Yoga and Parenting - Part I: My Son has ADD
My 6 yr. old son Jack was recently diagnosed with ADD...on top of an earlier diagnosis of Sensory Integration Dysfunction (also known as Sensory Processing Disorder). In a nutshell, his nervous system is in overdrive most of the time.
As I think back to his first year, it makes sense. We couldn't take him out anywhere as he was oversensitive to noise and chaotic environments - family gatherings, the grocery store, and pretty much everywhere. At 3 years old, we noticed that he couldn't follow simple two step instructions - he would head in the right direction and promptly 'forget' what he was doing. At 4, his preschool teacher casually mentioned that he didn't seem to hear her when she spoke (he passed a hearing test). And then, this last January, his Kindergarten teacher pulled us in for a meeting and told us she was concerned about Jack's inability to focus on her voice and the tasks at hand. She said that though he was not hyperactive and was generally well-behaved (and very bright), he could be quite loud, was easily aggitated, and did not seem to be able to pick out her voice and instructions in the midst of everything else going on around him. Onto evaluations...and voila! - a diagnosis of SID and ADD.
I have not missed the irony in the fact that his mother teaches yoga and relaxation to children. We yogis are apparently not exempt from having children with attention issues (an exaggerated inability to be present). But, I like to think Jack was born to me because I AM a children's yoga instructor. And, in so many ways, on so many levels, he is my teacher as well.
Admittedly, this is not exactly the motherhood I had envisioned (picture: me practicing downdog with my peaceful children on a beach...). These last several months have been consumed by OT and PT sessions (I forgot to mention he's also in physical therapy for tight heel cords/calves, flat feet and inpronation), one on one work with Jack at home, visits to the Naturopath, further expensive testing, time-consuming experimentation with natural remedies (ever tried to get a 6 yr. old to take a tinctures and capsules?), inventing new kid-friendly meals due to recently discovered food sensitivities to dairy/eggs, frustrations with insurance company/coverage...well, you get the picture.
Never before have I relied so much on my yoga practice. The yama of aparagraha, or non-possessiveness/non-attachment tells us that holding on to possessions or ideas causes suffering. Letting go of our attachments eases suffering. From a mother's perspective, this can feel like an oxymoron. Isn't it our job to protect and fix - to do anything and everything in our power to make sure our child is happy and well? Sort of.
The truth is, as much as I'm looking for it, I can not control whether or not all of these therapies and natural approaches will improve Jack's ability to focus or lessen his SID symptoms. It's possible that after everything - the time, energy, money, worry - he will still need medication during school hours (more on this in Part II). I remind myself that there is probably no miracle cure, and I'm trying hard to be okay with that. I need to accept the fact that Jack's happiness and well-being are not completely in my control. AND, my happiness and well-being is not dependent on it. As a parent, that's a tough pill to swallow (no pun intended). Remembering the following has been helpful: Practicing non-attachment does not mean loving our kids any less...It means loving them for who they are.
Jack is Jack, whether or not he has special needs or culturally determined 'issues.' He's kind, funny, smart, and his snaggle-toothed smile melts my heart.
As I head in now to peek over the railing of Jack's top bunk, I relish the moment, this moment, watching the peaceful, beautiful boy who is my son. I suddenly feel no need to change, fix or control - just love. Fortunately, that's the easy part.