I go through these stages where I convince myself that Lucas doesn’t have ADHD. I see him bent over a project, brow wrinkled with intense focus, and it makes me question my sanity.

Maybe he really is just a typical boy.
Maybe I am too impatient and judgmental, and I needed to fabricate a disorder in my son to assuage my guilt about being a shitty parent.
Maybe I am the problem.
Right around the time Scary Mommy published a post I wrote about ADHD, one that was shared over 80,000 times, I was going through one of these stages. I didn’t even share the successful post on my personal Facebook page because I was worried my friends and family would think I was being melodramatic.
Honestly, I felt like a fraud.
After all, I hadn’t been getting any behavior notes home from Lucas’ teacher. Only the occasional piece of unfinished work with a note attached requesting that we finish it and turn it in.
No biggie, right?
He’s fine.
Then we had our parent-teacher conference.
Yeah… Lucas definitely has ADHD. The whole conference revolved around his lack of focus and how frequently he is off-task.
Then last week I volunteered in Lucas’ classroom three mornings in a row to help out with their Thanksgiving projects.
He is all over the place! They have this morning routine where they all hang up their backpacks and stack their communication folders in a bin for the teacher, then they sit and do a worksheet until morning announcements begin.
The kids are like busy little bees, all buzzing about the hive, each focused on their individual task. Many kids jump right into their worksheet and try to be the first to finish. I understand those kids; that was me as a student.
But… I don’t understand this little lost bee; the one who tosses his backpack on his neighbor’s desk, then wanders over to a colorful display on the side of the room to fiddle with stuff. Or maybe he stands in the middle of the room and spins in circles. Or stares into space humming.
One of the mornings I was there they were working on this math worksheet. They were given a two digit number, say 57, and they have to find how many more to make 100. They have to find how many ones to get to the next tens number (in this case it would be 3) and then how many tens they would need to make it to 100 (they would need 4 tens). Then they add the ones and tens to get their answer: 43.
Lucas has no problem doing this kind of math. Sometimes he gets it so fast it seems like he just guessed correctly. Other kids in his class struggled with the concept, and understandably so; it’s basically counting change for second graders.
But even with his ease of understanding, Lucas was the ONLY ONE IN THE CLASS to not finish the worksheet. He didn’t even get through half of it. It’s pathetic. He only works if you’re standing right over him prompting him the whole time.
All I could think was how in the hell does his teacher get him to accomplish anything, EVER? She must be magical.
This ADHD stuff is heavy on my mind today because I LOST MY SHIZ with Lucas this morning while we were working on his violin music. He’s actually pretty good at violin; but he SUCKS at paying attention…
(Or do I just suck at being patient?)
I don’t even care if he plays the violin well. I just want to see him, for ten minutes, looking at me the way I see other kids look at their parents; hungry for knowledge, respectfully awaiting information. But Lucas is in his own world, always. He looks through me, not at me. When I ask him to repeat something I just played, he looks at me startled, like I just woke him up. He has no idea what I just played.
And then when I speak, he plays over me instead of listening. Thismakes me lose it.
Because okay kid, I know it’s hard for you to focus, but seriously how many times do I have to tell you that when words start coming out of my mouth that you are supposed to be quiet and listen? And even if you have a hard time listening, can you at least just SHUT UP?! CAN YOU AT LEAST GIVE ME THAT MUCH???
I said all that and more. I was mean. I feel like shit.
Anyway, I made him keep working on violin until he was able to focus and listen, and hence play the passage. The lesson took twice as long as it should have, and I was very barky and hissy. Because too many times, when I spoke, he played over me. And so I lost my shiz. Yes, again. I took away all his electronic privileges. (This is worse than spanking for him – he loves watching science videos on his tablet.)
Does he do this to his teacher? When she starts speaking, does he hum over her voice or spin in circles, ignoring her? Oh it makes me crazy. How does she not lose it with him?
Is this ADHD? Is that even relevant? At what point do I stop letting ADHD be an excuse and demandrespect? And at what point have I gone too far with the discipline? How do I know if I’m punishing Lucas for something that is out of his control?
Or should I give him harsh consequences anyway, because dammit this is the world we live in and you can’t float through life on a little cloud doing whatever the hell you want, and you have to learn that there are consequences for your actions, ADHD or not. That is life, kid. Get used to it.
I have to teach him that, don’t I?
We are strict parents, any of our friends and family can attest to that. Loving, yes – but we are strict. Can we be more strict? Should we? Should we go military-style, give him extra homework, have Lucas do chores all afternoon and run my finger over everything with a white glove? That would be too much, right?
Or should we just go ahead and drug him? A lot of people, including our own doctor, have suggested that this could help him.
But then I come back to myself. I am too impatient. I unfairly expect Lucas to think like I do.
But… Lucas still has to learn to be respectful, and at least (for the love of all things holy) be quiet when an authority figure is speaking. Right?
I feel like Lucas and I are on different ends of the “paying attention” spectrum. I hyper-focus and over-analyze, while he floats and dreams. I just don’t understand him. I want to understand him, so badly.
I want to help him.
But how can I help him when I feel so helpless and ill-equipped? (This is a job for a patient person.)
Yes, Lucas definitely has ADHD. No, he is not a typical boy. Yes, he definitely still needs to learn to be respectful.
Yes, I am horribly impatient. No, I should not have lost my cool to the extent that I did this morning.
Yes… we’re going to get through this. It is surely at least as difficult for Lucas to focus as it is for me to remain calm when things aren’t going my way. I suppose we are both works in progress.  
The difference is, I ought to know better.


