The Story of Two Parades

ADHD pic

We sat together on the curb, denim buns snuggled against each other on cold the cold concrete as we watched the parade go by.  As it passed we chatted about every detail that struck her four-year-old fancy from the white walls on an antique tractor to the rows of flutes and clarinets in the middle school marching band.

As she took in the parade with wonder I reflected on a parade we shared not so long ago, just this past Christmas in fact.  As my mind wandered my eyes filled up with grateful tears that trickled down my cheeks and screwed up the last minute mascara job I’d done in the rear-view mirror of our mini van.

Kel was working the night of that first parade so I found myself wrangling two preschoolers on my own.  Caedmon wouldn’t sit in the stroller and my hips ached for the weight of holding him.  Noelle was running, always evading my grasp. At one point we lost her for five minutes only to find her a half block away sitting with an unknown family.  I felt completely undone by my inability to keep my two children content and safe.

All my friend’s children were staying close by, content to gather candy and wait as Santa made his way down Main street.  But my daughter?  She was like a whirlwind I couldn’t control, a danger to herself and source heartache, anger frustration for me.

Just a few weeks earlier we’d received the diagnosis which simultaneously shed light on her behavior and broke my heart.  Just a few days before Thanksgiving, while the turkey was defrosting in the fridge, I found myself sitting across from our pediatric psychologist as she went over my 3 year old daughter’s test results.

She told me that Noelle’s inability to focus and her delay in fine motor skills, as well as the test results from us and her teachers indicated a solid ADHD diagnosis as well as some likely Sensory Processing Issues.

As our session came to a close we knelt together to pick up the toys that my daughter had scattered across the office floor and she attempted to reassure me:

“It’ll be okay, cut yourself some slack…. raising Noelle is more taxing and exhausting than raising a typical three year old.  Oh and don’t be too afraid to put her on medications someday, or even sooner.  I know you don’t want to, but it may make things so much easier.”

We drove home and I spent the next few weeks in a daze of heartache, grieving my daughters extra challenges and all the hurdles she’d need to jump over to succeed in life.  I was terrified to tell anyone for fear that they would start to view Noelle as a problem, that they would develop a prejudice and distain without getting to know her sweet heart.

At this point in the article you may think… come on Leanne it’s just ADHD, 1 out of every 10 kids have it.  It could be so, SO much worse.

And you’d be right, it could be so much worse, but you have to understand that an ADHD diagnosis ruled my life as a child. I was constantly seen as a problem, a challenge in the classroom.  My teacher’s distain for my behavior created a stigma with my peers and friendships were hard to come by.

I was convinced that the verse: “fearfully and wonderfully made” didn’t apply to me

I scratched myself out of family pictures with a thumb tack, convinced that I was the source of everyone’s problems.

I wound up in the hospital on suicide watch the summer after my Freshmen year, because to me death sounded better than another year at a high school where I was mocked and a total outcast.

So when our Doctor said ADHD….  I didn’t know what to do, how to deal, how to move on….

The last thing I want for my children is a lonely childhood where they feel like a problem or an outcast… a life spent wondering if they’re worth their skin…. if they’ll ever be good enough for the world they find themselves in.

And so while most parents would bounce back quickly from an ADHD diagnosis… I sank into fear and grief and that night at the parade felt like a prediction of our future, a life of controlling her impulses and resenting my friends for their “normal kids.”

But, after a few weeks my inner mama bear woke up and my wounds of grief turned into a steely resolve.  After all, if mercies are new every morning than surely Noelle’s future could be different than mine.

It was then that I started reading, google, asking, wondering and researching what was working for ADHD families and what wasn’t.

Just after Christmas we decided to try a gluten free diet to see if it would help Noelle’s hyperactive, impulsive behavior.  I was nowhere near ready to put my three year old on a psychostimulant, we weren’t done learning who she was and I didn’t want pills to forever change her development.

I’m not trying to evangelize you on GF diets for kids with different learning styles, but for us the gluten free approach has been a miracle.

At first I wasn’t sure if it was working, but then my friends, family and church workers began to come up to me and tell me that Noelle’s ability to engage her environment and pick up on social cues had done a complete 180.

“Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.”
“She was always sweet, and we always loved her, but to see her sit and listen to the story and ask questions is amazing.”
“I wish more parents were this proactive.”

So to me these past six months have been a miracle where I find myself able to connect with and share life with my gorgeous, curly haired mini-me.

I’m not saying all of our problems are solved or that this is the only way to manage ADHD in kids.  I’m just telling you my story, my mother’s heart for my daughter and my little miracle through the story of two parades

  • elora nicole ramirez

    I love this, Leanne. Mama-bear indeed.

    • Leanne Penny

      Thank you Elora. And then thank you some more.

  • Catherine Thiemann

    The school experience can give us a distorted sense of our own worth. You were never a problem child; the problem was the system that made you feel like one. How wonderful that you embrace your daughter’s unique beauty, and that you have found a natural way to lead her into her own best self! Kudos, mama.

    • Leanne Penny

      Thank you, and I am terrified of putting her into that system. SO much so that I’m not entirely sure that I can do it.

  • Sarah Askins

    As both a parent to child with ADHD and a teacher who spent years teaching kids with ADHD and myriads of other mental challenges, this post rings true with all of my fears about mental challenges and trying to overcome the stigma. I wish I could give you hug and sit down and chat about this whole ADHD thing. Much love, friend.

    • Leanne Penny

      I’d like that oh so much, perhaps we aren’t yet out of chances. Thank you so much for speaking up on being on the journey with me.

  • Michelle Woodman

    Your love for your kids is so clear and strong, Leanne. It’s, well, fantastic. Thank you for sharing your in-progress story. *hugs*

  • Nicole

    Love this. Mama, your strength of character and love is beautiful.

    And don’t we all feel some times- wonder sometimes- if we are worth our skin? So true.

    Thank you.

    • Leanne Penny

      The solidarity in that wondering is so so reassuring. Thank you.

  • Stephanie Friant

    Thank you for sharing. It is a long journey to know that who we are is not a mistake, but an opportunity to learn, love and become more than we are.

    • Leanne Penny

      Absolutely. Beautiful Poem dear.

  • Tim

    Leanne, this is so beautiful. The love your kids are receiving from their parents is such a gift. From parades to experimenting with foods to prayerfully watching over them, you are proving that you too are as fearfully and wonderfully made as any of God’s children and that you know your children are too.


  • emmillerwrites

    I don’t have kids so I don’t have a lot of value to add here in the comments other than I think you are so very brave to share your story and such a good mom to be so proactive!

  • Addie Zierman


  • Lisa Colon DeLay

    How lovely to see the healing that can come from feeling similar. It must also be a gift to your daughter that she can know you know what she’s going through!

  • Mark Allman

    “curly haired mini-me” She will be blessed to have you guide her through.

  • Mary Evelyn Smith

    This is a fantastic post! I found your blog through Caris Adele and I’m so glad I did. I know it’s not the same, but my son has Spina Bifida and I worry about so many of the same things. Will he be an outcast? How many hurdles will he have to face that I have no idea how to manage? Will he feel “beautifully and wonderfully made” or will he resent his body? It’s tough, but so rewarding too. Bravo to you for looking for some alternatives and trying different options for your little girl. I’ll be following you (your blog I mean– “following you” sounds super creepy).