Giving your son The Talk


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So the summer has been a relatively uneventful one — thus the lack of regular blog posts from me. But today, something happened that I was sure would be another year or two in the making: I had to give my son The Talk.

Not the sex talk. Not the drug talk. Not the race talk.

The spam talk.

He’s been watching YouTube for years now, mostly videos about Minecraft. But he’s never left a comment before. Today, he did. One post said “OP bow” The next, separate post said “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He announced this fact quite proudly! “Daddy, look! Daddy! I made a comment. It says exclamation mark exclamation mark exclamation mark…it says a boatload of exclamation marks!”

My wife and I weren’t entirely sure how to react. On the one hand, my son is now actively communicating on the Internet. Wow. That’s awesome! On the other hand, a bunch of exclamation marks is straight-up spam. (“OP bow,” given the context, actually did compose a legitimate, if simplistic, commentary on the video he was watching. So that was cool.)

So we had to sit our son down and tell him: “Honey, this is called spamming, and it’s bad.” I thought he might get confused because in his mind, ‘spamming’ is something you to do attacks in games (i.e. “I’m spamming plasma cannons,” or “I’m spamming heavy slash”). But nope — he got it right away: ‘to spam’ means ‘to do mindlessly.’ Not even a thing.

We told him that spamming can get him kicked off of YouTube, and he immediately started trying to figure out how to fix it. He told us that what he had wanted to do was add the exclamation marks to the end of the ‘OP bow’ post. My wife managed to figure out where the Delete and Edit buttons were (with a little bit of my help), and we taught him how to delete the spammy message and edit the other post to add a concise, single exclamation mark.

Problem solved — for now. My son isn’t even in first grade yet, but he’s not only watching YouTube videos, he’s literate enough to understand how to — and want to — communicate via the written word on the Internet. How awesome is that? (He sent a text message the other day, too!.)

Hopefully, we can maneuver our son into being a functional, non-spammy Internet user at a young age and not have to worry about him feeding trolls as he grows up. Ah, the responsibilities of a modern parent. I love it!


And this is why you don’t mix ADHD and diabetes.

So I started getting really high readings on my blood sugar a couple of nights ago, and it completely baffled my wife and I. It’s supposed to be below 170 a couple of hours after a meal, and it came up almost 300 — and no cake this time! Then, the next night, it came up over 200. And today, I was extra-super careful to low-carb it almost all day (we did have some samples at Costco, but nothing significant.)

It came up tonight at almost 200. Then, I took it a few minutes later, and it was 205. A few minutes after that, it was 170. Then, a few minutes later, it was over 200 again. I took it using a different test device, still over 200. Then, my wife suggested that I wash my hands.

As I was washing my hands, I realized that the 170 blood sugar came from my right hand, and all of the other readings came from my left hand. When I came back out, it was 170 on my left hand. Why?

Because I put honey in my wife’s evening glass of kefir, and I’m not terribly good about washing off the honey jar, which I always hold (you can see this coming) in my left hand. So for a few days now, I’ve been panicking about high blood sugar when what I really had was high skin sugar.

The technical term for this is ‘herping a flerp of derp.’

I have met my arch-nemesis…


I feel like shit right now. Excuse my language, but holy shit, do I feel like the worst kind of shit right now. I just woke up, and I am groggy, stiff, sore, stupid, and derpy. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve popped out of bed at 6:30 in the morning ready to kick ass and take names. My life has been so straightforward and good that I forgot to blog anything. Then, last night, I met my arch-nemesis…

…and his name is “cake.” I think I mentioned earlier that my son is so freaking cute that the cashier at Trader Joe’s just up and gave me a box of cake mix to make for him. Well, I finally made it, and some frosting (butter, palm oil, powdered sugar, vanilla, blender, spread, yum) to go on the top.

I wasn’t familiar with frosting, so I had to test it a bunch. Probably 8-12 small bites, then keep adding powdered sugar and blending and tasting again until it felt like store-bought frosting. It takes a lot more powdered sugar than I suspected. Then, of course, I had a piece of cake when I was all done, because huzzah, I had made the cake at long last.

I checked my blood sugar, which is supposed to be in the 170 range after dinner, and it was 295. I knew that was really high, but there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I went to bed. This morning it was 142 — it’s supposed to be sub-130, preferably sub-110 in the morning — but more importantly oh my freaking God do I hurt.

