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There Are No Stupid Questions—Unless You’re Asking Your Daughter with ADHD

I know the answers before I ask, but I always wonder if there is anything I can do for Lee by asking them.

ADHD and sleep advice for adults like this woman sleeping on her side in bed.

On a cloudy morning, I watched my daughter across the kitchen table, wondering how soon it would be before she’d do a face plant into her Cheerios.

“How did you sleep, Lee?”

She raised her head and glared. “I couldn’t fall asleep last night until 12. I woke up five times in the middle of the night, and you expect me to go to school.”

“Why couldn’t you go to sleep?”

“Stop asking me that question! I don’t know!”

I wanted to kick myself. It was the worst way to start the day with my daughter, who struggled with sleep. It was on the same scale as all the times I’d said, “Why aren’t you paying attention?”

I could hear her now, “Duh, Mom. ADHD?”

Or what about all the times I’d asked her on the way home from school, “Why didn’t you turn in your homework?”

“Why do you think?” she’d say, eyebrows raised at the audacity of asking that one for the millionth time.

I deserved it. I looked out the window at the darkening sky and said, “Sorry, Lee. Stupid question.” And I thought, If that’s the case, then why do I ask them, time after time?

Deep down, I knew. I wanted to try to fix the problem, as you would with a typical child. By asking the question, my world was right side up instead of upside down. My irrelevant questions served only to put my daughter into warrior mode and to set us up for battle. Besides, when you have ADHD, there are no easy fixes to insomnia, paying attention, or remembering, no matter how many times you ask the question. Lee was anything but typical.

She pushed her cereal bowl to the side and jabbed at her scrambled eggs. She most likely thought I was blaming her for not trying the techniques she’d learned to fall asleep and now was on the defensive. The danger in that was I could make her feel even worse about herself and less confident in her ability to confront her challenges. The “stupid” question I’d asked wasn’t just rhetorical, it floated between us like the rain cloud outside, ready to break.

I took a bite of toast and tried a cheerier subject. “What are you planning on doing after school today?”

Lee put her fork down. “Mom, that’s another question we ADHDers don’t do well with. I don’t know how I’m going to get through school, let alone the rest of the day. Just give it a break, OK?”

I opened the newspaper as the first drops of rain fell. She gestured out the window.

“What’s up with that?”

I leaned back in my chair, opened the weather page, and let out a breath. It was an easy answer, the best kind to get us back on track to start the day.