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.”
“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.
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