A Mother Knows

I knew. I knew but I didn’t know. I knew but I didn’t want to know. I knew my son, “Clark Kent the ADHD WonderKid,” wasn’t like most other kids.


Remember when your child was a baby? Beautiful, and. . .perfect. Or you hoped he or she was perfect, and you prayed about it. Please God just let him be healthy, I prayed. And he was. He was eight pounds of flawless boy child, lungs on fire, every finger and toe accounted for. Thank you God, I breathed.

The first year a few problems cropped up. We went through reflux – not fun. He had to have a minor procedure to release his tongue from his lower palate. Nothing major. No concerns.

The second year was when I started noticing issues. He didn’t just startle at loud sounds or sudden movement, he panicked. True, unstoppable panic. He parambulated in circles to the left, and he waggled his left hand incessantly. Waggle, waggle, waggle, waggle. It was cute, but it seemed somewhat, well, autistic. And he stopped napping in the daytime. NO.NAPS.AT.ALL. He slept through the night, but he slept much less even then than we expected. By then, we had his baby sister Susanne, and his diminishing sleep hours nearly killed me. His father and I whispered about autism at night, afraid to say the words in the light of day and make them real.

But I checked in with his pediatrician. Clark Kent exhibited his behaviors in front of the doctor. Now, I didn’t specifically ask the pediatrician about them. If I had, he might have given me an answer I didn’t want to hear. And wouldn’t he tell me his concerns, if he had them?

My father is a physician. He spent countless hours with Clark Kent. He was intimately familiar with his behaviors. But we both followed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

As the years passed, we had Susanne to compare him to, and the two pre-schoolers were markedly different. She didn’t have the terrors. She didn’t have odd repetitive motions. She had more focus. She slept like I expected a toddler to sleep. I chalked it up to gender differences.

More years passed. Now we had school peers to compare him to. We had the opinions of his teachers. He went to a small private school where he had played with the same kids since pre-k. He was much the same in many ways to boys his age, except MORE. More disorganized, more distractable, more repetitive, more panicky. And less. Less focused, less courageous, less engaged. Still, wouldn’t someone tell me if they thought he was different?

In hindsight, my reaction – my denial, avoidance, lack of reaction – may sound negligent. Many of you are far more assertive in seeking answers. Maybe we are different that way, and I’m OK wtih different. I was comforted that I was surrounded by competent professionals in medicine and education, and frankly I was looking for ways that he fit the norm, not ways in which he didn’t.

We finally sought a diagnosis for ADHD in the fifth grade. We didn’t seek an Autism spectrum diagnosis until his teens. Does he have ADHD? Yes, probably, most likely. Is he on the autism spectrum? Yes, probably, most likely Asperger’s. It’s not like you can get a blood test for these things, so, the diagnosis is there, but with a verbal hedge from the physician.

So now I get to look back and question myself, like all of us mommas do. Clark Kent is 16 at the time I write this. I’ve mothered him nearly to adulthood, and I have to ask myself: did I know? And the answer is clear:

Yes. Yes, I knew. From the time he was 18 months old, I knew. A mother knows, even if she doesn’t know. But a mother fears, too. She fears the boo boos, and not just the ones that you can stick a Sesame Street Band-Aid on. She fears labels. She fears for his feelings. Will he be teased? Bullied? Misunderstood? Laughed at? Minimized? Ignored? Pushed aside? She fears for his future. What does this mean for his education? His friends? His love life? His career? His own children someday?

I am an experieced ADHD/special needs momma now, and I will tell you what I have learned from this knowing, this denial, and this journey: I have learned that what my child needed most was my love and support, not my perfection. That he bears no grudge or regrets. I knew. And I needed to (and did) learn to trust myself, not lean on the opinions or even diagnosis of others, and I needed to reject the crippling power of guilt. I’m still working on that one.

But maybe knowing – and loving — was enough. Maybe it was enough.

