Guest Blogs

“How a TV Show Helped Connect Me and My Teenage Son”

I could see what drew my ADHD son to this TV show, a series about a guy who hides his true self to fit into a world where he struggles to connect with others.

“Somehow it’s reassuring knowing I’m not the only one pretending to be normal.”
– Dexter Morgan from Dexter, Episode #105, Writer: Melissa Rosenberg

As you may know, I have ADHD and so do our two kids. That’s everyone except my wife, Margaret, and Danny Boy, the dog. And we’re not too sure about him.

How Margaret deals with all of us is some kind of miracle that you’d have to ask her about. But just because she’s not ADHD, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have crazy ideas. For instance, this summer’s travel extravaganza.

Okay, I thought it was a good idea, too, but I am doctor-certified crazy, so I have an excuse. Anyway, after a particularly stressful spring, Margaret and I decided to push the envelope of our mental and financial endurance this summer and spread the whole family all over the map — physically, emotionally, and maybe psychically too.

Three of us have been all over the mainland — me in L.A., where I did my show and stayed with family friends for two months. My wife and daughter on a road trip reconnecting with relatives in Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware (where they met up with me at my parents’ house for the Fourth of July). Our son stayed home with our dog, house sitting — and going through his own interior journeys with alcohol and responsibility.

In the end, Margaret’s plans all turned out great, but toward the end of the travels, everybody’s nerves were frayed. We were all exhausted and well, touchy. Or maybe it was just me.

I got back to Hawaii and our son, Harry, two weeks before my wife and our daughter, Coco. So Harry and I spent a couple of weeks getting the house cleaned up for their return and talking. I was, as I’ve said, on edge. I wanted to talked some things out with my son, but I couldn’t find a way that didn’t fray my nerves more than they were — and make Harry pull away and shut down.

Then, finally, we talked about something else to talk about what I wanted to talk about — his growing up, our relationship, his friends, his life goals, and things like that. The conversational duck-blind we used was Dexter, a TV show he’s passionate about. During our two weeks alone, he showed me all the episodes he’d saved, and during this Dexter marathon I began to see what attracted my ADHD son so strongly to the show.

Harry had been on me for over a year to watch this show with him, but I resisted. My god, the hero of the show is a serial killer. Nearly every week someone gets butchered by this guy. He pointed out that I read tons of thrillers and murder mysteries. But I said they don’t glorify violence like that, and besides, they’re books. Books are better than TV. Well, in this case, he was right — and I was wrong. Every once in a while being wrong happens to a parent — admitting it is the hardest part.

But like I said, I could see what drew Harry to this series about a guy who feels like he’s wearing a disguise so he can pass as being normal in a world where he struggles to find real connections to others. He identified with him, and as we watched, I identified too.

Yes, Dexter definitely is way out there, but the character is struggling constantly with questions of morality, right and wrong, and the responsibilities of love. So, episode after episode, night after night of this very bloody TV horror show, Harry and I found a way to communicate about him, his life, and on a different level — but just as frightening — the horror of growing up.