“He has ADHD doesn’t he?” says one of the mom’s in our treatment group as we all sit in the waiting room, anxious for group to get under way as the room begins to fill up with more people.
Her question throws me off a little but considering we are in a “Leaky Brake” group I answer simply “Yes, amoung other things”.
She glances at her husband quickly as she nods her head repeatedly, so subtle yet there. “We were lucky to have dodged that one” she says.
Her words, so simple yet laced with judgements about my son, cut through me like a knife. I try not to visibly recoil from this woman as I try to form a response. I know she has made this statement after watching C “in action” at the group – his frenzied manner, going under the table, checking out every door in the room, going into closets and closing the door behind him. Hiding out under the table and needing to be coaxed back to join us. Those not really knowing ADHD and not really knowing my son would think that was ADHD – THAT was not ADHD. What this mom can’t know is that she has hit a nerve so raw with me I want to instantly cry. I’ve been grappling with his “behaviour” in the group – not the behaviour itself but trying to sort out what it means and feeling like it sets him even more apart from others – even those who I thought he would be most like – other kids with “Leaky Brakes”. Bringing him to this group is at a great emotional cost to me and yet I am determined to see it through.
Before I answer her, my eyes wander back to my boy at the chalkboard, white residue all over his backside, and I laugh out loud and ask him “How on earth did you get chalk in the middle of your back?”. He twists his head in an attempt to look for himself. He turns in circles a couple of times, trying to get a look and then stops – finally realizing his attempts are futile. My anxiety about him, his behaviour and this group are out the window. I LOVE this boy, I ADMIRE him so much.
I turn to the mom and say “Well, most of what you see with him is NOT ADHD – it’s something else” and I turn away, intending to leave it at that.
I was thinking that she would understand she was beginning to cross the line but instead she quips “So what is it?”. I turn and look at her, acting like I didn’t quite catch her question, also hoping she might realize when she has to say it again that it’s actually none of her business. In my head I am so forthright but in person I hate to be confrontational or rude – I really want her to stop. But instead she looks me intently in the eyes and with pressured, pointed speech poses her question again “So what is it if it’s not ADHD? What other diagnosis does he have?”.
I grapple and decide to call on sarcasm and making light of this uncomfortable situation – my two best coping mechanisms. “Oh, what doesn’t he have as a diagnosis!” I say as I add a laugh and a motion with my hand as though dismissing it all in one fell swoop. “Oh yes” she says, leaning back in her chair and I think to myself – okay now she’s done. Instead she once again looks intently at me and says “But do you agree with the diagnosis he does have?” and I can hear the doubt and judgment in her voice. I quickly answer “Yes, every single one of them”.
“So what is it – that we see – if it’s not ADHD?” she asks again. I wonder about just getting up and walking away but instead I answer “I don’t know yet – we are still figuring it out”.
“What do you think it is?” she fires back immediately
“I don’t know yet” I answer, forcing myself to stare back in her face, willing her to back down from this.
“But what do YOU think it is? You must have some ideas?” she has moved closer to me, invading some of my personal space and I pointedly move away from her without breaking eye contact (which is KILLING me, my son is not the only one that sucks at eye contact).
With drawn out, very pointed speech I say one last time “I DON’T KNOW”.
I could tell her about his early life, the adoption. I could tell her about the suspected Aspergers – I could narrow it down for her and say “possibly attachment issues and/or Aspergers”. But I don’t want to. This woman is not safe, she does not value or appreciate my son. She uses our discussion to make herself feel better about her circumstances, as in, “At least our kid isn’t like him”. That’s fine – she can think what she wants but I am not sharing anything more of my son with her. She doesn’t know what she is missing. She can’t know the wonderful spirit of my son from watching and judging him these past few weeks. In turn I will not judge her by these few short weeks and this intense exchange, my son has taught me this. Instead I will choose to see her simply as a mom also searching for answers.