My legs are weak and stiff. My lumbar region is made of pain. My brain feels like it’s filled with cotton. My eyes don’t want to focus. My head is heavy on my neck, and I really don’t want to exert the effort of holding it up. My fingers are particularly numb this morning. My eyelids are pissed at me for keeping them open. I haven’t felt this bad since…

…well, actually, this feeling used to be pretty normal for me. Until we discovered I was diabetic and put me on the medicines and insulin, I probably felt this way twice a week. I didn’t even notice (thanks, ADHD) how much better I felt until I screwed up and this God-awful malaise came back.

Suffice it to say, never. Ever. Again. The next time I hear someone quote Eddie Izzard and ask me “Cake or death?” I’m going to grab them by their lapel, shake them violently, and yell “FALSE DICHOTOMY!” at them until they run away or faint.

Before, I didn’t ever make the connection between blood sugar and this incredible drear. At least this time, I know that it’ll all be over by tomorrow morning, because I ain’t eating anything today that isn’t green and leafy or made of meat. Not anything.

Never. Again.

[edit]And then, just to validate the stupidity I feel, I just spent my entire work day working on a project I had already completed, and I did the whole thing over again. /EPICFACEPALM. Never. Ever. Again.[/edit]

Coaching is a Skill



My son is in soccer, and he’s pretty good at it. Probably a large part of that is his birthday — he was born very shortly after the cutoff, so he’s the oldest kid on the team. Also, Uncle Cody plays soccer and Nonna coaches soccer and my wife loves soccer and no, he’s not ever going to play T-ball or whatever. Soccer.

(Interestingly, while he was born just after the cutoff in soccer, he was born one day before the cutoff in school, so he’s the oldest on his team, but the youngest in his class.)

My wife and I are the loudest parents on the sideline, by far. To the point where I wonder what’s wrong with the other parents, and how they can sit there and watch their son or daughter play a sport and be quiet. I’m constantly yelling things, mostly at my son, unless he’s not on the field — then I’ll yell at the other kids, too.

But as my wife pointed out to me today — his 2nd-to-last soccer game of the season — I’m a crappy coach. I only have three settings: “good job,” “run faster,” and “what the hell was that?!?” It’s not that I don’t understand the game — given a moment, I can come up with a good explanation of what’s supposed to happen next. It’s that I’m not really focusing on how to improve my son’s performance; just on how he’s currently performing.

Coaching — teaching, really — is a learned skill, and it’s one I am entirely lacking. And that’s not a good place for a parent to be in…like at all. So long story short, I’m about to go over to the local library’s website and reserve a book or two on how to coach a kid. I largely remember my stepfather as ‘that guy who yelled at me every time I did something wrong.’ I’m absolutely determined not to be that guy. I’ve backed off on the yelling as a knee-jerk response: time to learn something better to do from the sidelines as well.



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My wife and I have read this amazing book called Nurture Shock over and over again since we found out she was pregnant — if you’re going to be a parent at any point (other Mike), you should read it, too. It reveals, through analysis and exposition of a lot of scientific studies, a goodly number of unusual truths about the child brain.

For example, did you know that teenagers have to stop and think about what something would feel like before they experience a reaction to the thought of doing that thing? So if you say to a teenager, “how would you like to stab yourself in the hand?” they don’t just instinctively flinch. They have to consider it. Which sounds batshit crazy to the rest of us, but goes a long way toward explaining their propensity for doing stupid things — they just didn’t stop to consider what the worst-case scenario might feel like.

Along those lines, my wife read to me today a section that directly applies to my parenting style: the sin of micromanagement. Actually, what she read about was lying, but the lesson was pretty self-evident. It turns out that to a young person, lying is the opposite of arguing. If they don’t want to get in a fight, they lie to you and walk away having ‘kept the peace.’ If they think something is worth arguing for, they give you their honest opinion.

That wasn’t the relevant part, as interesting as it may be. The interesting part is the way the kids react to the argument. If the parent stonewalls — is utterly strict and doesn’t budge at all — the kid sees that as “my parent doesn’t love me because they don’t value my opinion.” If the parent is overly lax and doesn’t put up a fight, the kid sees that as “my parent doesn’t love me because they don’t care about me.”

Keep in mind, this is empirical evidence from actual studies, not just some dude’s hackneyed opinion. The best reaction is to actually assess the kid’s argument and consider what the actual ramifications would be if you gave a little — and if they’re acceptable, actually give a little. This also requires you to have a reasonable number of fairly firm (but negotiable with special circumstances) rules. Too many rules, and the kid feels trapped; not enough and they feel uncared for.

