How I Learned to Love My Child's ADHD

After years of wishing my son could just be "normal," it took a father-son camping trip to delight in his wonderful, inquisitive brain.

The ADD Experience, Part 2

We started off with a series of weekend hikes. Halfway through each outing, I found myself carrying Drew's backpack, along with my own, as he kept stopping to examine anthills or use a stick to trace pictures in the dirt.

By the time we made it to the campsite, the other kids had long since pitched their tents and were gathered around the campfire. My co-leader would optimistically remark on how great Drew was doing. I felt like screaming but comforted myself with the belief that scouting was helping Drew have a happy childhood.

Still, I was really looking forward to our next outing: a 30-mile canoe trip down the Colorado River. The first day was magnificent, perfect weather for a float trip. But Drew wasn't much of a paddler. He didn't so much stroke as he simply stirred the water. Despite my best efforts at teaching Drew how to paddle correctly, we fell far behind the other canoes. It was a long first day.

When we finally reached our campsite, I lost my footing getting out of the canoe and toppled into the water. Drew ran off without a word - he hadn't even noticed. Exhausted and cold, I quickly inhaled some food and said goodnight to Drew, who seemed captivated by the moths circling our lantern.

The next morning, I felt re-energized. If I paddled harder, I reasoned, Drew and I would be able to keep up with the other canoes. But, once again, we fell behind, losing contact with the nearest canoe barely two hours into the trip. Drew and I were alone on the river.

As I sat there in the blazing sun, I felt more frustrated than ever. Drew, oblivious to my disappointment, was peering into the water, looking for fish. Why me, I wondered. Why couldn't Drew be like any other boy who could paddle a canoe, kick a goal, or hit a home run?

Then I began to wonder: What in the world was I doing? Why was I obsessed with having a son like everyone else's? Drew pointed at a butterfly that had perched atop his shoe and gave me a big smile. And there it was, right in front of me: It didn't matter that Drew had no interest in hitting a home run or being the fastest down the river. He was too busy discovering the world around him. No, this wasn't the little boy I'd had such hopes for in the hospital so long ago. But he was happy.

In camp that evening, Drew watched as a pair of dragonflies danced above his head. He turned to me and said, "This is the best trip ever." In that moment, for the first time in a very long while, I felt lucky to be Drew's dad.

This article comes from the October/November 2005 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Diagnosing Children with ADHD, Learning Disabilities

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