To My Teen Daughter, the Most Fearless Person I Know

On my ADHD daughter's 16th birthday, I reflect on her challenges, rejoice in her accomplishments, and celebrate her brilliant potential.

Lisa Aro daughter, MyStory 280px

Some days you wish you were “normal.” Normal is overrated.

— Lisa Aro

Mary, I can't believe you've turned 16. My mind is filled with snapshots of what we’ve been through together. You have been my greatest adventure, sometimes my greatest trial, always my greatest joy. Watching you overcome the challenges you’ve faced, and are facing, makes me so proud.

You have taught me a lot about parenting and life. I can get royal-blue fabric paint out of cream-colored carpet. I can identify the sounds and smells of danger from across the house. I heard that mother’s voice within me just in time to catch you when you decided to make a tightrope out of a bathrobe tie and travel from the crib to the bunk beds.

You Are My Role Model

You may be the most fearless person I know. I am a fearful person at heart, content to hide and operate in my little circle, but you taught me that there are things worth fighting for. You, my dear, are one of them. You awoke the mother bear in me; you pushed me to be better, more dedicated, more courageous, to persevere and fight for you and me.

Without you, I wouldn’t know that plastic play scissors can cut dollar bills into tiny strips, and can make squares out of metal mini-blinds. I love your fierce independence. You needed that independence, and it has served you well in facing your learning disabilities.

When we were doing test shots for The Mighty Kubar, the family film we made, and you were working the slate, you wrote the five backwards. I thought it was so funny when you talked about all your "dys-es" — dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, auditory processing, sensory processing and motor-processing challenges, and ADHD. And you see out of only one eye. How does this all fit together? It all fits together in you. You are so much more than your disabilities, though, sometimes, it seems that the struggle to push past them is the only thing you can see.

You Just Do It

I almost hugged the school psychologist who did your last IEP evaluation. Why? She finally saw a fraction of what I see. She said, “Mary is really intelligent, so intelligent that she has come up with incredible measures to compensate for her disorders.” That, my dear, is the truth. You are more intelligent than you realize, despite our efforts to drill it into your head. But you have more than intelligence. Your determination makes you nearly unstoppable.

That fierceness has taken you from a time when you couldn’t read to wanting to read all the time. You write, draw, paint, film, act, invent, create, and dream. You set your sights on something and do it. No disability has stopped you from pursuing what you want. I love that about you. I admire that. When people see you doing all the things your peers do with ease, I wish they knew the work you have put into doing them.

I know that some days you wish you were “normal,” that more things in life came easily. Mary, normal is overrated. You have qualities that will push you past normal. I have seen it in your determined, beautiful blue eyes. Happy 16th, Mary. You’ve come a long way, baby!

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