Down the Rabbit Hole

We have been on holiday for the past two wonderful weeks. The first week of the holiday was at my family cottage in Georgian Bay where we swam, played, fished, laughed, frog hunted, ate sumptuous meals and felt the stress of the past months melt away. It was one of those weeks that I didn’t want to see come to an end because it was so deliciously easy, fun and restorative. This past week has been a relaxing holiday at home. We have spent time at the beach, the library, the community pool and the park where the kids have played happily in the unstructured bliss of a summer afternoon. We have been to a movie, a baseball game and we had a fabulous day together yesterday at Canada’s Wonderland where we threw ourselves completely into the sheer joy of spinning, tumbling, turning and eating seriously yummy junk food. I am still high after riding The Behemoth at 125 kilometres per hour down a 75 degree drop…talk about letting go of control!

We have truly been on holiday this past two weeks and I feel like a kid again. This is summer the way I remember it; fun, happy and carefree. Michael has had the same kind of break except that his has been even more of a holiday; Michael has had time off from ADHD. His body and his energy these past weeks has felt more grounded, calm and centred than I have ever felt him. All through our wonderful vacation I have had a curious question looping through my head; ‘does Michael really have ADHD’?

I have asked this question in a previous blog posting and I am asking it again; does ADHD come and go depending on environment? I know that ADHD is a life-altering diagnosis, I know it is real, I know that I am over-simplifying, but the evidence is there; Michael has not had ADHD these past two weeks. The symptoms have been there but we have been so focussed on fun that we have been able to help Michael re-direct his energy into fun physical activity like swimming, frog hunting, playing in the park or kicking a ball around. He never had to get to the point of losing impulse control because we have been there to anticipate and help steer him around those energetic blocks in the road. 

My three boys are sun-baked and happy, happier than I have seen them in a long time. They are having a wonderful summer and as we drove home from Wonderland late last night with happy and sleepy kids in the back seat I was marvelling at how relaxed I feel and wishing it could always be like this. Maybe we could always be this content and peaceful, maybe we could truly enjoy each other’s company like we have in the past weeks and maybe Michael could always have time off from ADHD. Perhaps it would even go away permanently if Michael could be in an environment where fun was always on the menu.

When I allow myself to look ahead to school starting in September I feel all the energy and happiness drain from my body. Emotionally, I feel like I have come crashing headlong into a brick wall. How can I take this beautiful, happy and relaxed child out of summer and subject him to another ten months of the physical and emotional torture of school? How can I assure him that there is no other option but the torment of four walls, a hard desk and fluorescent lighting? How can I send him off to an environment day after day that I know is not healthy for him? It feels so wrong and yet I don’t know of any other solution; I must make a living and Michael must be schooled so, regrettably, in five short weeks, back to school it will be.

One of my favourite coaching questions is; ‘if money were no object, what would you do?’ Such a deliciously dreamy query! The physical sensation of that question is like slipping into a steaming, hot bath on a cold winter’s night. When I allow myself to really luxuriate in the alternate reality in which anything is possible and there are no limitations, Michael does not have ADHD. It’s not that the diagnosis goes away or his brain chemistry suddenly alters, it’s that the structure of his life allows him the freedom to really listen to his body and to move it at any time and in any way he chooses. I am discovering this summer that, for Michael, ADHD fades into the background when he is in an environment that supports gross movement, fun and choice; the cottage, the park, the swimming pool and the beach, to name a few. If finances were not an obstacle, perhaps we could dream up and start our own school for exquisite children like Michael.  

And so I allow myself to slip even further down the rabbit hole and imagine the perfect ‘school’ for my beautiful boy…

 It would be situated on a property which would allow Michael unlimited access to the ultimate freedom of nature. He would be able to immerse himself in the wonders and nuances of each of the four seasons our climate so generously offers. Michael’s classroom would have trees instead of desks and the sky instead of fluorescent lighting. Each day would begin with a vigorous outdoor activity followed by dancing to fabulous music; Michael would have the opportunity to stretch, move, express freely and get his blood moving. The school would have a giant trampoline, a swimming pool and a gym with every type of ball ever invented. There would be a squash court, a tennis court and a fabulous playground. Tobogganing in winter would be a daily activity and fun would be the primary focus.

