Thursday 2 February 2012

"This is Normal. He Will Grow Out Of It." The Story of How I Became Rotten.

I didn't start off this way.  I was once like you.  But being a Mom has beaten me down.  Let me take you through my process.

Pregnancy.  I found out I was going to be a Mommy in my final year in college.  Like most women I was scared and excited all at once.  I didn't know what to expect so, in true scholarly fashion I began my research.  Any time I attack a project I give it my all.  I read all the pregnancy and parenting books I could get my hands on.  I took those worthless pre-natal classes.  I tried to learn everything I could about breast-feeding.  I was going to ace this!

I had a very healthy pregnancy that gave me very little trouble.  Labour and delivery took a long time (36 hours!) but there were no complications.  My baby was perfectly beautiful.

Year 1.  I began failing as a mother almost immediately.  I couldn't get my baby to latch properly.  The first six weeks of life were a living hell.  There was a lot of crying, most of it by me.  I was so worried it wasn't going to work because we had no money for formula.  None.  I hated every bitch who told me how wonderful breast feeding is; how natural and easy.  With much stubborn perseverance we got through it but I was always uncomfortable when some women would praise me for this.  If I'd had the money I most likely would have jumped at formula feeding.

Although my problems with breast-feeding were unrelated to the future problems I would have with Frick, the experience of it set the stage for all future maternal frustrations and shortcomings.

After the breast-feeding was finally going, Frick started teething.  That's when he started biting me.  Only me.  He only ever wanted to bite me.  He took great joy and delight in it.  There would be a great happy grin on his face and then, CHOMP!  No matter how many chew toys I gave him, no matter how much redirection, he was always sneaking up on me and biting me.  I told myself, "This is normal.  He will grow out of it."  I was still very confident in my parenting abilities.  I had read the best of the books and all the latest magazines.

Year 2.  The first half of this year was spent avoiding Frick's pirhanna-like mouth.   But I was still optimistic.  After all I'm a very good student and I was reading very good books.  Frick had not yet started tantrums and he could not yet speak.  He was just cute and adorable and bitey and charming as all hell.

Which made it easier to forgive him for destroying all of our property.  He was a very destructive baby.  I thought, "It's normal for babies to be destructive.  He will grow out of it."

Year 3.  This was the year of the beginning of Frick's nuclear meltdowns.  Frick's tantrums were so violent he often had to be restrained in order to prevent him from hurting himself.  He did it everywhere for the smallest of annoyances.  People were pretty nice about it though.  It helped that I got sympathetic looks most of the time.  I thought, "See?  Other people have gone through this.  It's normal.  He will grow out of it."  I read a lot of parenting books that year.  I may as well have read the Sunday funnies.

Year 4.  This is the year that Frick fell in love with ramming his head into things.  Particularly the crotchular region of adult men.  He was the perfect height for bashing this area.  He would back up from across the room, gaining some pretty good momentum before hitting the target.  If you were a less than vigilant guy you would be singing opera for a couple of hours after.  It took a while and we finally got him to stop doing it to Daddy, but he wasn't convinced that this was a universally unwanted behaviour.  He was a scientist.  He had to test it out on any male he ever came into contact with.  It was like owning a rambunctious dog.  "Boys sure are weird," I thought.

This is also the year he started colouring on anything but paper.  This artistic experimentation with media lasted for another four years.  No matter how many times he had to clean up his crayon markings on the wall he would be at it again the very next day.  I have confiscated crayons from this kid more times than I can count.

This is also the year we started toilet training, so far my most detested parenting experience.  "This is normal.  He will grow out of it" became my mantra. With shameless bribery (and many gummi bears) we got through the worst of it but the power struggles we had did lasting damage.  This is now a medical issue.  Not normal, but he may still outgrow it.

This is also the year Frick started to punish me.  In his mind he felt that any time I made him do or experience anything unpleasant, be it giving him a time out or making him go to bed when he didn't want to, he could punish me.  He was amazingly creative in the art of Sticking It To Mommy.  This was the year I began to feel as if this kid was out to get me.  I cried a lot.

