“My Daughter’s ADHD Is an Important Chapter in Our Family Story.”
“I decided to wage an all-out campaign of self-esteem until my daughter graduated high school. Stamping out various family members’ exasperation became a crusade. ‘Apologize to Laila’ was an often-heard phrase in our home.”
Without question, God’s greatest gifts to my wife and me are our three children. We love them, protect them, advocate for them, and teach them.
Our oldest daughter, Laila, was diagnosed with ADHD when she was in high school. Her story unfolds in other blogs I’ve written for ADDitude. Today, however, involves teaching our other children how to understand AND respect their sister, who learns in a different way than they do.
Before my daughter got her first job, for instance, I began noticing performance gaps. In one such instance, I was explaining how our service ministry to God meant giving a regular offering. Always making the most of teachable moments, I said, “So if you make a thousand dollars, you might want to consider giving 10%.” Like most conversations, this one took place in the car driving somewhere.
She responded, “So how much is my offering?”
I could hear the whooshhh of heads spinning. My family looked at her like she was from another planet. Then they looked at me. Come on, Dad, say something. This is ridiculously easy math, their eyes begged. The engine growled a little louder. My daughter could not run the numbers in her head.
Math is like breathing to me, and she could not move the decimal point one place to the left. Asking her to figure out 10% of 1,000 was like asking her to recite Hamlet from memory.
Shortly after that, I conferenced with Laila’s younger brother and sister. You do math in your head, I said with unwavering eyes, she doesn’t, so leave it alone. If you’re good at it, then just give the answer. I told them to tone down their reaction when Laila struggled with something they thought was easy.
Stamping out various family members’ exasperation became a crusade, akin to slamming down the mallet on those furry little animals popping up their heads in the whack-a-mole game. “Apologize to Laila” or “You don’t understand” were often-heard phrases in our home.
Still, I didn’t have her tested. Why? After that crushing conversation where I unintentionally struck a blow at my daughter’s confidence, I decided to wage an all-out campaign of self-esteem until she graduated high school. Then, I thought, if things didn’t change we would get her tested.
If I had it to do all over again, I would do both — wage the confidence campaign and have her tested as early as possible.
Another conversation, this time more serious, happened her senior year of high school. Laila’s curfew was 10 p.m. Like most teens, Laila didn’t appreciate this restriction. One night, she sauntered into my office to state her case. Give me your best line of argumentation, I said.
“The bowling alley opens at 8, so if I have to be home by 10, it doesn’t make sense for me to even go. An extended curfew solves the problem.”
“Good point. Meeting adjourned,” I responded. “Be home by 11.”
On her way home, waiting at a red light, she got rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver. Laila left the scene, drove home, and walked into my office sobbing, saying, “Someone hit my car.”
The first words out of my mouth were edged with astonishment: “What are you doing here?”
Calling the police never entered her mind. Calling home didn’t either. Why? Big epiphany: Her mind doesn’t work that way. Instead, she thought: My daddy can help me, and I have to be home by 11. I’ve got to get home.
Clearly, she regarded the situation differently than I did — and, I’m pretty sure, differently than most people. Correction. Differently than the 80% would have.
How could I, as her father, fault her for that? I couldn’t. But it didn’t mean I or she were helpless.
Afterall, we teach them, advocate for them, protect them, and love them — unconditionally and united.
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