Thursday, September 27, 2012

Untold Stories: A 2nd Chance at Parenting

This is my precious friend, Crystal, she is passionate about sharing her daughter's journey and struggles with ADHD. The is a real and raw post. I encourage anyone who has any concerns, questions, thoughts, or misconceptions to read this post in its entirety.
More than anything it shows the great love, WE as mother's have for our kids AND desire to give them the absolute best... even though "that best" looks different for so many families it all boils down to 1 common theme.
We are all momma's and share a common bond even through our different ways of parenting! Lets EMBRACE our differences!
With out further adieu
My name is Crystal.  I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a teacher, an Aunt, and a friend.  I love my family.  I love my job.  I love animals. I love God.  I am a Christian.   
 One day, I WILL be a stay at home mom.  I love wine and girls nights.  I love sitting on patios and talking for hours.  I love Christmas.  I miss my Grandpa every day.  I am adopted.  In my ‘past life’, I would talk behind your  back.  Now, I will tell you the truth and I am not afraid to hurt your feelings.
  I don’t like negativity or complaining and I will end relationships with people over these 2 things.  I believe in miracles.  I believe in 2nd chances and I believe that everyone deserves them.  I believe in grace and forgiveness and I believe that none of us deserve it.  I love people. 
 I give too many chances.  I make mistakes daily.  I believe that everything happens for a reason.  I am thankful for the life that I have.  I am thankful for the choices, good and bad, that I have made….they do truly make us who we are. 
Emma and I at her Little Mermaid Performance
 I have been saying for weeks that I was going to write this blog.  I want to share ‘our story’ with our family and friends and perfect strangers who have been or are going through the same thing.  I know there have to be so many out there that are afraid to say a thing, because of fear of judgment, as I have been for so many years.  Please, promise, that you will read this to the end.  I think its worth it.  Don’t judge…just hear what I have to say. 
I am going to start here.  I am going to be open and honest and more open and honest and transparent than I have ever been.  I think it is safe to say that I will say things that even my own family has not heard.  Please bear with me…its long…but it has a point and you need the back ground to know the true story.
I knew I was going to be a single mom from the start…meaning the start of the pregnancy.  I had no idea how hard parenting would really be and I think that one fault WE ALL have as parents is sugar coating how parenting is.  We are not REAL.  We are not real about our struggles.  We are not real about our feeling of inadequacy.  We are not real about our daily battles.  We seem to only tell about how PERFECT and FABULOUS our children are and how much FUN being a Mommy is. 
   I think that because people only tell the good stories, we only tell the good stories, because we feel like we are the only ones with the bad stories, when in all reality, we all have the bad stories AND honestly, sometimes the bad outweighs the good.  If we were all more honest, I really, truly, think that we would all be better parents and not feel so alone all the time.
Let’s just start from the beginning.  April 27, 2006, my Emma Grace came into this world.  She was perfect in every way.  Since I had just graduated from college, my parents graciously allowed me to move home for 6 months while I looked for a career job.  (YES, 6 months and they meant 6 MONTHS.)  I worked 2 jobs, waiting tables and eventually teaching and once I started getting my teacher salary, I was able to just teach.   
At the end of that 6 months, Emma and I moved out and have been on our own since then.  I am thankful that I was given a time frame…I believe it was the complete right thing to do.  I was an adult with an education and I was a Mommy and I am proud to stand on my own two feet.  My parents are VERY much to thank for that.  They set high standards for me and have encouraged me and I know that I would do the very same for my child.
Emma with Mimi and Da
Emma was such an easy baby.  She started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old.  Although she usually threw up on me EVERYTIME she ate…she was pretty easy to deal with.  She was happy and fun.   She went through the ‘normal stages.’  Everyone told me that the Terrible Twos were actually the Terrible Threes, so I just thought that I was getting the Terrible 2’s and 3’s and SURELY there was a light at the end of this tunnel.  
At the age of 4…I was frustrated because it seemed as if things were not changing.   Let me take you through a ‘typical day.’ 