This was the year I began to hate the expression "Being a Mom is the most wonderful experience of my life!" Women who had the capacity to utter this phrase unironically were dead to me.  I was in a very dark place.

Year 5.  This was the year that Frick began what was to be a stellar academic career.  I should have seen his dumping a bucket of sand on some kid's head the very first day as an ominous sign.  Instead I involuntarily laughed.  Frick was explosive but sand-bucketing some kid wasn't within what I then considered to be his capabilities.  Oh, little did I understand the true extent in Frick's genius for shocking me.  But hey, "Boys will be boys."

Frick loved school and seemed to be doing very well, giving me false hopes.  He continued to tantrum like a toddler, destroy anything he touched and scribble on walls, windows and furniture.  He had no crayons for most of that year and he still managed to do this.  That and punish me for the sin of making him eat vegetables or brush his teeth.

This is the year he started to lie.  A lot.  He did lie before this year but this is the year lying became like breathing.  And he was terrible at it.  Even more fun was that when you refused to believe what were very obvious lies he would get outraged and indignant.  But of course little kids lie.  They don't want to get into trouble. Normal.

Year 6.  Best year ever.  He was awesome at five.  Helpful and sweet.  Way less tantrummy, but on the few occasions he did meltdown things got ugly and extreme.  Overall though he was less destructive, more polite, and easier to take out in public.   I thought, "See?  All of my parenting is finally showing some results.  I'm glad I read all those books!"  Sure he did a lot of annoying stuff still, but what little boy doesn't?  Little boys are chatter boxes who never stop talking and are super impulsive all the time, right?

Near the end of this year Frick started saying, "I'm turning 6 and when I do I will be a big boy and I can do whatever I want."  And every time he said that I said, "No you cannot.  That won't happen."

He never heard me.

Year 7.  Frick is 6 and he is a big boy and he can do whatever he wants.  And so he does do whatever he wants.  Whatever crazy, half-baked idea enters his head, well he's just gonna do it.  This is the year I had to swear a lot.  This is the year he did things that were so shocking, so unexpected that the F-word would fly out of my mouth involuntarily.  First I would gasp and sputter in sudden apoplexy.  Then I would be frozen in paralytic anger.  Then I would have to shout or say the F-word or risk having a seizure.

The vast majority of time outs that year were given to me.  I would run down to the basement and scream a little, and then break something and finally, sob out of sheer frustration.

I remember I would wake up every single day saying to myself, "Today I am not going to let Frick get to me.  I am not going to shout or lose my temper.  I am going to be a good mother or die trying!" I ended every single day unable to sleep as I rehashed all the ways I had failed my son as a mother.   "Please God, let this be normal.  Have pity on me and let him grow out of it."  If I couldn't even handle a normal little boy then I must be the worst of mothers.

Year 8.  This was the year Frack was born.  We got a lot more notes home from the teacher.  Fights on the playground, homework not being done, running away from the teacher on school trips.  Everyone seemed content to blame Frick's odd behaviour on the new baby, but I was growing skeptical.  After the events of one terrible day, where my husband was the one to lose his shit, we went and got professional help.

This is the year we found out about ADHD.  Our son was not normal.  And he might not grow out of it.  I didn't know what to think.  I was afraid I was going to never have a hope of helping my kid.  All those parenting books were garbage.  I had to relearn everything about being a mom.  I had to learn to not only not sweat the small stuff: I had to learn how to not sweat the medium stuff and a couple of the big things, too.

It was scary but finding out about his ADHD was the best thing to happen this family.  I was finally given the tools I needed to cope.

I was finally able to help my son.

My perfectly beautiful, funny, sweet, lovable son.

It was during this time that I began to realize just how damaging the myth of Perfect Motherhood had been for me and for women like me.  I understood that on the scale of attention deficit my son scored low enough to not medicate.  What does that mean then, for the mom who should medicate, and all the fun judgment that goes along with that?  Or the mother of Autism spectrum, or Down's Syndrome?  These are women with real problems and must experience all the darker sides of mothering perhaps worse than I did.

