It comes every winter with the first snowfall. I can read it between the lines of the emails you send letting me know my son’s failing every subject. I can hear it in the exasperation when we speak on the phone and you carefully craft your sentences, trying not to let on that you have no more solutions and have run out of patience. You’ll never say the words out loud, but I see them there behind everything you do say: You’re giving up on my kid.
My son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He was only diagnosed with it late last year, but we’ve been struggling with his inattentiveness, disorganization, and lack of focus for much longer than that. We’ve had years of missing homework, unreadable handwriting, half-assed projects, and almost-failing report cards. But you? You’re still new here.
Every September we start fresh—a new grade, a new curriculum, a new set of teachers, sun-kissed and ready to help. We meet with you sooner than you’d prefer to deal with parents, but we want to make sure you understand the saga that has been his school career thus far.
You promise to work hard and feel confident that together we’ll be able to fix him. He’s not the first kid you’ve encountered with ADHD, after all. The summer vacation has evidently erased your memory of exactly what it means to deal with a kid with ADHD though, because you seem a little too hopeful and you look at me with concern when I seem skeptical about your ability to perform miracles.
At first, things go okay. You go above and beyond, checking his agenda book religiously, offering extra tutoring, keeping me up-to-date with his progress while using words like “encouraging” and “proud.” He does his part, completes his assignments, studies for quizzes, and appears to make progress. We try to stay on top of him at home with charts and medicines and pep-talks. We all sigh and pat ourselves on the backs.
Then slowly and quietly, things fall apart.
It always happens right around this time of year. We’ve all gotten a little too comfortable in our roles, and no one sees it coming until the panic of two C’s, three D’s, and an F in health class hits us all and you and I and his father are in full-fledged “what the hell are we going to do?!” mode.
The only one, it seems, who is still relaxed at this point is my son, who appears to not realize or care that things aren’t going as the grownups had planned.
So there we are, the “village” charged with raising this kid, flailing about, trying to make this work, until one day I look around and see that it’s just me standing there holding on to him for dear life. You won’t admit it now, but you’ve given up on him.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it, and I don’t blame you. You’ve got dozens, if not hundreds of other kids to deal with. You don’t have the time to focus all of your energy on saving a kid who doesn’t care to be saved. Shoot, he came out of my vagina, and I still want to throw in the towel regularly. So I get it.
But, I’m begging you, please hold on a little longer.
You see, my son is completely content to fall through the cracks. He waits for it actually—that blessed moment when you give up on him, and he’s free to slink down into that comfortable dark crevice where he can hide out quietly and peacefully until the end of the year, free from the overwhelming pressure to focus on things that bore him and unencumbered by the stress of having to achieve something he sees as out of his reach. He waits all year for you to let him go and finally, right now, he’s getting away with it. I try to pull him up out of that crack on my own, but he’s getting bigger and stronger and my arms can’t hold him as tightly as they used to. I need your help.
I need you, his teachers, his “village,” to continue to believe he can do better, to expect better, to demand better from him.
I need you to encourage him and forgive him and have faith that he’s worth the time and energy he’s taking from you, because what you’ve forgotten from the beginning of the year is how much his smile charmed you the first time you met him. You’ve forgotten how kind and polite and wonderful he really is underneath that blank and frustrating shrug he gives you when you ask why he didn’t hand in his homework. You’ve forgotten that he’s lovable, because he’s stopped acting lovable.
But he is still lovable and he is still worth it. I haven’t forgotten it and I need you not to either. So I’m begging you here, please remember that and please, please, please—don’t give up on my child.