Two days in a row, I heard the exact same message from two different people, living in two different parts of the country. I highly respect each of them as both parents and human beings. One described an argument that he had with his mother-in-law, and the other posted on her Facebook page. Each of them communicated almost verbatim “ADHD is not caused by bad parenting.” Each of them has been accused of this.
My initial reaction was, “Wow. Are there people out there who truly believe that the reasons for ADHD have to do with parenting?” As I listened to each of my friends, I could hear frustration, anger, and hurt beneath their words. Which of us doesn’t feel the same when we are unjustly accused?
ADHD is not alone in this category. At times in history as well as today, there are those who work to explain children’s characteristics and behaviors as a direct result of “bad parenting.” Addiction, homosexuality, and autism are just a few that have spent time in this space. Much pain and suffering has been caused by such ignorant indictments.
As I received my friends’ stories, I also tried to put myself in the place of their accusers. Whenever I have felt this type of judgment toward others, it is always accompanied by a great deal of pride and arrogance along with great fear. Such a hurtful stance is most often born out of the utterly terrifying vulnerability that comes with being a mom. The myriad of things that are simply out of my parental control is overwhelming. When I can lay the blame of any problematic situation at the feet of “bad parenting,” then in some twisted way I convince myself that “this could never happen in my family.” I believe that I am in control. I cling to a lie.
Such a judgmental and delusional stance was beaten out of me as I faced my very own overwhelming parenting challenges. A number of years ago, I wrote the following words:
“Living life with a child that demands we march to the beat of a different drummer is indeed a gift. It is like going to the school of what really matters. It is a crash course in getting over pleasing other people. If embraced, this new perspective quickly leads to a far less judgmental stance toward others. We are acutely aware that we never truly know what is under the behavior of that screaming child in the grocery store or that teenager who is “acting out.”
Rather than judge and put myself in categories separate from parents struggling in some way, I join their ranks. Compassion arises for myself and for others as we all do our best to parent the particular children we are gifted for such a short time. Rather than look for a cause and effect to explain all things challenging as a mom, I will try to make peace with the unknown and the mystery. When I don’t truly understand or have not walked the path of another, I will seek to be silent and offer a listening ear. I hope that others will offer the same gift to me on my most difficult days.