A couple of weeks ago I heard something I thought I’d never hear, “I’m jealous of your kids.” I had the urge to look around and make sure my friend, Rachel*, was talking to me, but since I was the only other person in the room I knew she was referring to my kids.
I admit to experiencing a plethora of mixed emotions – pride, excitement (finally, someone recognized how great my kids were), fear, suspicion (what if this is a cruel joke?), confusion (really? are you sure you mean my kids?) and sadness. I was sad because if a parent is jealous of my kids just how challenging are their kids? Because I know how challenging my kids are and, trust me, we are not an enviable family (we don’t have it all together at the Madhouse…the Huxtables we are not).
It’s a complicated tale, my friend Rachel’s parenting story, and I only know what she has shared with me and the bit I’ve observed. Rachel had her first born while we were still in high school. She took care of him, had a part-time job, took care of the home she shared with her son’s father and went to school. I’m still bowled over by that. So much responsibility at such a young age and she bore it willingly. Pretty amazing woman, that Rachel.
Rachel and the boy’s father married when her son was around two and a couple of years later she gave birth to another boy – Darcy. A few years after that Rachel and her husband separated (sad, but not uncommon in teen marriages, mine included). Rachel eventually remarried Mark, a nice man, and they shared custody of the boys with her ex-husband and his second wife.
They had a week-on-week-off arrangement for almost a decade until this past year when Darcy got in trouble with the law. Darcy is now 16 and has been diagnosed with ADHD for many years (the psychiatrist Rachel took him to this year said Darcy has a most extreme case of ADHD, one of the most extreme the doctor has seen). It is, unfortunately, very common for young people with mental health issues to have trouble with the law.
“Their impulsive behaviour and lack of judgment may also bring them into conflict with the law.”
From Children’s Mental Health Ontario
“Over the years, there have been many studies which show that if one studies the incarcerated population, the rates of ADHD are upwards of 50%.”
from ADDADHD Blog by Dr. Kenny Handelman, ADHD specialist
Let me set the record straight for you – Darcy is not a bad kid. Not at all. He’s not malicious. He isn’t cruel or vindictive. He’s not destructive or violent. He loves animals. He does his own laundry, cleans his room and is really good with younger kids. He does talk a lot, a mile a minute at times. He’s impulsive, can be argumentative and is insistent he’s right even when he’s wrong. Basically, he’s a teenager to the nth degree.
However, since his brush with the law (the incident in question was illegal yes, but also age-appropriate trouble), Darcy’s father has refused to see him thus ending the week-on week-off custody arrangements and placing all of the parenting responsibility on Rachel and Mark’s shoulders. Like I said, Darcy is not a bad kid, but he does require a lot of parenting. And he’s been on probation for the past year so Rachel and Mark have had to supervise him at all times to maintain the court order.
This has put a strain on their relationship since they haven’t had any one-on-one time in almost a year. There was an incident a couple of weeks ago and Mark and Darcy got into a huge fight. Poor Rachel was put in the middle between her son and her husband. It was a trying time for all of them, but I know it was very difficult for Rachel. My heart broke for her.
There is no doubt in my mind that Rachel and Mark love each other. There is no doubt in my mind that they both love Darcy and Darcy loves them. But despite what the Beatles taught us, sometimes we need more than love (don’t ask me what more we need ’cause I haven’t a clue). It’s a little intimidating watching Rachel’s family go through this, especially after reading the following statement from Dr. Kenny.
If any parent of an child with ADD/ADHD needed any more proof that this disorder strains the entire family, you need only read the latest study on the subject in the October issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
…The study discovered that those 23 percent of parents whose children had ADD/ADHD were likely to divorce compared to only 13 percent of couples whose children didn’t have the disorder.
from ADDADHD Blog by Dr. Kenny Handelman, ADHD specialist
Not only has Rachel had to deal with the legal issue and the stress on her marriage she also receives calls from the school almost daily informing her that Darcy was late to class or skipped class. She is in constant contact with the school and his teachers regarding his behaviour in class (usually the teachers complain that Darcy is disruptive…he talks too much) and late assignments.
My heart is breaking for her and I’m afraid I haven’t been able to be as supportive as I’d like to be due to my detox (I’ve been saying all the wrong things because my brain is so fried). And I’m a little scared, too, by what is happening to Rachel’s family.
Scared because I’m only just starting the teen years with my two and I’ve only just started my relationship with Mike. What if my kids start getting in trouble with the law? What if they fight with Mike and I end up being torn between them? What if, what if, what if???? I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do what Rachel’s doing and it scares me more than I thought possible.
* I did have Rachel’s ok to do this blog, but I changed their names anyway…it’s one thing for me to put myself out there and expose my struggles, but I’m not ok with doing it to someone else…that’s probably why I failed at journalism