I call myself “ADDle-brained” because I have ADHD, Type Inattentive. My mind is in a constant whirl, an endless loop of, “Look there’s a kitteh!” moments. It’s befuddling. Those of you who suffer from it know the confusion it can cause, sometimes leading to secondary conditions such as depression, anxiety, etc. But here my focus is on what it’s like to be an ADDle-brained mother raising two sons with ADHD. For resources on understanding ADHD in children, I recommend Kids Health, CHADD, and Dr. Edward Hallowell‘s sites.
First is my elder son, “Victor.” He has ADHD Combination Type–inattentive and hyperactive. I suspected his behavior starting in kindergarten, but could not get an official diagnosis until age eight. It was actually a relief to get the test results because: 1) it was scientific validation of my mother’s intuition; 2) there was a reason for my son’s “odd” behavior not attributable to “bad parenting”; and 3) now that I had a diagnosis I could tackle the situation with full force and bring out my son’s inner genius. We’ve tried many techniques besides medication. Talk, play, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, an experiment at Yale New Haven’s Child Center, adjustments in his diets, supplements, blah, blah, blah, everything except super expensive biofeedback. In the end, my son outgrew his hyperactive physical behavior. At 18, he is about to graduate from his private school, which provided specialized tutoring, and head to college this autumn. He will shine in his major, computer game programming, because the electronic world is where he becomes Neo inside the Matrix. He is a whip smart hacker techie and that world is his domain.
I will be frank that I am worried about how he will do, more than a protective Tiger Mom/lioness. You see, I’m having flashbacks to when I soared off to college with no knowledge, support, and only a nagging fear that somehow I knew I would fail without the tight structure of high school. But when I reach that point of thinking — or writing — I gotta jerk myself back and remember he is not me, his life is not my life. So I will sit by, wait patiently, and spend the next four months enjoying my Mom annoyance. By “Mom annoyance,” I mean the picking up after a trail of discarded socks and electronic devices, a sink of dirty dishes, and empty soda cans. I will miss those nasty socks come September.
My second son, “Ezra,” is a different story, or so we thought. He seemed to be textbook as far as development was concerned, very bright, and very predictable in his development. His fourth grade teacher sought him out to be screened for the gifted and talented program. He was the easy child, and therefore had to pull behind in the shadow of his older (by four and half years) brother, Victor, the squeaky wheel.
All was well when we entered him into a traditional private middle school that was known for its academic rigor — until this year, his eighth grade. It’s a whole different ball of wax now. I noticed the lack of focus starting in mid-seventh grade, and this year it turned into full on, “Huh, what?” daze. I knew that look. It’s the same one I have. So I pulled Ezra into testing with the same doctor/counselor/educational advocate that we’ve used for eleven years. Nobody else believed there was anything going on with Ezra because he’s: 1) the textbook kid, as I labeled him (bad assumption there, Mom); 2) does not possess the same hyperactivity as his brother; and 3) is a high honors student. Mom’s intuition was spot-on again. I am not blaming the other parties and I am actually grateful that they — family, teachers, administration, and friends — have such positive feelings about Ezra, and his brother too. It’s that I have to be their advocate — a job better suited to a rottweiler than a mild-mannered model minority little Chinese woman like myself. I’ve learned to channel that Tiger Mom and lioness energy and harness it, bring to up to the surface where I can roar. It’s definitely much easier this round because I’ve done all the hard work with Victor, who by birthright had to be the sometimes unfortunate guinea pig. So far for Ezra, he only needs some low dosage short-term meds and tutoring in time management and organization skills.
Most of the time I feel like Helen Keller in charge of a three-ring circus, each ring representing our particular ADHD needs. It’s draining. I’m past the point of blaming myself, genetics, environment, or anyone or anything else for our condition. It is what it is. I spent too much energy in the past trying to educate others, getting them to see my point of view, all in the name of getting them onboard. This approach fatigued them as much as it did me. Now I’m about paring things down to the essentials: leaving lots of grace period between activities for emergencies; checking schedules and re-checking them; making lists galore in all media; taking breaks to just be quiet. And I refuse to care if ignorant people don’t see what work I do day-to-day. It’s all inside my head, you see. Do you really want a view of Helen Keller’s 3-ring circus?