We would get up and get ready for the day.  Emma would SCREAM, CRY, and FLAIL the entire morning, all the while, I am trying to get ready for work.  She would not eat.  She would not let me do her hair.  She would not put on sock or shoes.  I would drop her off at the sitter a MESS myself.  I felt like she HATED me and I was leaving her totally frazzled and upset and wondering what in the world I had gotten myself in to.  I was going to work crying almost every morning.  Dropping her off like that was AWFUL. 
Understand, it was not because she didn’t like the sitter…she LOVED/LOVES Tausha and that was NEVER the issue.   My work day would end and I would go pick her up.  She was like a WILD ANIMAL.  She would run and scream and it would sometimes take 30 minutes to get her in the car.  She would run down the street, run in the field next to the house, run upstairs, run ANYWHERE BUT to the car.  I was tired.  I had been working all day.  I was ready to get home and get our evening started. 
She normally had good reports from Tausha’s house.  It was very clear that something was not ‘normal’ but what WAS IT?  She was friendly and funny and her friends loved her.  She however, showed some impulsiveness and would spend time in time out because she would hit or bite.  (Remember, she is 4…while some of these behaviors are still ‘normal’ it was clear that it didn’t look as if we were outgrowing this.) 
 I was starting to get really nervous, knowing that she would be starting Kindergarten the next year so I made an appointment at her Pediatrician.  Her Pedi was FABULOUS.  She referred us to All Children’s House at Baylor to have some testing done.  Emma was diagnosed with Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) which is something that a lot of Autistic children have.  We knew, for sure that Emma was not Autistic.  Sensory Integration Dysfunction basically means that her senses are heightened.  She is not able to control her senses and she bottles all of this up so it comes out as CRAZY BEHAVIOR. (Easiest way to explain- however the word crazy is not enough.)  We began going to therapy twice a week for almost a year until school started in August.  She also began Speech Therapy at this time, which is ‘normal’ for kids with SID. (More behaviors to come- but I don’t want to repeat them in both sections.)
I didn’t see much of a change with therapy.  We did our time and I just hoped that maybe as school started she would begin to ‘out grow’ these behaviors.
Emma’s 1st week of Kindergarten. We had just gotten Belley.
Kindergarten started.  The first few weeks were fine.  She loved school, she was making friends, her teacher didn’t seem to have any concerns.  About a month in…the honeymoon was OVER.  Emma was getting her folder signed CONSTANTLY.  She was in trouble everyday for SOMETHING.  Her school work was not up to par and she was really struggling academically.  Getting up in the morning was AWFUL.  I dreaded it.  She would scream and cry and flail and I was literally having to just get her dressed, put her in the car and go. 
I would drop her off and leave her crying at her Before/After School care (yes we did switch later on in the semester to the bus- it changed a little then but not much)  because I had to keep a job.  I cried every morning on the way to work.  I began to be afraid that if something happened to me during the day, my daughter probably wouldn’t even think I liked her because our mornings were SO bad.  When we would get home, if Emma wanted to do something, I better let her do it.  If I didn’t, I was going to deal with a 45 minute temper tantrum. (There were days that I would count up to 20 of these.)  Screaming, crying, throwing things, hitting me, hitting herself, hitting the wall, slamming doors, kicking, biting, hitting her head on the wall,  you name it…the temper tantrum had it.  It was awful. 
I could lock myself in my room, but if I did that…she would beat on the door to the point that I really thought it was going to break.  So normally, I would just cry too.  She wouldn’t stop until she was ready and there was no consoling her.  Obviously she was not having these fits at school, but she was showing other behaviors at school that were unacceptable.  She was hitting and kicking, not following directions, blurting out, not finishing work (even ripping it in half and saying she wasn’t going to do it), not staying in her seat…the list goes on.
By December, I was a WRECK.  I hated parenting.  Let me say this again, I HATED PARENTING.  I loved Emma.  I just didn’t understand why she didn’t respond to consequences. Why nothing was bad enough for her to change what she was doing.  Why I had to punish myself to punish her.  I had decided I was just a failure.  I shouldn’t have been a Mom.  God clearly did not cut me out to be one.  I knew if I told people how bad it was, they would give me a list of all of the things I should do, even though, I knew I had done them all and they were NOT WORKING.   