Until next time,

Pamela aka “Clark’s Mom”

Pamela Fagan  Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids,  thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. She  focuses on the post-elementary school years. Watch for her upcoming books in May 2012: The Clark Kent Chronicles, How To Screw Up Your Kids, Love Gone Viral, Hot Flashes and Half Ironmans, and Puppalicious And Beyond. Visit her blog, Road to  Joy, but hang on  for the ride as she screws up her kids, drives her husband insane, embarrasses  herself in triathlon, and sometimes writes utter nonsense.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother’s Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger’s Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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Related posts:

Clark Kent Chronicles, diagnosis, NEWLY DIAGNOSED, Pamela Hutchins, Take Care of You ·

About the author

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother's Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger's Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.


  1. Caroline says:

    I completely understand what you’re saying here. My trouble is that both my girls have issues, and so I didn’t have the comparison. I knew something was up, but what?


    • Pamela says:

      I still second guess myself, too. And we didn’t get the Asp diagnosis until mid-teens. Oh well. We’ll see what life hands us next, right? 🙂

  2. Crystal says:

    I’m not sure if this is a fitting comment for here but it reminds me of an experience I had last week. I went on vacation with my kids and some friends I have known for years. These friends are very aware of the challenges I have with my 14 year old son (diagnosed with ADHD and NLD). Even though they know, they don’t experience it first hand very often because he often chooses to stay home when we do things together. They hear some of my stories and always offer advice (not critical advice, just ideas, trying to be helpful), I try hard not to tell too many stories and monopolize our time talking about my struggles with him because being with them is one of my escapes and I don’t want to rehash things that happen at home. Because I limit what I tell them I think they believe things aren’t ever really that bad.

    On the last morning we were trying to get packed up and get on the road to drive home. He didn’t want to get up (because he had convinced himself that he could stay up all night the previous night hoping to sleep the entire car ride home, which backfired…he fell asleep at 4am and I was trying to wake him at 6am). Things between us escalated a little, I had to get loud to wake him, he was yelling back at me…nothing out of the ordinary although it was somewhat heated but once he was fully awake it was over and we were fine.

    On my way to the car one of my friends hugged me and said “I feel bad for you”. I can’t get those 5 words out of my head. Why does she feel bad? She saw one very small example of my interaction with him (he was really good otherwise and always is on vacation because if he isn’t on someone else’s time schedule he is typically great…it is when there are deadlines and pressure that things get more unmanageable for him).

    I know I need to let those 5 words go, they came from someone who doesn’t understand my life, doesn’t understand how my son ticks. I am the only one who knows. Even my husband doesn’t get it like I do.

    I just want to scream…please don’t ever say those 5 words to me or anyone else who has a special needs or high needs child. Don’t feel bad for me, this is our life. I wouldn’t trade this kid for any other in the whole world. Even though he is a challenge, he is a gift. He has taught me things that only this experience could open my eyes to. We are not perfect but we were meant to be together.

    If someone wants to say something to a parent of one of these children they need to say something positive…something like wow, he had a really great week, I’m sure he was just tired this morning…or you do a really good job letting him make some choices for himself but also telling him when things are not optional…or he was really respectful and polite to everyone that traveled with us. There are a million other things she could have said that would have made me feel good. Instead this wounded me.

    Of course I know he isn’t easy, don’t point it out please.

    • Pamela says:

      I’m so sorry that I didn’t see this comment a few days ago when you left it. Man, can I relate. First, people just don’t get it and think they can fix it — well meaning, but it gets exhausting. Then, when they finally have their epiphany, they still don’t really understand, they don’t know that IT’S ALL OK, that hard does not equal bad, it’s just hard and different. And us strong mamas get used to hard and different, and that just begins to feel like “normal” and “love!” I am so glad you are putting your message out there, hopefully it will help someone understand a little better. And…you are right, you need to get those 5 words out of your head. All that matters is that YOU get it, and that your son knows you love him. The rest? Noise 🙂 Sending you hugs!

