Lessons from the Mother of an OCD/ADHD Child
The following excerpt has been adapted from Different: The story of an outside-the-box kid and a mom who loved him by Sally and Nathan Clarkson.
As a mama of three little ones under five years old, I lived in a tornado of activity. Someone was always talking, crying, making messes, needing me. And then there was Nathan. Even just days after bringing Nathan home from the hospital, I knew something was wrong. Nathan just would not calm. He would not easily go to sleep. Not if I left him in the crib. Not if I sang to him or talked to him. Not if I did all the myriad things that had brought soothing, peaceful sleep to my other two children.I changed his diaper to be sure he was dry, offered him water, tried song after song. Nathan still arched his little back and screamed and wailed beyond control. Nothing would comfort him. Not even exhaustion would bring him sleep.As Nathan grew, other mysteries developed. Sometimes he was a sweet, happy, exuberant little boy. Other times, for no apparent reason, he would lie on the floor, scream and yell, and beg me to help with frantic eyes piercing my own.Months passed. Then years. Nathan remained an exhausting mystery. People and the world at large seemed to bring him frustration on a regular basis. Every ordinary moment held the possibility of an explosion.I will never forget all the well-meaning, useless advice I received from friends intent on helping me control his unacceptable behavior.
“You just need to discipline him more.”
“You are being way too lenient and not showing him who is the boss.”
“If you take away all of his sugar, he will be just fine.”
“Have you tried essential oils?”
So many offered a guaranteed remedy they were certain would relieve Nathan of his troubles. I tried quite a few. Nothing worked.No parenting book even got close to giving me insight. Most were formulaic, and many were harsh. “Just discipline him more, be firmer, show him who is boss.” I already knew better than that.One day, as the sun sank behind the mountain next to our house, I retreated to my bedroom for a cup of tea and a moment of quiet. As I sipped the last strong drops, I felt God whisper gently to my heart,This is not a sprint. This is a long-distance marathon. Nathan can grow stronger over time and mature, but you need to leave him in My hands. You cannot figure it all out. But you can love him. I trusted you with him because I believed you would choose to do this. I hoped you would see inside his heart to draw out his dreams, to see what he felt. I hoped you would try to understand how his brain works. Every day you trust him to Me is a day I am honored by your faith. If you accept this child as a gift from Me, I will use him as a blessing in your life. Let go of your questions, fears, and guilt. If you submit to My will with a humble heart, I will carry this burden for you so you can find peace. A sense of freedom filled my heart when I understood that I didn’t have to solve all our problems at once or even understand them. God would be with me every step of the way. He would fill in the holes of my inadequacy with His grace. It took a long time before we finally had names for some of Nathan’s differences. Actually, what we had were letters that described clinical disorders and a form of medically diagnosable mental illness: OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). Added to this alphabet soup were some learning issues, some personality quirks, a strong will, plus a number of characteristics that have some qualities of autism and even now defy our understanding. What I have come to understand however is that exemplary behavior is not God’s main concern. Our heavenly Father cares far more about developing hearts of love and obedience than He does about perfect performance. That changed perspective helped me see Nathan anew, as someone who needed to be understood, loved, and affirmed for his unique personality, dreams, and hopes. No matter how he acted, responded or didn’t respond, he basically needed what all of my children, my husband, and even I needed—unconditional love, patience, a trusting friendship, and respect for who he was. As I continued learning about Nathan, accepting him, and practicing patience, a fresh, overwhelming love for this “wild one” began to bubble up in my heart. I could enjoy his antics and understand the person he was within. My capacity for patience increased. My ability to overlook Nathan’s outbursts grew. Instead of worrying about what others thought, I tried my best to focus on Nathan’s true needs, his actual capabilities, and what he needed most to learn. I also began to speak forward to Nathan about his life. “I believe you will be a strong man someday. I believe God will use you to help others, to write a great story with your life. I believe in the great person you are going to become, and I love being your mama.” Gradually, as I persevered in these practices, I began to understand more what Jesus meant when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)—when He sacrificed His own life for us, His unruly, selfish, outside-the-box children. As I made the choice over and over again to lay down my own life—by overlooking immaturity and seeking to train Nathan in strength and self-discipline one day at a time—I began to love Jesus more and appreciate His sacrificial love for me.
Different: The story of an outside-the-box kid and a mom who loved him by Sally and Nathan Clarkson, releases on January 24, 2017 from Tyndale Momentum. Available everywhere books are sold