Letter to a Mom Who Wants Her Kid to Have ADD
A little background.
L is a fat 30-something evangelist. Every room in her house is a total wreck–that would be her physical house, but the rooms in her psychic house aren’t in great shape, either. I bring up these aspects of who she is because they have some relevance to the conversation below. She also has a kid (E) whom she has trained to be a royal pain in the ass, which she wants to think is ADD and feels can be fixed by taking dairy products out of his diet.
I used to take care of their dogs when she & her huz & kid took weekend trips. One weekend one of the dogs (D) bit me hard on the hand. L decided the dog probably had a brain tumor.
L didn’t even bother to call to find out how my hand was doing. Here’s what I told her I thought of that.
I think you need to get your act together in a hurry. I don’t see you as a very disciplined person; in the short time I’ve known you, I’ve never seen you follow through on a single thing you have said you were going to do, whether it’s showing up for either of the two lunches I made for you and E, losing the baby weight you gained 10 years ago, following up with me, or having E pay the $3 to have his fish fed even though you made a big deal about teaching him to be responsible with money. In fact, I’ve never seen you follow up on anything you asked E to do, and ultimately he has learned that he can do pretty much whatever he likes with no consequence whatsoever. That walk we went on was so unpleasant. He must have barged into the conversation 20 times, and Every Single Time you gave him your complete and undivided attention, never once suggesting that he wait his turn, be sensitive to breaks in conversation, be respectful of adults’ conversation. Not a single time. It got so irritating that I finally said something, and he looked totally shocked. I could tell it was the first time he’s ever been called on it. But his behavior isn’t his fault. It’s your fault for not giving him better boundaries and social skills. I can’t imagine how unsafe a kid with no boundaries must feel.
Now you’re looking around for some organic cause for this because it’s easier than looking to your own behavior. It’s no surprise to me that D has learned the same thing. In my experience dogs do what they are trained to do. Most of the time this is inadvertent. Somewhere along the line she learned that aggression toward humans was okay, was a way of getting what she wanted, and that there were no negative consequences. You don’t have to be Pavlov or Skinner to see this in action with your dog. But your first thought was not that there was something wrong with how she was trained but that she had a brain tumor, so I’m not surprised that you think E’s impulsiveness and lack of discipline is a diagnosable disorder. Am I angry? Most definitely, but not at your dog. At you, for not even caring enough about the results of your behavior to see how I was doing. You do the easy thing: Easier for you to get”diagnoses” for the creatures in your care than to implement a program of boundaries and consequences. Now E has to be deprived of dairy products so you can (theoretically) have an easier time of things, and D has to run around freezing her ass off & biting people because you are “too busy being a wife and mother” to get her a sweater or make her stop biting.
Don’t get me wrong: I think a small percentage of kids have a bona fide neurological disorder, and if that’s truly the case, I think it’s ridiculous not to normalize his brain chemistry with medication. But that’s a tiny percentage, and from what I’ve seen, there’s nothing wrong with your kid’s brain that isn’t fixable with tougher and less selfish love than you have been willing to impart or having him make his own bed every morning (right after he makes yours). I hope you fix it before your kid digs his teeth into someone as a result of your new-age training techniques. Don’t worry about my hand. You go back to being a “busy wife and mother.”
[L’s Response: She is going to pray for me.]
Oh Brother. The last resort of all evangelists. It’s easier to “pray” for me than to accept responsibility. L, I hope your kid isn’t talking about you in therapy in 30 years. You want to exploit western medicine for a diagnosis, but you dismiss the remedies it offers. You take the path of least resistance even if this does your child a disservice. Now go back to being a wife, mother, and oh yeah. Christian.
I think, L, that your time would be better spent meditating on, or praying for, whatever you’d like to call it, your own life. You go thinking you are the “pray-er” and I’m the “pray-ee.” If you don’t see the creepiness of that, no explanation in the world will work. I’m not going to bother “praying” for you, L. My “prayer” is the letter I’ve just written. “God” has nothing to do with it.
L: “I refuse to read anything you wrote, you are wasting your time. If you continue to harass me I will involve the police.”
Mr. Policeman, Help! Someone I could block with a few keystrokes is telling me unpleasant truths about me and my family! Arrest that woman!