How hurtful it is to be reminded by other moms that the worst fears you have about yourself; that you're a bad mother and don't deserve your children, might be true?

That if you feel angry and frustrated and hopeless and sad most of the time you are somehow ungrateful for gifts from God.  To be afraid to say out loud you feel this way and reveal yourself to be a heartless monster.  To not be allowed to commiserate and find comfort in women who are struggling in the same way.  To feel isolated and alone and evil.

And so this is the year I began to go Rotten.  I began to be irreverent and heretical when it came to the Holy Station of Motherhood.   I began to see it as the source of all the division amongst mothers:  natural childbirth vs. epidural/c-section, breastmilk vs. formula, stay at home vs. working moms.  If there is anything to be disagreed on in motherhood it is sure to not just become a difference of opinion but a Holy War.

A Mommy War.

It was getting to me so much I finally had to express myself and Mommy Rotten was born.  I felt like it was time to get punk rock on the establishment of Mom.

I want moms like me to know they are not alone.

I want them to laugh.


  1. I do so enjoy your posts:) I can very much relate. I figured it was me who did something terribly wrong when my 2 year old threw tantrums so violent that I had to find creative ways to restrain him.. he even broke my nose once in a particularly bad one, he was a headbutter.

    1. Ah, he gave you the old Scottish Kiss, eh? Spirited lad. that was the good thing about our head-ramming phase: I lacked the uh, sensitive equipment that would have caused me injury.

  2. As I read this it reminded me of my brother as a child. He was awful and was finally diagnosed with ADHD and put on meds. They helped a little but came with side effects, headaches, loss of appetite, he didn't like how they made him feel, etc. I think your post gave me a glimpse of what my mom went through. Some days I'm not sure how we as a family survived. He could get so violent. He threw a desk at a teacher once. It was frightening and heartbreaking. But we survived and he's a normal functioning member of society. My kids so far haven't shown these signs but they are young still. I wish you lots of patience and luck!

    1. Hearing about normal functioning adults with ADHD is always wonderful for me. And I have no doubt your mom went through some similar stuff because everything ADHD kids do is normal. One of the reasons why there is so much misunderstanding out there is because it can look so normal.

      In retrospect I realize that my brother also had ADHD but it was undiagnosed. It lead me to see so much of the behaviour in my son as normal because it's what I remembered my brother doing when we were kids.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I thoroughly enjoy your blog. I totaly get it and am happy someone is saying it. At 23 i became the mother of a son with Down Syndrome & recently a strongly coupled mom of a "typical" baby girl (9mos.). I am compelled to comment on a statement made that it is likely many parents of children with DS or AS disorders had it worse than the journey of you with your son. I am absolutely not offended I just wish to share my pov. I think it's natural to see situations and circumstances foreign to ourselves more negatively than they really are. It's a coping mechanism, "at least I'm not that chick," we say to ourselves "it can always be worse" Guilty I am. I see a completely incapacitated child and shamefully I am reminded of just how blessed I am. As for your statement though, it reminded me of a few friends reactions to my son's condition. Once the compassionate, sensitivity phase was over (around 1.5 yrs) my closest girlfriends "complemented" me with "I don't know how you do it" or " I don't know If I would be as good as you," and my personal favorite,"you are the strongest person I know!" I know they meant no harm and I only replied that if it were their child they'd do the same thing. It's not a chore or sacrifice, it's just our schedule. My son was / is healthy. Our only inconveniences were weekly therapy appointments where I was constantly reminded of his positive abilities and progress and also yearly check ups with specialists to check his heart, thyroid & intestines. It was nothing, it is nothing! Of the same friends whom I'm sure felt relieved their kids were "normal," 2 were dealing with major behavioral challenges and developmental delays by preschool (both are boys about a year older than mine ). One was diagnosed after extensive rounds of testing Autism Spec and the other ADHD with AS characteristics but still not quite fitting into any certian box.
    Moral: No obvious sign of developmental delay or disability at birth does NOT mean you are in the clear.
    I feel fortunate to know what we are dealing with. I knew from day one. His condition is testable and 100% diagnosable. Which makes insurance approval for services painless. I was able to provide every possible service to my son to thrive. He is mainstreamed at school. He is Mr social guy with many friends and a joy to be around, and most of all, the pressure was off. Once I came to terms with our given path the rest was cake. Everything the the buger did was an accomplishment. He walked at 18 mos... Yay!!!! He's verbal by 2! Yay!!!! He pottiedat 3.5 ...Yay!!!! He wrote his name at 4 Yay!! He was using multi word utterances well at 5! Super yay!!!! We live a lil behind his age and that's fine cause my "typical" little girl is growing up way too fast, thanks to her awesome, doting, loving big brother!