I, as it turns out, am guilty of all of these things. When I’m not paying attention to my kid (because I’m engaged in work or a game or whatever), I tend to be highly laissez-faire — when I am paying attention (because we’re getting ready for school or playing a game), I tend to micromanage pretty severely.

So apparently I don’t love my kid for two reasons at once — or at least that’s what he’ll think if I don’t get my shit together.

Now, this isn’t a relationship-killer right now, because my son isn’t old enough to get into sophisticated rule-defining arguments just yet — but it’s a God-awful habit to get into, and I need to focus my effort on getting over that before it becomes a severe problem.

We learned an acronym a few years ago in a class designed to help us teach our kid how to communicate. It was OWL: Observe, Wait, Listen. I, feeling clever, added an H to it: HALT, Observe, Wait, Listen. Because you can’t observe/wait/listen without first putting down whatever you’re doing. As it turns out, my cleverness was moot because I’m not good at halting OR any of that other stuff. And I didn’t really think of it as a life-defining obstacle, but as my wife has gently pointed out to me through pointed reading of this book, it genuinely is.

I need to learn, funnily enough, to pay more attention and yet be less concerned about the details of what I’m paying attention to. Which sounds difficult — but I’ve overcome a lot since I started this blog, all in the name of becoming a father, and I’m going to master this one, too.

The Power of Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously


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So in my last post, I threw in a flippant line about not asking someone to do the thinking for you and then getting mad when they started telling you what to do. It was mostly intended to make my wife laugh, but it turned into a real thing. Not that I did exactly that — but that I used to do exactly that, back in the days before I was an acknowledged ADHD-bevexed individual.

It turns out that in the two weeks since my last post, I have started doing something that I really needed to do — I’ve started laughing at myself whenever I do something that is so blatantly non compis mentis that there’s no way to understand the bafflement.

For example: quite often, my wife asks for hot chocolate, coffee, or tea; whenever she does, she likes a fat dollop of ‘whiff cream’ on the top, preferably with a little sumpin-sumpin sprinkled over the top for awesomeness. (Usually it’s Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice, but sometimes it’s Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder.) This is a full-on habit of mine. Two days ago, she asked for a bowl of yogurt, and we had plain everyday Tillamook All Natural Plain Yogurt.

So I put a few spoonfuls in a bowl, and turned to do something else — knowing me, I was probably on my Kindle playing some trading card game, but I honestly don’t remember — and when I turned back, ADHD struck. I saw the white mound in the bowl, and without a second’s hesitation (or thought), I coated that sumbitch in Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice. I didn’t notice until the deed was done that it was yogurt in a bowl rather than coffee in a cup.

Welcome to my life.

I used to have this issue where whenever I felt like I did something genuinely stupid, I felt ashamed. Not guilty — guilty is a motivator that provokes change. Shame is different; shame just makes you feel like shit without actually inspiring you to do anything except hide in a corner and flagellate yourself. Shame beats you down, robs you of your motivation, and basically sucks in every conceivable way.

So doing stupid things made me feel like crap. Today, however, things are different, because today I have something to blame. Today, I do something genuinely dumb, and I actively share it with my wife (instead of trying to hide it), and we both laugh our butts off and call it an ‘ADHD moment.’ That doesn’t mean I don’t work to try to prevent them from happening, but when it does, it’s no longer a traumatizing event.

In fact, we’re having so much fun recording my idiocy that I’m going to start a new blog and post to it irregularly, much like my wife posts to GODzookery with all of the zany things my son says. It’s called DADHD — you can think of it as “Dad in HD”, or as “dADHD”, or even as a horrible spelling of “Dadhood” — and it’s going to be nothing but a log, in vignette form, of all of the incredibly idiotic things that I do. My hope is that people will laugh at them with me, and it will be good.

Also, I hope that when my son is old enough, he’ll look back and say “Yeesh, you mean you were always this bad?” Because showing your son that you’re just as human as everyone else is something I firmly believe in.

A Short Musing on Responsibility


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I have to admit, I’ve skated through life thus far with a fair degree of irresponsibility. When I was a teenager, my mom didn’t get home until late in the evening, so my entire afternoon between school and dinnertime was basically a free-for-all. And she was gone in the morning before I woke up for school, so as long as I actually got to school, I was free to spend my mornings however I wanted as well.

