Years ago–prior to my seven-year-old son Edgar’s official diagnosis of ADHD–I broached the possibility with his pediatrician. A host of comments and speculation from others left me confused, nervous, and more than a little defensive. But I had to ask.
Wise and wry with a hearty dose of reasonableness, she countered with a statement that continues to resonate with me even today: “The symptoms of childhood and ADHD are often one and the same.”
And she’s right. Boisterous behavior, less-than-stellar impulse control, short tempers and shorter attention spans . . . these define the toddler years and early childhood for many and yet are among the telltale behaviors associated with ADHD.
And this is where and why–as we move toward adjusting our son’s medication–things get tricky.
When Edgar exhibits a behavior that seems as though it could be related to his diagnosis, our radar naturally goes up. Is the medication not working? Does he need more? A different one? Something else entirely?
Or, is he just being a kid?
Is he–like every one of us at one point or another–simply having a bad day?
Have his feelings been hurt? Is he worried about something? Is he exhausted?
Is his mind on something else?
Is he reacting to a change in temperature? A change in routine?
When my mood changes, I tend to look at it as a temporary state of affairs–as do others. I do not have ADHD, so it has to be. It is safe to assume I’ll “snap out of it.” No one thinks of adjusting my medication because unlike my son I do not take medication for ADHD.
But it’s different for my son.
And it is a very precarious balancing act for me as his mother, an act that is not helped remotely by the fact that I will never truly know what it feels like to be him. I can empathize, of course. I can engage whatever powers of intuition I may have. I can research, I can read, I can talk, and I can listen. But because I do not have ADHD I will never know what this is like for him.
All I do know is that I am and always will be by and on his side. And hopefully that will be enough.