I filled my son’s first prescription for Ritalin today.
I am not sure exactly how I feel about that. Different as a mom than as a Registered Nurse, no doubt. We have always known we were most likely dealing with ADHD, but kept putting off the outside psychiatric evaluation.
“He is so young, he could outgrow it.”
“He is doing really well for now.”
“We will wait and see.”
“Kids are so over-medicated these days.”
The thing is, though, during the time (years) we waited to see how things turned out, there were never any huge behavioral miracles. The truth of the matter is that my son has ADHD. There are good days and there are really, really rough days. He is not defined by having this condition, but he is most certainly affected. Any person who watches him during a soccer practice, school day, or swim lesson would be able to identify the frequent bouncing, inattention, hyperactivity, and occasionally screaming outbursts that so clearly differentiate him from his peers.
When Ry is highly motivated or attending to a preferred activity, he can focus like a champ. Building Lego sets, drawing in his journal, and watching YouTube seem to be in direct contrast to the inattention often observed in kids struggling with ADHD. However, Ryan leans more towards the hyperactivity presentation and when he is not interested in something, GOOD LUCK getting him to pay attention. (Also, if you are successful in this, please message me! MMkkay thanks.)
When Ryan really started to fall behind in Kindergarten, getting red or yellow days every single day for a month, we made the call to contact outside help. We are lucky that Ry has a wonderful teacher who gets him. She sees him, she loves him. She gives him frequent breaks, heavy work, and extra “jobs” that get him the physical activity that he needs. However, even she was at a loss as we discussed his behavior on the phone last month. I asked if his behavior was impeding his ability to learn, and the ability of others in the classroom to learn. She answered emphatically, yes. And then I knew.
School districts are often pressed for resources, and special education in the school systems is certainly more reactive than proactive. So when they discontinued Ryan’s IEP in the early fall, I was worried (and relieved to bypass those stressful, intimidating IEP meetings) but hopeful. Perhaps this was a good thing! He was improving! He was outgrowing his earlier Pre-K and Early Intervention struggles! But, as the excitement of a new school routine waned, Ry’s behavior returned to the roller coaster it has always been. Heck, even as a baby that kid cried far more than others, and we felt the difference in every public setting, always.
The behavior ebbs and flows, sometimes he struggles, sometimes he adjusts very well. We are in a relatively pleasant upswing currently. The thing is, I am not like the school system. I am proactive, not reactive. I want to help my child before he is drowning and cannot be resuscitated. The social awkwardness he exudes now is easily forgotten by his peers, but older kids are not so forgiving of slights against them. Not only socially, I worry about my child’s self esteem. Ryan is a highly sensitive kid, with big feelings and emotions. I cannot imagine how exhausted this kid is with his brain constantly buzzing beyond his control. He must tire of being constantly, unrelentingly reminded to tone it down or rein it in all day long, day after day after day after day…. If it tires me, it must be dreadful for him. I worry about the impact all of the negative feedback he gets on his developing self-esteem. What you hear from your parents and world around you eventually becomes your inner dialogue.
So, after a very long and difficult month I made the appointment for the eval last month. And you know what? So far, no regrets. Trying medication is a deeply personal and difficult decision to make with any child dealing with a vast array of conditions. As parents, we do not want to hurt our child with unnecessary medication (typically Big Pharma is not your friend), nor allow him to continue suffering. We will try this out as a compliment to the other gazillion ways we attempt to help him throughout his days, and if it does not help, we will stop it. If we do not try, how can we know? Medication is a great tool when it works, and I have personally witnessed it help many. I am grateful that his amazing teacher is still collaborating with the OT, social worker, and special ed teacher for guidance during periods of struggle. This team is really dynamic and strives to reach each child where they are at. They truly want each child to succeed. We are lucky for this and much more.
So tonight this is the space where my mind is at. Quiet contemplation, relief, anxiety over the future for my son. As I stare at the little bottle of light blue pills and recall my nursing experience with previous little patients on stimulant meds, I hold tightly to the thought that we are doing what is best for our big dude right now. We are trying, and will try again in a different way should this current path not work out. We will never give up on working to help our kiddo live his best life. I choose to never feel bad about the decisions we make with love to support our big guy.