“My Child Was Diagnosed at Age 3 — and Thank God She Was.”
Many clinicians insist that ADHD evaluations are worthless before age 5 or 6. But I knew something was wrong with my 3-year-old. Deep in my bones and my heart, I knew. So I began fighting early and often until my daughter finally got the evaluation she deserved. And, no, age 3 was not too early. It was almost too late.
How many times was she sent to the office? Was she aggressive? Did she nap today? How many outbursts did she have? Are we going to have a tantrum leaving today?
On an almost daily basis, these are the thoughts that bombard my brain as I drive to my daughter’s school. The uncertainties are endless — and so, too, is the worry.
When I found out I was going to be a mother, this is not how I pictured preschool pickup. In my vision, she ran up to me — a smile spread across her face, so excited to see me — embraced me with a bear hug, and unpacked her entire day for me. Oh, how I was mistaken.
As I pull around the circle drive of my daughters’ school, the anxiety creeps in. As I turn off the car, I engage in a personal pep-talk while checking off the list in my head.
Incentive sucker waiting in the car? Check. Soothing music queued up? Check. Favorite blanket on hand? Wait, where is her blanket?!? Panic washes over me.
I tell myself it will be fine, but I know that one item missing will cause a tailspin that sets the tone for the evening. All I can do is pray for the best. Three deep breaths and let’s do this.
Our oldest daughter, Gwen, just turned 4. She is vivacious, tenacious, bright, and independent. She feels well beyond her years, but emotionally she cannot handle the stresses of life.
For as long as I can remember, I have asked myself “What is going on in her sweet little brain? I don’t understand why she doesn’t ‘get it’ like her peers. Why does dropping her off take 20 minutes, when the other Moms are in and out in 5? Can she please just LISTEN, one time? Someone, please help!”
Two years ago, she became a big sister and this was a very jarring life change for our whole family — shifting from 2:1 to 2:2. Sharing the spotlight was a pivotal shift in the at-home dynamic, and that was when we really started to see Gwen’s behaviors spin out of control.
Did I do this to her? Did making her a big sister cause this pain? I was wracked with guilt.
The answer is simple, but has taken an army of friends, family, and medical professionals to sink in: No. No, I am not the cause of this.
I am constantly reminding myself that it isn’t my fault. As I write this, tears well up in my eyes, wishing I could take it away. The impulsive behavior is so hard to watch. She reacts before she can even grasp the situation. The pain I see in her eyes as she realizes what she has done or said is debilitating.
“I’m so sorry, Mom,” she says.
“I didn’t mean to, Mom,” she says.
Biting my tongue in frustration, I try not to let the words hurt any more than the transgression already has.
I just have to embrace her and not let her see the tears or frustration. I put on a façade, I pretend everything is OK, and keep on praying she wake up one morning and the behaviors will be gone.
Why won’t anyone listen? Why is everyone afraid to recognize that there is a problem going on? I understand that she is young, but I am begging you to meet her and help us.
The conversation — with medical professionals, counselors, the school district and friends — began when my daughter was 3. The emotions flowed as I refused to back down. The convincing I had to do was tedious and endless as the behaviors at home and in school worsened.
Finally, we got in for an ADHD evaluation. I believe it was due to my persistence and the degree to which I annoyed the nurses. They finally caved, thinking I was a hypochondriac parent with toddler problems. I am so thankful they did because every medical professional we have seen since has made me feel like I am not crazy — finally, my concerns were validated when the doctors recognized that she does, in fact, have ADHD.
We have traveled a long road, and a longer one stretches out before us. As I write this, we are now a week in to starting ADHD medication for the first time and I am finally seeing my child back and learning.
Last night before bed she said, “Mommy, that white medicine makes me feel happy and a lot calmer.”
I know the feeling, my love. We will get through this together. One day at a time.