When my daughter was in first grade, I chaperoned her class field trip to the National Zoo. I remember standing in front of the rhinoceros exhibit with a group of parents and children. Some of them were talking about the size of the rhinoceros and how he was eating, and others talked about how funny he looked. I said “look at the size of his horn”. Then, out of my adorable blonde little child’s mouth came this, “oh, and I see there is his penis” in the most cheerful, chipper voice.
One of the dads who was standing there burst out laughing and she just looked up at him, feeling proud that she had noticed. At this point, I had come to expect these types of observations from my daughter and smiled down at her affectionately.
Nothing went unnoticed with her. Wherever we went she would point out something that caught her attention such as the bald man at the hardware store. One of our friends at the time had a drinking problem, and before she was even two years old she would say “Budweiser” whenever she saw him. When she saw the Nutcracker with her 2nd grade friends and I asked her how she liked it, her first comment was “those boys pants were really tight.”
She had boundless energy and was harder to keep track of than our 6 month old puppy. On several occasions we lost her in downtown DC or Annapolis. Turn your back for a moment and she was gone, off roaming around looking at everything, unaware that she was no longer with us.
When people asked me if she was hyper, I would indignantly say “NO”. I didn’t know if I even believed in ADHD. I knew she had trouble sitting still, winding down, and tuning out anything in her environment, but I saw all of the positives ways in which these traits enhanced her life. She loved trying new activities and was good at most anything she did. She had a joyful spirit that drew people to her. Her incredible spirit was occasionally thwarted when she was unable to meet her own stringent expectations of herself and would melt down from exhaustion. Finally, after several years of denial it became obvious that she was struggling more to keep up and we finally accepted the doctor’s diagnosis of ADHD.
My daughter has been able to accomplish many wonderful things because of her ADHD. Her energy, impulsivity, creativity, and athletic ability served her well in her high school and college swimming career, and she was able to achieve many of her goals. Yet there is also a price to pay for those who try so hard to fit into society’s expectations of them, and her inability to conform to those expectations at times led to the depression she has experienced on and off since adolescence. Sometimes she laments that she feels like she has to work so much harder than other people. She struggles with the all of nothing mentality that often makes her feel like she isn’t good enough. When left unchecked this can lead to a downward spiral of depression and feeling defeated.
I wish I would have done more when she was younger to help her come to terms with this side of herself. The boredom that often accompanies ADHD can lead to self-destructive behaviors if not channeled properly. Fortunately my daughter is learning to celebrate her successes and not to dwell on the little disappointments that have gotten her down in the past.
I found this clip last night and showed it to her, because it makes some great points about how much she and those like her contribute to the world.