Parenting with ADHD: a son’s perspective

Max Laboyrie
Sep 29, 2022

Welcome to ADHD stories, a Cog series in which ADHDers share their journey from struggle to treatment to living well.

These stories are meant to help answer questions like: What does ADHD look like? How is the process of diagnosis? What is the impact of different treatments?

Most of all, we hope these stories help destigmatise ADHD and allow ADHDers (diagnosed or not) to feel seen and capable of improving their lives.

This is mine and my mother’s story, who was diagnosed with ADHD at 62. She is one of the reasons I have joined Cog in their mission to help people manage their ADHD.

My mother is the biggest scatterbrain I know. Enter our family home and you’ll find baking tins and cakes scattered across the kitchen, endless to-do lists flying through the air, newspapers, magazines and books on every surface and at the centre of it all you’ll see her flitting her way through, never quite able to sit down and relax, pick up one of those books, have a bite of her baked goods, tick off an item on her list.

Since her youth, she wondered why she had such difficulty being on time, and why she found it so hard to switch off. At university, she wondered why her fellow students didn’t seem to have as much difficulty focusing during a lecture as she did; at work she wondered why she got distracted so easily, and was frustrated that she often had to work late to finish up.

At the age of 54, she read an American MD’s report on an extreme case of ADHD, and finally the penny dropped!

She recognised so many of the subject’s symptoms that she was sure that she too had ADHD. She heaved a sigh of relief at this knowledge; all of her supposed shortcomings could be understood in light of her ADHD.

And so too could some of her more positive traits! She remembered, for example, how she could completely lose herself in the things she loved doing (what she calls hyperfocus), like practising her classical singing. Often, she’d be completely immersed in the music, and at such times she would feel a blissful sense of peace. She’d only snap back out of her harmonious bubble when her voice grew hoarse, or when she realised she was running late for her lesson.

Besides that, her hyperfocus also allows her to do extensive research into pressing matters. About a year ago, when my father was seriously ill, she researched possible treatments, and found a treatment method which was scarcely used. My father recovered and praised her perseverance in finding a treatment which his doctor had overlooked.

So, at 54, many of her strengths and flaws made sense to her at last; my mum knew for a fact that she had ADHD. Since she didn’t want to take medication, however, she wasn’t officially diagnosed until she decided to go to therapy a year ago, at age 62.

Her diagnosis didn’t just confirm that she had ADHD– it also unravelled some mysteries from my own childhood…

I vividly remember, for example, the numerous occasions my older brother and I stood at the gates of our primary school, waiting for our dear mother to come pick us up.

At the sound of the bell at the end of the day, all of us young’uns trickled out onto the school playground. At first, we were surrounded by the happy screams of hundreds of our peers, but slowly our friends found their mothers, fathers, grandparents or babysitters and hopped on their bikes with a contented smile, happy to head home. And thus the playground got quieter and quieter, until it was just my brother, our teacher and me.

From the corner of my tear-filled eyes I could see the teacher growing impatient, glancing at her watch from time to time. And while she grew impatient, I only grew sadder. I was blessed, though, to have my big brother there to comfort me. Otherwise, I’d have probably cried inconsolably, fearing that my mother had forgotten us and would never come pick us up.

After what seemed like hours, my mother would come racing onto the playground: face all red, hair dancing in the wind, sweat glistening on her forehead. She would apologise for being late, mumble some excuse, thank the teacher for waiting with us, and give us a great big hug and kiss.

I’d climb on the back of her bike, hold on tight, and feel my sadness subside, while a wave of love and warmth washed over me. I instantly forgave my mother for being late, because I loved her so deeply, and because I felt her love for me.

I already felt then that she hadn’t failed to pick us up on time out of neglect or a lack of love for her sons. But what did cause her to be late without exception, was a mystery to us all at the time.

Now I understand that she wasn’t late because of some fault in character, but simply because her ADHD brain only allows her to feel the urgency of being on time when she is already running late. At this point, she is too stressed to do things in an orderly fashion, and so we see her scrambling for her things, quickly getting dressed and brushing her teeth, or raking the leaves or hoovering when we’re about to go on holiday.

However, since going to therapy, she’s noticed that her head is a lot clearer and quieter, allowing her to be more punctual and organised. The most important change she’s noticed is that she doesn’t feel quite so ‘wired’ — she’s able to switch off much more easily. My family and I have all noticed the progress she is making and we’re all very proud of her.

Of course, though, it’s still a work in progress. From time to time she’ll still run late, but now, I try not to get upset or frustrated. Instead, I try to help her organise what needs doing and coach her in packing her things.

In doing so, I’m trying to be mindful of her ADHD, and I try to give back some of the endless love she has given me throughout my childhood, and, really, throughout my entire life.

Thank you, mum, for being the loving scatterbrain you are.