that is “why” we were so stretched – trying to help him be who he is – when we are not that. My son gets his ADHD from my husband, so he comes by it naturally. However, my son has grown up in a much different environment and as such, we felt ill equipped to adequately address the challenges he posed. When he was first diagnosed, a good friend, with an ADHD son, likened ADHD to channel surfing through life… That analogy helped, but we were clear he still needs to operate in a society that does not care that he’s ADHD and expects people to act responsibly. It’s a challenge…

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  5. I put my own son out to the wilds of the world and now must rest in the hope and faith that all we taught him will resurface in his times of need and reassurance. This is a time of parenting where some say, “Parenting…you are done with that.” But OH NO, dear one…the true “Parenting” has just begun! Having adult children is wild wild ride. Hang on!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi LRWLee, thank you for this post. It is very nice to see how supporting you are of your son. Before I was first diagnosed with ADHD my family considered me someone lazy and disinterested in school or in following the rules. After the diagnose, I struggled with criticism from people who believe ADHD is nothing but an made up excuse for my shortfalls – so I never mention it to anyone. I wish people would focus less on the diagnoses and more on offering alternative pathways, not only for those who have ADHD, but for everyone. We are all different and have different needs, forcing everyone to meet the same expectations create so many avoidable problemas.

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    1. THANK YOU for commenting! Working with my son was challenging when both my husband and I tend to be high performing academically and in our careers. It took a long while and lots of frustration to understand our son was not going to follow that path, AND BE OKAY WITH IT. I am clear he has his strengths which are other than academic, and more relational. We just needed to invent ways for him to succeed while still preparing him for a world that does not care that he has ADHD, but expects him to keep promises and perform to a certain standard. To not do so, would have set him up for failure, something we refused to do. It was definitely a thankless job, and took much perseverence. Now we will see what he does.

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  7. Congratulations! Your post evoked fond memories of my son’s childhood. He was diagnosed with ADHD at about age 7. He’ll be forty next year, and is looking forward to retiring from the military soon after many years in the Marines, and later, the Army. He’s a wonderful father with a teenaged daughter and an 11 year old son, who also has ADHD. I wouldn’t change any of it if I could.

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    1. Charles, I’m encouraged by those who share similar stories of the good that the military did for their kids with ADHD. I’m cautiously optimistic. I joked with my son, “I can’t wait to see you at your graduation from Basic and hear you say ‘Yes, Ma’am!'” He assured me that would never happen…LOL!

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  8. This blog had me smiling as I can’t tell you how many people I know with similar stories. The hardest parts for parents and the child are learning how to deal with it. Once everyone realizes that it’s a matter of strengths and weaknesses just like any other person we are able to appreciate life a bit more. Times can be hard for people with ADHD but it makes some of the smartest and bravest people out there. He will be a fine soldier and thank him for his service.

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  9. Good luck!! Air Force is of course the best choice he could make 😉 but I am a bit biased…lol 🙂 Even though he won’t want to here this, tell him to blend and conform within the ranks, if he stands out in any way, he will be pushed a lot!! Unfortunately for me, no matter how hard I tried, my red hair made me stand out. I ended up with laundry duty and being the ‘rat’ which was assistant to the mouse. I got yelled at A LOT!! After basic though, it was awesome, and I loved every bit of it and everyone I met 🙂 Tell him to be a sponge and get everything he can out of every experience 🙂

    Cassandra 🙂

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  10. Hi Linda,
    This was a great post! I know your son will do well. This is coming from a sister of a ADHD brother. Well, back then they called it hyperactivity. He was curious & into everything. Now, he is a director (over the manager) of a bookstore. He’s doing very well even though he’s had a trials in his life. Your son will make it to even though I know he’ll have his trials too.

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  11. I loved reading this post! I needed to hear another parent’s story and it was most needed on this New Year’s Day morning. Those teen years are challenging to be sure. Good luck to your son at boot camp!! Can’t wait to how it goes.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Maggie, you are not alone. I truly feel your pain. We got to the point that it felt like we had no punishments left to impose…and we are NOT parents lacking resolve! For us, many of the issues dealt with what he could access online. Taking away the computer, game system and every other device proved pointless, for he would just borrow one from a friend… There were just too many access points, and he knew it. During the worst of it, we got a child psychologist involved. If we hadn’t, I’m not sure we would all be alive today, let alone still sane 🙂

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