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What I Didn't See About My Son With ADD

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My son David views the world way differently than I do.

He’s careful and methodical. Skeptical. Super intelligent, curious and studious. He’s a musician, an athlete and a scholar.

As a toddler, it took him at least an hour every morning to explore our tiny “yard” in Navy housing.

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David checked every plant, laid down on the grass and watched the clouds, gazed up into each tree for several minutes, patted the dirt and pointed out every bird and flower.

I perceived that David was “slow,” in “la-la land” and “impossible.”

As he grew, I felt even more challenged. The entire family would be waiting in the car, wondering what was taking him so long. I’d go inside and find him staring into space, frozen in time as he paused while tying his shoelaces.

I complained a lot about my “dawdling” child. I told people he was difficult. I lectured him about staying on task and paying attention to what was going on around him.

I thought he was deficient in some way.

In third grade, his teacher asked me to send a timer to school to put on his desk to pace himself.

In high school, a teacher recommended he be “evaluated.”

I took him to a psychologist and got him on medication for attention deficit disorder (ADD).

It helped him a lot, but it made him woozy in the mornings, and he didn’t like it. His auntie bought him a cool phone that he could calendar his activities into.

He got the hang of using it and took himself off the medication within a year of starting it.

He began to function well without medication. Those interventions helped him.

But the one thing I learned from my coach is something that helps me in my relationships with David and everyone else in my family.

I would have never figured it out on my own. I had deceived myself.

I was “slow” to see what an incredible gift his ability to notice everything is.

I was in “la-la land,” thinking that David should see the world like me, a grown woman with a personality different in many ways from his unique little-boyish beautifulness.

And it was “impossible” for me to fully connect with him as long as I expected him to behave like anyone but himself.

Wait… what? I was the one who was slow, in la-la land and impossible?

While I thought David caused my concern, irritation and worry, I was wrong about that.

I created my own stress — by the way I thought about, talked about and showed up for my child.

My perceptions were deceiving.

I had to learn how to regulate my emotions so I could enjoy him just as he is and support his experience in life instead of pointing out how he was doing it “wrong.”

I learned how to be available to guide all three of our boys but not need them to change for me to feel happy. I became a better mother and a happier person instead of trying to get the kids to be better, faster or smarter.

I started seeing myself as Super Grover from “Sesame Street” — faster than steel and smarter than a speeding bullet. (Then I had to work on my self-perception.)

I’m a human being with a brain that does all the things it was made to do that sometimes deceive me.

David and I are different in various ways, one of which is that I have ADOS (attention deficit ooooh, shiny).

But now I know how to direct my thoughts that come floating in that don’t serve me. I know how to regulate my own emotions.

This tool also works wonders with my veteran husband. I used to think his struggles were my problem. But now I see it’s been my emotional self-regulation that needed a kick in the butt. Not him.

Yes, his life is incredibly challenging with PTSD and schizophrenia. But mine only needs to be as tough as I make it out to be.

I’m still a mess a lot of the time, but now I’m onto myself. I know how to feel better when and if I want to. And I can be in la-la land if I want to, too, and nothing has gone wrong.

David is all grown up, married to the best girl in the world, with a little daughter and a son on the way. He’s a successful engineer with a great company and just got a promotion last week. I’m super proud of him.

Originally published: August 9, 2021
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