My thirteen-year-old son has ADHD, which causes him to be hyperactive and impulsive.
My thirteen-year-old son came home the other day to announce that his best friend is having a birthday party but the kid’s dad doesn’t want my son to come. Why? Two months ago, they had another party, which my son attended, and he was very loud and rowdy.
I bet he was. My son has ADHD — or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD is a chronic condition that includes impulsivity and hyperactive behavior. This behavior often contributes to troubled relationships and difficulty at school.
Don’t I know it.
In the first grade, my son’s teacher told me he was the worst behaved in class. He would fidget, talk out of turn, walk around the classroom when he shouldn’t. He wouldn’t concentrate on his schoolwork. He couldn’t.
My son’s issues aren’t simply an issue of “lack of discipline” but of brain chemistry. The brains of people with ADHD have low levels of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. A deficiency of this neurotransmitter in certain parts of the brain can cause the brain to “short-circuit” and lead to inattention and impulsivity.
I took him to see a therapist who tried to give him some techniques to deal with this impulsivity. When that didn’t work, we took him to a psychiatrist who put him on Ritalin.
My son has been on the medication for years now. I even gave it to him before he went to the party, where he was reportedly so loud and rowdy.
Clearly, the Ritalin didn’t work. I wasn’t at the party but I can imagine what happened. I know what happened when I took my son to a Boy Scout meeting.
While all the other kids were practicing building tents in a park, my son ran in and out of them. He knocked one tent down and spit on the cloth of another one.
The other kids hated him for it. Their parents hated him even more.
I tried to apologize, explaining that my son has ADHD. People still judged him for it. They judged me.
People judge me as a mother.
Yes, many people have judged me for my son’s behavior. My friends who don’t have children are horrified. My friends who do have kids wonder why my son isn’t calmer like their children. Of course, they attribute this to me not disciplining my son enough.
Easier said than done. It’s hard to put a kid with ADHD in a time-out. Though I can try to discipline my son and teach boundaries, some of his behavior is out of my hands.
And that’s embarrassing when we’re around other people who don’t understand my son’s condition.
My stepmother judges me.
My son’s ADHD is so bad that my family judges me as well — especially my stepmother. In her world, I should be hitting my son with a wooden spoon, the choice of discipline for her sons when they were growing up.
I don’t want to use physical force to discipline my son. However, because his impulsive behavior persists, we have been uninvited from coming to dad’s house where he lives with my stepmother.
I get it — I understand that my son’s behavior can be difficult. I do everything I can to control it. But it’s sad that this has affected our relationship with my family.
My son is missing out on a warm relationship with his grandparents because of his ADHD.
My son’s behavior at school has improved.
Luckily, with the help of Ritalin and continued practice controlling his behavior, my son’s performance at school has improved. He now gets good grades. He's in junior high, and his teachers report that he is calm and polite in class.
These days, his behavioral problems only happen away from school when he’s around his friends. The boys are all loud and rowdy when they’re together. They’re aggressive and very physical. They’re typical boys. But my son is of a different order.
He goes wild. It’s embarrassing—but I can handle it. Still, it breaks my heart that his best friend’s dad dislikes my son so much that he's not invited to the boy’s birthday party.
How my son reacted to this news.
I asked my son how he feels about this. He stared at me with glassy eyes. He doesn’t seem to comprehend why any adults would dislike him. He doesn’t seem to understand how unruly he is.
I asked him if he knows how he behaves when he's around his friends. He shrugged. He doesn't.
And yet, he’s at an age when he needs to start learning to control himself better. In many respects, he does. But still, he gets into situations where he gets out of control.
Like at the last party that his best friend threw, where allegedly, my son was very misbehaved.
Hopefully, my son's behavior will improve as he gets older. But as of now, things are the way they are.
Some of his friends’ parents might hate him. Some might continue to not invite my son to events.
It’s a teachable moment. My son is just going to have to deal with this. He’s learning early that some people will never like him. Some people can’t look past the fact he has ADHD.
I see that as their problem.
And yet, I know that my son is really the one who has to do the work to change. My hope is that such bad experiences will finally force him to behave better.
But for now, I’ve just accepted that my son's best friend’s dad doesn’t like him. It’s just the way it is.