From Denial to Acceptance
…A letter her birthmother had sent me came into my mind. The words, “ADHD runs in the family” jumped out at me, like a snake, coiled and ready to strike. No, I told myself. I wouldn’t accept any labels besides curious and energetic. …”
The day I set foot in my daughter’s first grade class, I saw my world shift on its axis. All of the children were quiet, noses in their books. I scanned the room, but couldn’t find Lee. The teacher turned from the whiteboard to me and pointed under one of the tables. There was my child, crouched like an animal, rocking back and forth. Kneeling down, I held out my arms, and she moved into them.
“I want to go home, Mommy.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I’m the dumbest person in the class.”
My heart splintered, and I hugged her close. “You can do this,” I whispered, helping her into a chair. But the truth was she couldn’t, and it was time for me to seek help.
I’d done my best for years to deny that my child had ADHD and kept myself in blissful ignorance. I was a pro at making excuses for her atypical behavior, until something awful happened. The differences between my child and other children were noticeable when Lee was only eighteen months old. At a Mommy and Me class with a ball pit and slide, she had no intention of joining circle time. When Lee rode down the slide right into the circle, we were scolded and sent outside to sit in a chair for time-out.
As Lee struggled to get out of my lap, a letter her birthmother had sent me came into my mind. The words, “ADHD runs in the family” jumped out at me, like a snake, coiled and ready to strike. No, I told myself. I wouldn’t accept any labels besides curious and energetic.
I put more time into choosing a preschool and found one with optional circle time and lots of play. One day, I was helping in the art corner when a mom, who’d been volunteering outside, came over to me. She looked down, clearing her throat.
“Your daughter reminds me of mine. The two of them were wildcats on their tricycles today and wouldn’t listen to the dad trying to get them to stop.”
“Sounds like Lee,” I said, shaking it off with a hollow laugh.
“Oh hell, I don’t know how to say this, but maybe you should consider that she has ADHD. Our daughter’s been diagnosed with it, and she’s seeing a child psychologist. I can get you a name if you want.”
I stood still, feeling like I’d been slapped. When I recovered, I added strong-willed to curious and energetic and did my best to let it go at that.
Even though the preschool director recommended another year, I enrolled Lee in Kindergarten at the age of five. She’d catch up, I told myself. After a couple of weeks, I signed up to volunteer and went to the classroom. I heard the teacher tell the kids there was a hidden “B”, and if they saw it, not to point it out until she was done talking. She said, “Here are some words that start with B: boy, boat…”
“I see it…the B!” Lee shouted. Her body trembled with excitement as she pointed at a card on a high shelf behind the tables.
The teacher gave her a stern reminder that she was not to be interrupted. Lee’s trembling turned to cowering.
What was wrong with this teacher, I thought. How could a kid help themselves from calling out when they found the buried treasure? But somewhere inside myself, I knew I could have when I was that age. And the other kids in her class seemed to know how to wait, also.
There were other moments when the truth fell into place like a stack of dominoes. If you have a child with ADHD, you’ve probably felt them, too. Accepting your child’s ADHD and finding help is a gift of love for her that you’ll never regret. There is a world of organizations that can help. Here are just a few of them:
- CHADD: https://chadd.org/
CHADD is a national nonprofit organization that improves the lives of people affected by ADHD through education, advocacy, and support. I highly recommend their annual conference!
- ADDitude: https://www.additudemag.com/
The nation’s leading source of important news, expert advice, and judgment-free understanding for families and adults living with attention deficit disorder. And, the home for most of my blogs.
- ADHD Aware: https://adhdaware.org.uk/
ADHD Aware empowers people with ADHD while raising awareness and changing public opinion about this serious disease.
- Attention Deficit Disorder Association: https://add.org/
The Attention Deficit Disorder Association provides information, resources and networking opportunities to help adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder lead better lives.
- Totally ADD.com: https://totallyadd.com/
Totally ADD liberates people from fear, shame, and stigma. Through education, humor, and social interaction, Totally ADD provides the tools and support people need to create a life they love.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.
Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.
Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!