Sugar Kool Aid, Sidewalk Chalk, and Sunshine

Casey and Annie before their lemonade stand adventure.

Casey and Annie before their lemonade stand adventure.

This past week has seen a lemonade stand, three post-dinner plays, an epic game of Cops and Robbers, lots of sidewalk chalk, and three long bike rides. And at the end of all of those seven days, there has been one tired little boy, falling asleep quickly and waking feeling rested.

In many ways, this past week has been challenging, but I think it’s been more eye-opening and wonderful than difficult.

Years ago in the first grade classroom, our son Casey was having a really, really hard time. Kindergarten only had a few minor incidents, whereas by mid-September of first grade, Casey was already shutting down. We had been to a doctor a few months before, and she suggested a few things, one of which being medication.

Since then, Casey has had medication to control his behavior nearly every day of his life. He just finished third grade, and some new meds had made that much more challenging than anyone would have liked. I called his doctor, a new one since October 2013, and explained the situation. His new medicine went away, and Casey started coming back to us.

After a restless night for Casey and me, I decided to take it one step further. His ADHD medicine, Concerta, seems to have lots of positive attributes to it, but the top two negatives are its effect on sleeping and eating. As in, my child does neither while on it. When Casey finally fell asleep at 12:30 last Sunday night, I wanted a chance to reset his schedule. So Monday morning, his daily cocktail of two pills only had one. (His top billing diagnosis is anxiety, and I feel strongly about keeping him on his low dose of Zoloft.)

I’m not going to lie to you: Monday was hard. It was a new experience for everyone. Casey slept in until 11, which normally would have never happened because we have to give him his Concerta no later than 9:30 am if he has any chance of going to bed that night. I knew he needed the rest since he was up so late. I had to muster more patience as I dealt with him, and more creativity as I suggested activities for him to do that did not involve a screen. (More on this later.)

Monday night, he fell asleep within two minutes of going to bed. I did, too. Having an unmedicated Casey is not for the fatigued.

Tuesday went a little better. We were both learning how to navigate this territory we only faintly remember from a few years ago. He and Annie asked to do a lemonade stand. I said okay, and before I knew it, Casey was a carnival barker, accosting drivers and pedestrians to his “ice cold lemonade” stand. They did it all afternoon and made nearly $21. He ate three helpings of dinner (after his two helpings of lunch), and fell asleep quickly. (I should probably also mention that this kid is skin and bones; he’s weighed 50 lbs for the last three years. He’ll be 9 in August.)

By the weekend, I discussed with Jesse the possibility of keeping him off his white barreled pill for the summer, at least. It’s not about a high and mighty attitude. It’s not about a natural healing mantra, even though I’m beginning to see the merits of that. What it all comes down to is our boy’s health: he’s eating and sleeping better, but more than that, he’s happier. I mean, a lot happier. As in, there has only been one fit this entire week. We used to count ourselves lucky if we got less than 5 a day.

This is a different kid than we’ve seen before. Six year-old Casey has matured to a fun, smart, active almost 9 year-old. I am relieved.

I think part of this is also a new mantra at our house. I saw something online a few weeks ago about having a “1970’s” summer: more playing outside, WAY less television, Kool-aid made with real sugar (that part stuck out to me), and just good, old-fashioned kid playtime. Couple this with a new reward system my friend told me about, and it’s been on-the-go summertime playtime for a week.

I’m not a doctor, though I respect and admire (most of) them. I’m a mom trying to make good choices for her kids. Maybe the key to attention deficit lies in more activity. These kids, well, my kid anyway, needs to be active. Hell, it’s in the diagnosis. Sure, it’s easier to medicate him and give him an iPad, but it’s not good for him. We live in Wisconsin, and the long cold winter will be here soon. There will be plenty of opportunities to stay inside and veg.

I’m not an ideal mom. Not by far. I love sleep more than I should. I sometimes make decisions based on the path of least resistance. I have three kids, and it’s summer, and there are times I want to just be left alone. In order for this to work, I have to change my own ways. That might be the hardest part of all of this. But maybe that’s the point. Us parents need to suck it up and get off our butts. Well, at least this parent does.

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