I have to say that, even though I’m a little biased because I’m his mama, Buddy is the real deal. He is one of the nicest, most caring, compassionate, non-judgmental kids I’ve ever met. He will accept you for who you are without question. If you need help, he will do what he can to help you. And that’s the kind of adult I want to raise.
Having said that though, God must have thought it’d be funny to give Buddy to a first-time mom who had never really been around boy babies at all, and had no idea what she was doing! To borrow a line from a famous movie, I didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout raisin’ no babies! If he was wound up, Sparky (my husband) and I would just say things like “He’s all boy!” or “That’s a boy for ya!” But then at about 18 months of age, everything started to change.
How did we come to realize that Buddy was actually hyperactive? Well, quite by accident, and even then, we didn’t realize what we were stepping into. He was always just a peanut of a little boy, very tiny, but at about 18-20 months, Buddy wasn’t gaining weight like he should be, and had fallen off the bottom of the doctor’s fancy growth charts! He was clinically underweight, at about 21 pounds, in spite of being fed three meals a day plus snacks.
The pediatrician told us to get some calories in him, no matter what kind of calories they were. “Feed him twinkies and lollipops if necessary, but get him some calories!” The pediatrician also ordered lots of tests to make sure Buddy didn’t have some metabolic disorder, and appointments were made with a few specialists. The pediatric GI doc said that if Buddy didn’t put some weight on, and fast, he’d have to be hospitalized with a feeding tube until he was back on the growth charts! We didn’t understand what was wrong because, even though he was a picky eater, Buddy still ate; we weren’t starving him. And his tests were thankfully all coming back just fine.
Then we met a dietician who helped us understand better. We started tracking everything Buddy ate, in what amounts, and at what times. We learned that our tiny Buddy was so active that he literally ran off every single calorie that he ate, and then some! He would require about 2000 calories a day to put on any weight!!
Now, I’ma leave that right there for just a second to let it sink in…. (pause)
The kid weighs in at a scrawny 21 pounds. His stomach is probably the size of a golf ball, tennis ball if we’re lucky, and we’re supposed to figure out how to fit 2000 calories worth of food in there every day???? I had visions of force-feeding him lard, dipped in ranch dressing, and covered in sugar and deep fried. Maybe we needed Paula Deen to be our own personal family chef!
In hindsight, this was our first real struggle with Little Buddy’s ADHD, but it manifested itself as a low-weight problem and wasn’t diagnosed.
Fast forward to first grade. It was obvious to anyone who met him that he was really smart (more on that in a later post but he learned to read at age 4, while still in preschool, and taught himself multiplication in kindergarten, after I gave him a 10-minute lesson using ink pens as props), but in spite of this, Buddy had a hard time focusing at school. He never caused problems or was a trouble maker, but he just fidgeted all the time, peeling the paper off all his crayons, or making tiny paper balls, or picking the plastic off his shoe strings. He’d daydream; he wasn’t organized; and his desk was a black hole that locked away everything that went into it. We tried to help him get and stay organized, but nothing worked.
So we had him evaluated (sort of) and were told that there was no doubt Buddy belonged in the district’s gifted program, but he couldn’t sit still long enough to be fully assessed. And until he could finish the evaluation, he wouldn’t be able to participate in the program. So we talked with his pediatrician again and ultimately started him on medications for ADHD.
Now, that made it sound easy. Have a talk with your pediatrician, give your kid a pill, and everything is wonderful. Make no bones about it, it wasn’t that easy or that simple! Please know it can be a monumental and very personal decision whether or not to medicate your child for ADHD. It is not always black and white. We were very reluctant and it took us months to decide one way or the other. Could we work hard on correcting behaviors? Could we give Buddy a system for organizing himself better? Try. Wait. Try. Wait. For our family, we ultimately decided that we were doing Buddy a disservice by not medicating him. We wanted him to be able to participate in school and live up to his full potential and if that meant putting him on ADHD meds, then that’s what we had to do. Eventually he was retested for the gifted program, was finally able to focus long enough to complete the evaluation, and easily qualified.
In fact, today is his last day of elementary school. In August, he’ll start middle school, taking all “challenge” courses (that’s like our school district’s version of AP courses for middle schoolers). So for Buddy, medicating him was indeed the right thing to do!
One other thing I want to note is that, once we decided to medicate him, it took us a good year to get his ADHD medications dialed in. First we had to find the right med. We tried short-acting meds, long-acting meds, stimulants, non-stimulants, etc. Once we landed on the right medication cocktail (yes, it took more than one), we had to find the right dose of each one. This was not a quick process either and as soon as we thought we’d figured it out, he’d go through a (welcomed) growth spurt and doses would have to be tweaked again.
My advice here is, if you do decide to medicate, be vigilant and patient when it comes to finding what works! Realize that there may be times when an ADHD child genuinely can’t control how they’re behaving, especially if they’re hungry or tired, and their meds are being adjusted. And give your child a say in the process. Listen to how they’re feeling. Empower them. Love them. Just imagine, if YOU are struggling with your child’s ADHD, all the angst that child must be feeling on the inside, no matter how young they are!
Lastly, if any of you are challenged with ADHD kids right now, or kids who haven’t been officially diagnosed, or if you know someone who is struggling with similar kids, feel free to share our family’s site with them. We are not behavioral health experts, or experts in anything for that matter. But we are parents with experience, more than I ever dreamed of. And we are happy to share our struggles and successes, in the hopes that we can help others.