I remember the day I finally broke the silence about my daughter’s attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) and told my neighborhood mom’s group. When my husband and I first moved into the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina, I was excited to meet other 30-something moms there.
“This neighborhood has built-in friends for us,” I told my husband. These are my people, I thought. I envisioned summer days with our kids playing and sharing toys, while the moms lounged in yoga pants, sipped iced coffee, and vented about life.
I Felt the Looks I Got from Other Moms
My happy vision was blown to pieces in a couple of weeks. After just two play dates, I realized my daughter Kennedy wasn’t making friends. While the girls played, I watched my sweet daughter struggle to fit in. It was heartbreaking to see. Kennedy was louder than the other kids and invaded their space. She played alone a lot.
When you’re on a play date in a stranger’s home, you feel the looks you get. I cringed when Kennedy jumped on a neighbor’s couch and spilled her drink. She couldn’t slow down. During one date, a mom suggested that I discipline Kennedy. I looked around at the other moms and felt that they were all judging Kennedy’s behavior and my parenting skills.
“She missed her nap today!” I said. “She’s tired,” I said the next time. As the weeks passed, I found myself using the “tired excuse” many times with neighbors, friends, and family.
She Wasn’t Bad, She Was Different
I started to feel isolated because of my daughter’s behavior. My mom would say, “You never acted this way. She must get this wildness from her dad.” Those words were hard to hear, because I knew Kennedy couldn’t help it. She wasn’t a bad little girl; she was just different.
I became overly protective of my daughter. On hard parenting days, I welcomed a scheduled appointment with her developmental pediatrician. I knew I could go into the office and cry, and he would hand me a tissue without judgment.
Play dates became more stressful than enjoyable for me. The mamma bear in me knew the other moms didn’t understand. But it was my fault for not telling them about Kennedy’s ADHD. It was time to share the diagnosis my husband and I had kept from the world for so long.
No More Excuses: Revealing Her ADHD
Then came the play date when I decided to make excuses no more. The moms were making coffee when we heard cries coming from the next room. I recognized my child’s cries above the others, and ran to find two girls holding the bedroom door shut with Kennedy on the other side. I opened the door and found Kennedy curled up in the corner, her face wet with tears.
“What happened, Kennedy? Tell Mommy what’s wrong,” I said, assuming another girl had pushed her. “They called me a baby,” she said. “They told me I couldn’t play with them because I’m too loud.”
I held back my own tears and gathered my things. But before I left, I had to be honest. “Kennedy has sensory processing disorder and ADHD,” I said in the strongest voice I could muster. The moms were shockingly supportive. They asked questions, and said they didn’t notice she was different. Maybe I was hypersensitive to my daughter’s being different? Or maybe they were just being polite.
In the following weeks, the other moms would say, “She’s fine” when Kennedy couldn’t sit still or slow down. Once I had explained how Kennedy was different, friends and family were accommodating. I should have said it sooner. My daughter and I now enjoy play dates. She still struggles in some situations, but I’m learning how to help the world accept her energy.
Kennedy is Kennedy. My job is to make sure she soars. I no longer make excuses for her. It is easier to share our story, and applaud her individuality.