I vividly remember sitting in the back of the 4-year-old kindergarten classroom, diligently cutting out laminated pictures and being purely mortified. As a parent volunteer, I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of my child’s day at school. Most parents relish this opportunity. I dreaded it.
No one wants to hear negative things about their child. That negativity is feedback on our parenting, or, at least, that is what I assumed. My husband and I were made to be parents. We had the skills, and we set very high expectations for ourselves, and for our first born. So, how is it that our son was acting this way amongst his peers?
Sitting at that back table, I could have tallied the amount of times my son’s compassionate and kind teacher redirected him. It had to be a dozen or more. My first thought was that we’d have to have a serious conversation later that day about what’s expected of him at school. He should know this! We raised him better. He will not be “that” kid.
Only, he is that kid.
You know the one: can’t sit quietly, complete disregard for others’ personal space, blurting out, interrupting the teacher. Mind you, none of what we observed him doing was mean-spirited, it was just as if being still was physically impossible.
It was the beginning of a very long journey for us and, especially, for him.
After endless research, cognitive behavior therapy, diet changes, consultations, and evaluations, it was confirmed. Our son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Ultimately, we decided a goal for our son: that he be comfortable in his own skin. This served as the measure for how well any new diet, therapy, or effort was working.
We were forthcoming with him from the start. We wanted him to know that each child is wired differently and that each and every one has unique characteristics. He was perfectly designed.
To say we didn’t worry would be a lie. We both spent sleepless nights thinking about what we could do to help him, how we could remove any barriers that would make him feel less than the beautiful person he was. I spent countless hours wondering if I had done something wrong during my pregnancy to cause this. I wondered if his long and arduous entry into this world played any part. Our hearts were thick with worry.
Our worry manifested itself in so many ways: empathy, impatience, loyalty, embarrassment, and dread. Despite this worry, he rose above it. He was exuberant and joyful. Always. During his early elementary days these qualities made him the life of the party. Literally.
It was this same exuberance that made him susceptible to judgment from his peers. That worry was the heaviest of all. Adolescents can be mean. Would they find him as endearing as we did? What about the adults in our world? We felt the harsh judgment of friends who didn’t understand his tendencies. Herein lies the situation where I feel the deepest regret. I know I took things out on our boy that were truly not his fault. His behavior, at times, embarrassed me.
Constantly our teacher, our son was indifferent to what others thought. Never was that more apparent than during this school year. Our resilient child was thriving academically. But, as parents, we worried about his social world. Was he able to foster the kind of friendships we wanted for him?
He’s been blessed with many unbelievable teachers, most of whom saw the best in him from the beginning. Their words helped shape the positive self-identity that he now carries as truth, and we are eternally grateful.
Just a few weeks ago I received a call from his teacher at 8:30pm. She quickly explained she just couldn’t end the day without sharing with us what happened in class that afternoon.
We knew about the assignment: share something about yourself that others did not know. He was prepared, and planned to share the story about a few rocks he had collected on various adventures. Only, that’s not what happened.
Our brave young man stood in front of his peers and shared his story. Without prompting, he clearly articulated what it felt like to have ADHD, and the ways in which his family worked to help him be the kid he is.
“It was an incredible moment,” his teacher shared.
His journey, including the struggles and trials still ahead of him, is far from over. But, hearing that story, and knowing we’ve reached our goal is both relief and reward: our son, who has ADHD, is truly comfortable in his own skin.