It started in preschool when Lucas was two. Notes coming home saying things like, “Please talk to Lucas about listening and staying in his seat.” And I thought, “Well that’s just freakin’ ridiculous. He’s two. Two-year-olds don’t listen, and they don’t sit in seats. Especially not boys.” As far as knew, anyway… Still, I talked to Lucas about it, as he scampered circles around the room like a squirrel on crack, never making eye-contact as I spoke, and me feeling like an idiot for trying to reprimand a two-year-old about something that happened like six hours earlier, and rolling my eyes at those-daycare-people-who-don’t-know-shit.

Later, when Lucas started Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK), we received similar notes, albeit with a more ominous bent:

“Lucas did not finish any of his work today.”

“During story-time Lucas ran around the room instead of sitting on the carpet.”

“Lucas was disruptive during nap-time.”

Around that time, I started to chew my lip a little… but I still managed to convince myself, “He’s four. Do four-year-olds finish anything? He’s a boy.” The grandmas, aunts, honorary aunts, and close friends all concurred.

Then, at the VPK Christmas pageant, I watched in alarm as Lucas squirmed and flailed disturbingly more than any of his male peers. He stuck out like a sore thumb. I was that mom waving frantically to get my kid’s attention so that I could ‘evil eye’ him into compliance. Of course I only succeeded in looking like a total fucking idiot.

Four letters began to rear their ugly heads at me.





I asked our doctor about it. He said you really can’t diagnose ADHD until a child is in school, because there has to be a discernible ‘impairment’ when compared to his same-gender peers. I had already seen him with same-gender peers, and I was certain he was different from them. I started to research online. I bought books, but not just about ADHD. Books about parenting ‘strong-willed’ children, books about love languages. (Maybe I just wasn’t giving him enough love and it was making him crazy? Or maybe I could cure him with love…)

At VPK graduation they sat Lucas in the far back corner of the stage, where a teacher sat surreptitiously in the shadows, ready to gently remind him to stay quiet, or possibly remove him, lest he ruin graduation for the other, better-behaved children.

Each child was to have a turn at the microphone to recite a memorized line. As they took their turns, each child mumbled or sniveled, whispered too softly or shouted ear-piercingly loudly, stood dumbfounded or giggled inappropriately, into the mic. They were adorably atrocious. 

I was confident my sweet boy would fail, even though we had practiced every night for weeks. “Look at him wriggle back there,” I thought with anxiety, “Why in God’s name can’t he just sit still like other kids?”

Then his turn came. My heart was pounding my brain out of my skull. I knew, at least, that he couldn’t do worse than the kid who did nothing but snigger obnoxiously into the mic. Could he?

And then:

“Hello! My name is Lucas. Here is a cool song about a slippery fish.”




Eye contact to the folks at the back of the room.

Like we had practiced, but better.

Confidence blowing out from him like a cyclone. 

I, of course, immediately burst into tears.

“Don’t get too cocky,” my hateful inner-self whispered. “That doesn’t mean he’s normal.”

What a relief that Lucas could excel at something! But I still knew he was ‘different.’ One would have to be blind not to see it. We had trouble with Lucas at home too, with not listening, almost as if he was not hearing. We had his ears checked; they were fine. We would send him to pick up his shoes and find him two minutes later sitting on the floor next to his shoes intently examining a piece of carpet fuzz he’d found on the floor. At soccer practice, he was more interested in discovering what happened to his shadow when he jumped, lying down in the grass so that he could inspect the blades more closely, or dangling joyously in the net of the goal while the other kids chased after the ball.

“Focus!” we implored, again and again. “You have to focus!” I’m not sure if we were talking to him or making a wish. Or praying.

We saw Lucas excel in other ways: He was quick to learn, memorized things easily. When he was two, he memorized every word of The Berenstain Bears On the Moon. Around the same time he decided he wanted to be a fighter pilot. That goal is an obsession of his and remains to this day at age six. When my husband told him the F-14 Tomcat was retired, he cried so hard I thought he was going to throw up.

He had excellent memorization skills (if you could get him to listen). He thrived as a performer. He displayed incredible perseverance and dedication when it came to things he was interested in.

So he was smart. But I couldn’t hang my hat on his intelligence. I didn’t want to be that annoying parent who says “He just behaves terribly because he’s bored.”

I mentioned my concerns about ADHD to a few trusted confidants. Everyone denied the possibility, citing Lucas’s intelligence, insisting he must be bored. Or they said his behavior was completely normal for boys his age. Some even suggested that ADHD might not even be a real thing. That maybe it was just ‘labeling’ a legitimate personality type. Even my husband rejected my hypothesis.

Still, I continued my research, like the straight-A student I am. Lucas seemed to have all of the symptoms of ADHD. But the diagnosis checklists frequently came with the qualification that it is very difficult to diagnose a child with ADHD prior to first grade, because so much of the criteria are dependent on an observation of the child’s ability to complete ‘boring’ tasks… like schoolwork. 

So even though he wasn’t yet in kindergarten: Observe I did. I observed the shit out of that poor kid. Every outing, every scene, every attempt to accomplish anything, became a test. I was always on the hunt for ‘same-age, same-gender peer groups.’ Watching like a famished hawk. Starving for signs that he was ‘normal.’

