I have an elementary school child with ADD and a teenager who does not have it. He's doing well on medication and it's just a non-issue in our family. He's bright and funny and adored by his friends, and we're working on how to manage real life successfully.
My new problem is that my husband is going through a crisis, and I've come to believe---he's even admitted it might be true---that he has ADD as well. It can be a beautiful thing when things are good, but the least amount of stress---and there's a lot of it now due to economy, job issues, and mid-life crisis of sorts---and I'm suddenly the enemy and the source of all his problems. It has faded in past episodes, but we have a new wrinkle now. The kids are old enough to understand this time that something's not right, that their father is being pretty mean to Mom right now, Mom's self-esteem is plummeting, and that Dad is starting to be mean to them, as well, with cutting remarks, unpredictable behavior, and yelling (NEVER physical abuse). My advice to them, particulary my older son, is to just ignore it, not to take it personally, Dad's having a rough time right now.
But it's not fair to them. And I worry about perpetuating this in their adult lives if they see that this is the way we handle conflict. My husband has no boundaries---we are his, he'll do with us what he likes, but his life is his business and we'd better stay out of it. This takes the form of reading personal materials (diaries, for instance--- I'm a writer, and I've stopped keeping diaries/journals because he reads them without permission and then gets angry at his interpretation of them), throwing out personal effects without permission, scheduling everyone for things without letting us know then being angry because we've got other plans (which we told him about but didn't register/don't matter), and comments about our character and "what's wrong with us." He shows up for things when it's convenient for him, and makes no bones about not wanting to attend "stupid school programs that he's had to suffer through before." He won't understand this is hurtful and tells us to toughen up. Everything is about him--- kids are second, and I am absolutely last in line.
They SEE this. They get it. They ask me about it.
I'm coming to understand, mostly through this blog, what I'm dealing with, that I'm not the stupid, annoying person with "issues" that he makes me out to be. But how do I explain it to my sons without violating a boundary, and violating their trust as well as his? I feel as though his behavior lately requires some explanation to them--- my eldest takes his father's critical outbursts and intolerance personally. He's a kid--he hasn't had time to develop skin thick enough to let this treatment from a loved one just go---but I can't slam their father to them either.
What do I tell them? How do I help them understand they are good, sweet kids and that it's not about them? That they need to be compassionate towards their father, but still not let him run roughshod over their self-esteem? That their dad is a good man who needs and deserves their love no matter what, but, boy howdy, ain't he behaving like a jerk right now? And when will he be back to being their daddy?
How, too, do I help my ADD child not perpetuate this in his own life?