My son’s ADHD and my ADHD are very different in a lot of ways; but we do share a few ADHD habits.
by Frank South
“Are you going to do the kitchen or not?”
There’s no answer. At least I think there’s no answer. It’s hard to tell because I’m talking to a closed door. “Harry!”
My 21 year-old ADHD son is in his room on the other side of the door. We’re trying to break him of this rude habit of communicating to the family through hollow-core plywood. I’ve taken the door off the hinges and carted it out to the garage a couple of times, but then we’re all subject to the sight of his incredibly messy room. When he promised to be a more responsive member of the household, we let him put it back up. Once I took it down and put it back up before he even came back from school because I couldn’t take even walking by the open entrance of the nuclear waste dump where he sleeps, plays video games, practices guitar, and eats Ramen noodles.
My son will tell you he’s not ADHD. He thinks terms like ADHD non-hyperactive type are stupid. He’ll cop to being maybe a little ADD, but he refuses to take his ADHD meds, and since he did pretty well this semester at community college, we’re not fighting him on it.
But Jeeze-Louise, the kid’s 21 for God’s sake, and I can’t get him to clean the kitchen when I ask him to, or even open the door to his room when he’s talking, or in this case, not talking to me. We’ve always been a engaged full-service parenting operation, equipped with the standard arsenal of love, respect, rules, manners, discipline, expectations, rewards, consequences, and blah-blah-blah.
We get tired and space out sometimes; but most of the time we’re there pushing for the best for our kids, I think. These days it seems that’s all I do with my son – push. I’m tired of always being the cop in this relationship. I’m tired of always being on his ass. Yes, he’s got learning disabilities; but so did I growing up.
Just before I go into a “When I was your age…” self-righteous rage, Harry opens his door and says, “Okay, okay… I was just getting my Ipod.” Then he walks past me with headphones on and starts cleaning the kitchen – slowly, with one hand. His other hand is occupied with Ipod adjustments. I’ve told him a kazillion times that cleaning is a two-handed job. I was a professional dishwasher at his age before moving up to grill cook and you have to grab work with both hands, the same way you have to grab life if you expect to get anything from it… anyway, you get the idea. Harry does too. That’s why he’s got Eminem pounding in his ears.
My son Harry’s ADHD and my ADHD are very different in a lot of ways. I’m an on-edge, jumpy, combined ADHD type with comorbid emotional and psychological doo-dads lurking in my head like unexploded bombs that go off with the smallest nudge, who has learned to use meds, power tools, or whatever it takes to bolt down my concentration to what’s in front of me. Harry’s ADHD, combined with his co-morbid auditory processing delay (which he also doesn’t like to admit to), has him buried down in a cavern, looking at the stuff that he’s gathered around him and not all that interested in venturing out into the sunlight to experience anything new.
For awhile it seemed like no matter what either Harry or I did, we were going to be stuck forever in this boring dance of hyperactive discipline and passive-aggressive rebellion. Then I noticed that when we talked to each other we barely looked each other in the eyes. We’d start with eye contact, and then we’d both slide off as our attention was drawn to other things while we were talking. It’s a small ADHD habit we share.
So, I’m trying something new. I keep my eyes on his when we talk – through the whole conversation. And, yes, I also try to talk about other stuff than what chores he should be doing. But, the eye-contact really seems to make a difference. He looks back. Yesterday we shared a smile.