Guest Blogs

My Silver Linings Playbook

I used to get “the look” from other parents, judging my ADHD son’s behavior. Now diagnosed and on medication, he’s so much calmer. When will I be?

“Magnets! Magnets! Magnets!” chanted my seven-year-old son as he zigzagged up the ramp to get to the second floor of our local children’s museum. I held my breath and uttered my own chant, “Please don’t let anyone else be at the magnet station. Please.” We rounded the corner, and there he was — a very sweet, very placid little boy playing happily with the magnets, his mother close by.

Two months ago — before our son’s ADHD diagnosis, before our decision to use stimulant medication to treat his condition — I could have predicted what would have been next. My son would have bounded into this child’s personal space, grabbed any magnets he wanted from the boy, then screamed once or twice, until eventually the boy would abandon the magnets and his mother would give me the look.

Parents of children with ADHD know the look. Sometimes it’s accompanied by a comment or wrapped in an eye roll or a headshake of disbelief. “Why is your child behaving this way, and why are you allowing it?”

Until two months ago, we didn’t know why our child was behaving this way, and we certainly weren’t allowing it. So there was nothing to say to the rest of the world except for the occasional apology when they would stick around long enough to hear it.

On this day at the children’s museum, I had an option I never had before. I could tell people about his diagnosis, because now we had one.

My son entered the station, played only with the available magnets, and was a respectful playmate. I praised him and reminded him to continue in this vein. The little boy’s mother said, “He’s fine, absolutely fine.”

And he was, but I was nervous. This was a test of sorts — our first museum trip since he started on medication, medication that seemed to be working and working well. The museum, though, unlike other environments, is stimulating, requires impulse control, and demands socializing well with others. If the medicine helped him here, it would help him anywhere.

I stood guard over my son, but I couldn’t help but feel this mother watching me — probably wondering why I was so vigilant when my son was “fine.” I blurted out, “He was just diagnosed with ADHD, and we’re all working really hard.”

She smiled and said, “He really is fine.”

He was fine, of course. And one day soon I will be too.