M is a child who needs to be active. Too much sitting around, especially exercising his thumbs (aka playing computer games), makes him go a bit stir-crazy. This is not unique to him – exercise and fresh air is good for all of us. But for a child with ADHD, who is naturally a little frenetic, getting outside every day is a must.
This isn’t a problem during the week as he goes outside for recess twice a day for at least 20 minutes at school, then again for 45 minutes to an hour at his aftercare program. So he’s getting the recommended 60 minutes per day and then some.
But weekend are a different story. He used to play for hours with a group of neighbourhood kids, but they are a bit older and less interested in imaginary games and more in just hanging out. These days M pretty much refuses to go outside and play. Or go bike riding. Or walk the dog. He will walk down the street to get ice cream but that’s about it.
Last weekend was a perfect case in point. Friday was the first day of the Easter long weekend and M went over to a friend’s – he said they went outside, but who knows how much time they actually spent outdoors? He stayed inside most of Saturday, except for accompanying us on a few errands. On Saturday night, I told M we were going to do something outside on Sunday.
Sunday looked like a nice day – sunny and not too cold. Both his dad and I reminded M we were going out in the afternoon. He seemed to be listening.
However, when I announced that we were going to go for a walk at a dog park not too far from our house at 2pm, M balked.
M: I’m not going.
Me: Yes, you are. We discussed this. You knew we were going to do something outside.
M: I’m not going. I want to stay inside all day.
Me: Fresh air is good for you. You were inside all day yesterday.
M: I don’t want to go in the car with the dog. He smells.
Me: He’s just been to the vet’s and had a bath. We will put him in the back so you don’t have to sit beside him.
M: I don’t want to walk the dog.
Me: Would you rather go for a bike ride?
M: No, I’m not going anywhere.
We went back and forth like this for a few more minutes. I know M feels a bit lonely when he doesn’t have a friend to play with. I kept trying to convince him that a little exercise, even a walk, would help him feel better. He wasn’t buying. So I upped the ante and offered to pay M $5 if he didn’t feel better after the walk (I was getting desperate and the dog really needed a walk).
M: But what if I don’t feel better?
Me: All you have to do is tell me you feel better and you’ll get the money.
M: But what if I don’t feel better?
Me: You will.
M: No, I won’t.
At this point, we had been negotiating for at least 20 minutes. I offered him the $5 no matter if he felt better or worse after our walk. A better parent might have just walked away and taken the dog out alone. But I was in for a penny, why not go for the whole pound? Sometimes it is hard to take the high road, even if it is the “adult” thing to do.
So we finally got in the car, the dog ensconced in the back of our hatchback and M with his iPod. The dog park wasn’t far away but we had never been there before. Since if was a nice day, it was busy. Dogs and people everywhere. We started walking around, following the trails that ran around the edge of the park. M found a long stick and started carrying it around with him. After about 10 minutes, he came up beside me and said: “Mommy, you were right. I do feel better.”
I controlled my impulse to jump up and down and pump my fist. I told him I was glad he was feeling better and that I was glad we were all out together. And yes, he could still have the $5.
We walked around the park for about 45 minutes. The dog was exhausted by the excitement of seeing so many other dogs in one place; he spent the rest of the day sleeping in the front hallway. M wasn’t quite as tired out but he was in a good mood for the rest of the day.
Sometimes, Mom does know best.