Physical activity is a tremendous outlet for kids with ADHD and for their boundless, restless energy. Sports feed that insatiable need for movement and activity, but finding the right one for each individual child is a process of trial and error that sometimes feels like its own grudge match.
Jasmine is sprinting up and down the sideline of the basketball court, cheering and giving high-fives to players and coaches like she just won game 7 of the finals. What she’s really playing is a four-on-four scrimmage against her own team, and she’s excited because she successfully passed the ball to another player. I’m nervous that, when she makes her first basket, her head might explode.
The fun thing about basketball, particularly co-ed basketball, is that Jasmine’s wild behavior doesn’t stand out. Cheerleading was a different story. She liked it ok, but half the time didn’t behave. Laurie would come home from practice with a dejected look on her face.
“Uh oh,” I would say. “Was it that bad?”
“She just doesn’t follow directions,” Laurie would say. “When the coach tells her what to do, Jasmine just stands there with this look on her face that says, ‘Nah. Don’t feel like doing that.’”
It’s disappointing because I loved watching her cheer competitions: the hot pink pom-poms, the make-up, the high kicks. It was too freaking cute. Or I guess in Jasmine’s case it was half freaking cute.
In the past, we’ve signed her up for neighborhood running events. Our city has an annual Race by the Lake, in which kids compete according to their ages. Back when Jasmine was five, she competed in a half-mile jog. I practiced with her several times leading up to race day, and the practices hinged entirely on her attitude in the moment. If she felt like running, she left me in the dust. If she didn’t feel like running, the walk back home was long and filled with whining. It gave me a taste of what Laurie went through with cheer. I walked in the door from a run and Laurie could tell exactly how it went by the look on my face.
“Was it that bad?” she asked.
“She just doesn’t follow directions…”
When race day came and her age group lined up, Jasmine had her game face on. Laurie and I both said to each other, “Oh boy! We’re getting ‘Good Attitude Jasmine.’” The little pop gun went off, and Jasmine sprinted out in front and quickly passed the spotters from the high school track team. She maintained a wide lead until about halfway through the race, when she melted down into a sobbing mess. Laurie and I shouted encouragements, “You can do it!” and “You’re almost there!” but they were answered by “It’s too long!” and “I’m so tired!” By the time she shambled across the finish line, her little runner tag was soaking wet with tears and snot. We tried to settle her down, but it wasn’t until she saw the table with the reward snacks that she wiped away her tears, smiled at me, and said, “Do I still get my donut?”
So now we’re trying basketball. And so far it’s a better fit. Every kid stomps his or her feet when the ball is stolen or ducks when the ball is passed to them. “Hey!” they shout at each other. “That almost hit my face!” And they all freak out when they make a basket. For that matter, they freak out when they have the ball. At her last practice, Jasmine caught a rebound and an opponent immediately stole the ball right out of her hands, but she was elated. “Mommy! Daddy! Did you see I had the ball?!”
“Ok, baby!” I shout. “Next time dribble the ball!”
“Ok, Daddy!” she shouts back.
I have to admit, this beats the heck out of her running tantrum and her cheerleading apathy. Plus she’s having fun. And who knows, maybe 45 minutes of running up and down the court will tucker her out and take the edge off bedtime. A daddy can dream…