Wednesdays are the worst days for my son. Something always sets him off on Wednesdays. Mid-week blahs, I guess, but every week something happens and it ruins his entire day, and it is almost impossible to get him to swim team. Today it was an unexpected (well, to him, I’m sure his teacher said something about it repeatedly and my son either a) forgot or b) wasn’t paying attention or c) both) math diagnostic test. He struggled, kept walking into my room to complain or get hugs. Finally he broke down into tears. He knew because it was a test, he couldn’t ask me for help, but was feeling so overwhelmed he didn’t know what else to do.
Write it out on paper, I said. Slow down. It’s a diagnostic test, so there will be questions you don’t know or understand. He calmed down and at the end he came back into my room to announce, “Diagnostic tests are flawed in their design, Mom.” But even as I nodded in agreement to every item of his list of flaws, his day was essentially ruined. The rest of the day was him coming in and out of my room for hugs, at various states of being on the verge of tears, begging me not to go to swim team.
Son, I said, just because you had one bad thing happen in your day doesn’t mean that it should ruin your entire day. You need to just put it behind you, move past it.
How, Mom? he pleaded. How do I do that? I don’t know how. I can’t.
I know that feeling all to well. My ADHD brain running and running and rerunning and re-rerunning the terrible things, how it could have gone better if only I hadn’t been so wrong or messed up. I didn’t know at his age it was because of ADHD, but I know and understand why with his brain. I held his hand and looked him in the eyes and told him I knew exactly how he felt and how hard this was for him, and that I would find a way to try and help him.
I told him on his next visit to my room that we were going to meditate together at the end of his virtual school day, before he went downstairs to have a snack and watch YouTube or play with Minecraft Steve in Smash Bros. He rolled his eyes at me, but I made sure he met my eyes again when I told him that I had promised to help him and this was a way I was trying to help. Five minutes, I said. If it doesn’t work, we don’t have to do it again, but this has helped me, and I think it might help you.
My meditation app has a whole section with just meditations for kids, organized by age. I found one that was six minutes, and queued it up, ready for 3pm when he was done school. I handed him one of the ear buds and he curled up next to me in bed with Baby Lion. I asked him to just focus on the voice and do what the voice asked. The meditation was about picturing yourself on the beach being warned by the sun, and it just so happened that my “white noise” background is the beach, too. So we lay together listening to the waves crashing while the voice talking about feeling the warmth of the sun move up and fill up our bodies while we keep taking deep breaths. He was fidgety, but I could feel him relax as the minutes ticked past.
At the end, I asked him how he was feeling and he said better. He even asked if we could do this immediately after school on swim team days, when even though he has two and a half hours between the end of school and the start of swim team, it doesn’t feel to him like enough time to transition. I also now know that I can take six minutes during lunch to help him re-set on a particularly tough day if necessary.
This is a small win. Parenting two kids with ADHD, with one who is a teenager, during a pandemic is challenging most days, while some days it feels like it’s an exercise in futility. Meditation doesn’t cure everything, but at least I can give my son six minutes of peace and grounding, a start of a way to move past his ADHD brain dwelling on the bad things. I know he can’t help it. Today, I’m happy in whatever small way, I could help him.