My Ugly Truth About Parenting a Difficult Child (AKA Writing While Mothering)


I have a confession to make.  Revealing this is not easy for me—

“Mommy!  Alex is outside.  You HAVE to let me play with him,” squealed my seven year old through the wide open front door, as a million bugs danced a conga line into my living room.

“Ok, Max.  But, stay in the yard.”

“Why do I have to stay in the yard all the time?”

He was gone before I could answer.

I have a confession to make.  Revealing this is not easy for me, but I’m afraid if I keep it in any longer—

“You want me to pick up dinner on the way home?” texted my husband.


I have a confession to make.  Revealing this is not easy for me, but I’m afraid if I keep it in any longer, I’ll lose my mind.

“What do you want?”

“Surprise me.” I texted back.

There’s this kid who lives next door.  He’s 5.  He’s polite, kind, and cooperative.  As kids go, he’s damn near perfect.

Even though my only child has most of the qualities that his five year old best friend Alex does, most people don’t get to see that side, because he has a touch of what they call oppositional defiance disorder.  It’s a complicated diagnosis, but in simple terms, he basically says NO to every—

[Ding Dong]

Who the hell is at the door?  Maybe they’ll just go away.

—thing.  Not just the typical things kids resist like brushing their teeth, taking a bath, or eating their—

[Ding Dong, Ding Dong]


“Hello, ma’am, I’m from the blah blah blah …”

When did I become a ma’am? 

“Sorry, not interested.”  I said, closing the door.

Fucking solicitors.

—vegetables.  He also objects to things he really enjoys, like ice cream or going to the movies.  And by objects, I mean he will fling-himself-on-the-floor-at-Target-screaming-bloody-murder-so-the-entire-world-thinks-you’re-the-world’s-worst-parent type of objection.

The thing I’m loath to admit is I—

“Mommy!  Alex is trying to get me to ride bikes, but I don’t WANT TO RIDE BIKES!”

Fuck my life.

“Max, you don’t have to ride bikes if you don’t want to.  You could ride your scooter instead.”

“I HATE my scooter,” he screeched like a howler monkey.

He loves his scooter.

“Time to eat.  I’ve got Chinese food,” said his dad, having just arrived home.

“No!  I HATE Chinese food!” Max said, kicking the curb.

He doesn’t.

“I am NOT eating that!”

I left him there with his father, wondering how many times he’d kick the curb ’til it drew blood or tears.

—hate him.

I hate my son’s best friend, not because he’s bad, but because of how good he is.

How his mother never has to ask him more than once to brush his teeth, comb his hair, or get in the motherfucking bathtub.

How he picks up all of the toys at the end of playtime without arguing.

How he is going off to Kindergarten this year and will be THAT child in the first row sitting crisscross applesauce and hanging on the teacher’s every word, while children like mine are made to sit in a chair 8 feet away from all the other kids because they “fail to obey classroom rules.”

He also won’t be rejected by the other children or teased relentlessly for being “difficult” or a “troublemaker.”

What bothers me most about having Alex around is it shines a Broadway-sized spotlight on my child’s imperfections on a daily basis.


Please let it be tears and not blood this time.

“Mommy!  It hurts!  I neeeeeeed a Bandaid!”

Oh my fucking god.

“Okay, I’ll get–”

“I’ll get you one!” Alex interrupts, tearing off toward his house.

He comes running back with an entire box of Bandaids, leaving a trail of them on the lawn.

It shines the spotlight on me as well, revealing how flawed I am as a person, as a mother, in not appreciating and showing patience toward this five year old child.  I just wish it wasn’t my son who was always seen as the surly, disagreeable one.  You know?

“You wanna smash Matchbox cars?” asked Alex.

“Sure!  Great idea,” said Max.

“Awesome.  You’re my best friend in the whoooole world,” said Alex.

“You’re mine too,” said Max.

“I am?” said Alex.

“Yeah, sure you are,” said Max with a grin.

Chinese food straight out of the carton never tasted so good.


I am honored that this piece was featured on Discover by WordPress and chosen as one of their “Best of 2016” in the Parenting category!

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130 thoughts on “My Ugly Truth About Parenting a Difficult Child (AKA Writing While Mothering)

  1. I don’t know. I always liked the naughty ones – they have more character! 😉
    (From an ex naughty kid who also made straight As, went to uni and got 2 degrees and now has a corporate job!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was told so perfectly. Every note of it rings so true of toddlers of all shapes and sizes. I was that perfect kid – front row, teacher’s pet. I never realized how much it alienated everyone around me until it was too late. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The structure and title let us know that this is really two stories: about trying to write how you feel about your son and then the actual story about how you feel. Nicely done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Confession – I rolled my eyes when I read the title and thought, “Not another woman complaining about how she has no time to write because she has a kid and not another person writing about writing.” Thank you for shattering my expectations.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right??? I though the SAME thing when I put that title on. Thanks for admitting that and making me feel not so alone in the universe where every mother seems to be writing the same damn essays over and over and over…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. Thanks. And then there are days Ike today when I’m so exhausted the thought of doing anything more than just the bare minimum I have to spend it mostly in quiet contemplation. life is truly a roller coaster.