  1. We are currently going through this with our 2nd grader. Bad feedback from his teacher, incomplete assignments, slow at homework. (2 1/2 hrs last night for 5 pages of language, about 25 questions, easy ones.) We KNOW he has ADHD, but cannot proceed with any sort of plan till he is tested. I never wanted a label for him, but in order to have an IEP for school, so they understand his struggle, instead of just assuming he’s being a shit, we need to test him. I don’t ever want to medicate. I would like to start Cognitive Behavioral Therapy once he is diagnosed so we can teach him coping instead of using medication as a crutch. I have arranged a Complete Psychological Evaluation, but can’t get in till Feb. 3 appts. an hr and a half the 1st time, 3 hrs the 2nd time and an hr to get the results. Won’t get results till march 1. Then work with the school for an IEP, by that time it’s likely it will be the end of the school year, and this yr will be a wash, it terms of help for him. Good luck. Please read: ADHD: What Every Parent Needs to Know. (I tagged you in the link I posted on my timeline). If you ever want to talk about it with a mom who is having the same problems, PM me anytime.

    • We haven’t done the psych eval, or the IEP yet. It’s time, though. We need to get it done before 3rd grade, when they go to the %/letter grading system. So far the teacher grades very subjectively based on her observation of the child’s understanding of the material. As such, and because his teacher has been very accommodating and understanding of his personality type, Lucas has been able to maintain mostly high grades. He just doesn’t finish his work unless prompted constantly. Once he gets graded based on percentages, this is obviously going to become a huge problem for him.

    • Anonymous

      Hello. I have a teenage daughter with ADHD. She wasn’t diagnosed until she was a teenager, and had been suffering 3.5 years with no-one at her ‘post-11-year-old school’ (I am European) and no doctor having any idea what was wrong with her.
      By the time of diagnosis we were already home-schooling, which I do not recommend!

      We don’t medicate – usually. Her choice, sometimes it helps her concentrate – just like her glasses help her to see better (she has astigmatism and wears glasses sometimes).
      Please keep an open mind about medication. Your sons may ask for it. I genuinely believe there are gaps in their brains, which medication can fill.

      We haven’t tried CBT, but have done Neurofeedback. It’s something for you to think about – non-invasive, ‘brain training’. Can’t honestly tell you if it’s worked or not as I have no idea what she would be like without neurofeedback.
      Worth a go – but you may not get funding. She had about 20 sessions, which should be quite enough (our dr gives less if the improvements stop).

      I wonder why you want your son to play the violin? Everything will be harder for him than for other kids.
      I think what you want is to share something with him – but maybe it could be something he likes doing? Even watching a favourite TV series together can be fun – and I’m strangely proud that I (used to) know the first 150 Pokémon by name!

      What I did find, even before the diagnosis, if my daughter isn’t looking at me she isn’t listening. So if it is REALLY important I stop and make sure she looks.

      Things I am proud of – my daughter is very empathic and caring, she has a great sense of fairness and can see the truth of most situations.
      She has struggled like crazy to learn French (a compulsory subject where we live) and it has taken her at least twice as long as the other kids, and set her schooling back at least three years, but finally she is learning French.
      And she has a fantastic sense of direction. If she had been lost in the woods with Hansel and Gretel she would have taken them all straight home.
      She is really flexible – where I am totally set in my ways!
      What I’m not proud of – she can’t organise her homework and she has no idea of time, and she procrastinates.

      Please could you make your next post – stuff your son does which makes you proud? The very act of writing it will help you find the stuff and will make you feel better about your son. Who knows, he could go on to be a successful businessman or an actor. Good luck

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a long comment. I love this! You bring up an interesting point about the violin. He actually wants to play violin. He sees me play and wants to be able to do it too. It’s the commitment / focus he has trouble with, but I believe that in the long run it is beneficial to him to have that struggle so that he can follow through to success and have that feeling of accomplishment. And an interesting thing we have discovered about him is that he is an incredible performer. Most people play their worst during a performance and save their best playing for practices and run-throughs. He is exactly the opposite. Thanks for recommending I write a positive post about him… I’m on it!

