Alex, my seven year old, has always been a gift package of surprises. He burst into life, early, and quite literally. He’s a fireball, a loud-talker, extroverted, his brain fires rapidly, far too fast for his mouth to deliver its thoughts.
Its a bit like baking cupcakes and pulling muffins out of the oven; he’s not a lot like me. He adores gaming and screens and Star Wars. I see facets of Anakin Skywalker in him, Robin Hood too. He’s his daddy.
Both father and son have diagnosed ADHD.
When I drop Alex off at school I sometimes feel I’m planting a firework on school grounds and running away. Calls and emails regarding his behavior and academics are a regular drill. Sometimes its overwhelmingly positive, sometimes he’ll elbow-rib a rowdy boy out of line, or call a bully out. Sometimes he’ll talk back to the teacher, or have a tantrum and refuse to participate. And, instinctive as he is, sometimes he makes dangerous and even idiotic choices, or flames my cheeks scarlet red as he shouts his loud social commentary whilst we’re out shopping.
But usually his actions are a way to defend his heightened sense of morality, an out- pouring of his splayed open heart. He doesn’t like seeing smaller kids get picked on, or when the teacher makes him break up his Lego, after his hard efforts building it.
People we know either love Alex or shrink back from him, they either get him or don’t. Gosh I love this kid. I love how he embraces his differences, how he refuses to follow the crowd, how he speaks his mind and defends those in need. I love his passion, his zest for life. I admire his perseverance as he so easily slips into the zone, negating his bodily needs, to see a task through. Yet in daily life it can be challenging to live with.
I’m learning, through the brilliance of my little boy, that ADHD needn’t be a negative thing. Thank you ADHD for Alex’s vibrancy, his dedication to the things he loves, his competiveness, his refusal to be anything but his organic self.
Problem is, at school, we have to squeeze a round peg in a square hole. We have to quash him down a little bit, nudge him into line, blot him into submission. Sitting down and shutting up is not my Alex. But it is the school system, and I can see why it has to be that way. Yet as he gets older, it gets easier.
At home Alex can be Alex. He can flay and play and create and run and roll down hills and use his outdoor voice, too. He can indulge his whims, excavate the depths of his energy, he can spend hours on a task and speak with his heart, instead of his head.
My mothers wish is that he also sees ADHD as a gift. I hope he learns to harness it, to let it shine when appropriate and dim the switch when necessary. In the future I know he’ll be successful if he follows his passions, because he will pursue what he loves to do with unrelenting vigor until marvelous things are accomplished. I pray his future wife celebrates, as we do, his Alex-isms. I hope he lives and works in an arena where he can express and splash his personality about.
My late father adored Alex. He ‘got’ him. Dad called Alex a ‘character,’ a title only reserved for the cheekiest, most eccentric and charismatic of souls. Alex, last year, would rocket Grandpa’s wheelchair around Poole hospital, helping Granny to discern the long lines of stale corridors to get to physio appointments. He’d imitate dad walking on a wobbly walking stick, grimaced face, extracting rare eye-watering chuckles of laughter from his Grandpa.
My father, with his strict boarding school education, high values and disciplined way of life, could come across as an intimidating man, yet Alex blasted through the layers of formality to poke fun at him all the same. Dad respected Alex’s gumption. I think he saw himself in him, in his unadulterated essence. Alex was the son he never had.
I know dad saw the boy behind the label, ADHD. I know he took that label with a pinch of salt and saw his grandson as the sacred gift to the world he is. (Yes, despite the day toddler Alex smeared his dirty diaper over fastidious Grandpa’s magnolia walls and smudged the fireplace’s coal all over his cream carpets.)
Every child deserves to be seen behind the wise eyes of a doting Grandparent. Sometimes we even as adoring yet in- the- trenches- parents can miss the sparkles.
Here’s to your child’s eccentricities, their ‘special-sauce,’ their beautiful unreplicated Beingness.
Namaste to you, and Namaste to your wondrous children.