Living With A Broken Heart: The Emotional Weight Of Parenting A Child With Learning Difficulties And ADHD

From the moment my son was born, I knew he was special … different. Even from the moment he came into this world, I could tell he saw the world differently. He was a challenging infant to say the least. Overwhelmed by loud sounds, a difficult sleeper, challenges with nursing, terrible tantrums during the “terrible” 2s … and 3s, late to talk …the list goes on. But he was also so incredibly intuitive. He has always seemed to understand the emotions of others … the unspoken language of human interaction. He is so incredibly observant of details, it’s amazing the mental connections he makes sometimes. I have known for his entire life that he would do great things, but that the road to his success would be full of challenges.

I knew because I felt it. I felt all the inner turmoil he felt. I felt the frustration at having such big thoughts, but not knowing how to express them. I felt his sadness and confusion when people misunderstood his outbursts or fear and shyness in new situations as “defiant” or “unwilling to cooperate.” I have held and comforted him when he has said things like “ _____ doesn’t like me. They think I’m bad.” And I have cried MANY tears, my heart breaking that he has had to feel all of that.

There are nights that I lie awake, begging God to just make it easier for him. To watch him work so hard in speech, OT, and tutoring all to still bring home less than optimal grades is gut wrenching. The days where I can tell he is mentally and emotionally exhausted, but still pushes through are honestly inspiring but also heartbreaking. And to be fair, there are days where I lose my patience. There are days where I yell and tell him things like “you’re not being a good listener right now. I need you to focus,” only for him to quickly remind me of how hard he has worked throughout the day leading up to that very moment. Then the mom guilt sets in hard and fast.

It’s a constant struggle trying to find the right balance of pushing him, and then knowing when to give him a break. If I get home later than normal from work, and we cannot study or practice as much as we typically do, I agonize over whether I failed him in that moment. And don’t even get me started on the anxiety I feel on test days. Tuesdays have become my least favorite day, only because that’s when test folders come home for the week. We decided long ago that we would celebrate C’s, and not criticize for less than C’s so long as we knew he did his best to prepare. But that doesn’t make the sadness any less. The sadness knowing that he worked his adorable butt off, only to bring home a D or F. The sadness over watching the understanding of what that means wash over him. The sadness of knowing that in his little heart and head he wonders if he’s somehow not good enough, or smart enough. No one wants that for their child.

Thankfully, we are blessed with teachers, therapists, tutors, and administrators who have taken the time to truly get to know our son. They see beyond the letter grades. They see how hard he works, and what a special child he is. They have watched him persevere in his efforts (despite the struggles) all year, and that is not lost on them. I sometimes think that’s the only thing getting me through all this … to know that they truly see my sweet baby. I can only pray that we continue to be blessed with the same in the academic years to come.

I know in my heart it will get better. I know we will find a blend of all the strategies that work for him. I have faith that he will find his place and be incredibly successful. I can only pray that on the road to that success, he does not lose sight of who he is. That the struggles don’t diminish his confidence or self-worth, and that he knows how smart and special he really is. That’s why my husband and I will keep building him up. We will keep getting him the support he needs through therapy and tutoring. We will keep advocating for him, and we will keep loving him … EXACTLY as he is. So to all the parents of kiddos who struggle, I see you. I am praying for you. I am sending you hugs and support. You are not alone, and your children are blessed to have you in their corner!


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