“My ADHD Daughter Can’t Drive Until She’s 18”
ADHD teen drivers are at a higher risk for traffic accidents. One mother shares the reasons her daughter won’t get her license until she is 18 years old.
Lee and I were enjoying lunch with my close friend, Kate, and her daughter Molly.
“Can you believe that Molly is learning to drive?” Kate said.
Lee made a face. “Mom says I can’t drive until I’m 18. I don’t see why I have to wait so long.”
I shot back without thinking, “Because you have ADHD.”
“No, it’s not. The statistics show that teens with ADHD are two to four times more likely to have traffic accidents.”
Lee shrugged and looked down at her plate. I wanted to kick myself. Why did I feel the need to throw Lee’s diagnosis into the conversation? Did I embarrass her in front of Molly? Why couldn’t I keep my big mouth shut until we got home?
After an awkward silence, Kate came to the rescue. “Having the key to two tons of steel has to be taken very seriously. That’s a scary statistic.”
Fortunately, we were sitting with Kate and Molly, who were aware of Lee’s ADHD and accepted it many years ago. But Because you have ADHD had come out of my mouth without any sensitivity to Lee’s feelings. Then again, I’d said Because she has ADHD so many times before to teachers, coaches, friends, and family, it was a common refrain.
When Lee was a child, I felt it necessary to share this information to explain her behavior to other parents and coaches, advocate for accommodations in school, and help friends and family understand her challenges. I was forthcoming with her diagnosis, hoping to get her the best possible support. The uncomfortable truth was never easy to share, but it was so apparent we couldn’t push it under the rug. Now that Lee was a teenager, I could see that it was time for me to butt out. It was up to her to decide when, and with whom, to say she had ADHD.
Lee and I had already discussed the reasons she would have to wait to get a driver’s license. But I could see in her eyes the envy and frustration when she heard how close Molly was to putting her hands on the wheel. It was easier for Lee to blame me than to accept the truth: Certain privileges that typical kids like Molly take for granted have to be readjusted when you have ADHD.
On the drive home, I asked her if I embarrassed her at lunch.
“No, Mom, I tell my friends I have ADHD. I’m proud to be myself. If other people don’t understand, that’s their problem.” She looked out the window and saw her favorite car, a VW bug, drive by. “But it’s lousy that having ADHD means I can’t drive until I’m 18.”
Not random, as she said at the lunch table. Instead, lousy. That was the uncomfortable truth she’d been trying to say. It was all I needed to hear. We watched the little turquoise bug go down the street and disappear out of sight.