As I progressed to college life, that didn’t really change. I got a mountain of free time and I did basically nothing useful with it. I played a lot of Magic: the Gathering and D&D (later Everquest) and, once I had the college’s T1 connection at my beck and call, basically became an Internet junkie.

Graduation happened, and I moved in with my wife, and I told her outright: I can’t handle money, you do that part. Over the years, and several jobs lost to various forms of (unrecognized except in retrospect) ADHD-related stupidity, that morphed from “you handle the money” to “You handle the thinking. Just tell me what to do and when to do it.”

ProTip: Don’t ever ask someone to do that and then get pissed off when they tell you what to do.

So in my last post, I mentioned that I was going to the doctor to get an ADHD prescription. As it turns out, because I’m diabetic enough to be classified as having heart failure (defined as “your heart moves less than 45% of its total contents through with each beat”; 65% is ‘normal’), I can’t take any of the standard ADHD medications.

So, here I am, suddenly forced at 35 years of age to recognize the fact that I’m not properly equipped to be responsible for anything — I’ve relied on my wife as a crutch for a decade, and before that, I basically didn’t care. And with that realization comes two cold, hard facts: one, my brain has a problem that keeps me from being able to properly keep track of time, recognize what’s supposed to come next, and focus on the appropriate task; and two, I’m an [expletive deleted] diabetic, and if I can’t keep track of time, keep track of my blood sugar, keep track of my insulin levels, and keep myself from munching on the wrong thing inappropriately, I could up and DIE from my own irresponsibility.


Not to mention the fact that it’s a pretty bad example to set for my son. He already reminds me: “Daddy, you can’t put corn in the soup. You can’t eat corn.” He’s so damn smart. I love that kid.

…so we’re being forced to learn how how to cope with ADHD without drugs. The basic strategy seems to be “create a routine for everything and stick to it.” I now have 15 alarms on my Kindle that go off all the damn time to remind me of everything from when to wake up to when to start our daily batch of kefir to when to switch the laundry loads.

And the amazing thing is…I like it. I thought, as I set those alarms up, that I would chafe under the incessant binging. The truth is I’m grateful for every day that ends up normal enough that all those alarms are useful. The days when something comes up and screws up my plans are more challenging — but even then, I just adjust my alarms as needed and move forward.

It’s strange, but it’s also the first step toward taking control back from my own flawed brain and continuing to ensure that I’ll be both alive and useful to my family in another decade.

The doctor says in six months they’ll give me another echocardiogram and if my heart isn’t failing anymore, we’ll talk about ADHD medication. Until then, it’s a strange struggle every day to keep myself on top of everything — and I’m still not taking care of the money, the calendar, or any of that abstract domestic science that I’ve never bothered to really absorb.

It’s hard, but I feel good about it. Every day when I remember to take my blood sugar before I take my first bite, I feel like I’ve conquered one more neuron, and someday, I’ll take over my whole brain and be able to live up to all of that potential that every teacher I’ve ever had has told me I was wasting.

Until then.

St. Peter Stabbed Me In the Back!



I realize that I’m not really doing that great of a job of writing about being a father these days, but when you’ve had the kind of crazy stuff happen to you that I have, you have to get it out. So remember I mentioned in my last post that I’d been in and out of the ER?

Well, it turned out that the doctor who called it food poisoning was an idiot because what I had was a systemic septic infection from an untreated abscess on my back. Last Saturday my wife took me to the local Urgent Care Clinic to get the abcess drained (it had started leaking on its own), and when they heard my symptoms they sent me straight back to the damned ER. This time, they admitted me to the hospital, where I stayed until Wednesday night.

Turns out that the abcess, along with the asleep-ness of my arms and legs and a whole host of other minor symptoms are all results of the same core problem: I’m officially diabetic. And apparently have been for quite some time; we just happen to eat the right diet to not *really* notice the symptoms. Except for peripheral neuropathy (arms and legs fall asleep), infected abcesses (totally a diabetic thing; who knew?), and possibly mental derpitude (it’s not just ADHD!?)

So after numbing me up with Lidocaine — some 12 injections — St. Peter (or rather the doctor who currently represented St. Peter’s Hospital) stabbed me in the back, cutting a neat little ‘X’ into my flesh. It turns out the abcess was so deep that she had to cut past where the Lidocaine had numbed, and I literally screamed and kicked and bit my pillow because holy f***ing s**t, that HURT!

