“I Have ADHD, and I Worry That My Daughter Will, Too”
I like the person I’ve become, but I paid a heavy price to get here. Whoever my daughter becomes, my job is to do what I can to make sure she likes that person.
I’ve known for a long time that ADHD runs in families. My older sister was diagnosed before I was, my father was diagnosed very recently, and my mother has said for a long time that she has undiagnosed ADHD. That leaves only my little brother unscathed.
So I’ve considered the fact that my children may one day receive the same diagnosis, and I’ve been thinking about this more as my daughter grows up. The question is: Having both experienced and observed what growing up with ADHD is like, how should I feel about this possibility?
The obvious answer is that, since there’s no way to know, I’ll accept who she is, and do my best to support her, come what may. But that’s a bit like telling the person watching their favorite team that, since there’s no way to know in advance who’ll win, they may as well just relax, quit hoping one way or the other, and accept the outcome.
In my case, the question becomes: As I watch this play out, should I have a favorite team? Should I hope that she doesn’t have ADHD, so she won’t have to go through the heartache of trying to be successful in a system that’s not designed for her? Or should I hope that she does, because I can help her confront and conquer the negative aspects early on, and give her that extra dose of confidence for the rest of her life?
Do I care one way or another whether my daughter ends up diagnosed with ADHD? This seemingly simple question raises two big issues. The first is my own personal campaign to get people to stop seeing ADHD as a “disorder” or a “deficiency,” to stop giving children those labels at an early age, to focus on the positive aspects of it, and to manage instead of treat the negatives. It is not an illness, and it is not a disorder. Therefore, since I no longer see it as a negative, it seems that I should have no concerns at all about my daughter or any future children of mine potentially having ADHD. But anyone who has suffered through childhood with ADHD, or watched a loved one struggle through it, knows that it is not so simple.
Which brings me to the second big issue. Isn’t it my job and my wish as a parent to save my child from pain and suffering? Even if I knew that she would come through it stronger in the end, as I did, how could I wish what I went through on her? On anyone? Yet, for as long as there have been children, there have been parents who’ve had to watch their children struggle, knowing that it is unavoidable. In fact, to shelter children from difficulties will rob them of the chance to develop crucial problem-solving skills and self-sufficiency.
Where is that line? Where is the line between a little suffering leading to a stronger person, and too much suffering leading to a broken person? There’s no way to answer that question, and that terrifies me.
Now that I’ve come to terms with my own ADHD, and its benefits and limitations, it is a part of me that I like. I wouldn’t trade or change a thing. But I can remember plenty of times, years at a time, when I would have given almost anything to be “normal.” I remember the tears, the endless frustration, struggling with things that seemed to come so easily to others, feeling like a disappointment to myself and to my parents and teachers, the feelings of isolation, the years-long battle to create a positive self-image after being labeled “deficient” at age 11.
I like the person I’ve become, but I paid a heavy price to get here. I guess that’s the answer, even though it feels like a cop-out. It’s not my job to hope or fear one way or another. Whoever my daughter becomes, my job is to do what I can to make sure she likes that person.