    1. OMG, can I tell you how glad I am that you made that point? As a blogger I sometimes have to make my points succinct out of respect for the length of time my readers may have for reading. I often worry about the possibility that I might have mis-communicated something by being ambiguous, and I was worrying about the very thing you bring up here.

      I have no idea what it is like to raise children with DS or AS. Because both of those conditions are often co-morbid with ADHD I have seen some of the things that these parents can typically deal with, through support groups and the like, and I know how frustrating dealing with that can be (encopresis, in particular...that's why I was going to the support group). I have met some absolutely wonderful children with these conditions and their wonderful parents and not once have I met anyone feeling sorry for themselves or looking any worse off than I am with my own son. Knowing what the problem is, having a diagnosis, is empowering because then you have the tools to cope.

      It's funny but I've sometimes had people comment on my bravery as a parent as well. In those moments I ask myself, "If I could take away his ADHD, would I?" It's a tough question but the answer is often "no". I love him just the way he is.

      ADHD and AS exist on a scale. My son's symptoms are light enough to go unmedicated and I think this makes me fortunate. If his symptoms were worse than they are I am frankly not sure I would have the patience to endure them and so, sliding down the scale I did imagine that these other parents experience the darker sides of parenting more often than myself, just as I am certain that mothers with "normal" children also have these dark moments. This is not so much out of a perceived negativity with the conditions of AS or DS, it was really more out of an idea that whatever my problems were, they may pale in comparison to the problems of someone else.

      I have a good friend whose daughter has a sensory processing disorder and Tourette's. We talk a lot and she tells me much about her experience. My friend is in a much darker place than ever I was and it opened my eyes, making me a little ashamed of myself. It was her I was thinking of when I considered that there existed challenges more difficult than mine in the world of parenting.

      Thank you for commenting and thank you for sharing your story about your little guy! He hit both the potty training and verbal landmarks sooner than my kids which just goes to show, as you pointed out, that these conditions are not the end of the world and can be part of a very rewarding parenting experience.

  4. Mommy Rotten you are a god send! This story actually made me cry! Yes I said it...tears streaming. What, might you ask, is behind those tears? The pure simple joy of knowing I AM NOT ALONE! I have a four and a half year old little boy. (plus 3 more kids ages 9,8 and 2.5) I love him so much. But starting right at age 3 I feared everyday for his life or my own. You see I too dealt with completely uncontrollable tantrums (we're talking screamin, spittin, bitin, had to be restrained tantrums that would last an hour or more) that would hit him instanly for the most illogical reasons. I actually feared my own child. I feared that one day I would lose it and hurt him. I cried everyday and I too went to sleep every night telling myself it would be better tomorrow, I could fix this, it would pass. I too reached that dark, depressing place...I, almost, wanted to die. This lasted well into his fourth birthday. A little over a year of pure torture. But then as suddenly as it came it ended. He was never diagnosed with any form of ADD or autism. (even though I secretly feared/hoped that the pediatrician would tell me that was his problem at every check-up) In the last 6mos we got over the absolute worst potty training experience I can imagine. (girl, you and I could prob swap some stories!) But after that he was a new kid! The change is unbelievable. Amazingly now I can look at him and truly, genuinely, love and like him. Although I've always known I would die for this child; a year ago I didn't like him at all. So in the end it all came out OK. He seems happier, more polite, calmer (for sure) and I enjoy him now. We all do. I have no idea what happened to warrant the huge change nor do I even care at this point. I'm just happy have gotten through it. Alive. I only wish I had known at the time that there were other mom's out there suffering like myself. I had no idea. I felt so alone and ostracised. Other mothers looked at me like I was the worst parent on Earth. No one understood what I was going through. I know your situation must be so much harder. (I can't imagine really how I could have handled him having an actual disorder) I feel a little embarrassed for thinking my life was so hard. I think what your doing and the truth and humor you use in dealing with it is nothing short of heroic! I have four kids and I know there are many more trying times to come (hello teenagers!) and it feels amazing to know that I'm not the only struggling mother out there. I'm so happy to have stumbled across your blog. I looked forward to reading more. Thank you so much.