But the pus started to flow, and after five days of a continuous IV drip of some superpowerful antibiotic (vancomycin), they let me go home with a raft of prescriptions. I’m currently taking more antibiotics, as well as the “usual” supply of “welcome to being a diabetic” pills. I get to stab myself in the finger 5-8 times a day to test my blood sugar, and stab myself in the stomach twice a day to inject a long-acting insulin into my adipose tissue.

Of course, being who we are, we promptly looked up other things that increase insulin sensitivity and bought all of them. So in addition to the prescriptions, I’m taking a raft of natural pills from cinnamon to fish oil to Chromium Picolinate, all to help the insulin do its thing better. Our goal is to have me no longer stabbing myself in the stomach…I hate stabbing myself in the stomach. The needle is fine enough that it doesn’t actually hurt, but it’s just freaking creepy, because it’s more than an inch long.

Even just being able to switch to an oral insulin would be really nice.

Medicinal Guilt
All through this, my wife and I have been having this bizarre emotional experience. Being told that you were within an hour or two of dying from septic shock is one thing — hello, mortality! — but we’ve also been having this long-term guilt. We really poo-pooed modern medicine for a long time; we like to think that natural remedies are pretty much superior to Big Pharma in every circumstance.

But here’s the thing: our son’s ADHD wasn’t touched by all of the natural remedies we tried. And my infection didn’t bow an inch to all of the garlic, olive leaf, and oregano extract we could shove at it. And even with the reasonable diet we’ve been eating for years (OK, mostly reasonable), I still managed to get my 90-day average blood sugar up to levels so high that the hospital diagnosed me as diabetic on that fact alone.

So we’ve got this guilt complex going on because we really ended up needing modern medicine — and one of the things they don’t really tell you about natural medicine is that there’s this ongoing implication that if it doesn’t work for you, it’s because you’re doing it wrong.

Which, when you apply it to something like faith healing, pretty clearly makes it sound like a scam. But we totally bought into it — we were constantly trying new things, because everyone makes it sound like the natural cure for whatever you have is out there…you just haven’t done it right yet. And that, the implication continues, is either because you’re not researching hard enough or you’re somehow cheating even if you don’t realize it. And that’s crap. The simple fact is that there are some things that even Ancient Wisdom™ can’t fix.

We’re not going to stop trying to live a life centered on natural remedies for our problems. But I think that we have learned over the past month that there is a place in our lives for pharmaceutical medicine as well, even if we don’t want there to be.

My meeting with the doctor to talk about my ADHD got canceled seeing as I was in the hospital attached to an IV at the time — but it’s scheduled for tomorrow, and I fully expect to come home with a prescription of some kind.

We’ll see where it goes. I’ve seen my son over the past couple of weeks continue to be a sparkling disco ball of chaos and energy. The only thing Adderall has done to him is give him enough focus to turn that energy into awesome stuff. He picks up Legos now, and actually builds functionalish things out of them. He borrows the Kindle to play Minecraft, and ends up building giant statues of people complete with hollow insides and appropriate-colored organs and everything…which he then fills with little chickens and cows until they’re about to come spilling out of the mouth, and then uncorks the butthole and watches his statue poop angry chickens for five minutes while he laughs maniacally.

He’s also, if anything, more in touch with his emotions now. He used to be almost mystically unflappable — now, he gets frustrated and expresses that frustration in perfectly normal ways. He used to go for hours without saying a word; now, we can’t get him to shut up. He’s constantly talking about the videos he’s watching, or the gadget he’s building, or what the Power Rangers would do in this situation. It’s wonderful.

So I’m not really worried anymore about that. I’m mostly fascinated to see what life will be like. I cracked a joke to the doctors about being diabetic and ADHD at the same time — because one requires constant attention and religious discipline and the other basically robs you of both of those things. They laughed…and then they told me to talk to the doctor about it, seriously. So it’s not just about saving my marriage and cleaning my kitchen anymore. My life might actually depend on it.

That’s almost as scary as being told you were about to die and didn’t know it. Maybe even slightly scarier.

Wish me luck.

Ever have one of those weeks?

So I got sick — seriously sick — this week. My wife sent an email around describing what happened:

Sunday evening, Mikie turned bright red all over. Literally like a lobster. I have never seen anything like it, and my first reaction was, “Hey. You probably also have a fever.” So I checked his temperature via the old time-honored mom-hand-that-recognizes-the-difference-between-normal-kindahot-hot-and-hellahot. He was hot. So I busted out the stethoscope Mom gave me (this should be a requirement for everyone to have) and checked his lungs and heart. Lungs were clear, heart rate was 120.