  2. Everything you wrote here I have had go thru my mind. I have definitely, on way too many occasions, lost my cool. Just reading this, I sit here at my table and cry. I wonder all the same things, is it me? how can I possibly be say the things I say? Whats in store for his future? Wyatt does the same thing when I am talking, It really is so very frustrating. He is on medication now after years of fighting it and it does help him. My doctor told me an interesting thing the other day ( I took him off meds for the summer) He said you dont get any mommy points for taking him off medication, a child with untreated adhd has a 9 percent higher accident rate than other kids, riding a bike, 4 wheeler, driving, just anything they do.I didnt know that… well we had a wonderful summer, very few outbursts and lots of great, stress free moments! It seems he was so much more stressed by school than I knew, not only the constant hammering on him about all he didnt do, didnt do right, didnt complete, lost, etc from the school and from me, but he seems so very sensitive to other kids and the things they say and do.He is almost 11 now and I have taken him out of school. We are homeschooling in a very flexible way. Its called unschooling, sounds crazy but it works for us.
    Being a single mom of this incredible boy is like being on a roller coaster. Sometimes he is the most empathetic and caring kid, doing unexpected things and other times he will say something so out of line it just blows me away. I just wanted to thank you for your honesty and courage to put this out here for us to read, it helps me to know I am not the only one that loses it and that my thoughts have also gone thru some one elses mind, sometimes you just really feel alone in this. So thank you!

    • Comments like these are really my faves, because they make me feel normal, and less alone. I have considered homeschooling, and I haven’t ruled it out. Same for meds. Next year will be a turning point because of the change in grading system.

      My Lucas is also extremely caring and empathetic, borderline anxious. He is a worrier and a thinker – those things he DID get from me. 😉

  3. Hi Kristen. Our 4th grade daughter is ADHD. The diagnosis came right before we transferred to our new duty station (my husband is military) a year and a half ago. We were always told she had sensory issues and had an IEP from the age of 3-8 years old. Once we settled in our new home, we consulted with her new pediatrician and decided on the best treatment for her. As apart of her treatment, she went to an occupational therapist…. and that did wonders for her. She had listening therapy, worked on motor skills, language exercises, and did much more, which seemed like play, but was actually therapeutic for her. For the other half of her treatment we did decide to medicate. Luckily, we have not had to up the dose, but one time, and she has had no side effects. When she is not in school, she is not medicated. We have seen tremendous improvement in her academic performance. However, we do not want to see her medicated long term, hence the OT therapy. There she learns skills to help her cope day to day with ADHD. I am not saying that this is what is best for all children with ADHD… it’s what’s working best for our child (presently) and I thought I’d share. I have had, and continue to have, many of the emotions you express in your post. All you can do is explore and pursue what works best for your child and your family. Take care and all the best 🙂

    • Thank you for taking the time to write this. I don’t know why I haven’t considered OT. I will absolutely look into that! And of course we still haven’t ruled out meds… 3rd grade is the game-changer; we will have to make some big decisions next year.

  4. Thanks for this post. As of today, I don’t have a child with ADHD. (My children are 6, 4 and 2 and one on the way in June.) But my husband has ADD and I finally figured out that my mother in law does too. Wow would that info have helped out A TON when I married my husband almost 9 years ago!! Anyway, you totally described talking to my mother in law when you said this: “I know it’s hard for you to focus, but seriously how many times do I have to tell you that when words start coming out of my mouth that you are supposed to be quiet and listen? And even if you have a hard time listening, can you at least just SHUT UP?! CAN YOU AT LEAST GIVE ME THAT MUCH???” She completely talks over me and my husband all. the. time. She also talks so much that she doesn’t hear my children (her grandchildren) speaking to her. I thought she was losing her hearing until her sister pointed out that maybe it’s ADD. Anyway, thank you so much for posting those words!!! Please continue to blog about your son and continue to blog about him when he is an adult. There aren’t enough articles or blogs out there on how to best relate to adults with ADD especially ones you aren’t married to. Thanks! (Oh and I know that ADD and ADHD have differences but I appreciate the similarities that you pointed out in this post.)

