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.