Not Your Fault, Kiddo
I felt like a failure until I understood the cause and effects of attention deficit. Living sober after alcoholism, my work in recovery and my connection with God let me share what I’ve learned with my child.
It’s no wonder they call flash card practice “drills.” To get my seven-year-old son to go through his math cards with me after dinner brings to mind other dental metaphors, most notably “like pulling teeth.” But the other night I heard myself tell him something that seemed a rare display of healthy messaging and, perhaps, good parenting. I attribute it to my understanding of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), my work in recovery and, very likely, my Higher Power.
I was trying to drag him away to a quieter room to give him a fighting chance at focusing on his task. He was objecting. After several emphatic explanations that he would focus better upstairs, I thought to add, “It’s not your fault you’re distracted, Kiddo. I’m just trying to help.”
That it worked and we had a good run through his addition cards was nice. That I said it at all was miraculous.
Coming to terms with my ADHD has been eye opening. It is an amazing realization to know that it is not my personal failure that makes it hard for me to stay on task. There’s a physiological reason why it’s difficult for me to focus on certain things, a trait I seem to have passed along to my son. Knowing that allows me to have compassion for him, even if it is more difficult to have it for myself. I don’t want my son to feel any stigma, or to believe that there’s something wrong with him.
My recovery work has involved a look at the way I was raised, the messages I received and how I used drugs, alcohol, and other vices to medicate or escape uncomfortable emotions. It’s a challenge to look back in a nonjudgmental way at times. My parents did the best they could with the tools they had. It’s important for me to see though that I often felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, a feeling that later drove me to some very self-destructive activity.
Both of those strands have been enlightening as I try to manage my ADHD and live sober. Acting on those revelations in real time in an interaction with my son, though, I attribute to my Higher Power. The miracle is that when I make an effort to connect with God I find myself acting in ways I wouldn’t on my own. The Big Book of AA says, “we will instinctively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us.” Amen.