Jonathan picked Emma up from school on Wednesdays.  One Wednesday afternoon, I got that dreaded phone call.
“Yes.” (I was waiting for it. He knew I was at work.)
“Emma’s teacher met me at the car today.  Emma hasn’t gotten her sticker all week.  She got her folder signed again today.  She apparently had a horrible day.  She is going to call you, but she said something about maybe putting her on a behavior plan. Do you know what that is?”
YES, I know what that is…I am a Special Education Teacher.  This is a DREADED WORD.  How did we get here?  I don’t care if it’s a SPED Behavior Plan or just a Behavior Plan…its BAD.
“Ok.  We will talk when I get home. Don’t make a big deal about it.” 
I hung up the phone and started sobbing.  It was totally, FOR SURE, now I was  a TERRIBLE parent.  I had failed my child.  This had DEFINITELY proved my feelings true.
I called Emma’s pediatrician that afternoon.  I made an appointment, crying my eyes out, telling her I had some concerns and telling her what they were.  We were able to get in within a few days.
All About Children’s Pediatrics in McKinney is AMAZING.  They have a beautiful, wonderful, office, and their staff, Doctors and Nurses, Receptionists, etc. are JUST AS WONDERFUL.  We went to our appointment.  Jennifer (PA) and her nurse were fabulous.  They both spent MORE THAN ENOUGH time with me…talking…asking questions…getting every detail…meeting Emma…talking to Emma….as you can CLEARLY see…I am a talker so there were NO short answers.  At one point in the conversation, it went something like this,
“Crystal, what do you want to do?”
Through sobs, “I don’t know. I really don’t care.  Drug her.  Just DO SOMETHING.  I can’t live like this anymore and I am sure she can’t either.  It’s not fair.  Nothing I do is working.  I am miserable and she has to be miserable.”
I can still hear her saying this to me at this moment,
“Crystal, I can’t do that.  You are not a failure.  We will find out what’s wrong.  You are right, this isn’t normal, but I promise it’s GOING TO BE OK.  You are doing the right thing because you are HERE.” 
Is it going to be ok?  Does my child HATE me?  Will she ever NOT be in trouble?  No lady, listen, you don’t get it.  I can’t even go to the grocery store…and I mean CAN’T…you think of those kids you see and hear and you want to strangle…multiply that by 100 and you have Emma…it is NOT going to be ok.
At the time, those words meant nothing to me.  I was mad at her.  I was mad that she couldn’t help me RIGHT THEN.  I had been dealing with this CRAZINESS for 4 years.  I wanted to be able to go to the grocery store, go out to eat, have phone conversation with my friends, my mom, not send my child off to school crying EVERY.DAY, not go to work crying EVERY.DAY, I wanted her to be successful in school, I wanted her to get a sticker…just everyday for ONE WEEK, I wanted to be able to go out in public and not be embarrassed or have to leave my cart with my child chasing me SCREAMING and EVERYONE giving me the death stare…I just wanted to be a mom, with a kid that had ‘normal, age appropriate behaviors…I didn’t want perfect…I knew from the get-go…I had not signed up for perfect. 
I wanted to enjoy being a Mommy, I wanted to LOVE being with my daughter, and not just be counting down to the next disaster. 
Jennifer told me that she thought we needed to have ADHD Testing done.  She gave me a list of referrals and told me to start calling them because it would be difficult to find someone to take our insurance.  She told me that we were going to do this the ‘right way’ and get a medical diagnosis and this is where we were going to start. 
This was in January 2011. 
I got on the phone immediately to see if I could get in anywhere and ASAP.  Everyone had to call me back or contact my insurance.  I waited patiently (but not so much).  I finally found someone to take my insurance and she was also the top Doctor recommended by Jennifer.  I talked to Dr. Hamm and she was so sweet and understanding.  Spring Break was just around the corner and I just knew we could knock this out SOON. Well, no.  There was a waiting list until June.  The first time she could even see me, just me, for the initial appointment was in Mid-June. 
I made the appointment and I waited. 
Then it happened again.  That dreaded phone call, this time from Emma’s teacher.
“Hi, Crystal.  We need to schedule an ARD for Emma.”
