A Letter to My ADHD Son

hand-writtenDear Henry,

I am writing this letter late at night after trying to get you to go to sleep.  Why?  Perhaps someday you will read this and realize that while you were certainly a challenging kid, you bring me endless joy.  Besides, I am so frustrated right now that I thought writing might be therapeutic (after all, I’m a writer – what else would I do?)

You are eight years old now and full of energy.  Before I understood your ADHD, I truly couldn’t figure out where you got all of that non-stop motion.  Ever since you were a baby, you got by on less sleep than other babies your age.  My friends were sympathetic, but they didn’t get it.  In fact, some of my fondest memories of you were in the dead of the night when it was just you and me, up at 3 AM, and you were so sweet.

But back to lately.  I must say that before Dr. Waters diagnosed you with ADHD, I was scared.  You didn’t sleep.  You would dive into a tantrum the way a fish has to get into the water before it dies!  Then, in a flash, you were in my arms, sweet as could be, as if nothing had just happened.  Still at other times, you couldn’t stand to be touched, something that you will come to understand that no parent handles well.  At school, you were the talker, the one who got into trouble almost every day.  Confusion and chaos seemed to overwhelm you.

Your first grade teacher, who happened to be old as dirt, according to other mothers who had her when they were your age, thought something was horribly wrong with you.  She even hinted you might be disabled somehow.  I grew to hate the sound of the phone ringing the same time each afternoon, knowing Mrs. Hitchings was on the other end.

“Mrs. Parks, you must do something about Henry.  Today, he broke into song in class and had the kids singing along.  I simply can’t have that in my class.  Perhaps you need to take him to a psychologist.”

First, Henry, I have to tell you, I thought your singing to your classmates was rather sweet and funny.  It never occurred to me that you were creating chaos!  Hey, your dad s a stand-up comedian – I figured it just ran in the family.  Second, when she hinted that you might be mentally ill, that was the last straw.

“Mrs. Hitchings, how is he doing with his class assignments?  Could he be acting like a first grader, given he is, after all, just a kid?”  She hesitated before admitting that you finished every task before the other kids.  To top it off, you were reading at the third grade level, and had straight A’s.  Pretty impressive, even if it was only the first grade.  Further exploration resulted in my finding out that you got into trouble only after you finished your work.  Could he be bored, I wondered?

Once I heard that, you were pulled out of that school.  Any establishment that requires a kid to fit into a certain mold was not the place for my brilliant, if not goofy kid!  Still, I was left with a nagging feeling that something was not quite right and that you might be suffering without even knowing it.  A responsible parent had to check it out.

Enter Dr. Waters.  Your dad and I decided not to take any chances to help you if you truly needed it.  Dr. Waters asked us a bunch of questions, some of which were:

– Is he always on the go?

– Does he sometimes have trouble focusing and then at other times, he is so focused that when you try to get his attention, he appears to be not listeniong on purpose?

– Is he bright, funny, creative?

– Does he have trouble calming down, sleeping, etc?

– Does he have difficulty with change?

– Is he easily overwhelmed by a lot of stimulation?

He asked plenty more questions, but eventually, he put a name to what was wrong:  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  At first, the name scared us, but Dr. Waters just smiled.  “This is not a death sentence by any stretch of the imagination.”  By the time you read this, Henry, you will already know everything there is to know about ADHD, but we were new to this, and we needed that reassurance!

We read everything he recommended and let him help us with a plan for treatment.  The goal?  – To help you learn to control your troubling symptoms by channeling them into productive skills while refusing to sacrifice your personality.  An extra plus was that Dr. Walters, unlike most doctors, didn’t think medication was the answer for ADHD kids – only later did I realize we had gotten lucky with this doc since most believe meds are the only way!

For the most part, the treatment plan works like a charm.  On some days, I still want to pull my hair out and wonder if medication wouldn’t be easier that watching your diet, monitoring your schedule, and helping you maintain good coping skills.

You have trouble getting calmed and going to sleep.  You have
meltdowns at the most unexpected times.  You seem to feel things
deeply, and while this is usually a good thing, you can be overly
sensitive at times.  You can be impossible to reach when you are doing
activities that interest you.  Today was one of those days – perhaps
it’s my fault.  After all, there are some days when I just don’t have
the ability to deal with what you are feeling and doing.

But most days, it occurs to me that I have THE coolest kid in the world!

You are extremely bright.  You are funny and dramatic.  You are intuitive beyond belief.  You have more imagination in your little finger than I have in my whole body!  You are outgoing, never shy, and you always want others to be comfortable.  You attack most everything with gusto.

You ooze with eagerness and curiosity.  Your capacity for love is something we should all be so lucky to have.  ADHD?  For me, it’s become a gift, not a burden.  Yes, it requires perseverance in order to monitor and regulate your symptoms.  My advice to you?  Focus not on the “bad” parts except to manage them.  Emphasize your “positive” parts because, trust me, they far outweigh the negatives!

Henry, you are a terrific kid, and if I may say so myself (Ok, I am your mom, and of course I’d say this!), you are perfect just the way you are.  Without ADHD, would you be the same little boy I have right now?  I am not sure, but I DO know one thing – I never want to find out!