I wish I had a nickel for every time someone nodded toward my younger daughter’s nonstop action and said, “I wish I had a fraction of her energy,” I would have a LOT of nickels. It happens all the time. Strangers in the grocery store. Parents at school. The other day a young Mom with a very active toddler AND an infant looked at me with pity and said, “You must be exhausted all the time.” Ouch. But yes, I am.
Two years ago our family therapist suggested Mei might have ADHD and gave me a referral for an assessment. I made an appointment, then cancelled. I come from a medication-averse family that doesn’t believe in better living through chemistry. It still doesn’t occur to my mother to take something for a headache, upset stomach or other minor ill unless one of her children urges it. I was troubled about the possibility of medicating my child. I was scared of reaching for the easy solution and thought it might get better as she matured. So we waited.
Fast forward a year. After a particularly embarrassing public event with Mei, I finally acknowledged that a child who can’t sit still, talks incessantly, drums every available surface to burn off energy and pops up like a whack-a-mole when supposedly doing homework might be more than just active. Maybe it was time, for her sake, to check things out. I made the appointment.
Upon entering the doctor’s office, Mei saw a box with the game Candy Land, took it down and started playing with it. She arranged the cards for the Molasses Swamp, Candy Cane Forest and other sugary locations. Then rearranged them. She sorted the counters with the red, green, yellow, blue squares that instruct you how many spaces to go. She moved the little gingerbread men around and around the board. I went in to see the doctor and wouldn’t you know Mei sat and played Candy Land with herself the entire time. The kid who can’t sit still SAT STILL and amused herself for a solid 45 minutes. I felt like a child faking sick to get out of school describing symptoms to an increasingly skeptical parent. Not that I know this from any first-hand experience.
I was advised that without corroborating testimony from another source (school) there couldn’t be any diagnosis. Or prescription. No magic bullet to check the constant motion of my quicksilver daughter.
I was relieved. But I realized then how I had secretly hoped there would be a Mother’s Little Helper pill that would make her easier. That my objections to medication were in tension with the flat out exhaustion of keeping up with her. And I immediately felt guilty for wanting that.
Nine months later, multiple tests, teacher meetings and physician appointments and we are in possession of an ADHD diagnosis and have a prescription ready to start tomorrow. I hope its the right thing. Might it change her personality along with her behavior? Because the parts of her that drives me to distraction are also the parts I love and that make her…her. These days I know that children as medicated as easily as giving them grapes for snack. But I do it with trepidation mixed with some small hope.
When I explained to Mei what we were doing and what is was for she clutched me and exclaimed, “It’s going to take my best super power – running fast!” I explained it would help her slow down her brain and focus, but not the rest of her body. “OK,” she said. “Let’s do it. As long as I can take it with some chocolate.” We’ll see where this candy land takes us.