Last week, I posted my review of the book.
I was also lucky enough to interview Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, who was the publisher and co-editor of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories. As you will read further, she has also faced similar trials and tribulations of parenting a special needs child.
Q. Please tell us more about yourself, especially as a special needs parent.
I am the mom of 2 boys, a 13-year-old and a 10-year old. My 13-year-old is neurotypical (or as neurotypical as an early teenage boy can be!) and my 10 year old, Little J, has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD. FASD is caused by alcohol exposure in utero, and since it’s a spectrum the impact varies, but for Little J it means he’s developmentally delayed, has trouble regulating his emotions, has ADHD, and has cognitive delays. Even though he’s 10 it’s best if he consider him about 5 in terms of maturity and ability.
Being mom to Little J has really informed my life and my writing. He was adopted from Russia, and I have two children’s books about Russian adoption, and now with Easy to Love but Hard to Raise and our next book, Easy to Love but Hard to Teach, I’m writing almost exclusively about the experience of parenting a child with a neuro-behavioral disorder. I’m also slowing trying to start a non-profit that focuses on support for caregivers of children with FASD. It’s called FAFASD. But since I have limited time between my kids (who I homeschool), my writing, and my business I am going slow.
Q. What inspired you to publish this book?
Kay Marner, the other co-editor and I felt like the voices of people who were parenting kids with behavioral challenges wasn’t being heard. In mainstream magazines there were plenty of happy-ending stories, and of course there are always pieces on family tragedies, and lots and lots of how-to/fix-it self-help titles, but nothing from parents themselves. So we wanted to give people a way to express their feelings. That’s how the book came to be.
Q. Which stories did you find most emotionally difficult to include in the book?
That’s a great question. We were lucky because we got such a range of submissions and most of them went really deep, so in that way a lot of them were intense, although that didn’t make them hard to include – just a little hard to read. But this is difficult business, being the parent of a child who struggles so much! I know that when I read my own essay, “Dominoes,” out loud I often have trouble getting through the part where my son says that he just wants to be a normal boy, because this is a huge source of pain for him and I’d give anything to make life easier for him.
Q. I am Eve, but have only made it to kindergarten. I am so glad other parents open up. When I talk to a parent of a neurotypical child, they look at me like I am crazy. Either I am just too controlling over her life and creating this issue or that I am the devil for putting my child on drugs. I have come across from the guilt and the sadness. I am moving towards acceptance and encouragement for us to manage things. Lately our issues are a new awareness to people making fun of her. I am not there when it happens, so I am only hearing her hurt feelings and not the whole story. It is heartbreaking to watch as a parent. Are there any tips on encouraging your child in these types of situations?
This is really hard. I think our biggest difficulty as parents is when our children experience pain, whether or not they have neuro-behavioral difficulties. My son has definitely encountered teasing from kids who don’t understand him or want to give him the benefit of the doubt and I’ve often been at a loss as to what to do about it. And since I’m not a parenting expert (only an expert on parenting stress!) I don’t have a lot of concrete advice for you except that when this has happened to my son I try to talk it through with him and see if there’s anything we can learn about his own behavior and reactions. We work on words to use when and if things like this happen again, and I try to think of nice things I can say to counteract the damage that’s been done by others.
Q. What would you differently with this book if you could do it again?
Not much, honestly. Maybe add an index? Or try to get more essays from men? The criticisms of the book were that the short excerpts, “Eve Speaks,” seemed kind of random, and I get that. We’ll have to consider whether or not we want to include that in the next book, and also that it seems focused on ADHD. That last criticism is kind of nuts, in my humble opinion, because so many of the kids in the book have a number of other diagnoses – yes, including ADHD , but also co-morbid conditions that run the gamut. I would have liked to see more by parents of children with autism and Asperger’s, for sure, but honestly, the book is not about the various syndromes our kids have, it’s about the emotions of parenting a child with invisible disabilities. And in that respect I think we did a pretty good job!
Q. What are you working on now?
The next book that Kay and I are putting together is called Easy to Love but Hard to Teach. It’s about the experience parents have with school as well as the experience educators have when working with our kids. We are in the thick of it right now! It should be out next August. My press, DRT Press, is also putting out another book in the Easy to Love series which is about the experience of living with or caring for an adult with neuro-behavioral issues. Lisa Davis and Tricia Blivens are working on that for us. And I have 2 more projects that I’m hoping to get started on in earnest early next year: one is a book about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and another is about homeschooling children with special needs. Honestly, I really don’t have enough time in my day to get all these things done, but I am determined to fit it all in!
Thank you, Adrienne, for sharing your insight into this wonderful book!
Adrienne Ehlert Bashista is the co-editor of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, and is also the author of two picture books about Russian adoption. She’s had stories, essays, and articles published in a variety of journals, both print and on-line. She is the owner of DRT Press . She was a school librarian for many years before giving it up to devote more time to the rest of her life. She chronicles her adventures raising her son, recently diagnosed with FASD in her blog, A Square Peg, a Round Hole. She also writes for A Mom’s View of ADHD and has a personal website as well. She lives in central North Carolina with her husband, two sons, two dogs, 21 chickens, and a lot of bees. She realizes this biography makes her sound extremely busy, but she wants to assure you she has plenty of time to obsessively Google random interests and to keep up to date with very bad reality television. To read all of Adrienne’s posts on this blog, please click here.