Strangers in public places have been saying nice things to my son in the last 24 hours. The first came from a waitress in a restaurant as my son walked — didn't run — to the restroom. He made eye contact with her rather than with everything else. The second came from a man at the Boston Museum of Science, who thanked my son and called him a gentleman when he lifted a rope stanchion out of the man's way, so he could get by.
That these examples qualify as news of the day may be initially surprising. Lots of parents with friendly, cute, helpful children get approving nods and kind words from strangers on a regular basis.
The Other Edgar
But not my son, and certainly not lately. My seven-year-old son Edgar was diagnosed with ADHD recently. He is friendly, cute, and helpful, but that is not what strangers saw when they encountered him in public. They saw a boy on the move, a boy with no impulse control and little patience. These outward signs of ADHD shrouded the goodness within.
It pained my husband and me to watch the world watch our son. We knew him at his best, knew what he was capable of, saw him shine amid the self-created chaos that surrounded him. While we didn't expect everyone to see all of what we saw, his behavior kept people from seeing any of it.
We wondered what a year — or a month or a week — of having people stare, shake their heads, roll their eyes, whisper, and point would do to his self-esteem. We knew what it would do to ours. After a conversation with our son's neurologist, we decided to see if medication would make a difference.
Eyes Wide Open about Medication
You could say that our son shouldn't have to change who he is to lead a good life, to be treated fairly, to be seen as he is. Until recently, I would have led that charge. As a parent and a teacher, and a strong proponent of encouraging all kids — especially those who march to the beat of their own drum — I was dubious about medication. I believed wholeheartedly it had the potential to take away what was unique about an individual, to veil a person's essence. I didn't want that to happen to my wonderful son.
I have learned since that ADHD is a condition, and it does not define my son. It does affect the quality of his life. He can't create his beloved art projects when he is sitting in the principal's office because of a transgression; he can't roam his beloved butterfly garden when he is not listening to instructions and tearing leaves off the plants; he can't attend a play if he can't stay in his seat. And he can't hear a stranger's kind words when he is moving in fast motion.
There are many ways to address and treat ADHD, and medication is one. Medication has changed Edgar's life. It has filled the void that he had been trying — desperately and unwittingly — to fill, freeing him to enjoy the life he loves, the life he deserves. It has also drowned out, maybe even removed, the static, so he can hear the music, his music — however measured it is or however far away.