Dear Future Stella,
We’ve had a rough week. This was art camp week. It was supposed to be easy. You love art. You were familiar with the facility. You knew a handful of the kids in the group already. You had done art camps before – albeit run by different a organization – and had a ball. And it’s art camp, right? Stress free, easy peasy.
It was not. You were written up the first day – arguing with a boy, they said. They said it “nearly came to blows.” I was dumbfounded. You don’t even get rough like that with Felix, and glob knows he asks for it sometimes. “Is there anything else going on we should know about?” I hated her tone. It was the bitchy, pseudo-concerned tone. Fuck that tone. Well, she has ADHD, you know, and each week she’s having to adjust to a new camp, staff, location. It’s a lot for someone like her. Tomorrow will be better, I said. The second day, was not better. You were being sort of restrained when I pulled up. You kids were all outside. You were “trying to jump on the concrete block.” I didn’t see what the big deal was, but they didn’t want anyone to get hurt. But you had been yelling. All day. Yelling. I was flabbergasted. You hadn’t acted that way in over a year. What the hell? And we had talked about all of it going into that day. You would make better choices. You wouldn’t act like a jerk-face.
I was embarrassed. Why couldn’t you just do what you were supposed to do? Why were you making me look like an asshole mom who doesn’t raise her children properly?
“Do you think it’s that ADHD again?”
I wanted to slap her. Maybe she had brain fog. Maybe she really did think that ADHD just fades and disappears like a rash. What a moron. Why yes. It is the ADHD. Something is clearly triggering her, and she’s responding emotionally. She did complain about the noise and I advised her to tell an adult and see if it was possible to go somewhere quiet for a bit to reset. Did she do that?
Well yes, but they were in the middle of a project and they simply didn’t have the staff to accommodate that.
That’s ok. Tomorrow is a new day, right? Better choices.
Day 3 things fell apart. I was called shortly before 2:00 to pick you up. You had been written up 5 times. You were a distraction to all the other children. You had climbed into the garbage can and knocked it over (WTF??). I immediately called your father to get you now. His office was just right around the corner – same building. He could keep you quiet and safe until I could make my way there. Your father was angry. I was shocked and angry and sad and scared. This was not supposed to be happening. And holy shit you had another week scheduled at the same camp later in the summer. What the hell would we do?
I drove home that day trying to understand. That’s my thing. I can make peace with something if I can understand the nuts and bolts, the whys. I sent you to your room with instructions not to come out until you could answer that question. Why did you behave so badly at camp? What went wrong? You came out a while later and quietly told me you just couldn’t control your body. Well there you go. Dammit.
I read these posts from ADD/ADHD moms, who trumpet that in their opinion, their child’s condition is a gift. It’s not a disorder. It makes them special and wonderful. I have very mixed emotions about these posts. On one hand, these women must be saints. They must have a capacity for compassion and acceptance that I’m lacking. On the other hand, I think they’re fucking idiots. I look at the looming spectre of summer camps for years to come, the planning, the expense, the desire to give you good summers with fun AND enrichment, always knowing that it could all implode at any moment, and holy shit I don’t have much of a backup. 504 plan meetings. Visits to your pediatrician every 3 months so we can keep your meds going. It’s exhausting. It makes me sad. It makes me very angry. At those moments, ADHD is the ugliest damn thing I can think of. It causes behavior in you that can cloud all of your wonderful qualities. People won’t know – or believe – that you get straight A’s and read at such a high level. They won’t see how funny and sweet you can be.
And I have these thoughts and I hate myself for them. I hate having weeks like this one, where I feel like all I’ve done is berate you or comment on negative things. I don’t want you to feel less. I want you to know you are loved and supported. I don’t want you to think back and remember me as the bitchy mom and you as a fuck-up.
I also want you to know that what happened at art camp was not your fault – not entirely. Hell, not even 25% from what I can tell. When your dad came to get you that afternoon, he had to sign all 5 of your behavior reports. He emailed me copies. The most common phrases I saw on nearly all of them involved “not sitting in her seat and completing her art,” or “not listening to directions.” One even used the word “MULTIPLE,” all in caps, just like that. Was this art camp or an SAT prep course? And hello? ADHD? At that moment I felt that calm quiet that can accompany white hot rage. Fuck. Those. Bitches. This was a damn Stepford camp. You were “suspended” from activities for Thursday, including missing the field trip. But you would go back to that place over my dead rotting corpse.
I called your dad and unloaded. I was furious. I was Mama Bear. My rage only grew the next day, when I got a message from my friend. Her son was in camp with you. He had told his mother some of the things going down. The staff yelled at all the kids. A lot. They told the kids that they were the “worst camp group” they’d ever had, that they would lose their field trip if they didn’t shape up. And they called the time out area “The Dump.” They would put kids in The Dump. They put you -my daughter- in The Dump. That’s why you were climbing in the goddamn garbage can. Those twisted despicable women are the ones that gave you the idea – made you feel like you belonged with trash – not knowing or caring how very literal you are. So no wonder. No wonder you were losing your shit.
There will be some blood, once we sort out getting you shifted into another camp later this summer. We also have to proceed a bit more carefully than I would like since your father works for the same organization. If not, that whole damn place would be a smoking crater. But we will handle it. The director will hear about how inappropriate those women were, how they clearly had no training in handling a kid with ADHD – not an exotic diagnosis in this day and age- appropriately and compassionately. Hell, they probably couldn’t spell it.
I also promise that I do and will continue to do my best. I don’t always pull it off. Some days you don’t make it easy. But I promise I will try my hardest to understand, to find different ways to reach you when you seem unreachable. I promise that for every time I have to fuss at you about something, that I will find something to praise you for as well. Lastly, I promise that as your mother I will eviscerate any asshole I catch trying to make you feel like less.
You are very precious to me, ADHD and all. Now pick up your dirty clothes and make your bed.
I daresay she had more fun at my office than at art camp. That’s sad.