I hung my hopes on kindergarten, thinking his performance in school would tell us everything. It would be obvious, then, whether or not Lucas had ADHD.

The second day of kindergarten, Lucas came home with a note that said, “Lucas had a very rough day today.” I posted the contents of the note on Facebook along with some snarky remark like “REALLY, Lucas??” I’m pretty sure that’s not good parenting, but at the moment, it was the only thing I could do that would keep me from bursting into tears.

In early December, after many teacher conferences, behavioral interventions, fancy rewards charts, forms filled out, questionnaires answered; Lucas’s doctor diagnosed him with ADHD. He then asked me if we would like for him to prescribe medication for Lucas.

Wait… what?? Isn’t the doctor supposed to tell me what to do? How can I make such a huge decision all by myself like that? Besides, the Hubs is thoroughly against medication. He talks to his engineer friends and they all tell him they had the same issues when they were kids and “look at them now, they’re doing great!”But were they on medication as kids? Maybe it helped them. What if it actually dumbed them down and they didn’t begin to really thrive until they were taken off of it? What if they would have been even more successful without medication? Or what if the medication was an out-and-out lifesaver?

I’d read plenty on the topic of ADHD medications. But all those hours of research didn’t give me any kind of assurance that I was equipped to make such an enormous decision for my child. I felt panicky. Then somehow, I heard a little tiny something inside my head whisper that this was how Lucas was supposed to be… and that I shouldn’t try to change him. At least… not yet – not this young. Not in kindergarten. Even if it made our lives harder, and made his teachers and classmates miserable. I know that’s not fair. It even sounds a little crazy. But that’s what my insides said. No medication. Not yet.

lucas running


— — — — —

This is the first in an I-don’t-know-how-may-posts-long series about our journey with ADHD. Nothing I say here or anywhere else is meant to be judgmental. I know ADHD is a very personal struggle and each family may find different ways of coping that work for them. If someone can learn anything from something I write, or find comfort in the solidarity of similar experiences, that would be the best thing I could get out of this. I very much welcome comments, personal stories, and even advice. Please feel free to share your stories!


  1. I know I have told you before how much Boy Wonder and Lucas are alike. Boy Wonder is 8 now and I still choose not to medicate him. Having Boy Wonder tested for gifted and moved into that program has helped us immensely with his focus issues (as you know it doesn’t go away, but I’m not getting the constant notes home anymore). Is that an option for Lucas? It wasn’t until this year (3rd grade) that he is in an all day gifted environment with other students like him, and I found out that what you and I (and countless others)have gone through with our kids and battle with ADHD is quite common in the gifted population (who knew?!). Thank you for sharing this story, there are a lot more children out there just like your Lucas and my Boy Wonder, and until parents go through it, it is hard to understand why and how to help them.

    • Yes! We had Lucas tested in Kindergarten and he qualified. Details in the next post… 😉

      That’s great that Boy Wonder is in an all-day program! I don’t think they have that option as early as 3rd grade here.

  2. Every tiny anecdote you recount here sets my “spidey-sense” tingling, because I’ve experienced them all myself with my daughter, right from the start. She was the most alert baby, who never took naps. Aged two, at pre-school, she never finished anything, squirmed, wriggled and “disrupted” other children playing nicely. Interviews with concerned teachers about her being unable to sit still or concentrate at the age of four. Getting paranoid about her making odd animal noises around children, who called her “freak”, at the age of eight and cursing myself for thinking she may not be quite “normal”.

    And yet she was reciting her alphabet by the time she was two, learned to count in Japanese not long after, when my husband got back from a trip there, and now, at the age of 11, is top of her class in Art.

    She has low self-esteem and she gets angry – very angry – because deep down, she knows she’s different and she doesn’t know why, so she hurts those she loves to give vent to her feelings.

    She’s been assessed for ADHD, but never diagnosed, counselled by “Early Intervention” workers for her “anger issues”, who gave us endless reward charts, behaviour charts, goal-driven monitor charts – my bloody kitchen was papered with them at one point and I hated them.

    Does she have ADHD? I honestly don’t know and I’ve given up trying to pin it down to a “cause”. She is who she is and we just try to give her all the love and confidence we can so she can learn to cope with that, one day at a time. I can’t claim it doesn’t drive me to distraction sometimes, it really does, and I’m not a very good Mum when I let it get the better of me. It’s a learning curve for me too.

    She’s just started at a great secondary school who spent a lot of time reading her history and talking to us before she even arrived. They don’t seem inclined to “get to the bottom of it” either – just giving her the space to be herself and sensitive support when issues arise. Fingers crossed, she’s starting to thrive. I think she’s even starting to accept and like herself a little.

    Thank you for your posts on this subject – I’m sure they will help many people in similar circumstances.

    • Wow. Yes one thing I’ve noticed is how damaging to a kid’s self-esteem all the “assessments” and “interventions” can be. I will have a lot to say about that as this series continues… 🙂

      So happy for your daughter that she is in a situation where she is thriving.

  3. My oldest has ADHD, Although my blog is not specific to this topic I just wanted to connect with mommies going thru this as well! Its a daily challenge but glad to see we are not alone.