There's something I want to get off my chest. I've seen several links on Facebook to this article about how the French are doing such a fantastic job of parenting/eating/generally existing on this planet and how THEIR children don't have ADHD, and blah, blah, blah.
Well, allow me to retort.
I don't know the first thing about France. I'm sure their culture is perfect; their food is impeccably organic and there are no McDonald's anywhere; all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average; and everything is a throwback to whatever idyllic Middle Ages paradise these people want to believe existed, but with less plague and the best health care system on the planet. And more power to them. My argument isn't with the French people, per se. If they've figured out a way to beat their kids without social services intervening and how to have better dinnertime conversation as a result, far out for them.
My problem with this article is that its assessment of American practices does not comport with one goddamn thing in my paradigm. I'm not going to link to it, because it pisses me off so much I don't want to drive any traffic that way, not even the four people who might read this. It's not hard to find if you want to go looking. Suffice to say, my experiences were all the polar opposite of what is described there.
The author, Marilyn Wedge, cites some statistics: 9 percent of American kids are medicated, while less than 0.5 percent of French kids are. She then states that "the preferred [U.S.] treatment is ... psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall."
Really? Could she please tell that to the three different specialists I took the Young Prince to see over the course of three years who looked at him for 15 minutes on a good day and decided there was nothing wrong with him that social and behavioral training wouldn't fix? Would she please tell that to the social therapy program I took him to for an entire summer, at the end of which absolutely nothing had changed?
This Wedge person then goes on to attack the American medical classification system as "over pathologizing." Maybe she's right, but the YP had to be in terrible shape (with possibly irreparable damage to his outlook on school and social activities) before anyone in an official position would agree he was anything more concrete than "Possibly on the Spectrum" and that he needed something more than increased rituals and lists and breathing exercises and 500 variations in his diet.
Diet is where Wedge goes next. Artificial colors are bad! Preservatives are bad! Allergens are bad! Well, sure, allergens are bad by definition. I suppose there are drawbacks to colors and preservatives. But you know what? We eliminated next to everything. The YP is a terribly picky eater to begin with (something else I'm sure the French and all other perfect parents out there have no problems with, because they are, after all, perfect, and strict disciplinarians and their children are perfect and eat everything put in front of them with no protest whatsoever and in fact turn up their noses at French fries and ice cream). Guess what! He was just as nuts on Pop Rocks and Diet Coke as he was on organic chicken and water.
And then she goes after the parenting. Strict frameworks. No snacking. Crying it out. Consistently enforced limits. Saying no. Early and frequent experience with self-discipline.
I'm not going to say I was 100 percent successful in my efforts to enforce all this. I'm willing to bet no parent would say that, not even the French ones. But I think I did at least as well as other parents of the YP's peers.
It's funny that everyone I know who has linked to that article has fixated on one small aspect -- vaccinations, food chemicals, spankings, whatever. And the times I got worked up enough to respond in person, the responses amounted to, "Oh, well, you are different!"
(Would you say that to any minority friend of yours? "Asian people don't know how to drive -- oh, except YOU. You're different!" "Black people don't work hard -- oh, except YOU." "Kids with ADHD is a myth and can be fixed by eating better -- oh, except YOU.")
Funny, I don't think I'm different. I think I'm pretty much smack-dab center-stage indicative of people who struggle with this. The majority of parents I know? Their kids don't act like mine. Their kids are doing fine. The parents I know who are going through what I am? Well, I assure you, not a single one of them ran for the pharmacy as their first choice in dealing with this.
Frankly, this article is much closer to my experience.
And honestly, that woman's point -- think about what you don't know -- is a lot closer to how I'd like to see the world operate than some absurd cultural comparison holding up the French as a model when there are about a kerjillion variables that couldn't all possibly be accounted for.
And until you've walked a mile in these shoes, you'd best step off, because odds are you don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about. Let me put it this way: If your kid is four feet tall and 200 lbs, I'm not going to swoop in and tell you that all your kid needs is more exercise, or to eat better, or that you're a shitty parent with no control over the situation. I have no experience with raising a fat kid, I have nothing to add to that conversation, I'm not going to assume I know what you're going through. If your kid is missing a limb? Same rule applies. No experience, no insight, no clue what you're going through. I'll listen, and if you ask me, I'll offer my own conclusions based on what you've said, but I'm not going to insist you're doing it wrong. Your kid can't spell or has a lisp, that's your problem to address, not mine. So do me a favor and return the courtesy.