Diagnosis

Cleaning up shards of light bulb on the kitchen floor (unfortunate and potentially hazardous result of tabletop lightsaber battle) and look up (powerless and too late!) to see through the window McD peeing all over my Meyer lemon tree on back porch (and smiling at me). Am reminded instantly of moment I diagnosed him myself.

Ever since McDiesel was… pretty much born, I talked about his BEHAVIOR to anyone who’d listen. (And yeah, that deserves all caps. Trust me.) And ever since he was about two, people—pediatricians, my therapist—were throwing around ADD. Because I had no idea what ADD was (that is, other than a tired excuse college kids trotted out semester after semester for why they needed paper extensions), I didn’t hear it at all and I didn’t look into it. Plus, anyone will tell you that’s too early to diagnose something so closely resembling the Terrible Twos anyway. I simply stopped going to playdates and didn’t take him anywhere if I could help it. And I stopped talking about it.

He turned three, we moved to another part of the country, BEHAVIOR intensified (we should be able to eat out, we should be able to go to church, we should be able to find our three-year-old on the property, the Terrible Twos should be over—right??), and then new pediatricians were using the term. But still vaguely and dismissively. Still too early. But there were too many professionals saying “ADD” in too many parts of the country. Too much stress in my house. Too much peril. Too much BEHAVIOR.

Good Lord, for something that’s so epidemic, there is surprisingly little out there for the panicked mother of a three-year-old. I pored over the web, I read outdated books, I read up-to-date books, I (mostly) worried.

Ultimately, two things told me what the doctors couldn’t or wouldn’t: one article describing having a kid with ADHD as cleaning up the food he threw across the kitchen in time to prevent him setting the cat on fire. That was the first thing I ever saw where I felt like somebody else got it—in a way that loving family and well-meaning friends just did not. The other was a story about a mom watching her preadolescent son play soccer with other boys at the park. She had to be vigilant, she expected the worst (him flipping out over an unfair call), and she was right. She had to get him off the field with minimum behavior, with minimum damage to his reputation among his peers, with minimum impact on his self-esteem. Now that one brought tears to my eyes. First because it feels bad to expect the worst of your kid (and then even more bad that it’s usually justified); and second because that sounds typical to me; and third because preadolescence is a long way off and I don’t know how we’re going to survive.

Those were the best things I’ve ever read about ADHD. If there were self-help and strategies in there, too, then I don’t remember. (Yes I do, and they boil down to: Be Prepared! Have a Plan! Don’t Get Discouraged!). What I found so much more helpful and supportive and comforting was the narrative, though. Those stories made me know I’m not the only one, I’m not a lax disciplinarian, I’m not feeding my kid too much sugar or something. Those two stories were funny and too bad and exactly the way it is.

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