I love my child’s high energy, enthusiasm, and joyful spirit. I don’t even mind that I will never have any family secrets, ever, because this innocent child will share our business with anyone within earshot and think nothing of it. Her openness reflects her optimism and her tendency to believe the best about others. This is another reason for clean living, because if you don’t have anything to hide then having a child spill the beans is no big deal.
My daughter’s activity level has often left me in open-mouthed amazement. To burn off energy, she will run up and down the stairs multiple times. She also likes to sprint around the block, and when we have inclement weather she will clear a pathway in the house so she can take off running and then slide across the floor in her socks. Like many individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) she needs to find outlets for her strong need for physical activity. Also true of many with ADHD, my daughter has had sleep difficulties and struggles to calm her body and mind so she can fall asleep.
Most of the time I not only accept my daughter’s differences, I delight in them. Over time I discovered that not all adults shared my appreciation for my wonderfully-spirited child. At homeschool group classes, I began to hear complaints about my daughter’s non-stop chattering and apparent inability to stop talking even when the teacher was attempting to give instructions. She was not deliberately rude or disrespectful, just uninhibited in sharing her thoughts. Every single one of them. This continual verbal stream was one of the ways her hyperactivity manifested, as if the words just built up inside her and had to come out or she would pop.
My daughter was also wigglier than most children her age, something I could easily accommodate during our homeschool day. It became problematic when we were out in public and she couldn’t sit still at a restaurant or stand quietly beside me during homeschool field trips. I remember a very patient AWANA instructor chuckling as he described how my daughter would slide back and forth on a bench while reciting her memorized verses. She moved around while she was learning the verses, and she moved around while recalling them. She was consistent, and fortunately had a leader who was able to enjoy having her in his group.
My daughter’s sensory processing difficulties along with her ADHD impulsivity made it a struggle for her to regulate herself to maintain the calm yet alert state that is optimal for learning. At one homeschool group gathering, I could see that she was talking continually and was starting to elicit clearly unappreciative glances from nearby adults. Not wanting to squelch her ebullience, I sought a way to help her quickly and unobtrusively so she would not be embarrassed. Scanning the table laden with potluck offerings, my gaze fell on a basket of dinner rolls. I quickly snatched one up and extended it to my daughter, asking if she needed a roll. I figured if she was chewing a roll it would give her a few seconds to take a break and maybe relax and slow down a little bit. I think it would have worked if my daughter had gone along with my plan, but instead she blurted out, “Hey! Are you just trying to get me to be quiet?” So much for subtlety.
At home my daughter could wiggle away as long as she was getting her schoolwork done. It’s distracting, though, when a child is in constant motion in a group setting. Have you ever noticed how distractible children always seem to find each other in a crowd, and then escalate the other’s behaviors? This happened often while we participated in homeschool group activities. One strategy I used to help my girl was our “meatball hug”. She would sit on my lap and pull her knees to her chin, and I would wrap my arms around her and gently squish her while rocking back and forth. She loved this, and it didn’t draw negative attention to her. Once she outgrew my lap, the meatball hug had to be more of a roll. Her father or I would give her arms and legs little squeezes as if we were kneading dough, or capture her between us to roll back and forth like a squeeze machine.
The need to calm down was not always apparent to my daughter, but she recognized our family code, “Do you need a roll?” as a signal to try and tone things down. Your family might find a different code and use other strategies to support your child. I personally will never hear the question “Do you need a roll?” without thinking of my wonderfully vibrant daughter who did, in fact, need some rolls now and then.