Cast of Characters
Birthdate: February 5, 1985
Birthdate: June 13, 1986
My children (the M&Ms):
Birthdate: May 31, 2007
Birthdate: May 26, 2011
Location: Alberta, Canada
Time: Present day
The story so far
In the beginning there was nothing, no time, no space, no matter. Then suddenly there was something, a whole lot of something. All of the something, in fact. Then a little bit of time passed, and eventually I was born. This has been widely regarded as the entire purpose for which the universe was set in motion, though there is still some small disagreement on this fact. There may have been some physics, chemistry, biology, and sociology in the intervening time, but that’s not really relevant to this story. A smaller time later the M&Ms were born.
I have an ex-wife, who is the mother of Monster and Monkey. We separated in early 2013, when Monster was 5 years old, and Monkey was 1. We have shared custody: in a typical week, the children are with me from Monday afternoon until Friday morning, and with her for the weekends. I met and started seeing Bunny a few months after separating from my ex. I wasn’t looking for anything too serious at the time, but one thing led to another, and we were married earlier this year on May 30.
Monster has been diagnosed with ADHD; and we’ve been told that, while it’s too early to diagnose him, Monkey is likely to be as well. He struggles greatly to pay attention in school, and to sit still to do his homework, Though he’s an intelligent boy, his inability to do his work has resulted in him falling behind in several areas at school (though in others, he is excelling). Unfortunately, because of his struggles with schoolwork, he is developing a dislike of school. (Wouldn’t you, if you had a constant struggle to complete tasks that everyone around you finds easy?)
Bunny and I have tried some behavioral interventions, with some limited success:
- Cub Scouts
He started Cub Scouts earlier this year, and really enjoys it. We (Bunny and I) had hoped that this would give him the opportunity to experience some success in his life, and that would in turn help him feel less helpless in other environments. While I think it has done wonders for his frustration tolerance, I don’t know that it has helped him feel empowered as we had hoped.
I created some digital flashcards to help him with some areas that he was struggling, primarily spelling, reading, and math. While I think this has been successful in helping remedy some of his difficulties, it’s often a bit of a struggle to get him to complete them in a timely manner. More recently, I’ve started offering him incentives (one M&M candy for every three questions he doesn’t get distracted) to stay focused on the task, and this has helped quite significantly. However, the success of the flashcards has been limited, in part due to a lack of buy-in from my ex while Monster is at her house.
I set up morning and bedtime routines for both Monster and Monkey. Previously it was a constant struggle to get out the door in the morning, or to get ready for bed. While Monster knew what the expectations were (get up, get dressed, brush teeth, have breakfast, etc.) it was a constant struggle for him to figure out which he would be doing when. Once I explained it to him that he now had a routine to complete (and once completed, is allowed to play Minecraft until time to get ready to leave). These days, all I ever need to do to remind him to keep going is to ask “Are you finished your morning routine?” or “What’s next in your routine?”, and he usually gets back to it pretty well.
- Notes on his desk
We asked his teacher to tape notes to his desk reminding him to stay seated and to ask questions when he’s unsure what to do. Previously, once he’d decided he didn’t know what to do, he’d get distracted by something else and be off disrupting class. I’m not sure how much this has helped, possibly a little. I think he’s embarrassed to ask questions so the whole class can hear, so he walks to the teacher’s desk to ask in private. While she doesn’t mind this in a theoretical sense, he often gets distracted en route and ends up disrupting someone else’s work.
- Breaking things up
This was more helpful for Monkey. It’s often difficult to get Monkey to get ready to leave the house in the morning to walk to school. I’ve found that by breaking it up into steps, with breaks in between for a bit of play, it makes it much more manageable. It’s difficult to get your snowsuit on and walk to school, but it’s not so bad if we just get our snowsuit on and then can play. I separated the jobs of getting dressed to go out and actually going out by about 5 minutes, and it’s helped immensely.