I was under the impression that when your children are in school all day you suddenly have all this time to accomplish everything. Your productivity goes way up. Your house is always clean, your errands are always accomplished and you know what it means to have "leisure time".
I'm here to tell you that it's not true.
In fact, quite the opposite occurs. Or at least that's what has happened to me.
For the past three months, Dizzle and Doodle have been out of this house from 7:20 a.m. until 2:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dilly, who is still in preschool, leaves me to my lonesome every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
At a minimum, I have 15 kid-free hours a week to do whatever I want and yet, I never seem to get around to doing much. Yes, the house is clean, the family is fed and our bills are paid, but I have a laundry list of things that I want to tackle that hasn't been touched. No matter how much time I have, something else always seems to come up.
My most recent and pressing demand has been Dizzle - my brilliant, yet completely scattered child.
Dizzle has always been a bit of an anomaly. For as long as I can remember she has been innovative and hyper-focused (as in she gets so focused that she loses the world around her). It's absolutely amazing to watch, but it is also extremely frustrating. She is often so focused on one thing that you can't break her from what she is doing. It's like she lives in a bubble and that bubble can't be broken until she decides it is.
Then, other times, she jumps so quickly from one thing to another that it is impossible to keep her on task. She flits around until she finds something that interests her. When she's in this mode, it's hard to get her to follow directions, to listen intently, to follow through and to pay attention. Then, when you add any sort of stimulus, she gets overwhelmed. As you can imagine, getting stuck in this mode would make school simply torturous. Dizzle is often asking herself, "How can I do what I am supposed to do with all of these distractions around?"
While we have noticed these behaviors in Dizzle from birth, we often wrote them off as her being flighty. Up until this point, she hasn't really been affected by her behavioral tendencies, with the exception of a note here and there from her teachers about her constant interruptions and failure to follow directions. Other than that, she was fine. Her grades have always been excellent. Her standardized test scores among the top in the nation. And she wasn't disruptive.
However, this school year has brought on a whole new set of challenges. The increased workload and structure has made her "quirks" hard to ignore. She started to make more and more mistakes in her work (not for a lack of knowledge) and her teacher was constantly noting how Dizzle was failing to follow directions and stay on task.
We tried anything we could think of to help her stay focused. Dizzle would move herself to the back of the classroom when she felt distracted. She would wear earplugs to minimize the classroom noise while she worked and she would put up her "office" so she couldn't see what was going on around her. Yet, nothing she did seemed to help. She couldn't get past all the distractions.
As a parent (and probably as a teacher), this was incredibly frustrating to watch. I cried over the fact that I had no way to help her. Everyday was a battle with Dizzle. We struggled to get her homework done. I told her that all she needed to do was to find an environment that helped her to focus. She told me she was trying her best and despite my emotional outbursts, I knew she was telling the truth.
I felt like we weren't left with many options. I considered transferring her to an online school so that I could minimize her distractions and control the learning environment. J and I decided that we'd give it until mid-year before we made any firm decisions, but I thought the outcome was inevitable.
Honestly, I've spent so much time advocating for Dizzle in the past three months that I am convinced that her teacher's Christmas wish is for me to lose her email address. I have been so consumed with helping her find her way that I've been anxious and temperamental. I research and question then implement and question some more. It's been a rough three months for all of us.
Fortunately, after much back and forth about what we need to do, Dizzle's teacher finally said to me that if her child was dealing with the same issues that she would speak to her pediatrician. It was such a relief to hear that she could see the struggle Dizzle was facing and that it wasn't just parental overreaction. I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
Just before we left for Hawaii, we started the process of having Dizzle tested for ADHD: Inattentive Type (she shows almost none of the hyperactivity tendencies of ADHD). And once we were aware of what we were looking for, it became so evident that this is what we had been dealing with for the past eight years. And of course, I was instantly hit with mommy guilt for not recognizing it sooner.
Two weeks ago, Dizzle started medication to help with her symptoms. She is listening better both at home and at school, she feels that she is gaining the ability to work quickly and carefully (it's always been one or the other with her) and while she still has zany and out of this world ideas, she's realizing that she has to prioritize and that those ideas will still be there whenever she gets to them.
While we're not there yet (tweaking the dosage and medication will be an ongoing process), things are improving. And that's really all I can ask for.