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.
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.