I recently had the pleasure of reading the book, “Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories” (DRT Press, 2012). Co-Edited by Kay Marner and Adrienne Ehlert Bashista (You may know them, they’re kind of a big deal around here), this book stirred up such a huge range of emotions and memories of my experiences raising my own “ETL” (Easy to Love) son. I knew I was in trouble when I found myself crying while reading the Foreword, beautifully written by Dr. Ed Hallowell, ADHD guru and author of one of my favorite ADHD books, “Superparenting for ADHD.” Kleenex in hand, I forged on.
The book is a collection of true stories written by parents who are raising children with a variety of conditions (ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Sensory Processing Disorder just to name a few). The conditions and names may differ, but it’s the depth of love they have for their children that ties all of it together. The book is structured around the idea of “Eve”- a parent raising an Easy to Love but Hard to Raise child. Eve is all of us – the Everyparent. Eve’s stories are eerily similar to mine, and I am willing to bet Eve’s stories are quite similar to yours as well. Having the Eve element in the book is quite brilliant, because Eve provides a standard, a constant to which I could reflect my own experiences.
When my son was diagnosed with ADHD, I felt incredibly alone. I didn’t know anyone who was going through a similar experience, and I didn’t have support groups available to me. Reading this book is like sitting down with a friend who will tell you all the gory details – the good, the bad and the ugly. These are parents who have been through it all, and they’re not glossing over anything. You will read about parents who cry themselves to sleep. Parents who are judged by others. Parents who judge themselves. Parents who aren’t afraid to admit that at times, they want to leave it all behind. Parents dealing with the opinions of doctors, schools, parents, friends, relatives and bosses. Parents who found a glimmer of hope amidst so much hardship. Real, honest parents - such a breath of fresh air in a world that always seems to sweep uncomfortable stuff under the rug.
There wasn’t one story I couldn’t identify with in some way. Some favorite moments for me were:
Cringing while reading Jeanne Kraus’ essay, “More Cory Stories,” when she described being unable to relax and enjoy herself at social events because she was too focused on her son’s behavior (I do that).
Feeling Rachel Penn Hannah’s desperation in her essay, “Butterflies,” as she shared that popular parenting techniques didn’t work on her daughter (I felt that).
Wanting to stop time when Frank South scared the bejeezus out of me with his essay, “An ADHD Horror Story,” detailing his son’s choices with alcohol (I’m sooo not ready for that).
Reminding myself while reading Penny Williams’ essay, “Self Reflection,” that it’s too easy for me to lose myself in what I call “The Tidal Wave of My Life.”
Crying while reading Adrienne Ehlert Bashista’s essay “Dominoes” in which she admits that some days she wants to get in the car and drive away from her ETL son (I’ve had more than one day where I have actually been afraid to get on the highway for fear that I may end up in Denver).
Smiling while reading Laura Grace Weldon’s essay, “Walking Away,” about her journey to homeschooling her son (Wish I’d done it earlier).
“Easy to Love but Hard to Raise” isn’t just anecdotal. The Co-Editors did an excellent job of rounding up experts in the mental health field (and in the special needs community) to answer some hard and substantial questions about diagnosis, medication, school, caregiving, stress, socialization, education, and so much more. The back of the book also has an excellent list of books and resources if you are wanting to learn more.
My only complaint is that I didn’t have “Easy to Love but Hard to Raise” available to me seven years ago. I would have read this book over and over again just so I didn’t feel so isolated. I will recommend this book to the people I know who are parenting a special-needs child, and will also recommend it to applicable clients as a first-line reading resource.
“Easy to Love but Hard to Raise” is a special book that has the potential to provide comfort to someone who is feeling lost and frustrated about how their child’s diagnosis is impacting their life. This book also has the potential to change the minds and hearts of skeptics who believe we should just crack down harder on our kids and give them a good spanking. It's needed, and I'm so glad it's out there.
The editors and contributors of this book want you to know that they’ve been there, they’ve done that, and they’re here for you. The Co-Editors, Adrienne and Kay, created a Facebook page you can visit to share your own stories and feel supported: https://www.facebook.com/easytolovekids . You can also purchase “Easy to Love but Hard to Raise” on Amazon.com by clicking this link:http://tinyurl.com/easytolovebut .