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So my son has had a lot of problems in school. Academically (as far as that word has meaning in kindergarten) he’s at the head of his class in most subjects. He loves math, he reads like a champion, he can use a map almost better than I can, and even his handwriting is better now than mine was in third grade.

The problem is that he has a tendency to — whenever the teachers assign him a task that he is intimidated by or plain doesn’t like — go completely berserk. “Crab-walking around the classroom at 90 miles per hour,” one teacher put it. “Poling himself around the classroom while sitting in the garbage can.” Those kinds of things.

The teachers are so frustrated with this that they seem to have simply given up on him. They let him go berserk, because it’s actually illegal for them to touch him — and he knows it. We’re frustrated, because this straight-up doesn’t happen at home. At all. When it’s work time at home, our son puts his head down and works his butt off. Then, when it’s play time, he goes and bounces up and down on his head on the sofa. Literally.

So, the teachers really want to get him a prescription for some form of ADHD drug. But ADHD has a wrinkle to it: it’s only ADHD if it occurs in multiple areas of the person’s life. Because our son is able and willing to focus and not be a spastic monkey at home, the doctor won’t diagnose him with ADHD. So the school is upset.

(Actually, even without that, the teachers have filled out the questionnaires, and he gets close — but even just taking into account his behavior at school, he doesn’t quite qualify.)

There are a few ways we could go about handling this. If we asked the doctor to label our son ADHD, she would, and we could get him on Mythawtsafailin or whatever. Or, we could simply inform the school that we’re going to home-school him for the rest of the year and hope that we can get him to break the “school expects me to misbehave, so I will” mentality over the next six months.

Or, we can keep him in school, keep annoying the teachers, and keep working to figure out what’s going on in our kid’s head. It’s the choice that requires the most work, aggravates the most people, and is generally the hardest all around. But we believe it’s best for our son, so we’re cramming him down the teachers’ throats.

It’s not like we’re sitting idle while we do this. We’ve been carefully examining our son. We noticed that he didn’t drink enough, so we’ve been trying to get him to drink more — and sweet tea seems to be doing the trick. That seemed like it was working for about a week, then his behavior slid back down again.

Then, we researched ADHD and what is actually does inside the brain. Current theories are that your dopamine, norepinephrine, or choline levels are out of whack — all three of which are vial neurotransmitters that help your brain communicate with your body.

So now, we’re supplementing him with amino acids that your body uses to create dopamine and norepinephrine, and an adrenal gland booster that will help the dopamine production as well as quell any stress responses that come from the fight-or-flight reflex.

The research that it took to get to this point was something that we as parents had to execute on our own. Fortunately, I’m a freelance writer who is often asked to write health information with citations and whatnot, so I know how to use the ncbi.nlm.nih.gov website.

My wife is also a supergenius and a master researchinatrix — I don’t even know how she does it, but I can ask her any factual question in the universe, no matter how obscure, and she’ll come up with something perfectly reasonable as an answer and the links to back it up within the hour. I’ve tried this. It works. Every time. It baffles me.

But the point is that this isn’t the easy way. In fact, it’s just about the least easy way I can think of. It involves my wife and I, as parents, taking personal responsibility for our son’s actions, reactions, and state of being. Not just responsibility as in ‘cleaning up after the mess’, but responsibility in the active sense of taking it upon ourselves to find out what’s wrong and fix it rather than passing the buck to the school, his doctors, or whomever.

I don’t know, realistically, how common of an attitude that is, but I get the feeling that it’s pretty rare, and I’m very proud of my wife for making me do it. 😛

This whole ‘being a father’ thing is a lot more work than I suspected, even after I had gotten a taste of it. Loving someone enough to take responsibility for their long-term happiness…I never even really did that for my wife. I loved her, and I always did everything I could in the immediate sense to help her through the tough times, but I always counted on her to guide herself to her own happiness in the grand sense. I can’t do that with my son — he has no idea what he’s doing. He thinks that watching Minecraft videos on YouTube for four hours straight while piling down a bag of Trader Joe’s gumdrops (that we didn’t know he had found and opened) is the pinnacle of success.

Of course he needs me. I can’t even imagine what life must have been like for my mother, trying to raise me and help me reach happiness without a legitimate father figure in my life. Or what it must be like for a single parent of either gender to try to tackle a child that isn’t as smart, self-motivated, or deeply loving as mine.

It’s no wonder I have the impression that a lot of parents take the easy way — this shit’s hard…but it’s so very worth it.

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