    • jill says:

      I agree with Pamela and Crystal while you posted a while back you are so on target when it comes to your son…I have a challenging 11 year old son with ADHD and some defiance thrown in for good measure.  He is funny, and smart and energetic and challenging, sometimes really really challenging.  The best compliments and most helpful replies from others have to do with suggesting that something I did took courage or strength or patience to handle.  Compliments to him for doing what other kids do easily is also helpful.  Specific empathy, not sympathetic “I feel bad for you”  That doesn’t help.  Then again, people don’t really understand who aren’t raising a child with challenges.  Sort of like being a part of Al Anon if you have an alcoholic parent or spouse…even good friends don’t understand as much as those who have been there and lived that life.  

      It’s way past when your post was posted Crystal, but thank you so much…and to you too Pamela.

  3. adhdmomma says:

    Isn’t it interesting how we moms can have such different experiences from each other even on parallel journeys? I’ve written in the past about how I absolutely didn’t know anything was inherently different with my son. I see signs now (that is what my essay in the book Sensational Journeys is about), but they are so subtle I couldn’t have seen them back then. I actually don’t have guilt about not knowing about Luke’s ADHD sooner — the one thing I don’t saddle myself with a load of guilt over. 

    I blame his kindergarten teacher and his school for not giving us a heads-up during that school year. Oh, we heard from them! “Luke needs to be aware of his body. Luke can’t write his own name. Luke doesn’t know scissors are dangerous. Luke doesn’t participate in the activity du jour.” “You need to teach him responsibility. You need to give him chores at home. This kid shouldn’t be here if he’s doing [that].” But no nudge toward ADHD or LDs or anything. Just blame. 

    When we went to a new school the next year, with a wonderful teacher, and had the same problems, then we knew something was up. And I immediately asked for private and school evaluations. I knew he couldn’t survive school without the interventions. Hell. he hasn’t really survived school with the interventions!

    • Pamela says:

      It is interesting. You know what I feel guilt over? I feel guilt that I didn’t jump in and catch it when he was little, like some other parents do. I had those little prickles of “knowing,” and I pushed them away, wanted to normalize. And some parents advocate for their kids so effectively and so early. I try not to feel this way, but it eats at me. I feel guilty about almost every dang thing too! Stop the guilt! Stop the madness 🙂

      I am encouraged about how this year is ending for Luke, and for you guys. Sending prayers, sending love, and the school year is almost over. Three cheers for a break! (As Clark Kent keeps us in a cold sweat over whether he ‘ll pass 3 of his classes)

  4. Tinatena says:

    When I look back there were signs that my son was special. He has just now at 12 been diagnosed as ADHD. We are still on the path of discovery. When I think how he didn’t speak until he was 3 and a half but the kindergarden thought it ok as he was new to being away from me. His first year in school he didn’t learn to read but in 11 weeks at home with me he learnt to read in English, we live in Portugal. Then he got an excellant teacher for 3 years and we all sat back accepting his uniqueness, thinking “oh he is going to be a performer, he gets it from his Mum”. I am a dancer. Then we started to have the real problems and the school wanted us to believe it was his age, at 9. Now, at 12 the school deny his problem because we haven’t got it made “official” yet. All our problems are centered around the school, now we have problems with him at home.
    Yes, and I kick myself and cry why? Why didn’t we see his problem? Yet, I will do what ever it takes to help him and I will never give up on him or stop loving him. It is hard at the moment but I know I am proud of my son, my very special son. Thank you for this site. Reading about other peoples experience is a great help.

  5. Guest says:

    Check out the The First FDA-Cleared Objective Test for ADHD, Facebook page for more information on ADHD

  6. Arley says:

    You’ve put into words everything that I’ve felt about my very own son since he was 18 months. We’ve received an ADHD diagnoses recently but I sometimes feel like that label just doesn’t cover everything about who he is. So glad to know that I’m not alone. Thankful to find your post.


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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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