"I love you, Mom.” My son says it often. In fact, it’s almost become a verbal tic — the default phrase his brain spits out while whirring around trying to find the words he wanted to say. “I love you, Mom.” It peppers his speech from the moment he wakes up, bleary-eyed and hungry, to the moment he closes himself into sleep. When I scold him for something — eating peanut butter straight from the jar, leaving dishes in his bedroom, teasing his siblings — it can provoke a fiery meltdown. But he says it then, too.
It was the first thing I learned to love about his ADHD — the way his mind automatically calls up the phrase he knows will soothe my feelings. I wonder sometimes if his inattention is an emotional gift. Although it makes it hard for him to complete his homework, or doesn’t keep him from carving his name into a wooden table, it makes his emotions quick as flickering flames.
There are the meltdowns, of course, born of frustration, and the impulse to want and want some more, and be angry when denied. But his easy emotions flicker as quickly as the harder ones. Not an emotional roller-coaster as much as an emotional carousel — the metal lion spins into view, teeth bared in aggression, and before you can blink, the lion spins away and the smiling monkey slides appears. Then the thoughtful owl or the laughing hyena.
His ADHD doesn’t break him; it makes him beautiful. Every time he says, “I love you, Mom,” even if I’m smarting from a recent outburst, I say “I love you” back. He’s teaching me to flicker, too.