ADHD, parenthood

The Challenging Child

Today is my son’s 15th birthday (as I’m writing this), so it seems fitting that I should write about him and about my experience being his mother.

My oldest was born fussy, resistant, demanding, and opinionated. He had opinions before he had words to express them.

I co-slept and babywore with my oldest long before it was popular simply out of necessity. I drove an hour and a half to a store where I could find a sling for babywearing. He would only sleep next to me or in my arms –and no amount of schedules or timing or crying-it-out changed that. Believe me, we tried.

He had food sensitivities which we didn’t know about yet, and I now attribute much of this struggle to that.

He would scream for hours, and this young mom spent a lot of time crying. He finally started sleeping in his own bed around 6 months, but the months up to that were hard.

Very hard.

Colicky babies are not fun.

You can read about my experience with a special needs baby here: I Burned the Babywise Book.

He was incredibly stubborn. At age 3, we had a 4-hour stand-off over him leaving a coat in the middle of the living room. Mom and Dad won, but it was a long battle.

Around that same time, I got a phone call from the neighbor lady. He was out back playing in our fenced yard. Although I could hear him playing, I hadn’t been paying much attention. Instead, I was quickly using my few minutes of peace to straighten the house.

I answered the phone: “Sarah, look outside.” the neighbor lady said giggling.

Nate had climbed on top of the rockpile that had been dumped in the backyard for the shop we were building.

He scampered to the top, raised his arms high in the air, shaking his little fists, and yelled, “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD!”

The neighbor said he’d done it over and over, and she thought it was the cutest thing ever. We had a good chuckle.

The thing is, he actually thought he was in charge.

He would walk into the children’s department at church, climb up in front of the whole group of grade schoolers and middle schoolers and say “Everyone listen to me!” –at age 4. His daddy would scoop him up, put him in his chair and remind him that Daddy was leading children’s church today.

As he got older, we found out he had learning and developmental disorders. He had problems processing stress. He didn’t change directions easily. He’d have sensory-induced meltdowns and panic attacks.

It was hard.

I’m not going to lie. There were days I just cried and wondered what on earth I was going to do with this child.

One day, I remember telling my father that this child seemed bent on world domination, that I was either raising the next Hitler* or a really strong young man on fire for God.

He was so strong-willed and assertive. Once he set his mind to something it was very hard work to change it!

I prayed and prayed that he would choose to follow God with all his heart, and I surrendered him to the Lord.

Little by little he aged and matured.

Little by little he chose obedience and stopped resisting my gentle (or sometimes not-so-gentle) push to do right.

Little by little he mellowed.

By the time he was 10, I was very, very sick. He ended up with a lot of responsibility compared to other 10-year-olds.

Between the ages of 11 and 13, he put my shoes on for me everyday without a single word of complaint. I was in so much pain I couldn’t put them on myself, and he said he was practicing for someday when he had children of his own.

Sometime around then, I noticed –to my relief– that he wasn’t fighting me anymore.

By age 15, he has taken charge of his own schooling. He is also taken the lead cleaning the house, with his younger brother as his helper. He aids with shopping, chores, and cooking.

He rarely if ever complains.

He takes care of me on my really bad days.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because you need to know that the child who causes you the greatest struggle right now when he’s young and who is a complete handful has the potential to be your greatest source of joy when he’s older.

Could my oldest son abandon his faith and jump ship? Yes, it’s possible. He’s still young, but what I see right now is the budding life of the wonderful man he will be one day if he stays his course in the faith.

When he was young, I only dared hope to see the wonderful changes I’ve seen in recent years.

I’ve seen his passion for God and dedication to God’s word.

I’ve seen him behave selflessly and choose to do what’s right.

God is good. He’s calling your child’s to Himself, just like He called me, and just like He has called my sons.

You can read my testimony about being a strong-willed child who ended up following Jesus in this post: The Testimony of a Strong-willed Child.

Live a life of faith in front of them, pray fervently, and understand that this child has the potential to blow you away with his maturity and wisdom.

So, to recap: The child who causes you the most grief when he is young has the potential to be a great source of comfort and joy when he’s grown.

If your child has truly chosen to follow God, you can be certain that God will complete what He began.


Sarah Forbes

P.S. This was read and approved by my son. I wouldn’t have published it without his approval.

*Referring to my son as Hitler is hyperbole to say that he was very strong-willed. In no way do I mean to imply that he was violent. I am clarifying because some readers have misunderstood my intent. If your child exhibits violent or anti-social behavior –like hurting himself, animals, or other people or enjoying causing pain to others– please get him help and do not assume that he will outgrow it. I am in no way referring to Dark Triad characteristics in this post, just regular first-born, strong-willed, or otherwise determined children.

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