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“Our Kids Know Best: My Daughter’s ADHD Insight”

Tonight, my daughter reminded me not to hide behind ADHD.

After beating back my panic attack and checking the map, I make it back to my friend’s home and have carne asada and homemade salsa with her and her family. We talk and play with the dog, and I find myself getting used to what I will have to do to get the job done here in L.A. before I get to go home.

My work goes a little better in rehearsals – still not great, but I’m resigned to the feeling that there’s nothing I can do to keep my ADHD, hypomania and the other comorbid disorders from sabotaging and destroying this project in the end.

Whoa – talk about negative. But here’s what’s weird – well everything seems weird right now – but here’s what’s most weird: I’m going around cheerfully doing what I’m supposed to do in rehearsals and in the business dealings with the theater, etc. Outwardly, I seem energetic and cheerful and positive. But I know this is all just me going through the motions because it’s what’s expected, and that in the end I’ll at best pull off a mediocre show, which is also what’s expected because after all, I’m a stammering brain-scrambled nut-ball.

This kind of self-reduced expectation vortex can suck you down into a kind of safety zone where you feel better because you’re all comfy in a lowest common denominator baseline existence. You don’t ask much of yourself because you and everybody else knows you’re not capable. No disappointments because you don’t really try. And you’re smiling and pleasant the whole time.

So, this is how I’m operating when I get a call from my daughter back home, who’s thirteen and who also is ADHD. She says she just wants to chat.

She tells me that she’s trying harder in PE, especially in volleyball. She forgot about a report for English, and so will have do it this weekend and turn it in late, which stinks because that means no sleepover.

In math, a boy next to her keeps grabbing at her pencil when she’s working because he wants her to “totally lose it,” which she is famous for doing when pushed enough. But she said today she switched seats with a friend. She’s still behind in math, but she’s thinking the new seat will help, and she’s still got that A in art.

Then she says, “How are you doing, Dad?”

“I’m okay,” I say, “I’m just rehearsing. You know, doing the same things over and over.”

“Sounds boring, when you put it like that, Dad.”

She’s right, of course. No wonder I was so unhappy. The one thing the ADHD brain cannot tolerate at all is boredom.

“But your play isn’t boring.”

I thank my daughter for the compliment, but she’s not praising me, she’s reminding me that I’ve always told her not to hide behind the ADHD. Don’t use it as an excuse when you’re tired or scared, I told her. She reminds me what I said to her — don’t join up with the crowd that wants to label and defeat you, they don’t need any help.

Tonight I tell her good night and thanks – I’ll quit making excuses and try harder tomorrow. And we’ll chat again tomorrow night, our voices going back and forth on the two-way parenting street.

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