I have done quite a bit of reading lately. It’s not the usual books with big picture and cardboard pages. [Note to self: Hippos Go Berserk is getting worn out, buy new one soon] No, I’ve been reading big boy books and blogs. My latest read is called Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates And What You Can Do About It by Gabor Mate. It is a good book with fantastic descriptions of an ADD child and adult. Mate gives a balanced look at the origins of ADD (Nature vs Nurture) and how the frenzied lifestyle of the typical American family makes the condition worse. Being an adult with ADD this book helped me understand myself as well as give me some tips on dealing with ADD.
I have one kid with ADD (albeit minor) and was happy that about half of the book was devoted to dealing with a child with ADD. When he described ADD as a internal need for attention and gave recommendations in light of this need it struck a chord within me. His advice made a lot of sense. “Give your ADD child attention, especially when they are not asking for it, because they have that need” was a major take away from this book. Mate also advocates letting kids choose whether or not they take medicine to “control” ADD. Because ADD is not a life-threatening condition and medicine affects the kids mental and physical state, Mate feels that kids need to be the final say in the matter. The ultimate advice he gives parents is to pursue a relationship with your kids, ADD or not. Because I tend to value behavior over the person, this is helpful for me. Now, I would never say that, but my actions suggest as much. I really want my kids to want to come home on the weekends from college. I want my children to want to bring their families to my house when I’m old and can’t get out. Long after they are grown and I have no control over their behavior I desperately want a relationship with my kids. Mate encouraged me to work on that above all.
As a person with ADD myself I appreciated some of his other comments. The author states that there is a lot of wasted energy on conforming, by both adults with ADD and parents of ADD kids, rather than learning to accept uniqueness. As much as people with ADD grab attention it is born out of a sense of isolation. So, living with ADD can feel like you are utterly alone. Also, the medical field can be quite self-serving. After giving an example from his training as an OB Dr. Mate says, “Two conclusions can be drawn from this experience. First, the medical view of the world tends to not trust nature very much. Second, there are things in the world that are true, even if they’re not taught in a medical school. Third, sometimes doctors have to be educated by the public – under duress, if necessary.” This gives me, and others like me hope that what I’m going through is a reality. In a day where so many people, experts even, are bent on telling you what you deal with is not real, I can know that it is not a sheer figment of my imagination. However, I’m not excused from dealing with in the world, but I can find comfort in the fact that I’m dealing with it.
His last pages are chocked full of life wisdom for adults with ADD and parents who have children with ADD. “I have learned through my own process that a goal in life cannot be the avoidance of painful feelings.” My goal is not to simply avoid pain, nor, as a parent keep my kids from experiencing pain. My goal is to endure hurt feelings and deal with pain in a way that does not hide behind defenses, act out angrily, or become hyper-focused. That is also my goal for my kids. Helping them deal with pain while understanding that it will pass, eventually. Finally, he states that most parents do not need to be taught how to love their children in a feeling sense, but most parents could all use practice in how to be actively loving on a day-to-day basis. That is a word I needed to hear.