Sometimes I worry that my daughter will think her middle name is Focus. I'm constantly saying, "A, focus. Just try to focus." How do you know when your child's personality quirk is actually a medical issue that needs to be addressed? This topic has been weighing heavily on me lately.
Everyone who meets my daughter finds her to be very charming and engaging. And she is! I know I'm biased but she is just downright likable. Everyone at church says, "Oh, she's such a free spirit!" She is a free spirit but even free spirits need to get dressed every morning. People have no idea how hard the mornings are at our house. I think they believe I am exaggerating or that I am too hard on her.
No one ever says, "I can't wait to be a mom so that I can yell at a short person all day long." No one wants to be that kind of parent. And yet, I find myself turning into some crazed harpy every morning. Her dad ends up yelling, too, and he is not a man who would normally raise his voice. I think we're just at a loss. We've tried reward programs, taking stuff away, and everything in between.
Yesterday, my daughter missed church again. She was up at 7:24 and we don't have to leave until 9:40, so it's not like she didn't have enough time to get her act together. Even with 2+ hours to get everything done (and really, "everything" is a pretty short list: get dressed, make bed, comb hair, and brush teeth), she still struggled. As our departure time drew near, I said, "We're leaving in a few minutes." I made that statement several times, in fact. She was in the living room, watching TV and drawing in her notebook. Finally, at 9:42, I grabbed her jacket and handed it to her.
"I'm leaving now," I said.
I grabbed my stuff and walked into the garage. I noticed she wasn't behind me. I opened the garage door and then started the car. Still no kid. I sat in the car for a couple of minutes, fiddling with my iPod and whatnot. Finally, I decided that she must not be coming. I pulled out and closed the garage door once I was in the driveway. I paused to see if she would run out. Nope. I turned the corner and drove to church.
I was about a mile from church when my phone rang. "Mama," she sobbed. "Why didn't you tell me you were leaving?"
"What?!" I was incredulous. "I handed you your jacket and said I was leaving. What other information did you need?"
She cried and I asked her to put her dad on the phone. We discussed the situation and agreed that this was one of those "learn your lesson" moments. I felt sad driving to church without her. Church is something we always do together. Sure, I could have gone back in the house to get her before driving away, but I really wanted her to pay attention and figure it out on her own. I mean, we've been attending the same church since she was one year old and it has started at the same time since it was founded, I think. She knows how to tell time. Also, I might have been tempted to turn back around and pick her up, but I was scheduled to teach religious education and needed to get to church on time.
Saturday morning had not been much better. She and I needed to leave the house at 9:30. We were headed to a friend's house. She had a playdate with my friend's daughter. Even when she was headed to a fun event, something she very much wanted to do, she still couldn't get dressed and comb her hair. P tried setting a timer and told the kid that she had x number of minutes to make her bed. No go. Tears were shed. Voices were raised. I said, "Go brush your teeth!" and she replied, "You're saying it in a mean voice!"
Sure, I did say it in a stern way. But this was after at least a dozen utterings of "Hey, sweetie, go brush your teeth, okay?" I send her into the bathroom to brush her teeth and then regularly find her rolling on the floor with the dogs instead. Does she forget what I asked her to do? Is she being purposely obstinate?
I guess I just don't know if this stuff is normal or not. When the kid was little, I belonged to a May 2005 birth club board on Babycenter.com. I'm now connected to a lot of those moms on Facebook. So, these are people who have children the same age as mine - right down to the month. I hear about how these other kids get up when their alarm goes off, they get dressed, pack their own lunch, make their own breakfast, etc. Then after school they do their homework voluntarily, bathe unassisted, and so forth.
One of A's best friends is on meds for ADHD (or maybe just ADD - I'm not sure which). Her mom is a nurse so she knows what's she's doing. If the issue comes down to focus, I don't think my child has a greater ability to focus than her friend does (or did, before the meds). I guess that is one reason why I've been thinking about this so much. Am I doing my child a disservice by not having her evaluated? I don't want her on medication but if there is an issue that needs to be addressed, I don't want to fail to help her.
I have a conference with her teacher next week. I think I'm going to ask her how well my daughter is able to focus at school. If she hasn't seen any issues, I will let it drop for now. But I think I will still wonder.