    • Actually, the latest term (I think – it changes constantly) is AD/HD – the “hyperactivity” comes after the slash so that the diagnosis assumes it could be present/not present. It saves everyone from having to distinguish. But everyone leaves out the slash now. Sorry about your MIL. You had me laughing though, I have to admit. 😉

  5. Thank you for posting this. I also loved your “What you don’t know about that unruly child” post. Two of my three children have adhd. My 3rd grader is on an IEP (really bright and amazing at math) and sees a therapist. My 1st grader does not have one but has been evaluated by school staff. His behavior is not consistently disruptive enough to be considered for one. We plan on having a 504 plan in place for him eventually though. So many books I’ve read about temperamentally difficult children and adhd do not speak to the day to day struggles and raw emotion like your posts do. I’m not a writer so it’s hard to put into words my gratitude for your posts. 🙂 I can relate to blaming myself. It seems like I have to be a behavioral therapist and a mom everyday. They can control their actions but it is more difficult for them vs other children. They need a lot more love and grace. They get in trouble a lot so I have to catch them being good. 🙂 It is okay for them to have bad feelings, extra energy but it’s not okay to make other people feel bad. So much stuff to remember and it’s easy to forget these things in the bustle of the day!

    • Yes you are a writer; I understood you perfectly. I’m right there with you momma, and I’m so glad we could connect in this way. <3 Make sure to follow on FB if you don’t already, I tend to post tidbits about the daily AD/HD struggles. And anytime you have a question or just need to vent, message me or leave a note on the Abandoning Pretense FB wall. There are tons of other AD/HD moms following over there and they are a very supportive group! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a beautiful comment.

  6. Just discovering your website and reading old posts- My son is 7 with AD/HD and your writing brilliantly captures many of my own though processes and interactions with him. We did decide to medicate- a decision I have not made peace with yet- just like wondering if he really has it.. if it’s bad enough.. if I worked harder..was more patient, ..better Mom, etc. I feel like the medication “takes the edge” off his ADHD. He’s still him but instead of me losing my shit once a day it’s once a monthish. That’s the biggest difference- I have begun to like him again and am able to want to love on him like I do his “easy” brother- not as naturally as I do his brother but it so much better than where we were. It’s like he can have normal interactions with his Mom and she’s not always having to be on his shit! (and losing her shit). Please keep posting about ADHD- when I read about someone mirroring my own experience and feelings I cry a little with relief. Does that sound weird?

    • Not weird AT ALL. It’s the reason I write about it – we can learn from and commiserate with one another. It helps. xo

  7. I just found your website and went back and read your older posts. I am a 50 year old women with ADD-PI (the PI is for primarily inattentive or w/o hyperactivity). I was not diagnosed until I was 40. The diagnosis sure explained a lot. I had a terrible time in school! I was always so bored when the teacher would just drone on and on about whatever. I would read anything as I just could not focus. To this day I hate sitting in a classroom. I would rather read an encyclopedia than just sit and listen. My mother was always told by my teachers ” She is so bright if she would apply herself” and that statement appeared on most of my report cards. Fortunately I grew out of some of it and I adapted later in life. Your son will too but it may take awhile and some maturity before he learns tricks that work for him. An example: I play many instruments and had the talent as a child to pick up almost any instrument and be sitting second chair within weeks. What I was unable to do was sustain any further interest to improve past that point. I just selected another instrument to learn after I became bored. Boredom is my enemy. I still read a lot. just to occupy my mind. I chose work that allows me to always be in a different location or always learning new things. I also believe my ADD-PI is a gift in that I can hyper-focus and accomplish a huge amount of work under short deadlines. I can self teach myself almost anything. I started medication at 40 and it made a huge difference in my ability to listen. Ultimately I turned out fine and Lucas will too.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this amazing comment! You really made my day!

  8. Valerie Elyse

    I totally get the not understanding him! I was trying to talk to my son, whom has severe ADHD, high anxiety, and OCD. Trying to talk to him he was obviously in his own head, but when I asked what he’s thinking about he just says “I don’t know”. It’s obvious that he is very deep in thought about something, but for whatever reason he can only piece it together in his brain and can’t, or won’t, put his thoughts into words. My son LOVES roller coasters, not just riding on them. He is 8 years old and absolutely fascinated with how they work. We get Six Flags passes each year, and although last year he was only 7, he was reading at a fourth grade level, so I bought him a book about the rides. It had every detail about every Six Flags coaster. He was able to read it and memorize all of the facts about the rides at our closest park and when we go he randomly spits out info that most employees don’t even know. While talking to him, or trying to, I got very sad. I told him that I know his favorite foods, colors, songs, ect… But I don’t KNOW him at all. That breaks my heart. He couldn’t comprehend the deeper meaning of it, so I used the coasters. I told him the his brain is the the Goliath. It operates a certain way, and my brain is like The Dark Knight which operates differently, but that my brain, the Dark Knight, wants to know more about how his brain, The Goliath, works. He understood what I meant. Slowing I have been getting to know him, but I still have to use the metaphor while trying to get him to tell me what’s going on in his head.