ADD, ADHD, or Just Plain Old Normal Boy?

Age-ism. Sexism. Racism. Boyism?

A tale of two friends. Friends of mine. Women who don’t know each other, but are dealing with a similar situation in very different, and very appropriate ways. R.’s son, a fantabulous six year old with a great sense of humor and a creative flair, has been diagnosed with ADD since he was around four years old; she tried drug therapies, but decided he was too young, and managed his symptoms without pharmacology.

Fast forward to this week, where his teachers have very gently suggested that the little guy’s ADD is interfering with his classwork and social interactions, and so his mother has decided to try the lowest dose of Ritalin that is prescribed for this illness. She and his doctor will watch him and adjust the medication as necessary, with the goal of aiding him in being a focussed, attentive little kid. One of R’s biggest sorrows is not that her child has to be medicated; she understands the value of the therapy. What’s upsetting her is that she feels this is her fault, that because she herself is ADD, she has done something to her child.

Now, that would be like a nearsighted mother wailing over the fact that her child needs glasses, in my opinion. I was the kid no one knew needed glasses. I didn’t know I was supposed to be able to see the board, or all the leaves on the trees. But not being able to see caused me some difficulties socially, physically, and academically.

I believe in using medications judiciously to correct chemical imbalances in the human body. What I take exception to is this next dilemma, facing a new friend of mine, E., with whom I had coffee today. Her four year old boy is a wild child. I’ve known him since he was not even two years old, and have watched him grow. He and his siblings are hysterically funny, stubborn, independent little blonde streaks on the playground. He is a strong-willed, emotional, intense little guy. His school doesn’t want to deal with him, and so, I suspect, they have come up with this trump card of ADD to say, “Medicate him and we’ll keep him in school.” What’s the difference between friend R’s and friend E’s situations? Well, E’s son hasn’t been diagnosed with ADD. IN fact, when she called him, angry and upset, to tell him what her son’s teachers had said, he said, “Oh for crying out loud.” He doesn’t think the child has ADD. He thinks the kid is a normal, high-spirited boy.

The child’s teachers are incompetent. They regularly call E. to tell her to talk to him. So of course he doesn’t listen to them. He doesn’t respect them, and nor should he. If we tell our children to deal with conflicts between them and their friends, then their teachers should be able to manage the children, too. None of this, “Well, I told him to sit down three times and he isn’t listening to me. You tell him,” bs that this kid’s school is pulling on them. They rang her home and mobile phones like the school was on fire just to tell her, no, there were no torn limbs, broken heads, fire, floods, or famine, but simply a child who wasn’t listening to his whining, drivelling, powerless, ineffectual teacher.

At my son’s school, I take what they say about him–and what he says about them–with a grain of salt. If he is sad in the afternoon and tells me he got two time outs, I can win money on the fact that he was in a certain teacher’s aide’s care in the aftercare program. I tell him not to worry about those time outs too much, cause she just punishes kids because she doesn’t know how to handle them. Time outs in his teacher’s class, though, are a different story. Those we take seriously, because I know that teacher’s methods include love, respect, communication, and opportunities. My son could easily be declared ADD by an adult who didn’t want to take the time to connect with him. He has a very strong sense of justice, of his place in the world, and thinks he deserves an equal share of the life that swirls around him. I just think he’s a proud, strong, confident boy. Shall I whisper it loudly? I think it’s time the pendulum swung back to the middle again, and we as a society began to recognize, celebrate, and honor the differences between the sexes, stopped trying to treat everyone as equal, and began giving the male of the species his sword and sheild back, to weild as protectors of the weak, champions of truth, and hunters of the sun. I also think we should let every wild haired maiden who feels the wild blood sing in her run on that warrior’s quest, and every liquid-eyed boy whose greatest love is home and hearth should be allowed to nurture without fear of ridicule.

But that’s just me. So bravo to each of these wonderful mothers, for knowing their sons well, and doing what is best for each of them. And booooooo to the teachers who want all the children in their classrooms to behave. Especially those who want their kids to all behave the same way.

ADD, ADHD, Child health, control, Culture, diagnosis, Education, gender bias, gender differences, medication, motherhood, Mothering, parenting, sedation