While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On having a child with a short-tempered partner:
Having a child will increase stress, which in turn is likely to make any poor behavior far worse and may place the hypothetical child in direct danger. How often will a child not do what this parent wants, and how far will he or she go when a display of temper still doesn’t get results?
I was married to someone with an explosive temper. After much soul-searching on my part, we adopted a child together. As our daughter grew older and the stress of child-rearing increased, my spouse’s explosive and boorish behavior gradually became emotional and physical abuse — first toward me, then toward our daughter. I filed for divorce and had to fight like a cornered wildcat for full custody.
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It has now been seven years, and I have raised my daughter as a full-time single parent. We were fortunate to have a very strong support network, an excellent attorney, a clearheaded judge, and local police who sensed something was wrong and acted to protect the child. Being able to find this combination is not something parents want to bet their children’s safety on.
Single Dad to an Amazing Young Lady
On being the parent whose kid is a judgy-stare-attracting handful:
I have a high-energy kid who also seems to push all the behavioral and emotional and academic boundaries. Preschool teachers had lots of comments, but no one had answers.
We started getting him tested at a young age. We had him sleep tested at 4 – sleep deprivation masks as hyperactivity. He had sleep apnea. We removed his tonsils, and that helped a little.
Then we had him tested for ADHD at 6.
Yup, he was off the charts. Medication helped a ton! We also had a learning assessment done. That came up with some answers. We also keep him in sports year-round – soccer, basketball, cross-country, even CrossFit for kids. It’s been a lot of silver BBs and no silver bullet. Every test, every evaluation, every teacher conference brings new information.
He’s not an easy kid. His brother is the definition of “normal.” It’s hilarious the difference.
I got all the “advice” and “feedback” from well-meaning family, friends and near-total strangers. I did a lot of nodding and smiling and replying “interesting” and “I’ll look into that” while I really wanted to say “shut it” and “drop dead.” I can’t tell you how many people had an opinion on our giving our young child ADHD meds. But none of them lived with me. My husband and I told ourselves that if they weren’t present at conception then their opinion did not matter.
Hang in there. Find some parents who are in a similar predicament. I have a nice group; we talk about our kids, school, meds and food, and drink wine. They have helped with finding docs, tutors, summer programs, etc. It does get better. As with everything as a parent, trust your instincts and go with that. You know him best.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.