There are countless days when I just want to give up parenting a child with ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). If this were an adult with ODD, we would have the option of just walking away and never turning back. But when it is your child affected by this disorder, that’s just not an option.
My about to be 17 year old son has had his highs and lows with ODD. Some of the less difficult lows, believe it or not, involves dealing with issues at school – when he defies authority and school staff. As he gets older dealing with ODD, it is very, very difficult for me, as a parent, to watch him make poor choices for himself. It is most exasperating when he resists people and circumstances that he has encountered before (and should know how to handle independently at this point).
Today he was caught sleeping in class. And when the teacher told him to wake up, he argued, name called and cursed. When the Principal called and emailed me about it, all I could say was – other than explaining the real life consequences to him, what else can we all do because being overly firm with him is counter-productive and results in more resistance. Because my son goes to a private therapeutic school, the Principal understood and left it at that. I didn’t have to leave my job to pick him up early. I didn’t have to take time off of work to take part in a parent meeting. Many parents don’t have that benefit with schools.
As my son approaches adulthood, I worry about his prognosis for a successful life connecting with people. He challenges everyone and in the real world, that is a problem. In times like this, there is no private school, no therapy, no talking, no consequences that can make the problems better. Because sometimes battling and controlling defiance in and of itself result in a power struggle that only makes the disorder worse in a person. When I get to this point, all I can do is pray and surrender it to God. And lately, I think back to that 2011 phone psychic who assured me that my son, despite being unconventional, will be “perfectly OK”. This is what I cling to now as ODD persists in both our lives and as he nears high school graduation and becomes independent.
More and more, I don’t have the desire to battle ODD. I simply accept his condition, his difference, our circumstances. I accept that he may not ever be the ideal child that is high achieving, successful and emotionally/mentally whole and healthy. I accept my son for all that he is, emotionally damaged included.
Most of all, I am beginning to accept that, even when the prognosis doesn’t look very promising, I have done everything I possibly could and left nothing unturned to make things better – for him, for me, for the two of us. That he still struggles and is not absolutely healed doesn’t, at all, make me a bad parent. In fact, I have been a ferociously tenacious parent dealing with this really hard disorder. To hang in all these years and still be somewhat positive in outlook – I count those as successes.
If this blog post resonates with you, know that you are not a bad parent. You are not alone. Keep doing your best; that’s all that’s expected of you.