You've seen him in restaurants; he's the loud one who rudely disrupts the other diners. On the first day of school, he's the kid in your child's class who you see spinning and wiggling and you think, Please let him not be sitting next to my child.
When you pass out your child's birthday party invites, he's the kid you'd just as soon not invite. At soccer practice, he's the one on your child's team who makes you think, Why do his parents even bother bringing him? At the grocery store, he's the brat who makes you think, His parents need to learn to control their kid.
But there are some things you don't know about that wild, unruly child...
You don't know that from the time he was 2, his parents received daily notes home from preschool saying things like:
"During storytime, your child ran around the room instead of sitting on the carpet."
"Your child was disruptive during naptime."
"Your child did not finish any of his work today."
You don't know that when his worried mom first shared her concerns with her trusted friends and relatives, they said things like:
"That behavior is normal at his age."
"All little boys are hyper!"
"It's because he's so smart -- he's just bored!"
You don't know that at his preschool Christmas pageant, he was shoved all the way in the back where he would be less conspicuous, which meant his parents were unable to take a video of him. Not that he was doing anything worthy of recording as a family memory; instead of singing the songs that had been rehearsed ad nauseam, he jumped, squirmed, spun and made weird faces.
You don't know that at his pre-kindergarten graduation, when he said his memorized line at the microphone better than any other child in his class, his mother burst into tears, not out of pride, but out of relief.
You don't know that in kindergarten, he was threatened with expulsion because of his picking habit... when he absentmindedly picked at the waistband of the little girl sitting in front of him during carpet time and she screamed out that he was trying to look at her underwear. And his mother had to explain to him about private parts even though he had no concept of the idea, no clue that he'd done anything inappropriate.
You don't know that the parents of that undisciplined little hooligan didn't even believe "ADHD" was a real thing. They smugly thought it was an excuse made up by weak parents of unruly children, parents who were too lazy or stupid to stay in control.
You don't know that his mother has bought, read and highlighted no fewer than 10 books, and not just ones about ADHD; books about parenting "strong-willed" children, books about discipline, books about love languages. (Maybe she just wasn't giving him enough love and it was making him wild? Or maybe she could "cure" him with love?)
You don't know that the parents of this child maintain a highly-structured, loving, nurturing, encouraging environment in their home. They have rewards charts and everything. Yes, they even have discipline!
You don't know that sometimes, when his mother tells someone that they've chosen not to medicate, the person gets offended because they medicate their child, and it's been a GODSEND for them. Do you think you're better than them or something?
You don't know that sometimes, when his mother tells someone that they've chosen not to medicate, the person says, "GOOD. Medicating your kid for ADHD is the same as giving them CRACK." And then his mother makes a mental note to not tell that person if they ever do choose to medicate, because, quite frankly, she still hasn't ruled out the idea.
You don't know that this child's father is a lover of soccer and desperately wants to enjoy the simple pleasure of kicking the ball around with his son, and that's why he keeps putting his son in soccer season after season, even though the child would usually rather play with his shadow, lie down in the grass so as to inspect the blades more closely or tangle himself in the net of the goal while the other kids chase after the ball. (Maybe one day it will "click.")
You don't know that his mom can see when the ADHD has taken hold. That her son's eyes glaze over and he seems to be "somewhere else." That she has slapped him before, just to get him to look at her, and she hates herself for it.
You don't know that his mother has to remind herself again and again that ADHD really is a disorder that causes a person to be unable to distinguish which things in his environment are important and which things should be ignored. To this child, a blade of grass is every bit as deserving of attention as the soccer ball coming at his head.
You don't know that his parents struggle daily with walking the fine line of being sympathetic that their child has a verifiable disorder, but also knowing they must require adherence to rules and expectations, and teach him how to fit into a society that has zero patience for people like him.
You don't know that even though his mother tries her best to spin ADHD in a positive light, this child understands he is different, and has sobbed and screamed "I hate ADHD! I pray to God to take away my ADHD and he doesn't!"
So next time you see a kid running wild, trailed by a haggard-looking mom with a frizzy ponytail and puffy eyes, just remember: There might be a lot you don't know.