He had no other symptoms, so I gave him two ibuprofen and told him to just relax and chill out. We went to bed. The next day, all the symptoms were exactly the same, but after we dropped Giovanni off at school, Mikie started getting the chills. They started like cold flashes, and then finally settled in around lunch. All his previous symptoms were still present. I called the Molina (our insurance) nurse line for help (Thank you, Jack!), and he told me to keep doing what I was doing and keep him hydrated. So, no panicking. Kept working on it. Naps, showers/baths, ibuprofen… He didn’t eat much because he was sleeping. Didn’t poop much – which is weird. Didn’t sweat much – which is also weird.

Day three. Woke up. Mikie said that both of his arms felt like they were asleep. I didn’t think much of it because this was the last I heard about it. But they never woke up. He was all muscle fatiguey and got sore doing anything. Plus the same symptoms as before except this time, we got retching and diarrhea! Mind you, they weren’t the problematic kind… The diarrhea wasn’t the oh-god-I-got-ecoli-from-my-tacos kind. It was just less together than the rest of his completely normal deuces he had that day. And his retching was more like extreme-Mom-dry-heaves!!!-that-turn-into-pukeish in reaction to something his body really didn’t want to eat (FYI – Stonyfield organic kids’ blueberry yogurt is disgusting – even when you’re not sick).

All of that I could handle, right up the point where he got out of his bath and turned blue. Blue lips, blue finger-tips, blue toes (that morphed into white, that transitioned into bright red – he was so patriotic in his illness!). So I got him into sweats, packed him into bed, and called the nurse line again. She (Eva) told me to get him to the hospital within the hour. So, we woke Giovanni up, piled into the car, and went to Providence.

The hospital was the normal hurry-up-and-wait routine. We sat in the waiting area for about 45 minutes before Mikie went to triage. They took vitals… Heart rate: 135. Blood pressure: 135/80. Temperature: 100.8. They gave him a couple Tylenol. And then we waited another hour and a half before we got a room. And it was another hour before we saw a doctor. Vitals were taken again… Heart rate: 124. Blood pressure: 116/70. Temperature: 98.4. O2 Saturation: 96%. The doctor came in, sat down, said he thought it was viral food poisoning (viral? apparently, it’s a thing), didn’t really offer up anything else, and told us to go home.

So we did. We got home around 3 AM, got everyone be-snacked and into bed by 4. But right before sleep, I noticed that Mikie’s pee was really dark (he didn’t flush after he went to the bathroom because he didn’t want to wake Giovanni up). So I told him as we passed out that he needed to drink more. MOAR!! He apparently got up around 8 and drank a few cups of liquid and then passed back out – I slept like a log until Mom woke me up at noon.

Mikie still hadn’t peed out what he drank at that point, so I called the nurse line (and then he peed!). And they said to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t get worse – we follow up with the doctor on the 7th. But if it is food poisoning, it should clear up within the next couple of days.

As you can imagine, it’s been somewhat miserable around here. Then, to top it off, this morning, we were dropping our son off at school, and I had to go in to hand a paper to the office lady explaining that the reason Giovanni had missed the previous day’s school is that I was in the hospital and we were still sleeping through school. My wife decided not to let the car run while I was in there…and when she tried to start it again, it wouldn’t start.

I walked inside to inform the office lady that our car was stuck right in front of their school and we would be calling a tow truck, and she gave me that “uh-huh!” cheery smile. I got back into the car, and being the sick and stressed out person that I was, I proceeded to make a few half-hearted attempts at talking to my wife before putting my head against the window and falling asleep.

When I came to (some minutes later), my wife and I proceeded to get into a fight about how I suck at talking. Which is true. When we finally made up (the tow truck was like an hour out, so this was all while we were waiting), I suggested she try the car again. After all, it hadn’t worked the first several dozen times she’d tried it, but now…it had been some time! That means something, right?

…and it started! We called the tow truck (which was still not there more than an hour later) and told them that we were no longer in need of a tow. Instead, we drove down to our mechanic, who ran some tests and explained to us that it needed a new starter. He explained that it would start for a while, and then it would fail to start for a while, but if we just kept trying it, it would eventually start…for a while. Eventually, it would fail completely.

