Do You Worry About Your ”Other” Children?

(permission granted by both my children to share this story)

As a mother, I worry constantly. You would think I mean my son – the one with the ADHD and Executive Dysfunction. However, that’s not the case. I am referring to my oldest daughter Madelyn. You know her type: the organized child who reminds YOU when it’s time to leave. She’s who I worry about the most. Why? You see when her brother was younger, along with his ADHD and learning differences, he was known as the quintessential “explosive child”. If you have never heard this term before, I suggest you pick up Ross Greene’s book by the same name. Life changing and a true light in the dark for me. His moods were unpredictable; he easily frustrated and “blew” at any time. Think leaving a show half way through, interrupted dinners out, aborted excursions on vacations. You get the idea.

Now, I am sure there are many of you who can relate. And understand that living in that type of household meant that in most cases his needs came first. And second. And third. To be fair, Maddie did get plenty of our attention. We were lucky to be able to carve out tons of mother/daughter time or “Maddie/Daddy days.” But the unpredictability of her brother’s behavior often took Maddie’s “time” away. I long ago lost count of how many conversations or homework help sessions with her were interrupted so that Eli could be “dealt with.”

Now fast forward many years and the tides have calmed considerably. We tend to deal with “typical” 18 year old boy behavior—clothes strewn across his bedroom floor, dirty dishes in the den, gas tank on empty– with only a rare head butt.   And Maddie? Well, that first-born girl who “filled the room” is now graduating college.

But despite that, the worrier in me wonders, “There must be some damage from the difficult times. What were their lasting effects?” So recently, I sat my daughter down and asked her point blank: “What are your memories? Did we give you what you needed? Did it make you hate us, or worse, hate your brother?”

Her response? “I don’t really remember.” WHAT?? You could have knocked me over with a feather. “Nothing?” I asked. As the conversation went on and I shared details and experiences, a few things came back to her but yes, she really didn’t remember most of it. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say she remembered but the memories were benign—it was the way things were in the house growing up. Her brother wasn’t always easy but his behavior didn’t define her childhood. She really did get what she wanted from us when she needed it.

So I had to ask the big question: What do you think now? With a shrug and a smile, “He’s funny and smart and super talented, and I love him. But he’s an 18 year old boy…” Time to start worrying about something else.


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