Blog /Soaring with Elijah
I remember it like yesterday. The hurt, the anger, the frustration, and confusion. And then something else. Embarrassment, maybe?
I looked across the table to see if my ears deceived me but was immediately assured that they had not by the deeply furrowed brow of my husband who was obviously experiencing very similar, if not the same, torturous emotions.
I asked the eighth grade History teacher to repeat himself, just one more time. I’m still not quite sure why.
"Maybe your son should just get his GED and forget about going to high school. I mean, high school is not for everybody." There were those words again. Those words that had rattled me to the core and shook loose indignation like I have never felt before. The only thing I felt more than indignation at that moment was my maternal instinct to protect my child. Had he heard?
Judging by the look on his face he had. With an expression I could not completely read I took in all of him. It was as if time stood still and allowed me a few brief moments to take in this entire scene. My mind drifted and conjured up pictures, flashes of scenes almost in the fashion of an '80s movie montage, I watched the first few years of his life pass by my eyes.
The exciting and very eventful birth, the intense month in the NICU after he was born 8 1/2 weeks premature, thumb sucking, potty training, talking before he could walk...
My baby boy was so cute and very concerned about his appearance (he would change his clothes if he got the slightest smudge). He was funny and an amazing learner with 'star' quality. I mean really, this kid was meant for the big screen. And even though you may not believe me, I really would say that even if he wasn’t my child.
I also remember how tiring it was running after him once I had my younger two children; a boy and a girl 16 months apart. During that time it seemed that I needed to get my oldest child in some sort of activity quick! He had an incredible amount of energy; jumping, running, climbing and oh the talking! He could talk longer and faster than anyone I had ever met. He had so many questions. When he wasn’t asking questions he had lots to say about many things; different unrelated subjects all at once it seemed. It seemed like his mouth, his mind, and in fact his entire body was run by some motor. A motor no one could figure out how to operate or shut off.
And here we were age 14, sitting across from yet another group of teachers saying what we had been hearing from teachers for the last several years, "Your son is very capable of doing the work, very intelligent and articulate, but unable to focus in class. He is often a distraction to others and exhibits very disruptive behavior." So disruptive in fact, that at least one teacher feels he shouldn’t even bother with high school.
But this was our son he was talking about. Not some troubled teen from a broken home, engaging in criminal activity. They were talking about our first born, our beloved, our Elijah.
Although not an 'A' (ok 'B' or 'C' student, for that matter), he still deserved to have the "typical" teenage/high school experience, right?
As that question lingered I looked at my son again, hardly recognizable as the fun loving meticulous child I had once known him to be. His clothes were disheveled; face flushed and eyes burning with anger. Or at least that's what I assumed until I looked closer. There was something else behind his eyes. A certain desperation that reached the very core of me as a mother and human being. A question. My son wanted to know why. Why didn't anyone understand? Why was he different? Why was it so hard for him to get us all to see things from his perspective?
When we got home late that afternoon my husband and I had a long talk with our son. I guess we should really call it a 'listen' instead of 'talk' because we did very little talking. My husband and I watched as our son struggled to stay in the moment and reasonably still. In normal fashion we reminded him to sit still and focus, and then it suddenly hit me. What if we were asking the wrong questions? So I stepped out on faith and I asked, "Son, can you sit still?" I watched in slack jawed amazement as my son's face lit up for the first in a long time as if to say, "now we’re getting somewhere" and he calmly replied, "No." Probing further I said, "I'm serious, answer me truthfully." My son looked me square in the eye and in the most inexplicable way communicated the importance of what he was about to say and replied, "I am very serious Mommy, sometimes I just can’t control myself, I need help."
In that defining moment my husband and I knew one thing was clear; we needed help.
After a referral to mental health from our pediatrician my son was diagnosed with ADHD.
Since then many months have passed and although new to the mental health world my son has welcomed the opportunity to grow through the intense trials he faced with strength and determination to reach his educational and athletic goals in spite of it all. With the spirit of his ancestral heritage of heroism, my son faces every day with courage, love, and laughter that brings "proud mama" tears to my eyes.
I look back at the fateful day of middle school and remember the hurt that has now been replaced by honor to have a son who has embraced his differences and somehow maintains a healthy balance between fitting in and celebrating the diversity he brings to every situation. Embarrassment and confusion are both gone.
Although there are still some days where we experience frustration and anger, they are mostly directed at injustice toward mental health consumers and families.
My son continues to inspire me and is a great demonstration of acceptance and unconditional love. Unconditional love for himself and others. His desire to learn about his diagnosis and use his strengths to overcome the various difficulties he faces due to symptoms of ADHD has taught me so much about my own struggles with mental health distress. He has in many ways ignited even more passion in me to do and support work that sees to the health of the whole person.
My son calls on everything in him to soar above the mountains in his path including discrimination, stigma, misinformation, and misunderstanding. In the process he has helped me to re-discover my own wings.
Indeed, Elijah has taught me soar!
I am enjoying our journey together. I know however, that there may come a day when I will cease to fly as high, and swiftly as his youth and vibrancy will allow him to. My prayer is that he will still be able to hear my whispers in the wind...
"Soar on son, soar on."