So we came home, me still pink and cold and 120+ heart rate, and determined to try to grind out not just the rent money, but an extra $300 for the van. All this, and by the way, it’s the end of the month, so our food supply is dwindling and we’re basically eating boneless skinless with assorted veggies.

Have you ever had one of those weeks? Where all of the different up-and-down cycles all happen to be downing at the same time? Holy crap.

The lesson
All right, Michael, what does all of this have to do with parenting and being a Dad? Simple: despite all of these problems we’ve been happening, we’ve managed to mostly keep it together when our son is around. Yes, he did have to stay up late when Daddy went to the hospital, but he was so entranced by all of the cool gadgets that he didn’t really consider that a downside. And Daddy has been sleeping a lot lately, but he considered that a good opportunity to climb into bed with his own personal massive red heating pad and get toasty.

The stress has been profound, but it’s all manifested after the boy was in bed. My wife has cried herself to sleep for a few nights in a row, and we’ve had a row or two while he was at school, but whenever he’s around, we keep our stress in check. And you know what? It feels good. It’s a stupid thing, being proud of yourself for protecting your child from your own stress…but it feels good. It feels…manly. Like I’m standing between my kid and the lion.

The Turnaround
And, as it turns out, the school has a special fund for parents that need a little extra help being able to get/keep their kids in school. The principal called the mechanic to make arrangements. And we have an appointment available tomorrow. The mechanic will drive us home after we drop the car off, and pick us back up to take us to our car once it’s done. All in one day.

Also, one of my most prolific clients offered to increase the amount that he pays me by a huge 50%, because someone that produces the quality work that I do is worth it.

Also, my fever broke and I don’t feel nearly so stiff and exhausted all the time.

Have you ever had one of those weeks where everything seemed like it was going to Hell…and then suddenly it was like Someone was looking out for you? Yeah…I don’t know how, but I need to teach my son this feeling.


Maybe He Gets It From Me



So I was watching my son play Minecraft just now (on my new Kindle Fire HD, purchased refurbished from Amazon after my first Kindle stopped charging altogether. Just taking a moment here to thank Tristan Sanford, still my best friend in life after two decades of only occasional visits, for giving me the first one), and I heard him say something that made me choke on my beer-and-chicken stew.

“I made a fucking SHEEP!” he yelled.

Ulp. “What did you say, Bud?”

“I said a fucking SHEEP! I said a fucking made a fucking SHEEP!”

What do you say to that? We’ve already had extensive conversations with my son about swearing, and he knows full well that there are words he’s allowed to use at home that he’s not allowed to use in public. He wouldn’t ever use that word when he wasn’t at home (or alone in the car with us) — but that doesn’t mean we expect him to use it the way we do.

Which is patently absurd. Of course he’s going to use it the same way we do — what other example does he have?

Reflections Go Both Ways
What’s fascinating, however, is that just as much as he reflects me — showing me what my biggest foibles and flaws are by acting them out in an amplified, five-year-old fashion — I reflect him, too. I can learn about him by looking at myself — and I can learn about myself by looking at him.

For example, in all of our research into ADHD on behalf of my son, I recently did an interesting thing: I took a test for adult ADHD myself. And surprise, suprise, I scored “you definitely have attention deficit problems.” I looked a little bit into what that means, and it turns out that it might just be, after living with my wife for the last decade and constantly accusing her of being overly practical and too down-to-earth, she might be the normal one!

I might actually have a problem. There might be a chemical imbalance in my brain that is the reason why I have trouble focusing on things like doing the laundry in a non-spontaneous fashion. I might actually be as grounded as my wife except for something in my brain that doesn’t handle dopamine quite properly. And more importantly, my son might come by his own diagnosis of ADHD legitimately.

Maybe he gets it from me.

There are a thousand reasons why I don’t want this to be true. I certainly don’t feel like I’m some weirdo who can’t sit still…but then, the test that I took divides the diagnosis up between ‘hyperactivity’ (which I scored in the ‘middle’ range on), and ‘attention deficit’ (which I scored through the roof on.) So it could well be that I’m weird only insofar as my brain tends to wander off and do its own thing whenever I’m not completely engaged in what’s in front of me.

And the thing is that this explains so much of my life. It explains why I never feel comfortable sitting down and just having a conversation with normal people. It explains why I always find myself idly daydreaming about [insert name of the latest game I’m obsessing over here] while I’m cooking dinner or writing a particularly dull article about the importance of maintaining your rain gutters. It might even explain why I never really get enthusiastic about much of anything. I enjoy my life, but I would almost never describe myself as ‘excited’ or even ‘happy’ — I’m always ‘content’ and ‘laid back’. I want to know what it’s like to be genuinely thrilled about something, and it might actually be something inside my brain that’s holding me back.

