When I was afraid to tell my longtime friends about Lee’s ADHD, they reached out with their hearts.
“They’re talking about popular stuff, Mom. I want to go home,” said Lee, burrowing into my side, finding the old familiar groove she loved as a child. I put my arm around her and gave her a tight squeeze.
We were at a swimming party reunion with a group of friends we’d known since preschool. We hadn’t seen them in six years. One family had moved to a different state and was back to visit, so we gathered in their honor. There were seven teenagers, who now went to different schools. Their parents tried to pick up where we left off so long ago.
Lee had changed a lot, challenged by the differences that living with ADHD created, socially and academically. The happy-go-lucky attitude these kids would have remembered about Lee was now replaced by a teenage self-consciousness, coupled with anxiety in social settings when she didn’t have her friends by her side.
“Mom, please?” Lee whispered. She nodded toward the door.
I whispered back, “Give them a chance, Lee. I’m sure you’ll find something in common.”
She moved off alone to the table with chips and dip, clutching her pool towel for security, the way she used to clutch her blanket.
My husband was working that day, and I sat at the end of the table feeling alone, listening to the other adults talk. Their kids were doing well in cross-country, honors classes, cheerleading. What if they knew how ADHD affected Lee, how her learning disabilities kept her at the other end of the spectrum from honors classes, how she belonged to a group of artists and computer geeks that others picked on. Maybe Lee was right. Maybe we should leave.
“Is everything OK, Jennifer?” said one mom. She leaned in to me and asked, “How is Lee doing?”
“We’re hanging in there…” The minute I heard those words, I knew I was falling into the old trap of feeling sorry for myself. One I thought I’d escaped: My child wasn’t typical like theirs.
She squeezed my hand. “Let’s have lunch.”
I looked into her concerned eyes and remembered these old friends. They had come to the hospital to comfort us when Lee had pneumonia. They helped at all of her birthday parties, always the last to leave. They were the ones who cheered the loudest when Lee won an art award at a school assembly.
The truth was that the times we had shared still bonded us together in a friendship that didn’t care whose kid was smart or athletic or whose had ADHD.
When I went upstairs to tell Lee it was time to go home, she was hanging in the game room, slouched over a chair like the others.
“Aw, Mom, do I have to go?”
One of the kids pleaded, “Let her stay!” And the others joined in.
I went back downstairs, smiling. She, too, had found a way past her fears, back home to old friends.