It was not a day for yoga pants, a messy bun, or moisturizer-only skin care.
I carefully curled my hair after meticulously applying my make up.
I dressed in what I hoped read as confident soccer mom instead of mom who was so nervous her stomach was eating itself.
After picking up my son from school, I drove us to the doctor appointment that was giving me such anxiety.
Not because things were bad.
But because things were good. And I needed the doctor to agree with me that all was well and no changes were needed.
My child who had struggled so much due to lead poisoning, mild autism, and extreme ADHD was thriving. From being behind in everything at school to being on grade level or even ahead. From having daily tasks cause drama and heartache and stress to having them be no big deal. The changes in him over the past year and a half were phenomenal.
But I know that the majority of these positive changes were because I drug my child… as those other parents who don’t have a child like mine and haven’t witnessed the changes call it.
And at my son’s last medication check-in, the pediatrician had cautioned that unless he showed some weight gain by the next appointment, we would have to look at other treatments, ones that don’t have a side effect of a loss of appetite.
I looked at his sweet face in my rearview mirror as we drove along and I hoped that we’d hear he’d gained enough.
My stomach churned, wondering if the doctor would write him another prescription and let life go on in the way it had been or if we were in for changes.
The nurse weighed him upon our arrival, not making him take off his thick hoodie. Her numbers matched mine, but I didn’t know if they’d be enough.
She measured him and I almost insisted she do it again because that number was a half inch shorter than when I’d carefully measured him at home and I was pretty sure he’d slouched for her.
Once the doctor came into the exam room, we caught up on how my son was doing at school, at home, around others.
I used my carefully constructed put-together mom look to project confidence as I shared just how well he’d been doing at school and how much easier everything is for him in his day-to-day life, including interactions with others and almost no meltdowns.
She asked what he was like on days when he didn’t have his medication and my façade crumbled a little.
Hard, I admitted. Really, really hard. Every little thing can set him off. Silly things that aren’t a big deal on any other day, like being kindly reminded that he wasn’t allowed to take his snack into the living room. On a medication day, he would say okay and sit at the kitchen table. On a day without a pill, that gentle reminder can cause him to sob, cause him to yell that he never does anything right, and make him cry that I don’t love him any more. He’s much more emotional and takes things much harder than they should ever be taken, much harder than they are taken on pill days.
The doctor made a note and asked what else happens on those no pill days.
I explained that he’s more likely to lash out. That it’s best to keep him and his brothers separated on those days. That if they aren’t, someone should be right there with them because things can get out of hand. Not in a well, all brothers fight way, but in a someone could get hurt way.
She made another note and then asked why he had those days without a pill, if it was because he’d been experiencing any side effects.
I paused and explained that aside from the lack of appetite during the main part of the day and it taking longer for him to fall asleep, there were no side effects. Seeing her confusion, I continued by explaining that I was worried that if he didn’t gain enough weight, he’d be taken off the pills entirely. And even though those days off were hard, I didn’t want to go back to having every single day be that challenging.
She frowned and looked at his chart and then let me know that his growth was just fine and then she asked me what I thought days were like for him, for our whole family, when he took his pill.
I took a moment to run my fingers through my son’s hair, being careful not to disturb the headphones he wore while he was playing some game I’ll never understand but that had his full attention during my conversation with the doctor.
Those days are good. They are easy. They’re so much easier on my son. He’s able to interact with us, with his family, with teachers, with friends at school and have it mostly all be positive. He only gets upset over the big things, not every little thing. On those days, everyone else gets to see the sweet, loving boy that I see.
I think, I admitted, that he feels like a part of things on those days when he’s had a pill. Not like the world is going on around him and he’s separate, someone being attacked by all things and left alone, all at the same time.
The doctor told me that well then, it sounds like the medication is working as it should be. And she told me that there was no reason for any days off. That newer studies are showing the kids with ADHD are experiencing problems with self-esteem and relationships, that feeling that they can’t do anything right and that the world hates them stemming from the hard days when they have to be corrected and them internalizing that into a deep feeling of low self-worth.
So if by staying on the medication, he has fewer moments like that, then he should be on it. That maybe we should even go ahead and give him the afternoon booster pill every day that previously we’d reserved for when we were going somewhere at night or having company over. And that if his weight became an issue, we’d deal with that in some other way.
Everything she said, it made sense. It validated my experiences with pill days and no pill days.
I trained my gaze down on the stylish boots I’d dug out from the back of my closet that afternoon and confessed, fully demolishing my attempt at being that confident mom who has it all under control, “I didn’t realize how hard it was before. I mean, I knew things were hard. I knew it wasn’t easy. I knew we had rough days. But until we had days and weeks and months of everything not being so hard… that’s when I realized just how hard things were before. I was terrified you were going to tell me we had to go back to that. Scared for him. And scared for me.”
I looked up at her with tears in my eyes, ruining that so-called waterproof mascara. But she just nodded her head and told me that what I just said tells her what she already suspected, that we were dong the right thing for my son.
Last Week’s Pour Your Heart Out Highlights
- Forks in the Road from Tidbits from the Queen of Chaos: Do you ever look back and wonder how different your life had been if you’d made slightly different choices?
- How I Met My Husband from Working on a Project: I’m a sucker for a love story.
- It’s Not Always about Homeschooling from The Mommy Mess: when a homeschooling mom is having any sort of issues, the go-to solution doesn’t have to be for them to quit homeschooling.
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