There was a tent in my living room Friday Night. Not a makeshift fort with blankets thrown over a bunch of kitchen chairs. A real honest to goodness four man tent set up in my living room.
It didn’t start out there it started out in the backyard. It was panning out to be a most perfect evening. The two youngest boys have been planning to camp in the back yard since we moved into this house. They were ecstatic that it was finally happening. Two of their older sisters were too. With the younger boys out of the house they could stay up late and watch a movie that is a little too scary for those younger boys. It was a win, win situation.
Until there was a lightning storm outside that just wouldn’t stop. That changed everything and change is not a friend to the ADD/ADHD brain. It started with our youngest sitting quietly on the couch crying. He was really disappointed. He had waited and waited and set his mind to this happening. We came up with a plan to move the tent indoors and they could camp out there.
One sister was fine with it; she doesn’t have ADD/ADHD so she could see beyond the moment of panic that comes with change. She was in, she said she would sleep on the couch and they could watch movies. It was working out. The change was not working for other sister. Those little brothers inside meant they were not watching the movie she wanted to watch.
In my experience change is consistently hard for the ADD/ADHD brain to handle. It doesn’t matter whether it is good or bad change. It doesn’t matter if it is a real or perceived plan. It doesn’t matter how many wonderful substitutes are offered. It doesn’t even matter how old you are or how accustomed you have become to change. Not if, but when change comes, it is terribly hard for their brains to process that change and transition to a new plan.
That moment when you have to accept the change and then transition is rarely pretty. I think this is why, like a mouse zapped every time it touches cheese, I am reluctant to commit to a plan until I am pretty darn sure it is going to work out. I don’t think I gave my blessing for the campout until late afternoon; there were only a couple clouds in the sky then. Certainly, nothing that seemed threatening. Nothing that foreshadowed the evening’s lightning storm both inside and outside the house.
Our approaches to handling the two meltdowns were very different. With our youngest we are working on acknowledging that change is a very real part of life and when it comes you can find a suitable alternative to your plans. Sure the first plan was going to be fun but the alternative can be equally as fun, maybe even more fun, if you embrace it and let it be.
With our daughter we wanted to add a step on the learning curve. Life is change and change is a constant in life. There are suitable alternatives, maybe even better ones, and when we embrace them we can enjoy them. Those are the same lessons, the added lesson for her is, and as you get older you have to get better at controlling your outward responses to change. She has a tendency toward the dramatic. You cannot have the public meltdown that you can when you are younger. You have to find ways of controlling the outward disappointment and anger or look like a gigantic two year old.
In the end they were happy as clams in the living room, in a tent, eating popcorn, and watching Ponyo. In fact, I believe more than one person indicated maybe it was better than the original plan.
I am aware that change is always going to be a sore spot with my ADHDers, it is just how their brains are wired and that is not changing. I am also aware that while they cannot change that hard wiring in their brain they can learn coping mechanisms to help them process change and transitions when they come in a healthy way.
Heaven knows change comes often enough to have lots of opportunities for practice.