    1. Wow! That is amazing. Kids can really go through some phases and yours certainly put you through the ringer. I am so touched that you shared this and that my story helped you. Confession? I cried writing this, remembering what all that was like. The thing is, as my friend bluetwo up there pointed out, having child with a disorder that's not going to go away can be a manageable, teachable, wonderful part of life so long as you know what it is and are given the tools to cope. It's that horrible not knowing what to do that puts you in the bad place.

      The best thing we can do, the thing that helps all of us to carry on is to keep our sense of humour. To laugh as much as we can. Laugh at ourselves, laugh at our kids, laugh at those who make us feel low, laugh at those who set the bar too high, laugh at those who try to sell us a cure and laugh at those who are no help at all. It won't change anything but our perspectives, and sometimes that's the only thing that needs changing.

  5. Hahahaha! I would not have survived that long if my kid didn't ACTUALLY grow out of it. But I started very early on after a horrible bout of postpartum depression combined with a kid who (literally) cried about 20 hours a day for the first 6 months of her life. I decided that it sucked and I really didn't particularly enjoy the role of mother or whatever motherhood entailed (with all the expectations of perfection and all that) and I was going to tell the world. And damn it if I didn;t get some of the most amazing reactions from women who felt the same way! I also got hilarious hate mail that I pretty much ignored. I am glad I found you (thanks Yvonne!).

  6. Who the hell would send you hate mail? I love the honesty in your blog. Wish I'd come across it during my "dark period". Talking about depression is a brave thing to do and it needs to be done more. Good for you!

  7. Wow! As im reading this, im reminded of my kid. I have made it 12 years with only a few ounces of sanity left. Her first day of kindergarten she got pissed at her teacher and twisted her brand new pair of glasses into a bowl of wire. First grade she told her teacher we put shock collars on her when she gets in trouble, my house was raided by CPS and the Sheriff department. Ive been through the coloring on EVERYTHING, the lying, the tantrums, the melt downs. It has gotten a little better, she only breaks the cheap stuff now (pens, pencils, shit like that), but I still cringe at the thought of taking her out in public for fear of tantrums she throws if she doesnt get her way. For the longest time I thought I was doing something wrong. Thank you so much for this blog because now I realize that I may just actually be an OK mom!

    1. I'm sorry but the glasses thing is hilarious. Our kids would love each other. Mine used to wait until he had an audience and then shout that I hated him or was trying to kill him or some other damn thing that might get me arrested.

      You're not just an OK Mom. You are a hero!

