January 25, 2009

Normal Children

I have been very disturbed by the epidemic of bipolar diagnoses imposed on children. I myself have struggled with bipolar disorder for twenty years, and I know the crushing stigma such a dire diagnosis imposes. Until about ten years ago, psychiatrists believed the bipolar diagnosis was inappropriate before late adolescence.

By any parental standards, my four daughters have turned out wonderfully. Such a happy ending was not predictable during their childhood and teen years.I teased them about it recently. Certainly, I worried at least three of them were bipolar, if not spawns of Satan, when they were younger.

Here were some diagnostic indicators. Obviously not all applied to all four daughters.

  • They wouldn't pick up their toys. I have stepped on 20,000 lego pieces in the dark.

  • They once decorated their bedrooms with a mixture of desitin and baby powder.
    They were chronically late. No one could get off to school in the morning without substantial maternal help, usually involving driving.
    Bedtime was a joke. A friend said you could call our house at any time of the night; someone would be sure to be awake and delighted to talk to you about your problems.
  • They told their mommy "fuck you" with not an ounce of guilt or remorse The major culprit, when asked why she was acting like a devil child at age five, explained "Mommy, I used all my goodness up in school." Now she is using her goodness working for international peace.
    The Writer absolutely refused to do the assigned kindergarten homework, writing sentences using a list of words. "Writers don't use other people's words."
    They almost never lost a power battle with their doormat mommy. My oldest, the Adventurer, should have been born with a printout, "You will win exactly five battles with this child. Choose them carefully." I did win the important battles, but I only learned their importance by losing most of the rest.
    The Writer had meltdowns because the new washing machine wasn't blue; the pretty blue rental car had vanished; her aunt and uncle didn't have a second child her age; she was not attending a school that closed three years previously; there wasn't enough snow; election day would be a day before her 18th birthday three years from now. Her tantrums were reserved for the existential order of the universe.
  • They only ran fevers, thereby missing school, on the three school days without the gifted program pullout. I conducted ad hoc home schooling for bored students who missed an astonishing amount of school.
  • The Adventurer only pulled the hair and dumped sand over the heads of playmates whose mommies would reliably go round the twist (Anne has traveled to over 65 countries, and has lived in Niger, Rwanda and Kosovo.)She ended her three-year sand eating on the day our doctor looks her in the eye and assured me that her sand-eating diet must account for her excellent health. For old-times sake, she would occasionally revert to the diet when babysat by a hysteric mommy.
  • At age 2 Michelle magic marked a $2000 painting. To be fair, the culprit was only two and the artist was able to fix the picture.
  • The same culprit at age two also destroyed another family's audiotapes of their kids when babies and toddlers.
I questioned my sanity again and again throughout their childhoods. But I am very proud that I could cherish their intelligence, creativity, and individuality and was never tempted to drug their uniqueness, no matter how it disrupted our lives. They claim that are going emphasize order more and creativity less with their own kids:)I foresee much amusement watching them try.

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