Frustrated mother having a discussion with her son about homework

My Story

My two boys are about seven years apart in age. That’s far enough that they don’t have typical sibling rivalries. They don’t compete for friends, for instance. But they both have different needs and they do compete for my attention.

What I Was Doing

My 5-year-old, Benjamin, has attention issues. Some days it seems like he never stops talking. I spend a lot of time redirecting him and telling him he has to wait his turn. That can get in the way when I want to focus on his brother, Jacob.

Jacob, who’s 12, has executive functioning issues and sensory processing issues. He tends to get overwhelmed by sensory input and feels frustrated when things don’t go as expected. That gets in the way, too.

The result is that my husband and I have often had to decide between equally undesirable options. When one of our boys has a school event, is it more disappointing for him if we have to sneak out of the auditorium with his overwhelmed (or overwhelming) brother or if only one of his parents attends to begin with?

This is not the way I wanted things to be. I used to spend a lot of time feeling angry. Not at anybody, but at the circumstances that made me feel like I wasn’t the kind of mom I wanted to be. I didn’t want to feel pulled in so many directions or to be so irritable.

It was always easy to see what I was doing wrong. But it wasn’t so easy to see what I was doing right.

What I Wish I’d Known Sooner

One day a couple years ago I had an epiphany. I’d snapped at Benjamin, “Can you please just stop talking? This has to stop before you get to kindergarten! I cannot deal with explaining this to another teacher.”

As soon as I said it, I was ashamed of myself. I realized that I’d been so angry about how hard life was that it had gotten in the way of my understanding that this amazing little boy just wanted to talk to me. There’s nothing wrong with him. His enthusiasm for life is wonderful.

I wish I’d known sooner that being angry is just exhausting and unproductive. I realized that day that all the energy I’d spent worrying about everything I wasn’t doing well was energy I could use to enjoy what was going well.

From then on, my husband and I worked to find new ways to manage our boys’ needs. Now we tag-team our way through many of our days. While I help Jacob with his homework, my husband occupies Benjamin so he doesn’t interrupt. We found good babysitters so we can both go to school functions and neither boy feels ignored.

Finding these new ways to cope has helped me see my boys in a different light. Sure, Benjamin never stops talking. But the things he says are amazing. He’s inquisitive, quirky and really funny. Yes, Jacob gets overwhelmed in social situations. But when we stay home together, that’s time we can spend getting to know each other instead of decompressing from sensory overload.

Anyone who has more than one child knows that making sure everyone gets what they need is always going to be a juggling act. And you have to accept that some of those balls are going to fall—especially when you have kids with learning and attention issues.

I probably still juggle too many balls. But at least now I’m better at focusing on the ones that are still up in the air instead of just feeling angry about the ones that drop.

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About the Blogger

Portrait of Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

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