Just Breathe. A Mother’s Story About Raising a Son with ADHD. ~ Suzanna Quintana

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 7.0
Shares 1.0
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

In my dreams, I always trip and fall down. And then I get up.
The signs are all there. Add them up, I tell myself.

He was in the principal’s office. Again. I didn’t need Caller ID; who else ever called?

Yes, Mrs. Roberts, okay maybe that’s an inappropriate song
for a first grader. I switched the baby to my other hip.
But, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby.
Well that’s kind of a healthy song, isn’t it—everything in the right order?
Inappropriate for his age, the principal reminded me.
Don’t you think, Mrs. Quintana?

He hung backward by his feet from the top dresser drawer.
He escaped out of every baby gate, baby crib, baby jail we bought.
He cleared all the pictures and vases and magazines off of every table in our house.
He scaled the shelf upon which the large television sat.
He climbed the nine-foot high bookshelf.
He pushed a chair to the door to look out the window, fell,
and knocked his front tooth out.

What do I do? He has so much energy! I wailed to the doctor when my son was only a baby.

That is one passionate little boy you have there, he said and tickled my son.
I gave myself an immediate adjective adjustment.
I repeated to myself over and over like a prayer at night into my tear-stained pillow,
He’s just a healthy and happy baby, that’s all. Right?

Fidget, squirm, wriggle, fuss, run, hide, interrupt, scream and fall off, fall in, fall down.

Typical, I found out later, much later, not too late, but still. Typical of boys with ADHD,
they—the doctors, the teachers, the psychiatrists, the everybody—say now, but
now he’s 12. He acts inappropriately for his age, his third principal tells me.

“Poopy butt!” my son shouts from the backseat, “Diarrhea!” he yells in Walmart.
Control your kid, lady. What’s wrong with you? People sneer, judge, conclude.
Why don’t I fix it? Family and friends wanted to know. I’m trying, I tell them.
Everything will be okay, you’ll see.

All the books you read sure don’t seem to help, my husband criticized.

My nightstand held stacks of dog-eared, highlighted pages from
Raising a Self-Disciplined Child, Raising Boys, Buddhism for Mothers,
7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons, 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child.

I read and read and read, but still couldn’t wait for bedtime, and two glasses of wine.
I’ll figure it out, I told my husband, who also has ADHD. He concluded about our son.
He needs discipline, he needs to be spanked, he needs to learn who’s boss.
I didn’t need another book to read. Keep your hands off of him. I knew that much.

Hyperactive, impulsive, inattentive, disorganized, absentminded, distracted and anxious.

And you would think I would know if I were describing my son or my husband,
I often told my mom. But your husband is an adult and Antonio is only a child,
she always added. You’re a good mother, she repeated, while no one else agreed.

But now they agree. Now we have the official diagnosis: ADHD. Now it’s for real.

And the footnote at the bottom of the page said, you’re officially not a shitty mother.
Blame it all on the ADHD, I say. So I read more books, different books, better books.

Adventurous, courageous, inventive, artistic, compassionate, loving, affectionate and kind.

So how was your day, Mama? he asks frequently. He hugs me, massages my shoulders,
and then the principal calls. We’re on a first name basis. What did he do now?
Another trip to the school. The parents of the well-behaved children know who I am.
Did you know he did this and he did that? I’ve run out of consequences to give.
I have been depleted of all disciplinary action. No one offers any helpful ideas.
The day ends up the same: a stomachache and sore ear after putting the phone down.

But I am figuring it out. Now we go to a Buddhist Temple. Now he meditates.

I turned his bedroom into a Zen den, where peace and quiet await his arrival each night.
Now there are more ups than downs, more joy than trouble, and yet still
I am the one there when the diagnosis reminds us both it is real, very real.
Are you going to medicate him? everyone who knows nothing about my son asks.
That is none of your fucking business, I want to scream. But I don’t. I act my age.

Then every night I slip into his room to watch him sleep, and lay my hand on his head.

I close my eyes and visualize a ball of light leaving my heart, traveling through my arm, out my fingers, filling my son’s body and soul with my love. We’ll figure it out, I promise him. And he knows that I know how lucky I am to be his mom.

