When describing my daughter — Natalie was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder at age five — I usually say, “She’s easy to love, but hard to raise.”
There’s been a trend within the ADHD community in recent years to see attention deficit disorder as a gift, to take a strengths-based approach to describing and treating the condition. I am glad that this idea is catching on, considering the negative perceptions about ADHD that so many harbor.
Natalie is blessed, compliments of her ADHD, with a bounty of gifts. They are the “easy to love” stuff. In social situations, for example, Natalie’s lack of inhibition is charming. She never passes a person in a wheelchair at the mall or on the sidewalk without starting a friendly conversation. Natalie won’t walk by a smoker without offering him a heartfelt plea to please quit smoking.
And she sure can sell Girl Scout cookies. Do you want to buy some Girl Scout cookies? she’ll ask a prospective victim as she shoves the order form and a pen into her hands and walks into her house.
Once inside, she continues the charm offensive: What’s your dog’s name? How old is he? Can I pet him? Natalie sold 80 boxes of cookies in less than 30 minutes.
Admit It—Parenting Can Be Tough
I agree that we should focus on the strengths of our children, but we shouldn’t deny that these positives are only part of the picture. Parenting a child with ADHD presents challenges, and it’s only fair to parents that these difficulties be acknowledged. Natalie’s hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and disorganization are drawbacks. Others, too, should recognize that raising a child with ADHD is hard.
Games and toys litter every room of our house, abandoned wherever Nat happened to be when something else caught her attention. Balled-up school papers, torn-apart junk mail, and scribbled-on coloring books cover the kitchen table.
It warms my heart to hear Natalie’s special-ed teacher say, “She always tries her hardest” or “I’d take 10 Natalies in my classroom.”
But it felt strangely wonderful the other day when my sister, Ann, turned down my request to care for Natalie and her big brother, Aaron, so I could travel to San Diego with my husband, Don, to our sister-in-law’s funeral.
“I’m afraid I can’t. I’d get too tired,” Ann said. Now that’s validation! When I explained to Don’s brother, Gary, that I wouldn’t be attending Alicia’s memorial service, he empathized with Ann’s decision. He’d visited us the past weekend.
“I was around Natalie only for a few hours on Saturday, and I was worn out just watching her,” said my brother-in-law. Yes, validation. “I love Natalie, but I don’t know how you guys pull it off. You do a great job.”
Yes! Validation, squared!
Natalie is worth every exhausting minute I spend with her. She’s funny, bright, and infinitely lovable. Having ADHD undeniably enhances her innate charm. That doesn’t negate the hard work it takes to raise her.
Parents, you need to hear this: You are doing a wonderful job! Keep up the good work, even when you wish that you were at the movies or sitting down to a nice Italian dinner, rather than solving quadratic equations or looking high and low for your child’s cell phone — which she left on vibrate. Welcome to our world.
This article comes from the Summer 2009 issue of ADDitude.
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