I Wish My Son Hadn’t Been Dealt an ADHD Hand

Edgar’s birth sister skipped the challenges of attention deficit. I want the same for my son.
Different Drummer | posted by Samantha Hines

This should be my son. He should have this, too, instead of the hand he’s been dealt.

My son Edgar’s recent failure-to-thrive diagnosis has thrown us all into intense action — if not an actual tizzy. After having been on stimulant medication for nine months and experiencing the appetite suppression that too often accompanies it, my son gained only one inch in a year and no weight.

We’re concerned. Incredibly concerned. We — parents, teachers, relatives, physicians, and Edgar himself — are doing everything we can to turn this around.

But this post isn’t about stimulant medication, appetite suppression, or failure-to-thrive diagnoses. It’s about Edgar’s birth sister, a gorgeous girl two years older than our son. She lives within traveling distance of our family, and though we haven’t seen her in a while, we have seen pictures on Facebook and through email.

To say that she appears healthy and is growing like the proverbial weed is an understatement. She is robust. She is strong. She is our son’s full biological sibling, and her path is and has been remarkably different from his.

Two children. Both adopted as infants by two different sets of parents. Eight years ago, I thought this would be the extent of their differences. But while Edgar’s birth sister has grown and experienced the gift of health, Edgar has been plagued by a host of physical conditions — and ADHD — that have wreaked havoc on his body. The two closely resembled each other in those early days, but they don’t seem remotely biologically related these days.

This pains me on a couple of levels: one, because I want for Edgar what his birth sibling has — a childhood free of medication, of pain, of being misunderstood; and two, it pains me as an adoptive parent.

When you adopt, well-meaning friends and relatives may remark on how your child “looks just like you.” This is often not the case. There may be some resemblances in gestures or facial expressions from a lifetime of living together, but that is often where the physical similarities end. With Edgar’s birth sibling two years older and in our lives, it truly was, for a while, like having a front-row seat on seeing how our son would grow, how he would look two years from now. He may have had blond hair and blue eyes and his birth sister brown, but the faces were so similar, it took my breath away.

What takes my breath away now is seeing this hardy 10-year-old girl and thinking, “This should be my son. He should have this, too, instead of the hand he’s been dealt.”

While I know that this is also true in full biological families — where one child has a diagnosis and the other or others do not — there is a special poignancy in adoptive families that may not apply to biological families. Adoptive parents believe in the power of nurture over nature — completely and unabashedly.

It is hard — so, so hard — sometimes, to admit that nature, when it wants to, can win.

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