  4. I think most moms feel inadequate and not-so-good at one point or the other in parenting life-time. But it is okay to feel so. I loved your story within story style of writing.


  5. Oh Lisa, you have no idea how this resonated with me and you are not alone! While my son was not diagnosed with ODD (but it was on the table for a short while), his ASD tendencies when sometimes compared to other kids makes me feel the same way.


      1. Absolutely I have a puppy and he throws toys on my lap, jumps on my keyboard, plays with my toes every 10 mins lol


  6. So appreciate the honesty of this. If it helps, I can relate in my own way, and I think many can, but just wouldn’t dare to express it. Fantastic play in conveying the story, too. Thank you!


  7. This post is beyond awesome. I love how it was in real-time. I’m a father and I can relate. My oldest son is defiant, and right now I’m chalking it up to him being at that age where he wants to see how far he can push things and what he can get away with. He really does like helping out around the house and whatnot, but he also likes to say “no” and likes to do things “when he feels like it” and being the father, and the first/most important male figure in his life, I have to let him know what’s tolerated and what’s not. He gets away with waaaaaaay more with his mother than he does with me, but I hear it every day. I’m doing my best to keep my eye on him and see if it’s a more serious thing, or if it’s a phase that he’s going through because he’s 8 and easily influenced by kids in his school/class that lie and talk about how free and cool they are at home and how they have $1,000,000 worth of toys and he doesn’t.



  8. Reading your post, I was reminded of a meme on FB a couple weeks ago: “Don’t compare yourself to other moms. We’re all a hot mess. Some just hide it better.”

    I loved your article, but I quickly thought of the neighbor kiddo, and his mother – I’m sure they have their moments and days where they struggle, and the mom is pulling her hair out. Having worked with kiddos with an ODD diagnosis, and their mothers, I know your frustrations are real, and constant. Hang in there!!

    And, perhaps because of your struggles, you are better able to appreciate the silver lining when there is a sweet moment (like the ending of your post). Just a thought!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Love the fact tat you are open and honest about your feelings, first time hearing of this disorder but i am sure it can be difficult at times to deal with, without losing patience(just out of frustration, not that yo don’t love your boy unconditionally)Very good and candid piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love this. You captured for me, the whole real people livin’ life vibe which is what I connect to the most and also enjoy reading the most. I am still finding my voice here but reading blog posts like yours continues to build my confidence; claarly, there are real people writing and that I too, can muse. A thousand thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You are so welcome. I am following. i feel like vomiting sometimes after hitting
    Publish because I haven’t found too many blogs that just say it, if you will. I told my husband tonight that I should delete my most recent post and stop writing (I’m highly emotional and often irrational). Cheetos fixed that.

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. I bet Alex’s mum is over there thinking “if only Alex were as xxxx as Max… “! I also have a 5yo son and he’s generally a lovely kid but So. Much. No. 🙂


    1. Well…. Okay, fine. Max does have his good qualities. He does, but that doesn’t make for very good story-telling. Lol! And you are SO right, “So. Much. No.” Indeed. Makes me want to scream … alot.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Very well written, definitely feels like you were inside my head writing down everything I’ve thought. Except…well, my son doesn’t have any neighbors to play with and even if he did, he probably wouldn’t want to. He has “O.D.D.” as well, inside autism. Good times.

    *hug* Thank you for being REAL!


    1. I’m telling you, every day is a challenge around here. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, ya know? As for being real? Well, that’s evolving. I still have to tell the neighbors about this story before they find out accidentally. Yikes. Wish me luck…


      1. Every day is a challenge here, as well. Being real is difficult for the majority of people, as the fear of what others see can be great. Trying to overcome this is a challenge most don’t undertake. 🙂
        Good luck with the neighbors lol!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I absolutely love this! From start to finish. The story, the delivery, the message. I have my own parenting issues these days and my suggestion to everyone is don’t have teenagers… I’ll take terrible 2’s again just to avoid this next phase of life!


  16. Wow, love your writing. It’s so raw and honest. As a fellow non-fiction writer, I appreciate real-ness and honesty in writing more than anything. There’s a certain raw beauty that can be captured in non-fic that can’t be found anywhere else.

