“Don’t sing!” Aurora screamed from the other room.
I sighed. Aurora, my then eight-year-old, had been trying to ban singing in our house for months. Well, not ALL singing. Just any songs that she didn’t want stuck in her head. Her favorite songs were fine. I just was not a huge fan of restricting myself to an Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift playlist.
“People sing when they are happy, girlie. It’s ok,” I answered and started humming again.
“Aahhhh. Don’t sing!” she yelled back.
That night as I tucked Aurora into bed, I thought, This will never go away.
Aurora had recently been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). My husband and I had struggled immensely with trying to learn how to be parents to this child. After years of trying to find solutions, we had an idea of what her diagnosis would be before we received it. It was still a blow, though.
Now we had some answers, but one thing was sure—Aurora had a difficult road ahead of her. It was a road full of trial and error, therapists, change, determination, failures, and, hopefully, successes.
Most people are fairly familiar with ADHD. Individuals with ADHD have a lower ability to regulate executive functions such as time, focus, energy, persistence, and emotion than others their age. ODD deals with that emotional aspect. When coupled with ADHD, ODD is basically an extreme inability to regulate emotion.
So what does this look like from the outside? It looks like screaming in the grocery store because Mom won’t buy your favorite candy. It looks like throwing your fork because Dad won’t let you have dessert without eating your vegetables. It looks like yelling, biting, scratching, and writhing when Mom makes you go to your room. It looks like lots and lots of screaming, yelling, and angry outbursts. Many ODD children are violent and aggressive. They struggle to respect any authority but their own. They push, push, push against anyone’s efforts to control them, tell them what to do, or teach them what to think.
They are oppositional.
Is this the life I wanted for my child? I asked myself as I walked back to my own bedroom. I believe all parents of special needs children grieve at some point. They grieve the life they had hoped for their child, the life that child can not have. Reading about ODD children was overwhelming and discouraging. Many parents had given up hope that their child would ever be a benefit to society. It seemed that everywhere I looked the most likely outcome for my child was prison, addiction, and a personality disorder.
Where is the hope? I asked myself as I knelt next to my bed in prayer.
“Dear God, I don’t want this.”
I wanted to say, Please take it away, but there was no ‘away’. I sensed that just making her struggles go away was not God’s will. This was part of her journey on this earth. Aurora could learn to cope, and, fundamentally, she could change. It would be harder for her than for many others. She had learned to protect herself by almost always being in a position of defense. Helping her past this and into a future of acceptance, healing, and change would require some guidance, but it was possible for her to learn to be kind. It was possible for her to change her behaviors to reflect the inner beauty I knew was there. Would she? I really didn’t know. All I knew was that she could become a beacon of hope for so many. But I couldn’t change her.
“Change me then.”
I was not the person who could deal with this child. I was so impatient. I couldn’t even finish a book without peeking at the end. I knew what all of my Christmas presents were before Christmas morning when I was a kid. As I got older, I became very efficient and no-nonsense. I did my schoolwork quickly and well. I did not understand why anyone would ever just not turn in an assignment. It was so much easier to just follow the rules and get things done. I had no patience for rule-breakers and what I saw as idleness. When I had children, I just expected that they would behave because it was the right thing to do.
That was who I was. That person could not raise Aurora. I recognized that. We would be in an endless battle throughout eternity. I knew I had to change.
I started my prayer again.
Dear God, This will not go away. I can’t do this on my own. I need to be the person that can raise and help this child. Help me to become that person.
I knew He had the power to help me and that He would help me. I knew He wanted her to be happy, too. I had faith that God could make me a person who could deal with this. I had to put my trust in that faith that He had a will for us both.
My beautiful child is now eleven. Raising her is still tricky. Every. Single. Day.
I have repeated that same prayer many times. “Please help me to become the person that can raise this child.”
Aurora still tries to ban singing in our house although my ‘allowed’ singing repertoire has changed with her preferences. But I have changed, too. I know she is a child of God. I know she is not a mistake. Through God’s grace I have become, and am still becoming, the person God wants me to be. Every. Single. Day.
Sarah (Member CSH)