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What it Feels Like to Parent a Hyperactive Child

Santiago Bañón / Getty Images

Recently, a therapist told me that raising one hyperactive child is the equivalent to raising three regular children.

I believe him.

At parks, my kid is the one screaming the loudest — the one you can hear from the other side of the parking lot. At birthday parties, he is always front and center of every photo, always right in the middle of the action, because he is the action. He leaves everyone around him breathless, myself included.

Effectively parenting a high-energy kid is a colossal feat requiring limitless emotional and physical energy, as well as restraint. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wanted to scream “JUST CALM THE #&*! DOWN!” at my son — but this would not only ramp him up more, but also teach him that it’s totally acceptable to scream expletives in the middle of the grocery store because someone is running back and forth in a zigzag pattern in front of the grocery cart as I try guide it through the cereal aisle.

Sometimes I place my hands on his shoulders when he’s brushing his teeth to stop him from hopping up and down. “You’re going to ram your toothbrush down your throat if you aren’t careful,” I caution. He responds by breaking into song: Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror. The moment I remove my hands, the hopping resumes.

Related: I Finally Got Professional Parenting Help (& it Made All the Difference)

Parenting a hyperactive child feels like eight hours of sleep is never enough and morning comes too soon, every single day. It feels like my baby was born and someone pressed a button to speed him up so that everything he would ever do would be as loud and as fast as possible. It feels like he never napped once in his life because the naps he did take were always too short and the chaos that ensued immediately upon his awakening was so intense that it cancelled out whatever peace I enjoyed while he was asleep.

It feels like a lot of noise. Mostly clattering and banging.

Experts say to plan ahead to keep him busy and challenged, but I can’t — even though I’m a planner by nature, I seem to lack the time, mental space, and energy because my child absorbs it all. I am constantly behind. Parenting a hyperactive child is so challenging that it leaves me depleted if I’m not careful. I shut myself away and take deep breaths. I stress eat M&M’s. I probably drink too much wine, and I definitely drink too much coffee. I take a lot of breaks because I have to.

It feels like I’m always in a hurry, because no matter what I do, I will never catch up to him.

Parenting a hyperactive child also makes me feel like I’m a total bad a#s. I surprise myself by digging deep enough every day to give it my all, over and over again, even when I feel like I don’t have it in me. That’s what makes moms amazing — we keep on mothering, even when our kids are running actual circles around us and we want nothing more than to eat a meal that someone else cooked and take a nap, in that order.

Even though it’s absolute insanity in our house, I’ve grown to love and embrace it. Other people’s children seem almost too docile after nearly eight years of being pushed to the limit. My child has a zest for life, a spark and a liveliness that propels us all forward. He can be draining, yes, but also inspiring. He jumps out of bed every morning like it’s the most exciting day of his life, every single day, and every time he sees me, he acts like he hasn’t hugged me in ages. He loves, laughs, plays, and learns with everything he’s got … which is a lot.

Most of all, he reminds me what life is truly about: living.

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