Help! What do I do about “award envy” (everyone else’s kid but mine is getting one).

Recently, a mom wrote about her feelings as she sat through her son’s middle school graduation feeling horrible while ‘what seems like every student in the school (except her child)’ got awards. She pointed out that these ceremonies are certainly enough for any parent to an ADHD child to say, “I Quit!” or “I didn’t sign up for this!” or “I’m ashamed!” or “I’m so fearful for my child’s future!” or, “I hope they can function in High School!” –and she didn’t know what to do about it.

Her post really hit home because as they say, I’ve definitely “been there, done that!” I felt that same way quite often when my son with ADHD was a teen–feeling sorry for myself and for him (often thinking, “Why me?” and “Why him?!”; feeling mad, sad, guilty, discouraged…and very worried that he might not make it out of high school let alone out in the ‘real world’. And I definitely felt like a failure and that all eyes were on me judging me because at the time, I was a school counselor and I thought (and figured everyone else was thinking it too): “If anyone’s kid should do well in school, a school counselor’s kid should!!” Ugh. Those were rough times.

The good news

The good news is that my son is not only a high school and college graduate (with Honors), but he’s now a teacher (yes, the kid who did not do well academically and hated school back then now ‘goes to school’ every day willingly and has a lot to offer his students due to learning how to deal with and/or overcome his ADHD-relate challenges!) So I can say without a doubt that there is definitely hope.

But I can say without a doubt that it may not be on your time frame or go in the way you think it should. One of the most important things my son told me was, “Mom, I had to get there on my own, in my own way in my own time.”

Expectations are resentments under construction

In terms of how this mom was feeling, it reminds me of a quote I recently saw:

“Expectations are resentments under construction.” (Anne Lamott)

As parents, we all have hopes (which I think are actually expectations in disguise) for our kids; and when they don’t live up to them, it’s easy to wind up feeling disappointed and resentful (and sometimes even feel like we’re grieving…which is maybe some of what she was experiencing in that audience).

What helped me when I was in the throes of all that envy, resentment, disappointment, etc. was to realize that it was my thoughts causing me to feel bad, not my circumstances. As I explain in much more detail in my new book, every feeling can be traced back to a thought so in order to feel better, I didn’t have to change my son or what was going on, I just had to think better-feeling thoughts. (If you’d like to try this for yourself, you can download a free worksheet HERE.)

While the advice-seeker’s son may never be what would be considered a “great student”, her thoughts about this, (“It’s not fair”, “Others are judging me as a bad mom,” etc.) are what is making her feel awful. If she could change her thoughts (for example, if she could think (and believe) instead, “Although academics is not his strength, he has others gifts and abilities. e.g., is he loving and caring to others? Artistic? Funny and creative? Etc.) or, “Kids with ADHD are behind several years developmentally. Maybe he just needs time to get in the groove”),  she will feel a lot better.

What really matters

Since we can’t change what our kids do or don’t do, the best thing we can do as parents is to find a way to feel good now no matter what our kids do or don’t do and to focus on having a healthy, strong relationship with them  so that they will lean on us when they need to and they will know in their hearts that we believe they are good, and valuable and love-able exactly the way they are. That is what will serve them well as an adult; not some award on the wall from middle school.