Self Esteem

About a Boy (and Teen) with ADHD

When he’s in his element, my teenage son becomes his true self — the person I wish his teachers saw.

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You can see my son’s neurons firing, and the excitement in his voice is palpable, as we walk through the American Museum of Natural History. Miles is taller than I am now, but in his 14-year-old body, there’s still a wildly curious little boy. This duality is not unique to teenagers with ADHD — there’s a kid inside of everyone. But the excitement of ADHD, when triggered by something that is loved — like a visit to the museum — is a reminder of the kid inside.

Miles ushers his grandmother and I past the bones of the prehistoric whale to those of a prehistoric bird. He rattles off its scientific name. I see the toddler who carried a book about dinosaurs everywhere he went. I’m not listening to the facts he’s teaching us; I’m too busy watching him. This is the boy I wish his teachers saw. This is the whip-smart, focused kid I want to break out from the rocky exterior that many people see, so I can display it with the pride of a curator.

There are heartbreaking days when Miles comes home from school carrying the burden of expectations he can’t meet, when getting through to him feels like digging through solid rock. The moments when he feels smart are gifts. There’s an excited kid in every teenager, but the passions teens with ADHD hold on to from childhood are connections to their core selves, the ones that, over the years, can be covered by self-doubt.

My mother and I smile at each other over the curled fossil of a centipede. The boy we adore is flourishing, his passion uncovered. His past is the blueprint of his true self, always there. We just need to help him dust it off and glory in it.



2 reviews

  1. When my grandson’s teacher said he reminded her of her own ADHD son, who is now a successful engineer. That was two years ago, and with medication and behavior modification, he is thriving. That teacher truly changed the course of my grandson’s life. He loves her, and to this day, returns to his old school to visit her. He knows that she loves him, too. When she greets him with tears in her eyes, we also know she loves him.

    1. I am struggling with my son and so glad to hear stories of others identical to how I feel. My son is so smart with the biggest heart but when out of his element and around more than 1 or two others the decisions he makes are unhealthy and dangerous to his social life. Please tell me what medicine works for your child.

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