My Square Peg: Raising My ADHD Son
A Guest Post by Heather
I have two young sons who are full of life and vibrant energy, big ideas, questions about the world, and frustrations.
ADHD is talked about so much these days. Everyone has heard of it, everyone has an opinion about it, yet few people understand what it is like to live with it.
I remember the first time I read an article that referred to a child like mine as having “disabilities.” I was shocked. I was taking a bath after having put the boys to bed and I was relishing in the rare time to myself to read. I had been looking forward to reading the cover article, hoping it might offer some insight or hope for my situation. I ended the article indignant that the author had called my child disabled. Disabled? I had never in my son’s 12 years thought of him as disabled!
He is 12 awkward years of teeth falling out and growing in, gangly limbs, and bad haircuts, that he refuses to comb into a good haircut. Normal!
But as I sat soaking, I began to think about what “normal” meant. Was he normal? My body lit up and I had goosebumps as I sat in the warm water. “No!”
One of my sons is different. He is silly and playful like most 12-year-old boys, but he doesn’t seem to know when to stop. When he sings songs – he sings them repeatedly. Again and again, and with each reiteration, his voice gets louder, shriller, until whomever is nearby harshly demands he stop. Most of the time, he looks up, perplexed, and asks, “Stop what?” He never sits still; constantly moving, shaking his legs. He cannot concentrate on most day-to-day tasks like brushing his teeth, doing his homework, or cleaning his room. He hyper-focuses on other things like television, his Legos, or the idea of going to buy a new toy. He is unable to sit in a conversation without interrupting, asking questions, or changing the subject. He likes to make people laugh more than anything, but he does not know when to stop. When the laughs stop, he does not.
He’s just “too much.” Too loud, too fidgety, too silly, too unfocused, too rude, too oblivious for most people. He’s the quintessential square peg in a world of round holes. He’s got jagged edges; hard to grasp and a little clunky.
I am constantly told by well-meaning people, “He just needs more __.” Their more means more rules, more discipline, -consequences, -restrictions, -schedules. As if we haven’t tried those things, repeatedly and without success. Clamping down just does not work on him. But their judgement still leaves me feeling like less.
Many days, I wake up feeling like a failure. I start my days with hopes, plans, good intentions, and patience. I end my days hopeless, behind on tasks, forlorn, and impatient.
They don’t know what it is like to watch this little person, who I am responsible for raising into a functioning adult, struggle. Every. Single. Day. To watch him be told that he’s not doing it right, not doing enough, that he’s lacking, failing, simply because he is himself.
But lately there’s been a shift in my thinking. “Disabled, my a$$!” The older he gets, the more I find myself hating the word “normal.” The more I experience life with my son, the more I think they’ve got it all wrong: “Normal” shouldn’t be the goal!
I get to laugh with my son and explore this BIG world he lives in! My son is what this world needs more of: creativity, a big thinker, not someone happy to just “moo” his way blindly with the herd. He is someone who wants and wants BIG. Someone who cares for others in a way that makes me want to cry at times, because he shames me with the beauty and goodness in him. He shows me a glorious world where learning can happen whether sitting, standing, hopping or humming. Where learning history can move beyond writing, to include an epic movie created on his iPad. Or an animated dragon because hell, why not??
My son shows me the beauty and chaos of being a kid with ADHD. He is someone who has so much to offer this world, that I get chills thinking of what he will teach others some day. I count myself lucky to get to watch and learn from him.
My square-peg son might not fit in this round-hole world, because he isn’t confined by the conventions of “normal.” He’s creating his own normal and I know, that the only way I could fail is by trying to make him more “round.”