Monday, September 05, 2005

Single Motherhood and The Kid

I've been stewing on a post I read this morning from an education blog, I can't remember which. The main post was about the interesting distribution of special ed classification across different subsections of the populations: it cited the fact that the amount of all black kids in school is not proportional to the amount of black kids in special ed, and further still, not proportional to all kids in school vs kids of all ethnicities in special ed (I can't find the page again, otherwise I'd have numbers and a link). Someone commented on the main post by saying, "I wonder about the parents of these kids. How many kids with ADHD come from single parent households?"

--Molly is steaming--

Alright, alright, I know that anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can and will often write whatever they please, but I think this is a pretty prevalent belief, and one that makes me bristle like the proverbial mother bear protecting her cub. This is the "soapy water" comment that drives me absolutely the MOST crazy.

As I understand it, ADHD is a neurological disorder. It involves a complex of neurotransmitters and synapses, and lots of other medical jargon I simply don't know. It is basically a chemical reaction in the brain to the stimuli provided by the world and the internal processing of information, reactions and actions. Whether or not a woman or man alone vs a man and a woman together are sleeping in the bedroom next to the child with ADHD have little effect on how that child's synapses fire. They may have helped make those synapses, but they don't control how they work. This is apples and oranges. I can't "marry" the hyperactivity and impusivity out of The Kid.

Where the environment comes in is in the advocacy and support that the home provides the child. It is simply insulting to suggest that a single parent household does not provide advocacy and support. It is ludicrous. The world has all types. I don't have hard numbers, but there are an alarmingly large number of troubled two-parent households, and there are a large number of single-parent households that are better for it.

This poster has also gotten under my skin because he implies that ADHD can be "disciplined" out, in a way. And that the single parent cannot discipline. This is one I run up against so unbelievably often that I don't even want to go into this right now.

Single parenthood is tough. But wanna know something? Parenthood is tough. Being a single parent, married people often tell me things about their home lives they wouldn't tell just anyone. I hear stories from married women about how they do everything at home (and I know a few men who play that role as well). I know a lot of married women who feel completely alone in the raising of their child. I also know wonderful, supportive married couples who are raising kids with all sorts of mental disorders and learning disabilities.

I'm in the mix there too, I'm just doing it by myself. In many ways, I'm lucky. The decisions I make are my own. I am the only one to do the work of the house, and I'm the only one I can resent when those things don't get done.

I can't say I'm alone. In fact, I truly believe I have a larger support system than most people, married, single, anything. I have a great family and a lot of close friends. I wouldn't have chosen single motherhood without them.

My case might be somewhat unique, I know. I am a single parent by choice. Dad has never been involved, except in that, um, seminal moment (gross, sorry). I've been alone since day one (except that I've never been alone). My household income is greater than the national average (a metric that takes in to account double income homes too...). I own a home. I have a college degree. By all accounts, I'm upwardly mobile. But I don't believe that any of these economic factors effect my ability to parent (except that I am able to work in a job for only 37.5 hrs/week, etc). They certainly don't change the fact that The Kid is having serious issues at school and needs help.

I remain a single parent mostly because of The Kid as well. My disastrous attempts at seriously dating have manifested themselves into two vastly undesirable categories:

1. The young man, who, imagining me sans child, is my economic, educational, hobby/interest-having equal. Except, this young man has absolutely no interest in knowing me as a mother, and completely recoils at the thought of The Kid, even without all of his wondrous educational and behavioral issues. This man is fun to spend time with, and will certainly take you out to your favorite restuarants and bars (especially the bars), but is not worth investing any amount of emotion on.

2. The young man who imagines himself as a firefighter racing to the aid of me, some kind of kitten stuck in a tree. He wants to come to my rescue, and deliver me from the cesspool of my life into the enlightened and legitimate world of partnership (all this after two dates!). This man thinks that he can fix everything that is wrong with me, but more importantly, with The Kid. He alone, because he has a penis, is capable of righting The Kid's behavior. This man must be avoided and literally run from. I will never make this mistake again, ever.

Any wonder why I don't date often? I'm doing a better job without that crap. Thank you very much.

I would love to find someone to marry someday. I was modeled a great partnership and loving marriage by my own parents. I won't settle. I wouldn't settle as a childless woman, much less as a mom. So for now, I exist in the real world. This is a world where in I am not dating anyone. And the issues with The Kid are here. And I deal with them.

The Kid's issues with impulsivity won't go away with any magical cure, whether that cure is me getting married, some magical pharmeceutical, therapy, behavior chart. Parenting is hard work. PERIOD. Parenting a kid with behavioural challenges is really hard. I don't care who shares my bed with me, it would be hard work. End of story.

I could go on and on. Perhaps I will later. For now, I'll end this post.


mister lady said...

I believe that you may be the world's most powerful proof that ADHD is not caused by single parenting.

Jona said...

I'd never heard this, and I won't be putting any stock in it!

The only slight difference I have ever noticed about children raised by single parents is, when the father has sole custody, their boys are sometimes a bit 'adult' with their comments to pretty women (and I'm not complaining, just saying it can be unexpected ;o))

There are too many daft opinions out there, to trust anything but your own knowledge.