I was chatting with my older sister the other day about my ten-year-old daughter and her ADHD. Her adult son, who is now married and doing well in college, was very similar to my daughter when it came to his ADHD, and I needed someone to vent to. I told her about the arguments, and the procrastination, and the slow, slow pace at which Norah works.
She laughed and said, “With Andrew, there just weren’t enough hours in the week to keep him caught up. Forget about what I had going on in the evening, I had to sit next to him and keep him focused, keep him working… it was just so much.”
While what she said didn’t help me in any particular way, no game-changing advice or plan to follow that would make helping my daughter get through school any easier, it did help me understand that the perpetual struggle in our home wasn’t abnormal. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was doing it wrong, or that I should be doing more, but rather that I was doing exactly what I needed to do to help my daughter learn.
This is one of the hardest realities of raising an ADHD child, and it isn’t discussed nearly enough.
My daughter works so slowly that she cannot keep up with the work being done in the classroom, so something always comes home. This is despite a rigid 504 plan and the right mix of medication. Each night feels like a sprint to get her working, get her focused, while also managing the study breaks she needs to stay that way, and the frustration that comes when a child tries so hard to understand, but has to work twice as hard to gain mastery.
Not every night, but more often than not, we are up past our scheduled bedtime trying to stay caught up. It is not unusual for schoolwork to leak into the weekends. It feels like this horrible juggling act between trying to keep up with her schoolwork, keep her rested, keep her confident, all the while attempting to have a regular family life.
In comparison to our other two children, Norah is the one who takes the most elbow grease when it comes to getting her work done. She doesn’t learn like her older brother or younger sister, and you know what? That’s fine. My wife and I have discussed this openly with her. I have told her about my own struggles with ADHD. We have also accepted the fact that we will do whatever is needed to help our daughter learn and find success in her schoolwork.
But to be real, there are moments when it feels like managing our daughter’s ADHD is basically taking over our lives. We’ve visited doctors, we’ve read books, and we’ve found study plans, and met with the school. We have adjusted the 504 so many times it feels like the ink is still wet as we make the next edit. We love and care and want to support the hell out of our daughter because we know how important that is. To Norah’s credit, she works twice as hard as her siblings to accomplish half the work, and all of that makes me want to hold her so tight, cheer her on, and make sure she understands that with enough time and practice she will find her way in this world.
But I will say it here. I am tired. My wife is tired. And if there are parents in this world who ought to qualify for solidarity, it is those raising a child with ADHD.
So those of you who can’t seem to find enough hours in the week to help your ADHD child, I am with you. I’m in the trenches too. I get it.
When you’re hunched over a math book, trying to explain fractions one more time from a different angle, your child fidgeting in the chair, lips twisted, eyes a little misty from frustration, it can feel like it will never end and that the path to success is unreachable.
And that is why what my sister said hit me so hard. It felt so good to speak to someone who had lived through it, understood the struggle, and found success. Her son is in college now, many miles away from his parents, on a scholarship, earning good grades, and close to graduation. He has found his way, and knowing that she went though struggles very similar to the ones that I face with Norah made me feel so much more optimistic. I know how amazing my daughter is, and I know the hard work will be worth it.