It wasn't easy to decide to medicate my daughter for attention deficit. Seeing her unmedicated buddy bounce off walls showed me we'd made the right decision.
by Jennifer Gay Summers
The call came out of the blue. A friend of mine from Lee’s elementary school days needed me to watch her son, Patrick, while she went work. I couldn’t say no. She’d been there for me in the hardest days before Lee’s ADHD diagnosis, supporting me when others turned their backs. She understood because her son, Patrick, was also a handful. But she never sought help, choosing to believe he was just rambunctious, a typical boy. He was anything but typical.
As soon as Lee got in the car, I told her we’d have company. She sighed and rolled her eyes. I smiled at her in the rearview mirror. “I know it’s difficult. But when friends need us, we chip in. They’d do the same for us.”
Lee was silent a few minutes. “Mom, does Patrick have ADHD?”
Oh, yeah, I thought, he sure does, but it wasn’t my place to make a diagnosis, so I said, “What do you think?”
“Definitely. His impulses are completely out of control. I think he needs medicine.”
I felt like hitting the dashboard and screaming out, “Yes!” I knew that medicine wasn’t magic. It didn’t erase the ADHD. But the minute Lee started taking medication in first grade, she did a 180. She could focus better in school and rein in her wilder impulses. She could settle her body and listen to us when we spoke.
Of course, Lee loved the way she felt when she wasn’t taking medicine, her brain racing with wild abandon, laughter coming easily in waves, her body running from here to there with no thoughts of consequence. But she didn’t like what happened when her impulses made her lose judgment, and she had to mop up messes, from broken toys to broken friendships.
When Lee and I got home, we went into action. “Lock the birdcage. Check your room. Make sure there’s nothing personal you don’t want Patrick to touch. Put the iguanas away in their hut.”
A few minutes later, there was a bang on the front door. I opened it, and Patrick barreled past me, towards the bird cage. “Hi, Patr...”
“Lee! Do you still have the bird? What’s this?” he said, and tried to pick the lock. Lee frowned and said, “It’s a lock. That means no one can play with my bird. She’ll fly away.”
The next second, he was down the hall, looking for the iguanas, then back in the family room. He grabbed the Wii controls, saying, “No power. Where’s your batteries? Let’s make the room dark!” He grabbed the blind cord and I yelled, “Wait,” knowing the blind would crash if it wasn’t pulled the right way.
Lee ran in and handed him a drawing notebook, her own trick for her busy hands. “Let’s watch TV and draw.”
Wow, I thought. This could have been Lee. And I wished, when I made that heartbreaking decision to medicate her eight years ago, I could have seen my daughter today at 14 years old. I wouldn’t have given the decision a second thought.