What You Don’t Know About That Difficult Child

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty

You’ve seen him. In restaurants, he’s the loud one who rudely disrupts the other diners. On the first day of school, he’s the kid in your child’s class who you see spinning and wiggling and you think, please God, let him not be sitting next to my child.

When you pass out your child’s birthday party invitations, he’s the kid you’d just as soon not invite. At soccer practice, he’s the one on your child’s team who makes you wonder why his parents even bother bringing him when he’s obviously not interested. At the grocery store, he’s the brat who makes you raise an eyebrow at his parents, who need to learn to control their kid.

But there are some things you don’t know about that wild, unruly child.

You don’t know that from the time he was two, his parents received daily notes home from preschool saying things like:

“During story-time, your child ran around the room instead of sitting on the carpet.”

“Your child was disruptive during nap time.”

“Your child did not finish any of his work today.”

You don’t know that when his worried mom first shared her concerns with her trusted friends and relatives, they said things like:

“That behavior is normal at his age.”

“All little boys are hyper!”

“It’s because he’s so smart – he’s just bored!”

You don’t know that at his preschool Christmas pageant, he was shoved all the way in the back where he would be less conspicuous, which meant his parents were unable to get any video of him. Not that he was doing anything worthy of recording as a family memory; instead of singing the songs that had been rehearsed ad nauseam, he jumped, squirmed, spun, and made weird faces.

You don’t know that at his pre-kindergarten graduation, when he said his memorized line at the microphone better than any other child in his class, his mother burst into tears, not out of pride, but out of relief.

You don’t know that in kindergarten, he was threatened with expulsion because of his picking habit … when he absentmindedly picked at the waistband of the little girl sitting in front of him during carpet time and she screamed out that he was trying to look at her underwear. And his mother had to explain to him about private parts even though he had no concept of the idea, no clue that he’d done anything inappropriate.

You don’t know that his mother has bought, read, and highlighted no less than 10 books, and not just ones about ADHD; books about parenting ‘strong-willed’ children, books about discipline, books about love languages. (Maybe she just wasn’t giving him enough love and it was making him wild? Or maybe she could “cure” him with love?)

You don’t know that the parents of this child maintain a highly-structured, loving, nurturing, encouraging environment in their home. They have rewards charts and everything. And yes, even discipline!

You don’t know that sometimes, when his mother tells someone that they’ve chosen not to medicate, the person gets offended because they medicate their child, and it’s been a GODSEND for them. Does she think she’s better than them or something?

You don’t know that sometimes, when his mother tells someone that they’ve chosen not to medicate, the person says, “GOOD. Medicating your kid for ADHD is the same as giving them poison.” And then his mother makes a mental note to not tell that person if they every do choose to medicate, because quite frankly, she still hasn’t ruled out the idea.

You don’t know that his father is obsessed with soccer and desperately wants to be able to kick the ball around with his son, and that’s why he keeps putting his son in soccer every season even though the child would rather play with his shadow, lie down in the grass so as to inspect the blades more closely, or tangle himself in the net of the goal while the other kids chase after the ball. (Maybe one day it will “click.”)

You don’t know that he is conspicuously left out of birthday party invites even though he desperately wants to be included.

You don’t know that his mom can see when the ADHD has taken hold. That her son’s eyes glaze over and he seems to be “somewhere else.” That she has slapped him before, just to get him to look at her, and she hates herself for it.

You don’t know that his mother has to remind herself again and again that ADHD really is a disorder, an imbalance of hormones in the brain that causes a person to be unable to distinguish which things in his environment are important and which things should be ignored. To this child, a blade of grass is every bit as deserving of attention as the soccer ball that’s coming at his head.

You don’t know that his parents struggle daily with walking the fine line of being sympathetic that their child has a verifiable disorder, but at the same time knowing they must require adherence to rules and expectations. That they’re trying to teach him how to fit into a society that has zero patience for people like him.

You don’t know that even though his mother tries her best to spin ADHD in a positive light, that this child understands he is different, and has sobbed and screamed “I hate ADHD! I pray to God to take away my ADHD and he doesn’t!”

So next time you see a kid running wild, trailed by a haggard-looking mom with a frizzy pony-tail and puffy eyes, just remember: There might be a lot you don’t know.

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