ADHD and College Prep: The Last Frontier?
My year-long slide into Operation Launch My-Not-So-Baby Bird From The Nest continues apace. I mean, sure, normal parents of seniors are probably not spending a lot of time thinking about this in November (at least, they likely do not have the closet full of dorm items I’ve already acquired…), but no one has ever accused me of being normal. Slowly, my Facebook feed is showing signs of The Next Chapter, as friends are beginning to announce their seniors’ college acceptances and future plans. In a couple of months, it will be completely inescapable.
[Sidebar: My kids and I have a deal, and that deal includes a sworn oath that Mom (me) will never brag about them on Facebook. Also my senior is very close-to-the-vest with Big News, anyway, so I am enjoying the sharing I see in my feed and keeping my end of the bargain wherein I don’t share anything that’s not mine to share. I am currently negotiating for one caps-locked status update when the time is right, but that permission may never be granted. I’ll have to be okay with that, if so.]
We are moving forward at an acceptable pace. I’m making sure that those things I consider to be Essential Life Skills or at least Don’t Get Laughed At In Your Dorm skills are imparted and practiced. She can do laundry and cook and clean up after herself (for the most part) and get herself up in the morning and drive. Our continuing argument about whether or not leggings are pants (they are not, child, go put on some pants or listen to me wonder aloud why you’re only half-dressed) has mostly become a joke and a non-issue. After years of turmoil, she is managing her life not just admirably, but mostly with ease. It’s amazing.
But. But. No matter the routines we put in place, no matter whether I remain silent or cajole, no matter whether it’s a lazy weekend or a rushed weekday, a point of worry remains, for me.
I’m not going to get into a debate with anyone about medication, here. I’m not. You’re welcome to your feelings. What I will say, with complete conviction, is that medication changed my family’s and my child’s life—drastically, and for the better. And while I have long lauded the (proper, monitored) use of antidepressants for those of us whose brain chemistry needs some help, I was unprepared for the huge life shift my child’s ADHD diagnosis and subsequent medication usage would bring to the table. Like many girls with ADHD, my daughter doesn’t “look” like she has ADHD. Her hyperactivity and distractibility all happens inside her head, while on the outside she appears to be… fine. A little silly, a little slow, maybe a little scattered, sure, but fine. She knows what the medication does for her. She loves what the medication does for her. She’s not one of those people who feels that the medication is somehow dulling her or making her into someone different; if asked, she’ll be the first to tell you that it helps her focus and feel more like herself. She has no beef with her medication.
On the other hand, when unmedicated, it can be hard for her to… remember to take her medication. (Every fellow parent of an ADHD kid is nodding along, here. Solidarity, my brothers and sisters!) Every Sunday, we fill the pill cases for the week and leave them on the end of the kitchen counter, right by the door. Every morning, the kids eat their breakfasts and take their pills before they leave; every night, they take their evening meds last thing before they go upstairs to bed. At least, that’s the ideal. My son is highly routine-driven and it’s very, very rare that he misses his meds or even needs reminding. (He’s also not dealing with the level of distractibility his sister battles, to be fair.) My daughter, on the other hand, gets reminded multiple times, and if I don’t check, sometimes she’s on her way out the door without having taken her pills.
“What’s the plan for medication when she’s away at college?” Well hey, that’s a great question. The plan is that she’ll handle her meds herself and figure out a routine that works. The reality is that it’s a near-certainty she’ll find herself sitting in an early class—likely more than once—wondering why she can’t seem to get her head on straight, and she’ll realize she missed her meds. I’m not going to be there to nag her. She’s going to have to figure it out, one way or another.
We have time. And yet we don’t have nearly as much time as it feels like we need. So I bite my tongue, for the most part, when she’s pinging around the house in the morning and hasn’t taken her pills yet. In a fit of silliness that was actually genius, she ordered herself this cross stitch kit and has been working on it here and there, promising to finish it before she leaves and hang it right by the door of her dorm room. We both know she’ll acclimate to it and stop seeing it, but whatever. I like the intention.
In so many ways, she’s more than ready, capable beyond what I’d dared hope for her, and yet… this could be her Achilles heel. And there’s not a thing I can do about it other than assume she will figure it out.
Senior year is one giant, slow-motion trust fall. (And just to be clear, not for her, but for me.) And then next year I think it’ll feel like repeated falls, fast, over and over. I’ll just be over here working on the trust part (and maybe breathing into a paper bag, just a little).