  8. A friend of mine just sent me a link to your blog... her son has AS and my son has ADHD, ODD and SID. It was so refreshing to read your blog... I was literally just venting to our daycare provider about what a horrid night and then morning I had with my son. He currently has pnemonia, so on top of everything else, having to get his medicine into him 2x a day and trying to make it to work on time.. it's become so much more draining... I was so upset because after 20 mins of trying to get him to take his medicine, he spit it out all over the place and that was my boiling point... I was done... and I did it... I dropped the F bomb... Mother of the Year Award... right here... I screamed at him, "I can't F'n take it anymore!!!"... (My son just turned 5.) Thankfully dh was in the right frame of mind and had both my son and I calm down (he was tantruming with his prescription all over his face and shirt)... That was only the antibiotic... still had to get the steroid in him... YES... the steroid... did I mention he has ADHD?? This morning was almost as bad... Getting him dressed every morning is always a struggle and this morning wasn't TOO bad... but I had to brush my teeth before we can go downstairs to get ready for daycare. He was NOT happy about this and was freaking out throwing a tantrum in my bathroom because we couldn't go downstair until AFTER I brushed my teeth... (he is afraid to go by himself). I lost it so quickly this morning I squeezed his cheecks and screamed that he had to knock it off... I can't do this anymore... (my 2.5 year old daughter was still sleeping). I look into the room and sure enough... she's sitting up saying my son had woken her up... I picked him up, put him into his room and shut his door... He was always a difficult baby from birth... had some medical issues, etc... I found myself today saying, I just can't stand being around him! NOTHING I do makes him happy... EVERYTHING is always my fault. The there is my daughter who is so easy, draws people in with her good behavior, so cute and cuddly... and now at 5, he's starting to see this and doesn't understand why people don't warm up to him like that... He has horrific jealous and sibling rivalry issues and more than the "typical" kid. He would more than likely push her down the stairs, impulsively... but not really understanding the consequences of what would happen to her, even though he is such a smart little boy. Any way... I really wanted to thank you for your brutal honesty. It does make ME feel "normal" in that I don't have to be June Cleaver, even though that is how I portrayed myself to be before actually having kids... Thank you for keeping it real... :)

    1. It's good to know mine's not the only one. Christmas Day: purple cough syrup spewed all over my husband's white dress-shirt. That I bought him. For Christmas. At least it was only cheap, shitty cough medicine. I'd lose my shit over the antibiotics, that of course they have to finish and of course are often not cheap. We have learned that trying to control something as inconsequential as language just to keep things G-rated was futile. Something's gotta give, and you're a human being after all.

      I also worry about the effect his assholery has on my youngest who is speech delayed and therefore can't tell me what his brother is doing to him. My own brother was very ADHD (though we didn't know it at the time) and he made my life a living hell. I love him to death and we're great friends but he literally tormented me when we were kids. He is a huge support to me now and offers me a lot of insight about what is probably going on in my son's head. Which I need because it is like an alien landscape to me.

      Sounds to me like you have a good friend who gets it. Support like that is so important.

  9. Just a note from a Mom with a 30yr old with ADHD. I did survive. So did he and his older brother although the first marriage did not. It took for ever for him to potty train since he would be asleep standing at the toilet which is an interesting experience. I gave up till he was 3 1/2 still did not work. Finally found an alarm that attached to his underpants- that worked. He is now an engineer with a BS from Cal Poly and makes great money and has wonderful friends. He realized that he had to have a profession that would get guaranteed medical benefits since he required meds.
    There were days I wanted to strangle him but we made it through. He was not diagnosed until 3rd grade. I had spent the first part of the year going into see the teacher every week- "Can't you do something with him? he's so disruptive..." He was so bored and could not sit still to save himself. I had even held him back a year (by the way great idea) so finally found out about his diagnoses. The other tip I have for survival is a trick I figured out. He(#2) was amazingly competitive with his older brother and I wondered if he might really kill his brother in one of his rages (I sympathize with some of you commentators). When he (#2) went into a rage he really did not fear any consequences. His brother learned not to provoke him if he(#1) could help it but still it was tough. One day when they were swimming in the pool and they almost drown each other. I then announced that they were swimming in different age classes and that #1 had won in the over 6 category and #2 had won in the under 6 category. This worked wonders!!!!! Best thing ever. They started to cooperate instead of compete. They are now best friends. #2 is happy and successful so It Does Get Better. (or it did for us YMMV) Best of luck - love your blog

    1. It's so good to hear that! After dire statistics about dropping out, conduct disorder and juvenile delinquency I live for stories like these. Thank you!