My Daughter the Role Model
How Lee’s ADHD helps her “get” and inspire younger kids with the same disorder.
As I walked into Lee’s former elementary school for the holiday play, the memories came flooding back—sweet moments that I still hold close and more not so sweet, cringing moments that I try to forget.
I took a seat in the auditorium and watched as the second grade class filed in, followed by Lee and their teacher. The children’s excitement, as they took their place on the bleachers, bubbled over, and their chatter started to fill the room. Lee strode around purposefully, finger to her lips, eyes daring the class to disobey.
Even though she’d been volunteering with children for over a year, I was still amazed at the transformation from trouble-maker to positive role model. If someone had told me that my daughter would be in charge of monitoring a second grade class’ behavior and keeping them quiet during the very play she had misbehaved in, I would have said they were nuts.
Elementary school plays had been torture for Lee. Many times I sat in the audience watching her get bored and decide that spending a little time her neighbor was a lot more fun. First, she’d start poking her fellow actor, then whisper in her ear, causing both of them to miss or forget their lines. If her neighbor wasn’t receptive, Lee turned around to the row behind and found someone else who was bored. If that failed, she’d look for me and wave, drawing everyone’s eyes to me. I sank lower and lower into my chair, hoping no one knew that I was the mother of “that” girl ruining the holiday play.
I know now that asking a child with ADHD and SPD to sit still through a 30-minute play in which she has a little part, if any (because she can’t remember lines or focus), is insane. But back then, I felt her actions were my fault, and worried that any minute Lee would fall off the bleachers, taking her neighbor with her. I imagined all the other moms looking at me as that “Bad Mom” who couldn’t control her child.
Last September, I was thrilled when Lee’s volunteer position in the second grade class, teaching art, was expanded to a daily position as an educational aide, giving her credit for two high school electives. What I didn’t see was how her disabilities served the second grade class.
“I know the way Carlos thinks, Mom,” said Lee. “Other people might think he’s a bad kid, but he’s just SO ADHD! He makes me laugh so hard, but then I tell him he’s had his fun and it’s time for us to read.”
Soon, the teacher saw the benefit of having Lee work with the children who struggled with reading and math. After school, Lee, who had spent most of her days jumping in the car and trying to forget that school existed, couldn’t wait to tell me all the precious moments with “her kids.”
I wished, when I had been that mom at the second grade play, I could have had a crystal ball to see into the future. If I had only known that Lee’s out-of-control behavior would guide her to a deeper understanding of her ADHD and SPD and be channeled into a desire to help others with the same challenges, I could have replaced “Bad Mom” with “Just You Wait and See, Mom.”
Right before the play started, Lee walked over to me and pointed at Carlos, who was jabbing the boy next to him. She laughed and whispered, “Remind you of someone?”