After months of evaluations, endless surveys, and professional opinions, you were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in 2016 when you were just 5 years old. Only yesterday, your oldest sister asked me if you are aware of your diagnosis. Of course you are—you know your brain works differently, you’ve heard your dad and me talk about it with your pediatrician, and we’ve explained the reasons why you take a small pill every morning before you go to school. What you may not know is how your diagnosis has affected our family. Not in the ways you may think though—what others may consider a deficit or a difficult burden to carry, we count as a gift. You see, son, you are more than your diagnosis, you are our beautiful boy, and even on your most difficult days—days when your body and your brain can’t quite get in sync leaving everyone frustrated—we are grateful that God has made you exactly how you are. So let me tell you a few things about yourself and why you make us so proud.
Son, your brain wakes up early. Reaaally early. There is no grogginess with you in the mornings. Your dad and I have to get up an hour before you do just to have our morning coffee in peace! But that up and at ’em attitude is going to take you far in life. You’ll be the guy who does a morning run, trades stocks, makes breakfast for the kids, and helps your daughter with the science project all before you leave for work. That early-bird brain is a gift, son. While the rest of the world is drowsy and sluggish, you are taking on the day.
Buddy, no one gives more hugs and kisses in our family than you. Sometimes dad and I tell you to squeeze more gently next time, but the truth is, I love your bear hugs. After a day of energy and exertion, you are wiped out after dinner. I am too, and you are always my best cuddle partner. It is a gift to hold the body that rarely stops and tickle your back for a few minutes each night.
You wear your heart on your sleeve. At 7 years old, your emotions are just beneath the surface and sometimes they explode—BOOM!—when we least expect it. As hard as it may be for both of us to work through your feelings, I am grateful that you are particularly sensitive to the injustices around you. Right now, those transgressions may have more to do with the peanut butter running out before you can fix your morning toast, but one day your awareness of injustice will reach beyond yourself and you’ll begin to recognize and right inequality in the world around you. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do to help others.
One of the hallmarks of your diagnosis is that you have trouble focusing on one activity before moving on to the next. Medicine helps with that and so do the techniques you’ve learned from your friend at play therapy, Mr. George. Still, morning routines are hard for you without guidance from daddy and me. But son, your ability to jump from one thing to the next makes you more creative and imaginative than any child I’ve ever met. One day, I know that creativity is going to serve you well. It already does. Whether you work for a Fortune 500 company or become a teacher or entrepreneur, your ability to tackle multiple issues at once is a gift.
Silly boy, I’ve never known someone to sing as much as you. Or as loudly as you. Your volume control is somewhat non-existent right now, but that’s okay. After you leave for school, I find myself humming along to the songs you sang to me that morning. Songs like the “Hallelujah Chorus” or Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” You make me smile. One day, I know you’ll understand the difference between a 3-inch voice and a 12-inch voice (and may eventually discontinue your top-of-the-lungs voice), but for right now, I will remind you that the backyard is just a few steps away and you can be as loud as you like out there.
You are our sunshine, our only son. You are so much more than your diagnosis, yet we still count it as a gift. It sets you apart in the most extra-ordinary ways. Without it, we would never have connected with other parents whose children share the same disorder or the therapist who has become a friend over the years. A few months ago, Mr. George said your progress was so good, it was time to stop play therapy for a while and “let Henry be Henry.” I sobbed right there in his office.
You’ve come so far over the last two years, changing from explosive and anxious to compassionate and forgiving. Your daddy and I are grateful for faith, for science, for intervention, and for medication. We have no doubt in our minds that the future is bright for you. We talk about the person you are going to become all the time. And whether you are in the 1/3 that outgrows ADHD, the 1/3 that learns to manage and cope with it, or the 1/3 that will continue to need counseling and medicine throughout your life, we are glad God chose us to be your parents.
We are on this journey of ability with you.