This mom is tired of society's judgment, so she is explaining why her son takes medication. Although she does not owe the world an explanation. Or an apology.
Health Parenting Special Needs SPM/MM

My Son Takes ADHD Meds, and I Am Not Apologizing

This mom is tired of society's judgment, so she is explaining why her son takes medication. Although she does not owe the world an explanation. Or an apology.

By Marie Hickman

I see your comments on social media, shaming moms who choose to medicate their children’s ADHD, and I get it. You think they’re lazy, self-absorbed, uninformed, or trolls for Big Pharma.

Your heart might be in the right place, but unless you have a child like this, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m sorry, but you really don’t.

[adsanity id=”35664″ align=”aligncenter”/]

I am a mom who manages her child’s ADHD with prescription medicine, and I am not apologizing. I am simply going to tell you why, uninterrupted by social media cat fighting.

The short answer is this: I have a child whose mind is a fireworks show. Medication turns it into a laser beam. It is the only thing that works. Period.

If you think about it rationally, you’ll agree no mother pushes out a baby waiting for the day she can give him powerful stimulants that have a paradoxical calming effect. No mother can simply stand by and do nothing about failing grades, forgotten homework, calls from school and empty birthday party tables.

I chose to put my son on methylphenidate seven years ago when I realized he was not like the other first graders. We lived in the Middle East and, like all expat children, my son went to a private school. From the beginning he was lost in his own world: slow-moving, easily distracted, unable to remember classroom procedures or routines at home. He had to be told every single day for two years to remove his backpack and put it in the cubby, to take out a book, to leave the classroom for gym.

[adsanity id=”35667″ align=”aligncenter”/]

“He is a puzzle to us,” one teacher wrote in a report. That report still has my tear stains on it.

I had to agree, he was a puzzle. While at school he acted somnabulistic; he was a dervish at home, constantly in motion, jumping on his bed and other people, and unable to follow simple directions. His teachers didn’t believe me until I showed them a video.

ADHD medicines were and are still illegal in the country we called home for six years, and I honestly didn’t consider them at the time. We put stern routines in place to no avail. Then one day a friend pressed into my hand some smuggled medicine patches that had worked for her son. She suggested I try them. “I really think your son has ADHD,” she said.

Our other options were limited. I put a patch on my son’s behind and crossed my fingers. That was on a Monday. By Friday, my son was named “Student of the Week.”

[adsanity id=”35665″ align=”aligncenter”/]

His teachers, who were not in on our experiment, called me up to ask what had happened, so amazing were the changes. My boy was alert, engaged and lively. He felt in control.

Psychological testing confirmed what I suspected. Our family was faced with a game-changing decision. We knew we could not keep smuggling Schedule I drugs into a country with draconian drug laws. I gave up my comfortable expatriate life and move back to the States to give our son the resources he needed.

I did not rely on medication alone. I enrolled him in private and school-based occupational therapy and got him an Individual Education Plan. I eliminated processed foods. I turned our dining room into a homework station with color-coded materials and bins for every class. I posted lists and set reminder alarms.

From the beginning, I told him his meds are “a tool for school,” hoping that he would see it as an assist rather than something that defined him.

Of course, any parent in my position will tell you the most heartbreaking side effect of these drugs is loss of appetite. Apologies to those of you who insist, “If my kid doesn’t eat what I make for dinner, he’ll have to wait until morning.” That is simply not an option. Sunken eyes and protruding ribs just don’t work for me and aren’t healthy for my child. Because he rarely eats lunch, I make him two dinners and serve him steak and mashed potatoes for breakfast before he takes his pill.

Like most parents in my situation, I am doing my best. I want to wean my kid off of the meds. It hasn’t been a perfect journey by any stretch. One time, I found a stash of pills under his mattress. Those times corresponded with a sudden drop in grades. I realized he needs to take ownership of his condition, to feel empowered, so this year I gave him a choice. He started ninth grade without medication. Within a month, he was failing three core classes. “I need my tool for school,” he told me.

I hope my constant organizational lessons will kick in someday. I hope, illogically perhaps, that his brain chemistry will change. I hope a lot of things. For now, I want him to succeed in high school. Education is still the most reliable ticket to a life with options.

[adsanity id=”35666″ align=”aligncenter”/]

I am well aware that some children are medicated for convenience, to accommodate harried parents and overburdened schools; but for millions of others, ADHD is a real disorder, and I am grateful there are medications to control it.

I often tell my son that his fireworks of a mind will one day be able to shoot wildly into the sky and make a difference in this world. For now, that mind must fit into the four walls of a classroom, and I am going to use every resource to help him. It is not about convenience or lazy parenting; it is about being a parent who is doing what she can for her child.

How on earth can you judge that?


About Marie Hickman

Marie Hickman is a writer and blogger who focuses on midlife parenting, personal finance and divorce. She is co-author of the Valpak savings blogs. Her writing has also appeared on The Washington Post, Sammiches and Psych Meds, TODAY Parents, Scary Mommy, She Knows and The Mighty.