There are many difficulties I have faced as a mother, but I have to say: Parenting a child with ADHD is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
From the time my son could walk, he was always on the move. Even sitting at the table for dinner was hard for him. He never wanted to sit and color, much less do any kind of preschool work.
Parenting a Child With ADHD
I always just thought that was his personality. He was curious, inquisitive, bright, and that energy spilled out of him in the form of motion. I never even considered there could be something wrong.
And then he started kindergarten.
From the first day, my beautiful, bright boy, who loved to learn about new things and couldn’t wait to make friends, was constantly in trouble. He wouldn’t finish his work. “It’s too hard,” he would say. “It’s too boring. I don’t like school. I just want to play.”
We talked about our expectations for school, how we expected the very best from him because we knew what he was capable of. We tried punishments for poor behavior in school. We tried rewards for good behavior.
The day I decided to pursue neuropsychological testing will forever be burned into my mind.
My son had a really bad day at school. He started crying as soon as he climbed into the car. “I’m the bad kid, Mommy,” he said. “I don’t want to be a bad kid. My brain is too busy. It just won’t stop. It tells me to do bad things.”
I remember thinking about stories I’d heard of kids with ADHD and the negative connotations associated with the condition. How parents who medicate their kids are just looking for an easy way out or an excuse for their child’s bad behavior.
That couldn’t be my child, could it?
Turns out that it was.
We opted to go through a private practice for the neuropsychological assessment because we wanted to screen for any other type of learning disabilities or giftedness. After thousands of dollars and dozens of hours, we came back with the results I had suspected all along. It was ADHD.
Should I Medicate My Child With ADHD?
The psychologist said our son was a strong candidate for medication, and so we found a pediatrician specializing in ADHD and began exploring treatment options.
I will never forget the response when some family members found out the diagnosis and our treatment plan. “Why are you drugging your kid?” they asked.
It was a question I struggled with constantly. Was I making the right choice? Would the medication harm him? Would he be the same kid?
In the end, a heart-felt plea from a stranger on the Internet in a forum for parents of children with learning disabilities let me know that this was the right decision for my family.
“As an adult living with ADD/ADHD who is also gifted, I want to share,” she wrote. “It makes my heart hurt when I see loving, engaged parents using all of their best intentions to avoid medication, when I know first hand the hell and torture that ADD is.”
“I do not do so lightly when I say to you that withholding medication and treatment from a child who has ADD/ADHD is no different than withholding insulin from a diabetic or taking a wheelchair away from someone who cannot walk. No matter how good the intentions, no matter how loving the decision, it is damaging and the long term effects on a child are beyond detrimental.”
She goes on to give examples of friends she has with the same conditions who have turned to drug and alcohol abuse, and even suicide, to cope.
I do not ever want that to be my son. So we decided to give medication a try. We started on a low dose to test and see how he responded.
Just The Beginning
The difference in my son after his first dose of ADHD medication was staggering. He could control his body. He could articulate his thoughts. In fact, he spend a three-hour road trip asking us nonstop questions — everything from “Why is the sky blue?” to “Why do our bodies have blood?” He said that he could actually hear his own thoughts. His brain wasn’t spinning anymore.
It felt good, and he finished the school year with no behavior issues. In fact, he earned a class award given to only one student who shows outstanding behavior during the year. It was something I had never dreamed possible at the beginning of the year.
Fast forward a year, and I can tell you that our ADHD journey is just beginning. It’s a new school year, with new teachers, and new challenges. Adjusting medication dosages, trying new medications, and worrying constantly — Are we doing the right thing?
We’ve spent hundreds of dollars on gadgets and gizmos to try to make this burden a little easier — an Octopus smart watch for haptic reminders, weighted blanket to help with sleep, compression shirt to help with sensory issues, chewing necklaces to help with fidgeting, and on and on and on.
We’ve spent thousands of dollars on medication and doctors visits that are barely covered by insurance.
There is self-doubt, there is judgement from the outside world, there is exhaustion from sleepless nights, and there is frustration from parenting a child who seems to never listen to anything you say.
And through it all, I remind myself — he is worth it. His happiness is worth it. His health is worth it.
I have a good kid. And he is worth it.