**Published with the permission of my son**
I wrote a few years ago about our son’s “A.D.D.-like behavior” and how our change in diet dramatically affected (in a good way) his behavior, allergies and eczema. When we first pulled our son out of school in the middle of kindergarten to home school him, I saw firsthand just how fidgety he was. He was constantly tapping his pencil, shaking his leg, and just overall being annoying. When we changed his diet, a lot of that went away. Even though he was greatly improved, though, as he got older, we noticed he was an instigator. If there was a problem in our house, he was involved. If someone got in trouble, you could guarantee that he would be there. I was incredibly strict with his diet for about a year. Absolutely no dairy, sugar or grains. And honestly, his behavior was much more manageable. But maintaining that strict of a diet when there are no life-threatening allergies is difficult–birthday parties come up, visits to grandparents, going to friends’ houses…all of those situations present issues. People aren’t very understanding if they don’t see the ramifications of a child eating processed junk. They just think the poor child has an overly-protective parent.
So, we settled on a pretty strict Paleo diet at home, but gave our son the freedom to make his own choices when he was out and about. For awhile, he made poor choices. But, as he’s matured, he’s often chosen to avoid dairy especially as he knows that affects him dramatically. However, even with his most valiant efforts, he was constantly. in. trouble.
I don’t know how to say this nicely…but having him around was often like having a cancer in our family. It spread anger, hostility and an overall sense of just…rotten behavior. He acted like a self-righteous, spoiled, unappreciative brat. He complained and argued and was constantly at battle; with me especially. I’d read all the parenting books, tried all the positive reinforcement I could handle, and prayed more times than I could ever count. Parenting this child was difficult, to say the least. Many, many nights, I would lay my head on my pillow and silently allow the tears to flow, wondering how I was going to make it through the next 10-15 years. I felt overwhelmed, constantly drained…beaten down. I could feel my body tense up when he would come out of his room in the morning. I would wonder how the day was going to go, whether it would be a good day or bad day. Would he come out hostile and be ready for battle as soon as he entered the family room? Or would he (as he rarely did) come out with a smile on his face and a soft heart? More often than not, it was game on as soon as his day started.
He was always the last one to fall asleep and the first one to wake up. Superman and I would be in bed by 9:30 or 10:00 each night, and even though our kids are in bed by 8:00, this child would often still be awake, stirring in his bed when we went to sleep. He was usually the first one up in the morning, awake by 5:30, sometimes just blurting for the heck of it even though everyone else was asleep. I couldn’t understand how he could get such little sleep and still be so active and destructive during the day.
I felt emotionally demolished.
Superman and I had discussed ADHD meds a number of times over the years (our son is now 10). But every time we discussed it, I just felt like if I gave him meds, I was failing somehow. There must be something I can do, I would think. Even though eating a strict diet helped immensely, it wasn’t feasible longterm, and honestly, the thought of having to make this kid 100% grain/dairy/sugar-free in a world and culture where it’s like swimming upstream was completely overwhelming. I tried essential oils. I tried supplements. I tried just about every alternative method for treating his symptoms. Nothing worked.
About 9 months ago, I started praying about what to do with this child. Send him to boarding school? That’s what I felt like doing, but it didn’t seem like a viable option. I begged God to give me an answer. I pleaded with him to provide a solution. And one night, I felt God softly lay on my heart that I should be open to medication. The next morning, I brought it up to Superman, and after a short discussion, we decided we would at least get our son evaluated. I already felt like a failure.
A few days later, I took him in to a psychiatrist. First, she let him talk. She asked him loads of questions–about his life, about how he felt most of the time, whether it was hard to sleep, whether he had a lot of friends, what his siblings thought of him. He was very honest and open, and for the first time in a long time, I actually felt bad for him. He shared how he knew no one liked him. He said he wanted to do the right thing, but that he just couldn’t control himself and he felt like he was a bad kid, even though we had never said that to him. He said he knew there were people in the family and extended family who didn’t like him and didn’t want to be around him. He said he had a hard time focusing in school, especially math. He actually said he wanted help to be better.
Then it was my turn. I echoed everything he had said. I told her all the behaviors I’d seen over the past 10 years. How he had been this way since toddlerhood, but that it had gotten worse over the past few years. I told her he seemed drawn to doing the wrong thing. If he knew something was wrong, it’s almost like a little switch turned on inside him, and he was determined to do that wrong thing. I told her I was exhausted. And then I told her that even though he was so difficult, I saw potential in him. He has the most giving heart I’ve ever seen (when he’s in the right place emotionally). He is always the first kid to offer prayer if someone needs it. He would give the shirt off his back to a friend in need. He loves music, and would be content just sitting on the couch with headphones on all day, especially if he was listening to his favorite Christian music artist. I knew God created him for a reason, put him in our home for a reason, and that he would grow up to do something great, but I needed help getting through parenting him for the next 8 years.
We had 4 more sessions after that. We filled out tons of paperwork. Superman and I both filled out surveys about him. He met with the therapist one-on-one. And finally, she met with us: “He exhibits the classic behavior of a child with ADHD.” She went on to say that the first thing she looks at when evaluating children is the type of home they are living in. After talking to me and him multiple times, she determined that he was living in a stable, loving home, that we were consistent with our discipline, and that we were providing him with the structure that he needed. It wasn’t our fault.
Part of me was relieved. But, what next? ADHD meds? Read Part Two HERE.