    I’ve just been getting started writing non-fic here myself, and hopefully I’ll be able to capture the honesty of life just HALF as well as you have. Thank you for sharing!


    1. Thanks so much! You MUST check out It’s a writing community that hosts weekly writing contests in non-fiction, fiction, and micro-story formats and its FREE. The people there are SO supportive and talented and inspiring and way, way more. Without the, I would never have gotten this far. (There’s nothing in it for me for recommending them, btw. I hate it when people do that!) 🙂


    1. (apparently it post WAAAY too soon – what the heck keyboard, backspace isn’t enter!)

      I was diagnosed with ODD as a kid (it may have been a misdiagnosis though, since it turns out I am autistic) and every third word I said at his age was probably “No!” It’s like when you’re poked and you say ‘ow’ even if it didn’t hurt but it *could* have, your brain is filling in a gap. Except unlike the ‘ow’ which lacks pain, the urge to say no comes with the very real emotions of not wanting to do something.

      Don’t worry if you’re not always the most understanding at all times, just try, if you’re trying he’ll forgive you. Trust me.
      Also while all teenagers are usually hell on wheels, it’s totally possible that Max will actually start to get more impulse control, which little kids are sorely lacking in, at around that point (I did) and you’ll see improvements instead. Good luck, and seriously nice writing style. I kinda wanna do something as a back and forth like this as well…

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Well written, oh I had tears. My son is the brilliant child who just needs to be reminded 20 times not do something. It is in this story, I had an aha moment. I Love it, I LOVE it, I LOVE it! !!!!! GREAT JOB

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Your POV captured the struggles you face in a ”simple’ afternoon playdate.Until now I was unaware of Oppositional Defiance Disorder – certainly will realign my thoughts when faced with similar situations in the future. Thank you for this educational post. Brava!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. My daughter isn’t really a problem child. Yes she throws her fits and there are kids out there who listen way better than she does. What drives me insane is that I don’t know what to do with that. She doesn’t like baths, but only cause she doesn’t like water in her ears. She won’t eat most sweets. All she eats is veggies and fruits. I don’t know how to feed a child who only eats vegetables and fruits when I love meat.
    She says please and thank you, though not all the time. She knows her abcs and 123s. She has an amazing memory.

    But she is two.

    I hate it when people tell me how perfect she is and tries to get me to do things. Put her in modeling. Be happy that she doesn’t like sweets and is easy to calm down when she is upset. She doesn’t throw a fit when it is time to go. Takes her medicine. Goes to bed like she is suppose to and will sometimes tell me she needs to lay down way before bedtime.
    Having what people view as a ‘near perfect’ child isn’t easy. Sometimes I wish she would throw a few more fits. Tell someone to shut up. Punch someone. My parenting classes did not prepare me for this.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Writing liberates the soul and your deepest soul you reveal
    It’s amazing how you right and get it picturing and identifying ourselves in each character..
    Being loved by teachers makes you hated by friends but that isolation you might get use to it..
    Food for thought…
    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Lovely.
    Incidentally, I was Alex many decades ago. I am sure many parents hated my guts as did many kids, whose parents started any conversation with them with “look at LG, why can’t you be like her”.
    Oh well, it takes all sorts to make the world,no?

    Liked by 1 person

  22. OhMyGosh. Hahahaha! You remind me of myself when I deal with kids. I’m not a mom, but I am s teacher. 😁 So, I’m partly a mom in some ways. 😁

    You told your story beautifully. Your descriptions were spot on. And, breaking your paragraphs with conversations here and there is genius! 👏 You perfectly depicted how it is to live with a kid!

    Overall, I enjoyed it. I loved it, actually. I totally admire your work. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well thank you! Teachers are the ultimate parents l, as you guys spend more hours with our kids than we do. Your influence can be felt not only in the classroom but throughout their lives. ❤️


  23. Congrats to you for sharing. Its so challenging to raise a child who is out of the box. My son is my sunshine but I struggle SO much with trying to understand what is happening within him. This parenting thing is the hardest job experience in the world but everyday is a new day to begin anew.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Wow! Where were you when I was just becoming a mom? Thank you for the “real” in your post. I can not only relate, I have to laugh, because you just remind me of the me after my first two. I figured if I didn’t break the first two, I had a pretty good chance the following ones would be fine and probably wouldn’t end up on the Dr. Phil show one day. Great post!


  25. Thank you! Until this moment I thought I had this secret that I was the MOST horrid person ever for those thoughts. I have 3 (grown now) adhd, aspergers, and odd kiddos

    Maybe it’s the shame and the blame of holding it all in that I can change 🙂
    When I can’t change anything else 🙂
    Just have tears rolling down my face. Let me know if you ever need to borrow me to vent 🙂


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