A difficult choice

 

One morning, after walking the kids to school, I began clearing the breakfast dishes from the table. Sitting right there on a napkin was my son’s medicine. Exasperated, I pocketed the pill and headed back over to school to give him his medicine.

Peter came into the nurse’s office with a sheepish look as I held out the pill to him. He said he thought I wouldn’t notice. I had assumed that he just forgot to take it, and this surprised me. As I walked out of the office with him, I asked why he purposely hadn’t taken it, and he replied, “I wanted to eat today.”

Whoa. I felt awful on my walk home. Pete’s appetite was practically non-existent during the day when he began taking this medicine, and more often than not, his lunch bag came home full. I don’t know if Pete simply wanted to be hungry at lunchtime or just not have me look into the lunch bag that day and make some comment about his not eating.  Either way . . . poor kid. I felt sad for him. And guilty. Really guilty.

 

When you have a child who has ADHD, you will face the choice: medicine or no medicine? People have very strong opinions on this subject and will gladly share their very strong opinions with you (whether you ask or not)! My husband and I did not take the decision to use medication lightly. My son began having issues in first grade focusing and finishing class work, but I waited until 3rd grade to make it official. Now, I feel guilty that I did not have my son diagnosed earlier and begin medicine sooner. (Guilt is a recurring theme here.) Honestly, my husband and I just weren’t sure. Was there an actual issue, or was he just being seven and would grow out of it?

Like any health issue, the sooner ADHD is diagnosed and treated, the better. I worry about the damage that occurred over those undiagnosed years—though he loves to learn, my son developed a dislike for school; he was under the impression that he was a bad student. Unfortunately, he had a couple of teachers who were utterly clueless and thought he was being defiant and choosing not to work. One actually thought he couldn’t have ADD because he was too smart. I’m still shaking my head about that.

We made the right choice though. The only side effect that Peter seems to have from his medicine is loss of appetite during the day.  Thankfully, he makes up for it at other meal times and is growing normally. The positive effects FAR outweigh the appetite thing.

It has been much easier the second time around with my daughter. We haven’t had to agonize over any decisions. When she started having behavioral issues in her first grade class, we had her evaluated and diagnosed.  Admittedly, I did wait a little while to start medication, but what a difference it has made for her! Her teacher has a behavior chart system that Genevieve used to pretty much base her worth on. She went from having green and orange days (the lower end of the behavior spectrum) to being a pink “super student” every day. I knew that those orange days were a hit to her self-esteem, and I did my best to ensure her that the “color” of her day did not define her.  Still, when you’re six, it is hard to separate those things.

Her brother took a lot more hits to his self-esteem, and I will always regret not helping him sooner. He is a resilient boy with a great deal of confidence—thank God! I hope that my experience can help anyone who may be agonizing over the same kind of decision.  For my children, medication was the best choice. It really enables them to do their best work and not have their twitchy, fidgety “stuff” get in their way.  I like to think of the medication as the first step down the right path.  They are developing the good organizational habits that they will need in higher grades and in life. It would be much more of a struggle to teach them this without the basis of medicine.

I have days where I feel bad for my kids and wish they didn’t have ADHD, but that is just the mom in me wanting to make any problem go away and make everything all better. Overall I feel like we’re all doing really well. And I am making a concerted effort to not be worried about how much they eat while they are at school!

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