In my dreams, I always trip and fall down. And then I get up.
The signs are all there. Add them up, I tell myself.
What are you going to do? What am I going to do?
I’m going to figure it out, that’s what I am going to do.
But for now, I’m going to just breathe.
And my son whispers, I love you, Mama.

Suzanna Quintana is a writer, speaker, truth hunter, sky gazer, and single mother of three boys. Along with being a former ballroom dancer/teacher/choreographer, she is a certified holistic health coach, holds a B.A. in History, attended the graduate writing program at Naropa University, and is now pursuing her second B.A. in Philosophy. She believes in the power of women, compassion and kindness to all but especially to one’s self, the gift of gratitude, and the healing power of visual meditation. After escaping more than a decade of silence, Suzanna has vowed to never again sacrifice her voice at the altar of another, and hopes now to help other women find the courage to tell their stories by paying allegiance to the motto, “Speak up, even if your voice shakes.” Her former lives include being a gypsy, a hippie, and a countess, and she calls often on these inner voices to guide her whenever putting pen to paper. She finds peace in the deserts of her home state of Arizona, solace on the California coastline, bliss while traveling anywhere in Italy, and pure joy when in the middle of a dance floor at a Salsa club. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram where she shares her story.


Like elephant journal on Facebook.


  • Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson
  • Ed: B. Bemel

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 7.0
Shares 1.0
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

Read The Best Articles of January
You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.

elephant journal

Elephant Journal is dedicated to “bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society.” We’re about anything that helps us to live a good life that’s also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant’s been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter’s Shorty Awards for #green content…two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter. Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? Send to [email protected]

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

anonymous Jun 26, 2013 5:03am

Meditation is exactly what I used to get my son off the medicine. Now it’s part of him, he knows to reach for it when he needs it. Thanks for sharing

anonymous Jun 24, 2013 6:48pm

I know some parents with children with ADHD and I know that what they are going through is not easy. The least they need is criticism from others. People need to be aware and understand this.

anonymous Jun 24, 2013 7:10am

Brought me to tears 🙂 Awesome read!!

anonymous Jun 24, 2013 7:02am

I'm crying a lot right now! All those things … "please come and pick him up early", "he's in a time out as he hit another kid" " excuse me, your little boy just yelled at me" … so familiar. And deep down thinking is it me? Am I too soft? And knowing that standard guidance and discipline just makes things worse for your son. Knowing he is the most caring lovable little boy with you, but can be truly horrible in groups or new surroundings. It's a long journey but love makes you patient and calm and kind most of the time! Thank you for writing that for all of us. And medication is a family's choice, but I must say after trying "behavioural techniques" til the cows came home …. our 8 year old has been a much, much happier boy on Ritalin. He used to hate school with a passion, but now goes ALL DAY!! We bought shoes … he choose them, tried them on and went to the checkout. No screaming, throwing shoes, running out the shop! I asked him to check his mice's food .. he just got up and did it! You know what I'm talking about parents of ADHD ers out there!! Anyway, blessings to you and your amazing son xxx

anonymous Jun 23, 2013 10:15pm

As the mama of a 10yo son with ADHD, who spent years being told I was a terrible parent, that my son was a deviant, who was always somehow shocked to see the down when I knew how empathetic, creative, loving and smart he was when he was up – I'm crying a little right now. Thanks. I'm going to give my son a kiss as he sleeps.

anonymous Jun 23, 2013 7:08pm

As a Mom who has ADHD as well as 2 other children and a one with Autism, I fully understand the struggle. I had to shift my mind as well as my clients to understanding that our children have a unique gift…they key is to manage the pain associated with it , and let more of the gift flow. You are doing an awesome job!

anonymous Jun 23, 2013 10:25am

As the mother of a son with ADHD this article reminds me of the struggles we ahad. We made it – he's 25 years old now and I still hear those three little words regularly – I love you mama!

It was a tough road and the option for meds made it harder than it needed to be. I wish you both well. No matter how hard it gets some days – you know it's worth it and you ARE so lucky to be his mom!