That thought is weird and scary. And what’s weirder and scarier is reading some of the stuff that people have written about the experience of taking some of the drugs that people take for adult ADHD. Adderall, for example, made one woman who took it compulsively clean her entire kitchen.

Looking at my kitchen, that might well be something that I could really use.

Perspective Anew
The thing about this realization is that it’s given me an entirely new perspective on my child’s behavior. It’s one thing to believe that my son is a precociously intelligent, manipulative little boy who is deliberately gaming the system — and I know for a fact that he does; we’ve seen exactly how (our latest parent-teacher meeting was somewhat eye-opening). But knowing that I may, in fact, have signs of the same problem means that he’s a precociously intelligent, manipulative little boy with an attention problem who is deliberately gaming the system in order to cope with that problem. And that’s a deeply different scenario.

See, my perspective on the whole ADHD thing has always been that it’s overdiagnosed, and kind of a bullshit diagnosis in the first place. Something like one in five high school boys are on some form of ADHD medication, and that’s just plain insane — if we have to drug twenty percent of our boys just to get them through school, it says way more about the school system than it says about those 20% of boys.

And even if ADHD is something vaguely real, I’m an extremely firm believer in natural healing. “The six best doctors anywhere, and no one can deny it/are water, sunshine, rest and air, exercise and diet,” as the man says. If there’s a chemical problem in our brain, we should be able to solve it using chemicals that naturally occur in our brains.

But we’ve tried that. We’ve tried dopamine powder, and amino acid therapy, and hydration, and increasing his available sleep time, and we’ve gone down the list of things that he might need that we can give him and we’ve exhausted the list. We absolutely refused to believe that there was anything wrong with our son, because we adamantly insist that he’s perfect. But if I have a problem that’s so similar to his, who am I to try to tell anyone that my son is just fine and they all have their diagnoses wrong?

What’s more, I’ve tried all of that stuff too, over the last decade, and it hasn’t worked for me, either. I’ve loaded up on amino acids in order to try to be able to focus better on work, and it’s never done anything noticeable. I’ve had days when I could focus decently on six hours of sleep, and days with eight or nine hours of sleep that were total wastes. I’ve taken dopamine powder in my chocolate milk and adrenal support supplements to keep my cortisol levels in check. I’ve tried a huge range of diets. Nothing we’ve done has ever produced a noticeable change in the way I function. So as much as I believe in it, I also have some pretty decent evidence that whatever problem I have, it may need a stronger solution — which would point fairly strongly to the same argument for my son; maybe he gets it from me.

So, the upshot of all of this is twofold: I have an appointment early next month to talk to my doctor about adult ADHD and what it may mean and what I can do to test for it more deeply than an online exam, and my wife and I are going to talk seriously to his teachers and doctor about what exactly his issues mean in terms of his ability to cope with first grade.

In first grade, he’ll only have one teacher, not five, for the 20+ children in his classroom — and if he can’t focus on the work, he’ll just fail out instead of getting more and more attention from the staff. That’s not a scenario anyone wants to see go down, but the only other options are keeping him in special education (no one wants that), or putting him in something called a LEAP classroom for children with behavior problems so bad that they can’t handle being put in a social situation for fear of hurting someone — and we’re definitely not letting that happen. Our son is hard to handle, but he’s never ever mean-hearted, and we don’t want him learning that from the worst of his peer group.

So, this is a pretty serious time around our house. I’m recognizing that I might not be the perfectly normal, sane person I thought I was, and we’re all recognizing that there may be more legitimacy to our son’s diagnosis than we want there to be. I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to deal with all of this, but it’s what’s next.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up on some prescription, and in a month I’ll have a clean kitchen and a happy home and be able to carry on adult conversations with people like my father-in-law without wanting to retreat into the safety of playing video games with the 12-year-old.

I can’t decide if that’s a goal to strive for, or not. Strangely, I can’t decide whether having a child who sits calmly at school and does everything he’s told and nothing he isn’t is a goal worth striving for, either. My son is a brilliant sparkling disco ball of chaos and creativity, and I don’t want him to lose that. I don’t want him to lose that because I think maybe he gets it from me.