(She is considered a Special Education Student because she receives Speech Therapy Services.)
‘Ok.  What for?  It’s not time for that yet.”
“Well, I really don’t think Emma is progressing as she should, we are at the end of the year, and I really think we need to consider holding her back.”
“Ok.  Lets schedule it.  I will take off work to be there.”
I was DEVESTATED.  This would crush Emma.  I wanted to do what was best for her, however, she was already so excited about 1st grade and I just didn’t feel in my gut that this would be the right thing for her.  The meeting was the next week.  I told myself I was not going to go in there and cry the entire time.  I am sad to say, I was TOTALLY THAT MOM. 
I bawled like a baby.  I have been so impressed with everyone at Emma’s school.  Allen ISD and Evans Elementary is AMAZING.  There ARE still FANTASTIC Public Districts out there…trust me.  We met for what seemed like an eternity.  They assured me that Emma was a ‘good candidate for retention’ but that I didn’t HAVE TO do this.  I was so torn.  It was clear she was behind and I certainly didn’t want her to struggle through the 1st grade.  Her Principal chimed in in a moment of silence and said,
“Crystal.  This is your decision.  We have to think about the whole child here.  If you think that this will crush her spirit then maybe this isn’t the best decision.”
I left that meeting that day, and made the decision for Emma to repeat Kindergarten.  I was so sad.  I felt like a complete failure.  COMPLETE.FAILURE. What had I done wrong?  In my heart, I didn’t think it was the right thing, but with how much she had struggled, what option did I really have.  Emma’s Kindergarten teacher was PHENOMENAL and I knew Emma would be with her again, so this did give me some peace.  When I say some, I mean VERY little.
There was not that much time until school was out.  I made the decision to not tell Emma a thing about this and to just let her enjoy her last days of Kindergarten.  As the weeks went by, and I was losing sleep over this decision, Emma started telling EVERYONE about how she was about to be in the 1st grade. 
Mom, I think you made the wrong move here.  Follow your heart.  You are her Mommy and you know her better than anybody.  ‘If it’s going to crush her spirit,’ don’t do it.  Thank you, Mrs. Hale, for saying that to me. 
I quickly made a phone call to see if we could amend her ARD.  I knew what the suggestion was BUT I was also VERY hopeful that this upcoming testing would give me the answer I had so DESPERATELY been waiting for.  It was a scary limb to go out on.  I am a teacher.  I know that as a teacher, I would want a parent to hear and understand my suggestion.  I didn’t want anyone to think that I didn’t understand or didn’t value their professional opinion or the data they had.  I KNEW it was all VERY VALID and true and that I may be setting Emma and I both up for failure, once again, BUT I was going to fight through it.
If you know me, you KNOW that I am a fighter, and I don’t ‘go down’ easily.  If we were going to ‘fail’ Kindergarten, we were going to do our best to get out first.
I made the change and was fully supported by her teacher, the Principal, her Speech Therapist, and the other people that had been working with her.  I whole heartedly hope they know how much it meant to me that they supported this decision.  It made a world of difference for this Mommy to know that they were going to back me and help Emma as much as they could.  Again, FABULOUS SCHOOL…we are SO blessed. 
Sorry, Mimi, it may be the one thing that keeps us in McKinney a LONG time…it truly is PHENOMENAL. 
Kindergarten Graduation was so special.  Emma was glowing she was so excited.  We bought a new cute dress and I didn’t have to cry because she would be doing it again next year. 
Mid June rolled around and I was able to go in and meet with Dr. Hamm for the first time.  She was so sweet and understanding.  I told her about the original diagnosis and she agreed that this route of testing was a good way to go.  She told me that during the test (its consists of 6-8 tests), they would test for Learning Disabilities also.  I was able to give in depth descriptions of Emma and answer a TON of questions.  At this point, we were able to schedule the actual testing date.  This could not happen until the end of July.
Jonathan and I dropped Emma off for her testing at Children’s Pediatrics of Dallas on July 18.  It was going to take a couple of hours so we went to North Park to pass the time.  When we got back, Dr. Hamm practically met me at the door.  She said, very nicely, but quickly, and I could tell she was GLAD TO SEE ME. 
