Friday, May 6, 2011


I forgot to give the boys their ADHD medication before school yesterday morning. By the time I realized my error they were at school and Bob and I were at work and I had to let it go. In the big scheme of things this seems like no big deal, and to some out there I know there is a wonder as to why I would ever want to medicate my sons.

Here's the truth of it-I don't want to medicate them-I never have and I resisted for almost two years although my son's pediatrician from birth looked at me when Nick was 4 and said-"we probably ought to talk about ADHD." When I finally relented after he almost failed first grade I took both boys in and told Dr. Elliott I was ready he looked at me and then at the two tornados dismantling his exam room and said blithely,"so, can I go ahead and write two or do you want to wait?" I waited.

I also wandered through multiple trials and therapies with Nick to find medication that would help him manage his own behavior and be successful in school. He spent almost the entire year of Kindergarten at a separate table by afternoon because every other kid in the class was exhausted by him. As time has gone by we have had to adjust, readjust, stop, start over, revamp and reevaluate his treatment. The onset of puberty appears to have been similar to throwing a can of gasoline on a forest fire and his ADHD has erupted again to the point that there have been many moments I have cried and felt like all the work we did together, he and I, was for nothing.

But we have perservered. His school is working with us to develop some modifications to help him succeed, his current medications are working, and he is responding to our behavioral interventions at home. At the heart of it all he is a beautiful, loving, funny, articulate fellow and all I want as his mother is for the rest of the world to get to see who he really is behind the mask of ADHD.

Henry also takes medication for ADHD, but unlike his brother his has always been simple to manage with a low dose of medication. He is enjoying success at school, makes friends easily, is well liked by his teachers, self motivated to do his homework, etc. Without his medication though he is like a squirrel on speed, and if he and his brother are together it is like watching a couple of feral cats in a dryer running a marathon. They exponentially expand to fill all air space within 500 feet of them and within moments I find myself contemplating how long it is until bedtime, and when is it ok to start drinking heavily.

Because I am a nurse I have been fortunate enough to know how to advocate for my children with physicians, how to understand terminology, dosing, when to tell the doctors-NO. This is a long road and I believe Nick will need some medication throughout his life to help him manage his ADHD. Henry I am not sure-he may be one of the few who grow into adulthood and with a combination of behavioral interventions and maturity he may not need medication every day.

Some families have to worry about diabetes and cancer, my family tree is riddled with mental illness and addiction-addiction that was very often self medicating to deal with mental illness. I am honest with the boys, I do not forcibly shove medicine down their throats, and both boys are able to tell the difference in themselves when they miss a dose. I don't like that they are on medicines that can cause serious side effects, but I know for sure that life without the medications is miserable for them and everyone around them.

It's easy to be an armchair parent and say,"I would never allow my child..." But as with everything else in life until you have walked the road yourself do everyone around you a favor and be quiet. I see children and parents everyday coming in for treatment at my hospital-children with visible disfigurements and the pallor of professional patients. Often children who are chronically ill can become very demanding and entitled because they are so used to being the center of attention. I won't judge their parents though-because I can't imagine what it is like to constantly face the specter of death with a little one and try to be an effective disciplined parent. I imagine there are days where they are just holding on to make it to bedtime themselves.

I would never tell the mother of a child with diabetes not to use insulin or monitor her child's blood sugar, I won't tell someone to ignore asthma and pretend their child doesn't need an inhaler. Don't judge me for putting my child on medications for their emotional, physical, and and educational wellbeing.

Ask questions, absolutely. But don't judge me-I have two tender boys that deserve a chance to shine and they are going to get it with all my love, all my support, and whatever else they need to make it down the road-including medication.

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