You've all heard the saying, "Mother's of little boys work from SON up til SON down"? Never was that saying more fitting than when it comes to describing raising my son. My son was rambunctious and rowdy right from the beginning. He was born to fight his way through life. He even fought being born, choosing to come out butt first and having to be born through a C-section! Never was that saying more fitting than in describing raising my boy.
Here you see me fresh from the hospital holding my little bundle of joy. You can see the exhaustion in my face and the pain. C-sections are not easy, especially when you go through a long labor with a breech baby for hours and hours before the c-section.
My son was a good baby though, slept through the night almost immediately and ate well and was healthy and happy. We loved him to pieces, especially his sister.
I was fortunate that I got to stay home with him for the first two years of his life, after that I had to go back to work and had to rely on daycare. That's when the problems started. My son was VERY active and it was difficult for him to just sit and listen to a story or color or play with blocks. He had to be constantly moving so when he had to sit quietly his hands would wander and he would pull a girls hair or poke another child, anything to keep from just sitting quietly. We must have gone through seven or eight different daycare places before it was time for him to go to school.
We hoped that starting Kindergarten would be the end of the daycare problems, but they just continued on in school. There was not a day that he didn't get sent home with a note from the teacher for some reason or another. He had a journal that he would bring home every day where the teacher would right a sentence or two about his day. Every day was the same thing, "unable to sit still", "unable to keep his mouth quiet", "doesn't stay on task", "fights with the other children"...and on and on.
His dad was not as forgiving as I and it seemed like my son was constantly being punished and put in "time-out" by his dad. As he got older it was being grounded and having to stay in his room constantly with no TV, no books, nothing to do but sit on the edge of his bed. Torture for a child that can't stop moving! His dad and I were miles apart in our theory of how to raise him.
Finally things came to a head between his dad and I and we divorced, leaving me alone to raise my troubled but loving and beautiful little boy!
Things at school escalated. I met numerous times with teachers and principals and counselors and therapists and psychologists and doctors. The school called me every day to come and straighten out some problem with my son. I recall one time they called me to tell me that my son refused to leave his desk to go to the Principal's office after making a little girl cry. I watched through the window as they tried to convince him to go to the Principal's office and he just gripped his desk with those little arms and fingers and refused. The only way they could have gotten him to go would be if they had broken his fingers or his arms. The teacher, principal and janitor came out and they asked me to sign a paper that would allow them to pick up my son's desk, boy and all and carry it to the Principal's office. I was at a point where I didn't know what to do so I said ok and signed their paper. That is just one example.
And it wasn't just at school, I had problems with him at home also. I remember one Saturday outing with my son, my mom and myself. We went to do a little shopping and stopped to grab a bite to eat at a Wendy's restaurant. At some point inside the restaurant while we were eating my son got upset and said he wanted the keys to the car so he could wait in the car. He was about 8 years old at this time and I told him no, he could sit there quietly and wait for his grandmother and I to finish. He said no and walked out. My mom wanted to leave right away but I told her no, let's finish our meal, he will be back in a little bit, where is he going to go?
We finished and went out to the car assuming he would be standing by the car...but he wasn't. I walked around the building then to the stores in the area and down the block calling him. He was no where to be found. By this time I was in a panic and called the police. The police came and questioned me and my mom and radioed other officers to be on the lookout for him. About an hour later a California Highway Patrol officer found him. The CHP office had been getting reports of a little boy crossing Highway 99, a heavily traveled 3-lane highway! When the police finally caught up with him he was 5 miles from the Wendys!
The officer that brought him back to me was very nice and said "You're going to have to keep this kid on a short leash because he has no concept of what is right and what is wrong." This was a big wake up call for me!
Doctor's and therapists had been telling me they wanted to put my son on medication, on Ritalin for ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, I finally agreed, I didn't know what else to do.
Did Ritalin help my son? Well it calmed him down and made it easier for teachers and the other students to deal with him. It made it easier for him to concentrate and learn, but he hated it. He hated the way it made him feel. He would beg me not to make him take the meds and promised me that he would be good. A few times I tried sending him to school without the medication and the school would call me and know right away he had not take his medication and they asked me to come and give it to him. This is how I remember my son on Ritalin...
Did I do the right thing in medicating him? I'll never know. Will I always feel guilty that I had to resort to Ritalin to try to make my child behave, definitely. I know that I did what I felt was best, but that guilt will always be there in the back of my mind.
The good thing is that when he started junior high school he refused to take it any more and said he was going to force himself to be good...and he did. Ritalin is a thing of the past for my son, but the memory of my son's glazed eyes and swollen little face will never be erased from my mind and my heart.
This post was inspired by the book, January First, A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her.
How far would you go to advocate for your child? In January First, father Michael Shofield and his family struggle to find the right treatment for his daughter Jani, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at six years old. Join From Left to Write in September as we discuss the Shofield's memoir January First. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.