The Not-So-Perfect-Parent’s Guide to Raising Different Kids

September 7, 2016

I was blessed with a very easy firstborn baby. Aubrey slept through the night in two weeks, wasn’t fussy, and was consistently “ahead” of where she should be developmentally. At the ripe old age of 25, I was pretty sure I had this parenting thing figured out. Sure, Aubrey certainly had her moments (what baby doesn’t?) but overall she was a really good baby. I quickly decided that our stellar parenting had to be the #1 reason for the near perfection of our baby.

When Aubrey was two, our second child, Livie, was born. As I was still completely convinced that our parenting was the reason for Aubrey being such a good baby and ahead of where she should be developmentally, it only stood to reason that if I simply would parent Livie the same way, I would get the same results. I was wrong. I learned very quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to parent Livie the same way I parented Aubrey. About six months after Livie was born, we noticed there were some pretty significant differences between her and Aubrey. Although Livie was still an excellent baby, she slept through the night early and also wasn’t fussy, she wasn’t always where she should be developmentally. I also ate a big old piece of humble pie when I came to realize it maybe wasn’t necessarily my parenting skills that made Aubrey such an easy child, but just her temperament.

We started seeing a speech therapist when Livie was 18 months old. She consistently had issues with fluid in her ears and ear infections, and we needed to get two different sets of tubes in her ears before she was five. We also noticed that we had to push her more to reach her milestones than we had to with our first child. When Livie was in Kindergarten, she was diagnosed with moderate ADHD along with some significant sensory deprivations. We entered the world specialized pediatricians, physical therapists, different speech therapist, as well as figuring out which medication and dosage would be best for her to use. Oh, and I forgot mention I had two more babies at home. To be honest, I was completely overwhelmed.

I have a degree in psychology, with an emphasis in developmental psychology. I worked at a school for children with special needs while my husband and I lived near Chicago. Upon returning to my hometown in Iowa, I worked for an agency that assisted individuals with special needs. I can write an IEP with the best of them, know all of the theory behind ADHD, and know exactly what I am “supposed to do.” However, I had never parented a child with ADHD. I had never put a child in bed at 8:30, only to find they are still awake at 11:30 because they couldn’t rest their mind. I never had to figure out which medication was best or even if medication was the correct treatment for my child. I never had to watch a child bounce between not being able to concentrate because they were under medicated to being a zombie because they are over medicated, and know that it was because of a decision I made. I was never the final authority on any of the decisions made for those I worked with because I wasn’t their parent or guardian.

liviekuiperAfter learning Livie’s diagnosis, I took several deep breaths, and my husband and I decided we were going to figure it out as we went along and pray for the best. Basically, we were going to wing it. I re-read every chapter about the treatment of ADHD from every textbook I had in college. I started an ADHD Pinterest board, and did as much research there, as well as online I possibly could. I read every learning, behavior and modification book I could get my hands on. I have some friends who have children with ADHD, and I asked them a million questions. My husband Dave did his own research and we came together often to discuss what would be best for Livie. Although at first we had no idea what we were doing, we knew we wanted the best for all of our kids, and we were going to respond appropriately to what they need.

Slowly but surely, we started figuring some things out. We had a lot of failures but we had a lot of successes as well. We were blessed with some wonderful people who came beside us to help us figure out what is best for Livie. We have been blessed with wonderful and understanding teachers who help Livie in any way they can. The school our kids attend could not be more supportive. Every day an aide Livie’s school brings her to a sensory room to help with some of her sensory needs. We are so grateful that the school is choosing to respond to some of her sensory needs in this way as opposed to ignoring her needs and saying “Well, that’s just the way that Livie is.” We love our pediatrician and our physical therapist. Our family has been such a blessing to us, helping us out in anyway they can.

Like all parents, my husband and I have spent many hours talking about the best way to parent all four of our kids. We recognize that we would parent our kids differently whether Livie had ADHD or not. Kids are different and what works for one may not work for the other. We are still learning and growing with our kids every day.  When we look at Livie in specific, we have seen a huge change only in her, and in us, as parents, in the past eight years. I am reminded every day how blessed I am to help her navigate through this beautiful mess of life we are all in and how lucky I am to be her mom.

About the Author
  • Sarah Kuiper is a 2001 graduate of Dordt, wife, work-from-home mother of four kids, runner, and an avid fan of Chicago-style pizza, Jen Hatmaker, and “Fixer Upper.”

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  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Sarah. Thanks for working hard to make a big difference in the lives of your children as well as the lives of the children for whom you care each day. May God continue to bless you!