I got a Facebook message a few weeks ago. I didn’t recognize the person at first. But then their message surfaced, and the name had been changed. And tears seeped up through my eyes, and down my face. And I felt elated and humbled and grateful and so very validated.
Mack’s teacher from third grade asked me to friend her on Facebook. And sent a message saying, “… I realize I may not have always been as gracious as he deserved.” That line stuck out to me. There was much more. So very few people have been as gracious as he deserved. And it broke my heart. Over and over. Until I saw, over and over, what it grew in him. He is the bravest, most confident, most humble, most empathetic, most self-realized human I know. My god…. how many times had I sat with this teacher in the classroom or after school with Mack. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. What with his dad saying it wasn’t real and the teachers saying I had to hold him accountable and my life being constant chaos…
Well, then she said in her message, “… As a parent of a beautiful daughter with ADHD, I now am experiencing some of what I am sure you went through, and it’s not easy. And it’s exhausting, and sometimes teachers just don’t understand.”
I know too well. I know the pain of seeing your child suffer. I’ve done this more than once now. I’ve seen the judgment of both my kids, the judgment of me as a mom, the judgment of my ex-husband, the denial, the inconsistency, the failure, the moments of breakthrough. And it’s strange. My kids don’t have limps or talk funny or are unable to do much of the work handed to them.
But people don’t know what it’s like. They don’t. And some teachers I have wished I could punch. And some I have worshipped. And some I just can’t wait until they aren’t my kids’ teachers anymore.
In our family, we don’t look like we aren’t able to handle the simple things. But sometimes our little family couldn’t. And we will come out all the stronger for it. But the lessons of personal struggle, being so visible for all the wrong things, seeing injustice, feeling shame, fighting and not knowing how. You can’t know what that is like. If you could SEE some people’s troubles, you would respond differently. If you could TOUCH the problem, you would have more compassion. But not all problems are like that.
The tears are pouring down my face. I just can’t express how fully we have to ask questions and read people and understand there are things we just don’t understand. There are things that are so hidden, not even on purpose, but they look so normal. Don’t assume you understand that!
This woman, although I do not wish her to feel or experience these things, I am so grateful for her note. It validates me for all the teachers who have been unkind, who have told me what I “should” be doing for my kids, what my kids are actually doing (being defiant and lazy), instead of not knowing how to handle what they cannot do.
I want to turn my anger, frustration and pain into love, compassion and education to others. And I asked my youngest if he would tell people what he’s experienced. We will see if we can get our shit together to do this. But I hope my kids both turn this story into making the world into their own success story.
To teachers who aren’t educated well enough in things like ADHD, to parents who question themselves, who try anything and everything, to the beautiful minds who were created outside the current norm… you are all doing the best you can. But how fucking amazing would it be if we could work together instead of making points and pointing fingers? What if we could ask questions and believe in a little more humanity? What if we could take one more breath before we reacted? What if we could tell kids they are accountable without shaming?
Think of what we could achieve… what if you could help a child see themselves positively, even if you didn’t know what that could mean? What if you could give them more autonomy to figure out their version of themselves? And show them respect for that responsibility? What if everything wasn’t so rigid? What if teachers didn’t have to feel failure because they couldn’t change these kids? And what if parents could see how whole any mental differences are, can be? What if the education of ADHD would allow children coming into the school system, that will inevitably fail, to show them their full capabilities, would allow the innate greatness of ADHD to blossom and grow and create something no one else could know or see or fathom? Because isn’t that the beauty and power of anything we do not know? To give it power it doesn’t see and allow it to change the world or part of it, and thus set the rest of us free from fighting it?
There’s so much more to say, that can’t be said today. But this is a start or another step. And I hope for one second you can hear me, not because of me, but because of that little voice inside you that knows someone like this and sees who they are, AND who they can be and knows they need that opportunity.
Tell someone today something great you see in them, past what you can’t understand, comprehend or even makes you angry. Tell them something, some place to start! Give them the gift of inclusion of humanity and wait and see, see what they can teach YOU! And what we can all achieve. Society doesn’t change if we are all the same or try to be the same or even want to reward that. We change because we see what others can give and we collaborate, and we become confused and then there is change. And sometimes, we even see… what greatness is, and we just didn’t know, because we believed only what we could already see.