We Are An ADHD Family, But That Doesn't Mean You Need To Ostracize Us

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Siphotography / iStock

My 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and I have ADHD, and we are always forgetting my oldest’s backpack. Sometimes we don’t manage to get it out of the house. Other times we don’t manage to make it out of the car. Then there are the days where his battered Star Wars backpack — the stuffing is coming out and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it — actually gets to the classroom. When he’s finished, he stuffs his work in there. Then he leaves it on the floor and trots out.

I know this annoys most of the mothers in our homeschool co-op. They have their shit together. Blaise and I are square wheels clunking in an otherwise well-run machine. ADHD can do that.

It’s isolating to be the only person who can’t seem to get their kid to class with his backpack, and I’d imagine, isolating to be the kid who’s always leaving his backpack somewhere. And if it isn’t today, it will be one day, when the kids around him start to snicker “That’s Blaise.” But that tic isn’t Blaise. That’s Blaise’s disease, not him — and he deserves the grace of people knowing the difference.

Blaise doesn’t have many friends from his class. I don’t know what goes on there, but I’ve come in to find him sitting in the chair while all the other kids do an activity because he was talking too much or moving too much or distracting other people. He’s always having to borrow books or pens or crayons because of that aforementioned backpack-forgetting. Then he finishes his work quickly, so he can get to his favorite part: the drawing afterwards. Not really the type of kid others want to be friends with, especially when you add that he’s small, he’s loud, he speaks out of turn, and he’s very, very smart.

We don’t get invited to any birthday parties.

And I don’t have too many close mom friends. Well, maybe two or three of the moms. They’re sweet, but it’s hard to tell if they’re that nice because they really like me or because they’re really that religious. The other moms say “hey.” They remember my name. I do not remember their names, which sends me into a spiral of panic that prevents me from getting to know them better. I’m also always typing on my phone because of both work and ADHD, which is off-putting, even when I explain that it’s for work. So my mom friends remain at a total of two. Maybe three. People don’t go out of their way to talk to me, get to know me, or ask about my kids — even when their kids are in my kids’ classes.

Then Blaise and 5-year-old August start throwing pinecones at kids because the playground is on the edge of the woods, and this is proper nature behavior to young boys. The kids lose it and tell my kids they are “freaks.” They say they don’t want to play with them. They say they are weird and run away from them if they come near. “Oh great, here come Blaise and August,” I’ve heard them mutter.

You little assholes, I want to say. My kids have impulse-control problems. I can tell them again and again not to throw pinecones, but they will forget and throw pinecones anyway because they are not neurotypical.

Because that’s what Blaise, August, and I have: a neurological disorder. We don’t forget Blaise’s backpack because we’re lazy, lackadaisical, or careless. We forget his backpack because our ADHD prevents us from remembering all the things we’re supposed to be responsible for at any given time, and thank the Lord it’s the backpack that goes, not the baby. I understand that it’s annoying when Blaise leaves his backpack in the classroom, but a gentle word to remind him and some help — “Blaise, don’t forget your backpack” — would do wonders for our lives.

And when it comes to the social stuff, it’s frustrating. If we all had another neurological difference, people would fall over themselves to be aware. They wouldn’t hold my phone habits and other quirks against me. They’d likely be nicer to my kids, accept them for their differences, and realize that they add their own valuable contribution to the culture and community.

Why can’t people understand that kids with ADHD don’t mean to come across as disobedient or overly rambunctious? They have issues with impulse control. (And yes, we are working on it.) And I don’t want to act like a phone-tapping space cadet who can’t remember names. I have a brain disorder that prevents me from recalling simple information about people.

We simply don’t work the same way as most people, which means we don’t always function the way society expects us to. It’s hard when no one understands that, when they don’t want to get to know me or my boys better.

Why would they? We’re the unorganized, crazy family. When you take ADHD out of the equation, we just look plain antisocial. But they know we have ADHD. So we need some grace. We need some awareness. And more than anything else, we need understanding and support.