Attentional Deficit Disorder (ADD) afflicts approximately one out of twelve children and five boys for every girl. ADD can be present with or without hyperactivity. The syndrome is often confusing to the family, as the child can be very intelligent and look healthy, but will have trouble concentrating and controlling their behavior. Untreated, ADD can seriously impair a child’s life and create a great deal of marital and family discord.
One Grandfather’s Experience
When a child is afflicted with this disorder, the nurturing role of grandparents can be critically important. The following is an “Open Letter from Grandparents of an ADD Child,” first printed in the 1990 Fall/Winter edition of CHADDER, the magazine of the parents organization for children attentional disorders.
“Dear Kids (you are still kids to us): This letter isn’t easy to write, but here goes. A lot has happened since our grandchild was born. We remember the worry and nervousness that go along with any birth, the fear of the birth defects, the unknown…then the burst of joy when everything seemed to be O.K. Our expectations and hopes soared with you, as our grandchild appeared to be free of problems and ready to thrive in this world. We remember starting to watch you raise your child and we gave our advice generously, basing it on wisdom we had gained from raising you…you turned out fine which proves that we are experts!
Then, as your child grew and started to present problems that you could not solve, despite our ever-so-helpful advice, we thought to ourselves that YOU must be doing something wrong. Both you, and we, his grandparents, were caught unprepared for the scenario which began to unfold before our eyes. Behavioral patterns seen only in “other families” became a very real tragedy for you and completely misunderstood by us.
We muttered in the background, “If only they would…Whose genes?…Not mine, for sure!…Why do they indulge him? Nothing is wrong when he is with us…A good old-fashioned spanking…
As our advice developed an edge, we were unknowingly joining the chorus that accompanied you as you moved through your daily routines with your child. You felt blamed from all directions. People in stores glared at you as you tried, over and over, to get your child to behave. You were constantly embarrassed by being “obviously” bad at parenting, unable to put our infallible advice to use.
The next bitter pill came when you let it be known that you were seeking professional help, not only for your child, but for yourself. To us, who based our philosophies of life upon self-reliance and religious principles, you may well have signed up with a witch doctor! We felt you were rejecting our tried and true ways, and were about to be exploited by false experts, who spouted mysterious labels (‘oppositional,’ ‘ADD,’ ‘ADHD,’ ‘LD,’ ‘fine and gross motor delay’) and other mumbo-jumbo, who would take advantage of your gullibility, take your money and do no good. We let you know of our misgivings, but we had gotten used to your weary voices and eyes, telling us, in response to our objections, what your so-called experts were telling you.
Thank God there was enough love in our family to weather those awful times when we actually added to your burden. And thank God you listened to the experts! Finally, after years of heartbreak, all that mumbo-jumbo started to make sense!
Gradually we began to see that our grandchild was not just a spoiled brat. We began to recognize patterns in this behavior which were, at last, understandable to us, based upon principles promoted by your experts. We became more familiar with the jargon, as we tentatively entered what was, for us, foreign and uncharted territory. We, who thought we were educated, experienced and tough, are babes in the woods compared to you, you KIDS, who are now able to teach us. Now we can listen to you and HEAR you. Although we have felt all along that we were in the same boat, now all of our oars are pulling in the same direction. It is still a rugged journey, but we hope it is a little easier now that we are sniping at you.
So kids, please forgive us. We hope we can heal the hurt brought about by our misunderstanding of our struggle. Our hearts are filled with love and the best intentions for you and our grandchild. We are flesh and blood. We want so much to help, that we pray that our clumsy efforts can provide some measure of comfort and support for you all!
Thanks for hanging in there until you could reach us and teach us. One thing we have learned is that you are GOOD parents for your grandchild, in fact the best. He needs you.
And now let us preach a little. We are lucky. We are bonded together by love, strengthened by the trials that could have fractured a less-fortunate family. Thanks to that love, we have a unified family support group that will not waver, which is what our grandchild needs to have a solid foundation upon which to build his life. We will always be here for you, if you should ever need an ear, a shoulder, or, God forbid, advice! That’s what grandparents are for. Love, Mom and Dad.”
If you would like more information about Attentional Deficit Disorder or CHADD, write to CHADD, 499 Northwest 70th Avenue, Suite 308, Plantation, FL 33317, or call (305) 587-3700.