• Nathaniel G. Sands

What is ADHD, and should my child take Ritalin?

Bradley as a puppy - just because

Anyone who knows me well will remember that not long ago I dated a woman in my life, Natasha, who had a son. It wasn't a terribly long relationship, but for about a year the boy and I grew a very close bond.

Anthony was six when I first met him. It was also the day I met his mother. I could tell the from the first day he was a good kid, but with a definite attitude. After more dates and the fact she was a single mother, it seemed much of the time I was hanging out with him. It didn't take long for the tantrums to begin. And this certainly wasn't new. With an embarrassed and exhausted mother, I asked if she minded I get involved. Her instant reply was "please", and I began talking to the boy myself in times of distress. It only took a few serious talks for him to listen and respond positively and I never felt him ever to be a burden at all.

Anthony didn't know his father at all, and definitely looked to me as a father-figure. And I certainly considered him as one of my own. The first book I wrote was dedicated to him and Leah. I still think about him often, but the mother feels it best I don't see him anymore and that we move our separate ways, and I get that and respect that. One day in the future I believe he and I will meet again, and perhaps continue the deep connection we once had for one another.

About a month after Natasha and I started dating, she informed me that Anthony's teacher wanted her to see a pediatrician about his behavior. She felt he had Attention Deficit Disorder. I asked if I could tag along. Natasha had hoped I would.

Upon arrival I remained silent. The doctor checked the boy over physically - I remember Anthony giving me a look of confusion - I responded with no words but a calm demeaner. He answered a few question from the doctor, then the doctor asked his mother some questions.

After looking over his chart, as the three of us sat opposite him he said he felt Anthony had ADHD. He went on to say there were three main medications he could take, but that he specifically recommended Ritalin, because it had the least amount of side effects. A silent mother opposite, I chose this moment to enter:

I looked at him, and somewhat nervously interjected: "Honestly doc, I think all the kid needs is a little discipline."

He turned to me, and answered instantaneously while thrusting his finder toward me in robust agreement, and I quote: "That's exactly what he needs!"

After a short conversation, him referring to structure and authority like the military, me informing him of my previous service, a few more notes on his chart and some chit-chat, and out the door we went. No prescription, no return visit. And for the next ten months we went on like it never happened, as father and son.

Now, I don't write this as condemnation for anyone who is on Ritalin or has decided to put their kid on it or any other medication that's been subscribed. We should enjoy the benefit of our society's medical privileges. It would be crazy not to if we are in desperate need. But everything comes at a cost. With great power comes great responsibility. And it's never in ours or society's best interest to give drugs to children who hardly know what's going on within them or around them and are hardly able to speak sincerely for themselves (that's why, legally, we are responsible for them until 18!) And when a child is a danger to themselves or to others, precautions must be followed, and perhaps the best diagnosis is prescribed medication.

What bother's me more and more about this visit and with the amount of time I've dwelt on it, is that this doctor knew Anthony did not need to start taking medication. His intense reply revealed his sincere diagnosis instantly to me, even more-so upon reflection.... Instead of speaking truthfully, he chose the easy route, or the convenient route - he chose to lie, and not recommend his best professional opinion.

When we as a society accept such destructive manipulation... when someone with weighty authority acts so as to avoid conflict, engaging deceitfully in such an important aspect of someone's personal life, as a parent, how are we to react? It's our job not to be manipulated by such powers who are willing to take advantage of the general insufficiency of conflict resolution. That's why it is important for us to build relationships with our children. Try to understand them so as to properly influence them, especially when authority becomes corrupt and may not have their best interests at heart. And remember, everyone needs a little discipline.

This is my favorite quote from my favorite Author from my favorite novel, (and you will read me quoting him often), Fyodor Dostoyevski from The Brothers Karamazov... Father Zosimo giving advice to Fyodor Pavlovich:

"Above all, don't lie to yourself. The one who lies to himself, and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and course pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vises, all from continual lying to other men and himself."

He goes on to add, which seems clearly prophetic:

"The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than anyone. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offense, isn't it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a mole hill - he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offense, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness. But get up, sit down, I beg you. All this too is deceitful posturing..."

I would like to add that I genuinely love children. I have coached hockey, soccer and basket ball, and am really close with my daughter's brother, Emerson (as well as his father, but that story is for another day.)

Their sincere spirit and energetic essence leaves me marveling, Their honest and inquisitive minds make for interesting conversation and observation. And their love for life is often reminisced. It's important that we encourage our children in their growth, teach them about what we've learned - often through our own mistakes, and hopefully by making hard decisions they are too ignorant to make, often taking the time to reflect and think about what the best is for them now and in the future.

Leah and her brother, Emerson

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