By now, we all know what ADHD is. We've all heard of it. Some people say its a fictitious disorder to excuse bad behavior, other people understand that the brain is a highly complicated organ. 6.4 million children between the ages of four and seventeen have been diagnosed with ADHD, that's about one in every twenty kiddos. So while its not the "norm", it is rather common.
Millions of parents around the world struggle with children who have ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. That means that millions of people know how difficult parenting these children can be. Still, there are billions of people who have absolutely no clue what it's like.
When my son was born, he wasn't quite what I expected. He wasn't especially needy, he didn't cry a lot... he also didn't sleep very much either.
"I thought babies slept more than this." I cried as a new nineteen year old mother. I didn't understand why my perfect little newborn refused to sleep more than six to eight hours a day.
As my child grew, his behavior continued to baffle me, I had taken care of dozens of children throughout my teenage years, ranging from newborn to about ten years old. At nine months old, he was up and running. This little boy was a mover. It's common for youngsters to explore their surroundings more as they pass certain developmental milestones. Instead of opening cupboards and emptying them, my son was climbing up on the refrigerator. He was scaling walls. I had no idea that a one year old could be so agile. By two years old, my child had fallen from things more times than I could count, usually being more successful in his climbing endeavors.
Close family would ask me why he wasn't potty trained yet. The answer was always the same, "we are working on it."
We worked on it for two more years after that. It wasn't that he was slow, it was quite the opposite. He was always busy learning about the world around him, but learning to use the big boy potty was too boring. At four years, I noticed he had a hard time focusing on projects. At six, he seemed to have no impulse control. He became abnormally aggressive and angry. Life was obviously very frustrating for him. He couldn't comprehend why I didn't understand why he would pee in my washer, or punch his sister, or refuse to sit still for any length of time.
I suspected he had ADHD, after all, I spent eight years of my life with a child who slept six hours each night, hit the ground running when he woke up, bounced off of every wall in the house, had no impulse control, and kept going like the energizer bunny until he crashed at the end of the night. When he officially got his diagnosis, I wasn't in the least bit surprised. It was odd, I actually felt some relief, it was a sort of validation. A small part of me worried that it was just me, unable to handle my "perfectly normal" child. By his sixth birthday he had four younger siblings and none of them displayed the same type of behavior.
I tried everything I could think of to help my son, from changing his diet to taking away his privileges to positive reinforcement. I spent days crying and pleading with him. He would still always manage to get himself into trouble somehow.
Medication was suggested. I hated the idea of medicating my child. I've always believed that a proper diet was the best medicine, for just about everything. I kept it in my mind as a last resort while attempting everything else under the sun. None of it worked.
"If he really can't control himself, it's not fair to him that he's getting in trouble so much." My husband's words hit me hard. Seeing my sweet boy struggle daily was slowly killing me inside and making him more frustrated by the hour. The thought that I couldn't help my own son made me feel ashamed. What am I doing wrong? What does he need? What am I not giving him? The mom guilt was unbearable.
Finally I had the difficult talk with his doctor. We decided that medication was a good treatment option for him. The first time I gave him his pill my heart raced, my stomach flipped, I wanted to scream. As the days passed, giving it to him became a little easier. I knew in my heart that we were working on figuring out what was best for him.
Then something amazing happened, my eight year old son sat and read a book, he read a fifteen chapter book in two days! My little boy, who had a zeal for learning, could focus on something for more than three minutes. FINALLY! It took a few attempts, three tries at different doses, and one change of medicines but it worked! My amazing little boy who had spent years struggling for some self control had finally found it.
This story isn't an uncommon one. It's so easy to shame moms for medicating their children. It's easy to place blame on mom for not controlling her kids, or to accuse her of "taking the easy way out." I can tell you, there is absolutely nothing easy about having to resort to medication for any mother. It's an enormous internal struggle. It's many sleepless nights researching alternatives, facts, symptoms, and suggestions. It's many long days crying and wondering where you've failed your child. It's a hard thing to face. My child may not be "normal", but he absolutely is special.
My son is testing at two grade levels above his own. He's enjoying reading and completing his homework. My son is gaining confidence in his own ability and reaching out to try new things. He's asking for more responsibilities. Maybe it's not for every child with ADHD, but I can honestly say, choosing to medicate my son has been one of the best things I've been able to do for him.