Most of Michael’s learning would take place outside where he would have room to move and fresh air to breathe. When he was in a classroom, the environment would be calming and beautiful. It would have huge windows overlooking a natural setting and there would be neither traditional desks nor fluorescent lighting. Michael would be provided the opportunity to use whatever means he needed to express his ideas; singing, dancing, drawing, painting, technology or traditional pen and paper. Tae Kwon Do would be taught and practiced each day and deep meditation would be an integral part of life at school.  

Michael would learn leadership, problem solving, relationship skills, and life skills that would prepare him for ‘real life’. He would never know when it was ‘math time’ or ‘science time’ because the learning would be so seamlessly incorporated into the play. Michael would eat the best and most nutritious food that he had a hand in planting, tending, harvesting and preparing. Michael would learn about the importance of nutritious food, exercise and the impact of a healthy lifestyle on his body. Michael would learn how to play an instrument, how to stand in front of a crowd and perform and how to improv in a group. His learning environment would be all about fun, safety, freedom of expression and deep democracy in which every voice had value and contributed to the whole. Michael’s classmates would be of all ages and backgrounds and mentoring would be seamlessly interwoven throughout his days. The school would be completely ‘off the grid’ and the children would strive for a low impact footprint. They would learn about the importance of green living and their own impact on the environment.

 Going to school would be joyfully anticipated and Michael would shine in the unique environment. His report cards would be glowing accounts of his exuberance, his deep connection to nature, his intelligence, his creativity, his ability to express to any kind of music and his love of fun! Michael would be an honours student and would eat up the delicious curriculum of his school days. He would leave the school after grade twelve with life skills that would enable him to mature into a stunningly gifted man.  

Imagine if it were possible…

And now, the bathwater is slowly going cold and I must reluctantly step back into current reality. School will be starting sooner than any of us would like and the delicious dream of summer will come to an end. How are we going to get through another year of school? How can we subject Michael to that level of unhappiness and frustration day after day for ten months? How can I send him off to school with a heavy heart knowing that it is sucking the life from his soul?

How can I make my dream a reality?

I do not know the answer to that question but I send it out to the Universe with hope in my heart that someday an education like that will be possible for all children, not just for Michael. In the meantime, it is only the 2nd day of August and there is lots of time to savour the freedom and the fun that I know lies ahead. I will stand in the centre of Now and feel the magic of being a child and a mother at the same time by savouring the freedom and joy that is so present. I will look to my three wizards to remind me how to keep in touch with the magic of childhood. I will spin and dance and laugh. I will feel the delicious cool grass between my toes and the pure joy of cool water on a hot day.

And as I stand in the Now with my beloved sons I will hold this dream close to my heart and continue to wonder how to make it come true up out of the rabbit hole.

This entry was posted in ADHD, ADHD and School, Family, Living in the Moment. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. Bobobot says:

    ADHD is a charlatan’s excuse for children who either refuse to behave, or their parent’s let them run rampant. I think it is generally youthful energy which will be outgrown or learned to be controlled. People are too willing to label things. It is much easier .

    • Thanks for your thought provoking comment. 🙂 I used to agree with you that ADHD was a false label for naturally active children, particularly boys. However, that all changed when the child in question was my own. What I am learning about ADHD is that it is actually a collection of underlying symptoms which need to be addressed (food intolerances, inflammation, inability to detoxify etc.) If you ever have the opportunity to observe a child with ADHD whom you love deeply, you will know that it is neither about his refusing to behave nor inept parenting. From the outside observer, living in a body with ADHD symptoms looks akin to wearing a hair shirt in a heat wave. Those symptoms are real. The question is- how do we de-stigmatize the label and start looking at how to address the root causes of this epidemic?

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