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A Day at the Museum: My Daughter, on Exhibit

On a recent museum visit, sugar spurred my impulsive daughter’s symptoms and made her the center of attention. There’s never a quiet moment with a kid with ADHD.

Museums don’t rank high on our list of fun family events, due to Lee’s ADHD. She gets bored easily, races through the exhibits without stopping, and hates listening to a tour guide. But the exhibit, “Spy: The Secret World of Espionage,” at the Ronald Reagan Library, was an easy sell. Lee loved old episodes of the old TV show Get Smart, and she agreed to go as long as she could bring her friend, Kay.

The museum’s main tour felt like a school field trip to the teenage girls, so we followed their fast lead until we got to Air Force One, the plane Reagan had used as president. After the requisite photo where we were told to “Wave like the president,” we toured the plane, disembarked, and spotted a café.

Lee eyed a large piece of lemon meringue pie and gave me a beseeching look. My husband and I traded glances. Even though research studies have reached different conclusions on whether or not sugar affects ADHD kids, we knew it could kick our daughter’s adrenaline into gear. Then Kay bought herself a sweet, I couldn’t resist a cookie, and it was done. It was Sunday, after all, and I convinced myself we deserved a treat.

About 10 minutes later, I could see it in Lee’s eyes. She started swiveling around on her stool, going faster and faster, then shouting with joy as Kay followed suit. Nearby diners paused, mid-bite, to watch.

“Okay,” I said, “…let’s find the spy exhibit!”

Lee race-walked through the rooms, hesitating only for the shoe phones and deadly pellet-firing umbrella that CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart, the star of Get Smart, would have loved. Kay ran close behind, my husband and I trying to take in the exhibit but rushing to keep up. I was relieved when Lee finally stopped in front of a wall with drawers.

“Come here, Mom!” she shouted.

Lee opened a drawer. I blanched at the carcass of a dead rat with his stomach cut out to hold money. Lee laughed loudly in the otherwise quiet room, and an elderly couple gave her a disapproving look. We moved into the last crowded room. The sugar was doing its job, and Lee was dancing on air, creating electricity in an otherwise silent museum room. She put her arm around Kay and yelled out, “Mom, don’t we look like sisters?”

I stifled a grin. Kay was Asian-American and didn’t bear the least resemblance to our Texas redhead. Adrenaline had ratcheted up Lee’s attention-seeking behavior. Time to go before it got worse. The elderly couple shook their heads, and I gave Lee the sign to zip it. She yelled, “What? I have a right to be silly, don’t I?”

I motioned the girls up the exit stairs, gave the elderly couple my best presidential wave, and followed. When we got outside, I realized we should have come here before the spy exhibit and done some fast laps around the museum to burn off Lee’s adrenaline. Then again, a little bit of KAOS was not unexpected on this trip.