There she goes again, I thought, my daughter acting impulsively. Boy, was I wrong.
by Jennifer Gay Summers
After 14 years of raising a child with ADHD, I thought I could handle any judgment thrown my way. When my child was accused of an impulsive moment, I could stand my ground. I’d had enough practice. But a recent family vacation in Alaska showed that I was wrong.
My husband and I were exploring the Denali National Park with our daughter, Lee, who was hyperfocused on taking photographs. With her expert eye for wildlife, she’d already snapped pictures of a moose and the Alaska state bird. Now, we were standing on a narrow path with 50 other tourists, leaning over a cliff for a perfect shot of a lone bull caribou, with four-foot antlers, who had wandered from his herd.
Our tour guide motioned us to come back off the path to listen to an Alaskan native talk about her tribe. After a few moments, Lee whispered, “Mom, this is like school. I’m so bored! Can I go take pictures?”
“Yes, honey, go ahead.” She moved off to my left near a clump of flowers.
The hot sun and speaker’s monotone made me drowsy, but I snapped to attention when I heard her say, like a thunderbolt splitting the silence, “Whose child is that?”
All the times Lee’s ADHD had gotten her into trouble, all the times I’d had to apologize for her rash behavior came flooding back. I froze.
“There’s a blond child going over the cliff near the caribou! Where are the parents?” said the Alaskan native. My husband whispered, “It’s not her. I saw a blond child there earlier.”
I knew he was right, but I slowly turned around with the terrifying certainty that all 50 people were staring at my child. There was Lee, standing on the edge of the cliff, looking over.
A woman moved off from the group and shouted, “Get back here, now!” She should have been me, but my feet felt as if they were stuck in mud. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was the bad mom who didn’t keep an eye on her child.
My husband moved first, waving his arms at Lee. I followed, feeling the glares of the group burning into my back.
Lee looked at us and pointed over the cliff, yelling, “There’s a kid and her dad over there! By the bull caribou!”
I realized, in that moment, how much she’d grown up. The younger Lee would have followed her curiosity right down that cliff, up close to the caribou. The 14-year-old Lee was still a little impulsive, but knew to hold back.
As our guide ran off to rescue the errant tourists, I realized I was the one who needed to grow up. Lee had shown me it was time to let go of the past, throw judgment to the winds, and have a little faith that 14 years does make a difference.