“Testing went well. Emma turned off the computer, so we had to start that test over.  Ok.  I’ll call you when we can schedule you to come back and get the results.  Bye.”
I FINALLY got the call to get the results for August 9th.  At this point, no big deal.  I was praying to not have to go back to work at Dallas ISD and I didn’t have another job yet…so this would fit perfectly into the summer schedule, even though I was SCREAMING in my head…
IT’S OK THOUGH BECAUSE… AUGUST 9TH IS THE DAY. THE DAY I had been waiting for since that initial appointment in January where we got the referral.
THE DAY got here.  Emma was at Theater Camp and Tausha was able to keep her after so I could go in for the results. 
TRUST ME…if they say this is NOT the problem…there is going to be another PROBLEM.  PLEASE, GOD, LET ME GET THE ANSWER.  PLEASE.  PLEASE. 
I went in to meet with Dr. Hamm.  She went over every single test with me.  Some were written, some were computer based, one was where Emma looked at a picture and then had to turn it over and draw what she saw, one was an IQ test…she went over every single line and page with me. 
Her IQ was average to above average in every area. 
Why did she struggle so much in Kindergarten.  This is crazy!
The last page was a graph.  It was a bar graph with 2 lines.  The top line was the ‘Clinical Line (meaning ADHD) and the bottom line was the ‘NonClinical Line (meaning NO ADHD).  Dr. Hamm told me this and then just handed me the graph and didn’t say a word. 
I sat in silence.  As you can see (in my not so good picture) the ADHD line took up the ENTIRE graph.  I looked at Dr. Hamm and smiled. 
“Well, I guess there’s no denying this diagnosis.”
“No, I don’t think so.  I think it’s pretty clear.”
99.9% Clinical Diagnosis of ADHD. Practically off the charts.  There it is.  Thank you, God, for this answer.  We can deal with this.  At this point, this probably even means the SID was never really even the issue.  She was just too young to diagnose with ADHD.
I had to make an appointment to plan the route of treatment for Emma with Jennifer at AACP.  At this point, I had gotten my job in Richardson so I was going to beg and plead to get in before I had to go back to work in 3 DAYS.  They were able to schedule me for Monday morning. 
I took Emma to see Jennifer.  I had already dropped off the paperwork and Dr. Hamm had already faxed it to her so the goal was to talk about treatment. 
Jennifer began by telling me how FABULOUS Emma was. 
“Emma is fantastic.  She is pretty and funny and sweet and personable and funny.  She clearly loves people.  She wants to do good.  She is so loving and caring.  Crystal, you do understand that kids with this severe of ADHD do not usually posses these qualities?”
“Do you know what you are thinking of doing for treatment?”
Don’t judge me…here it comes.  So from here…just hear me out.  Let me finish.
“Well, yes.  I mean, medication is the ONLY option, right?  I really can’t imagine that anything else would work.”
Jennifer looked at me like I was crazy.  I am pretty certain she doesn’t get this response from many parents.  I was ok with that.
“Well, in my opinon, no there isn’t.  I just want to make sure YOU are ok with this.”
“Yes, I want to help my daughter.  I am VERY ok with this.”
“That being said, I don’t want to change ANYTHING about Emma but her behavior.  All of those things I said about her before, I mean.  I want to keep the little girl that we have and just fix the behaviors.  If you are ok with medication…”
“…then I want to start with a very small dose.  I don’t think its going to work…but we can give it a try and see what happens.  If you don’t see a pretty immediate change, call me, and we will change it. “
We started that day on 5mg.  We went to Euless to see Alexis and Crew and I was pretty excited to tell her about our new journey…although after about 5 minutes I did say, “I don’t think its working.”  I know, patience, Mom, patience.
I was starting work the next day so I let my Mom know I needed every detail of Emma’s behavior over the next few days.  There seemed to be no change.
My favorite part of that few days was when I called  Aunt Brittany to check on her.  Conversation went like this,
“Hey! How’s Emma?  Any better? Notice anything different?”
“Ummm…no we are at the mall…EMMA…I’ve got to go.”
“Ok…Ill call the doctor. “
I am pretty sure she didn’t hear me say that though.
