When My Daughter Told Me She Thought ADHD Meant Her 'Brain Is Broken'


We sat on a bench under a cherry tree outside the doctor’s office. “Do you understand what the doctor told us?” I asked my 7-year-old daughter.

“Sort of,” she said with a shy smile, an indication she knows more than she’s letting on but wants me to fill in the blanks.

“Do you know what ADHD means?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she answered with that same smile. “It means… your brain is broken or something.”

I cringed. Because of her dad’s diagnosis several years ago, ADHD is a frequent topic in our house. I was devastated to find we had passed on an unhappy message.

But then she continued with a laugh. “Well, no. Not like that. But, you know — it means your brain is… I don’t know!” She threw her hands up and shrugged with that same grin on her face.

I had practically floated out of the doctor’s office after her diagnosis moments before. Finally, an explanation for the frustrations we’ve been having since she was 3. But now, hearing her misunderstanding of ADHD, I just wanted to pretend she didn’t have it. I didn’t ever want her to feel that her brain — or any part of her — is broken.

I began to explain ADHD. While I talked, her body struggled to stay on the bench as her foot reached out and stomped each and every fallen cherry she could see.

“ADHD doesn’t mean your brain is broken,” I told her. Cherry crunch.

“It does mean your brain works differently.” Cherry squish.

“It makes it so you see things in different ways from me,” I continued. Cherry smoosh.

“Like, you know how you always like to make old things new?”

Pause. She looked in my eyes. She loves to hear about her talents.

“You have a very creative brain, and it helps you to make beautiful things.”

She grinned. Cherry smash.

“And do you remember that you taught yourself to read?” Pause. Eye contact. “Your brain works so fast, you’re able to learn things really quickly.”

Grin. Smash.

“ADHD also makes it a little harder for you to focus,” I began, smiling to myself. She had one hand on the bench and was stretching her body as far as she could to get a faraway cherry.

But suddenly, I was overcome with sadness as I watched her inability to listen. “ADHD is going to be a challenge throughout her life,” I thought to myself.

Then, just as suddenly, I realized I wasn’t listening to myself either. I was focusing on stomping the cherries instead of hearing how wonderful it is that her brain thinks in different ways. This doesn’t have to be “terrible.” She’s 7. We’ll figure it out before long.

We stood, and she grabbed my hand. While I walked back to normal life, she skipped alongside me, leaving tiny dabs of cherry guts in her wake with her signature happy skip.

Follow this journey on Thrilled by the Thought.

The Mighty is asking the following: How would you describe your disability, disease or mental illness to a child? If you’ve done this before, tell us about that moment and the child’s reaction. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to ADHD/ADD

6 Words of Advice I'd Tell My Teenaged Self With ADHD

Dear Teenaged Katie, Lately you have been starting to believe the joking jabs from your peers and even adults in your life, but I am here to tell you that you are neither a “space cadet” nor a “dumb blonde,” despite your hair color and all of the seemingly air-headed mistakes you make. Those mistakes are due to [...]

To My 3-Year-Old Daughter Without ADHD

To My Sweet Daughter, You are only 3 years old and are so incredibly independent and self-sufficient. Instead of asking me to get you a cup of water, you get it yourself and do it without spilling. In the morning, you don’t put up a fight when I tell you it’s time to get dressed and [...]

The Note a Choir Teacher Wrote When My Child With ADHD Couldn't Stop Fidgeting

I had my child baptized when she was 3 months old, and she’s been attending a private Catholic school since she was in kindergarten. My husband and I are Catholic, but we’re not super duper religious. We do say a prayer before we eat dinner, and we go to church at least twice a month. My child has always taken an interest in learning about God and [...]

How I Made My Daughter’s ADHD All About Me and Almost Missed It

I hoist the baby back up on my hip as I pause to stare at the bulletin board. I can pick out my daughter’s work right away. Not only because I recognize her telltale artwork, but because I see the words accompanying it are mostly a simple scramble of letters. I slowly look over the [...]