My son has a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, and so do I.
In the spirit of full and immediate disclosure, I should mention that my husband calls me ‘Tigger,’ says being married to me is like having his ‘own personal clown,’ and my best friend, Sabra, gave me a pogo stick for my 48th birthday.
Ooooh! Look! A chicken!
As I was saying…
My son was a wiggly kid. My first boy, I didn’t know if he was in the range of regular ‘wiggly’ or ‘over-wiggly,’ nor did I care. But, the world around him did.
I’ve never bought into ADD/ADHD as a deficit, or a disorder. I am certain that one day, ADD/ADHD will no longer be a negative label, but will be understood as a style of being, a way of interacting with the world around us that is celebrated for its gifts and challenged with its downsides, like being an extrovert, or shy or charismatic (let’s not forget it wasn’t until 1986 that being gay was taken out of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual as a disorder).
Thomas Hartmann, radio commentator and lay scholar developed a hypothesis that the genetic code for ADD/ADHD was a matter of survival in prehistoric times: that our ‘hunter’ ancestors required the alertness and hyper-focus characteristic of ADD/ADHD. Jamo and I are more like ‘hunters’- at the ready to jump out from behind the tree and spear the mastodon so everyone survives the winter. In contrast, ‘farmers’ are plodding, deliberate, linear- and thank goodness, because farming requires that we plant things intentionally, and with a calculated timing and order (P.S. my garden looks like a beautiful and wild kindergartener’s bingo marker tapestry).
Yet, our post-modern society makes ‘farmers’ the norm, and creates an educational process that is quite literally replicated from these agriculturally-based attributes.
Jamison (or Jamo, as we call him) was not meant for a classroom with desks lined in rows, sitting 6 hours a day with limited physical movement. He learns in motion, his brain is active and quick, and he never, ever misses a thing. He is not disordered, but operates from a dynamic order, constantly shaped by the new input around him.
Jamison takes meds because our educational system is too narrow to serve him well. It cannot see his brilliance in action. On meds, he becomes synthetically calm, and he learns the traditional way, and he does very well. I have gone back and forth on this for years, agonized and deliberated, and made good and bad choices on his behalf. My best partner has been Kelly Magoolaghan, Director of the Susan Odell Taylor School for Children who sees and loves children for exactly who and how they are. His high school, Tech Valley, has students in motion while they learn, which means more kids like Jamison will thrive, and contribute to the economy in our region in active ways.
Don’t get me wrong. Even though I can match Jamo’s pogo stick activity level pounce for pounce, there have been times when he has driven me to the maternal edge. I have imagined his teachers leaving school at 10:00 am, sucking down Everclear from a brown paper bag-covered jug, and no one knows more than I, how exhausted a working mom can be from the aerobic parenting of a busy, wiggly, high energy son (ask my husband, and he might say the same about me! J)
When Jamo’s teachers describe him as a calm, under-stated, patient group leader- and I roll my head back with barely muffled hysteria. Sure, I’m happy to hear those things, but honestly, that’s the Vyvanse at work. Jamison is anything but under-stated, and thank goodness. Because he is among the funniest, brightest people I’ve ever known, is a natural leader who deeply cares about others and is fundamentally congruent, exactly who he says he is. He is always hiding behind the proverbial tree, watching, waiting for the chance to jump out and say something kind, notice another person’s accomplishment- because he hasn’t missed it, and he’s not afraid to say what’s real, good or bad. He is the most loyal friend a person could ask for.
As for me, sometimes I take meds, other times I don’t. Frankly, it would necessitate a gunther sized dose for me to not be ‘me,’ and I assume my health plan won’t cover a pill big enough flat roll my front lawn.
Jamo is exactly as he is meant to be, and so am I, and so are you.
After all, some of my best friends are ‘farmers.’ And they can see the value of we ‘hunters,’ especially when they are ready for a fresh look at the world, belly laughs or the surprise spearing of spontaneous opportunity as it runs by. They can’t imagine a world without ‘hunters,’ and appreciate our quickness, our speed of integration of fore and background, and how just plain fun we are.
And they know for sure, having a ‘hunter’ for a friend means they will never, ever go hungry in the winter- for food, adventure or laughter.
Do you or your family members have different styles of focus? Please leave comments, questions and ideas about ADD/ADHD anything below, and connect with Deb and me on:
Twitter @CRWomenAtWork, @debmbest and @CoreyJamisonLLC
Join the LinkedIn Group: Capital Region Women@Work
Remember: Lower the bar, and drop the guilt (today).
This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.