I called and left a message in which I got an immediate response to. 
Jennifer wanted me to keep up the 5 mg until Saturday morning.  On Saturday morning, I was to start giving her 10 mgs everyday. I agreed to this plan. 
On Saturday morning, we got up and I gave Emma her meds.
10 mg
Those words mean something else to me now.
10mg means a LIFE CHANGED.
I am here to tell you that we have a different home and life than we have had in 6 years.  Emma is happy and thriving and FEELS BETTER (she tells me all the time).  We have conversations.  She does chores.  She WEARS SOCKS.  She WEARS JEANS.  We go to bed at a decent time.  We get up happy.  She gets ready…HERSELF.  I do her hair EVERYDAY.  There are no more tears from Mommy or Emma EVERY morning.  We eat breakfast together and don’t have to rush around.    We go out to eat…and sit for 2 hours with NO DISASTERS.  We go to the grocery store…and she’s HELPFUL.  She puts her dishes away.  She doesn’t hit or kick or bite.  She stays in her seat at school.  She gets good grades.  She has gotten her sticker EVERYDAY (and we are in week 4 of school.)  I can have a quiet minute all by myself daily.  She brings me her medicine EVERY morning and takes it…no fights.  She does her homework.  She reads My friends and family see a huge change in her and are amazed.    I get phone calls about the amazing difference the teachers have seen in her at school.  (True story- even happened today- from the school counselor.)  There have been 3 fits…that’s right THREE…since August 7….OH and they lasted less than 5 minutes. 
Emma with Kip.  Our new Maltese puppy.
I love my daughter and I LOVE parenting.  I love celebrating victories everyday.  I love knowing that I am not a failure and neither is Emma.  I love knowing that I was willing to do whatever it took to make her successful and happy and to make sure that she reaches her full potential in life.
Please hear this.  I DID NOT WRITE THIS to get on a soap box about medicating your child.  I have always said I would never do it.  I know PLENTY of people that do it the absolute wrong way.  THAT is the reason why medication has such a bad rap.  You NEVER hear the success stories…only stories about kids that are overly medicated and DRUGGED OUT all the time.  I write this to say…there is hope.  If you go about it all the CORRECT CAN BE life changing.  I also want to give other parents hope.  I want people to know that they are NOT alone.  I want to be transparent about my HONEST feelings as a parent and for people to know that its ok to share that life IS NOT perfect and that there are STRUGGLES..and even that maybe there was a time where you considered just pulling the car over and getting out and screaming for a while. 
Emma started 1st grade and it has been a TOTAL success. 
First day of 1st grade
(This may stay on the fridge forever!)
(Never mind that she drew all over this with Sharpie.  At least it’s on paper and not the walls!)
In my life, I have never chosen the easy road.  I have always fought the good fight and proved people wrong that I know were determined that  I would fail.  I was never a failure as a parent.  Emma was given to me to make me a better parent.  Emma was given to me to make me a better person.  God knew what he was doing when He gave me her and I am so thankful that I am blessed enough to be her Mommy.   
Folks, don’t get me wrong.  Emma still gets in trouble…but it’s for talking back…not for throwing a screw at my brand new flat screen TV in a fit and cracking the screen…yes its true.
10mg.  A new journey.  A new life.  Love and happiness that we have never known.  It’s that simple.
Oh and remember that elephant painting at the circus I told about…we went this summer and she actually won the elephant painting.  I think that’s pretty neat.
I love you, Emma.  There is NOTHING that we can’t get through together with God.
Its  Saturday.  I am editing and adding pictures and getting this ready to be posted.  This morning, E and I went to get my eyebrows waxed.  Would you believe that I didn’t have to jump up EVEN ONCE with wax strips on my face?  Its true.  The victories just keep coming.
CRYSTAL (Emma's Mommy)





  1. What a difficult and important story. Thanks for sharing!

  2. It's really a great story and great love appears in every images..Your baby is so cute and sweet..She is really so pretty. Best wishes to you and your family.

  3. Does she have a blog? I would love to follow her. I truly enjoyed this glimpse into her life. God is good!

  4. Heyi loved the story