Airports are fascinating places. I particularly enjoy observing people – the various games people play while pretending they are neither with others nor game-playing. Anthony was not pretending. He was very aware, at five years old, of the game of pressing his grandmother’s buttons as he out-smarted and out-ran her. On one lagging pass, the mid-sixties lady gave me that tired look and a handy explanation: “ADHD”
The explanation did little to quell the rising emotional climate among other travellers-in-waiting, but, I must admit, it confirmed the appropriateness of what I felt like doing: having a good old game of chasey. Imagine the fun we could have, we mightn’t be able to jump the seats like Anthony could, but we could cooperate and outsmart him when he landed in the other aisle. Then rough him up good-humouredly before letting him go again.
By the time we boarded, Anthony would have been exhausted, and sleeping like a baby halfway to Auckland. Instead, his grandmother had other plans: I’m saving his medication for the plane, as though placing him in a medicated fog was the only sign of relief on the horizon.
I call this ‘the myth of the chemical cure’ after Professor Joanna Moncrief’s remarkable book of that name. Anthony’s grandmother was able to announce to a group of total strangers the four-letter ‘explanation’ for her grandson’s behaviour, and the card up her sleeve was a tiny yellow pill to medically fog her grandson for the next few hours. Acceptable practice because, as we all know, medical problems need medical solutions. It is, as education expert Sir Ken Robinson claims in his latest video with all the viral potential as his previous ones, We resort to giving children quite dangerous drugs for the same reason we routinely removed their tonsils – medical fashion. I suggest it is more than just ‘fashion’ when one considers the marketing advantages of widespread demand for prescription medication. Besides, fashion and marketing have always partnered with each other and in their own interests, and manipulated people to buy a solution for every problem – perceived or otherwise.
Anthony’s grandmother had bought the package: a fashionable explanation and a ready medical solution. Too bad Anthony wasn’t consulted before his brain was bombarded with chemicals with a yet unknown longer-term effect. As I said, a game of chasey was my preference, no need to consult Anthony on that one.