Should I act like a protective Mother Bear to my ADHD daughter — or step back to let my Lee step up in high school?
by Jennifer Gay Summers
On a lazy Saturday, I walked into our back yard where Lee was hanging out with her friend Kay listening to music on the patio. I put lunch down on a table between them, wary of the bees hovering over the roses nearby.
“I’m so excited to go to high school, Lee, aren’t you?” Kay said and tore into her sandwich. The girls were in eighth grade now, getting close to the end of the fall semester.
I chimed in, “Your high school is going to be twice the size of middle school. You guys will have to make an effort to find each other at lunch.”
Lee put her sandwich down, her face growing pale. She stood up and started pacing around the patio.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “...you’ll have orientation week to figure it all out.”
“Quit talking about high school!” Lee said. She ran over to the grass and threw herself down. “I just want to enjoy this year!”
She was right. I was projecting myself into ninth grade, thinking about trying to guard her from the potential pitfalls of a new transition. My cautious admonitions boosted her anxiety. Enough already! I took a deep breath. How would she develop the skills to navigate a new challenge if I kept putting in my two cents?
But my fears hovered, just like the bees on the roses. Ninth-grade puppies are prime targets for older bullies, and Lee already dealt with her fair share of bullies. Just when she learned to deal with the ones in middle school, along would come more jerks. She’s an independent kid — tough on the outside, soft on the inside — and she resists peer pressure to fit in, but it still hurts when classmates ignore or make fun of her.
What about the scary opportunities in high school to drink or do drugs for a daughter who lacks impulse control? Ninth-graders need organizational skills to cope with the higher academic demands of high school. Lee struggles with organizing her daily tasks.
We middle-school parents are told to make our kids accountable for turning in their homework and to teach them to advocate for themselves in preparation for high school. But as ADHD parents, we can’t step back completely. We ride the teeter-totter of “Help me, Mom” and “Just let me do it myself.”
I brushed the bees away and sat next to Lee on the grass and said, “You’re lucky you’re one year older than most of the kids in your class. You’ll be so mature when you get to high school, ready to handle the challenges. Your friends should be so lucky.”
She sat up, picking grass off her shirt. I saw the hint of a smile.
“Yeah, I’ll be OK.”
I hope I will be.