Picture is a boy sitting at a kitchen table staring into his cereal bowl.

When My Son Told Me Going to School All Day Is Exhausting


I had attention and anxiety issues when I was a kid, only it wasn’t understood at the time. I didn’t find out until I was drinking age that I legitimately had an attention issue. My youngest son, Taylor, was fortunate to be born at a more accepting time, so I got him tested as soon as I noticed the signs, and he was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder (ADD).

One morning during breakfast, I realized Taylor was staring sadly into oblivion over his cereal with his head in his hands. I asked him what was wrong, expecting a generic, “I don’t want to go to school.” Instead, he explained how tiring it is to be in school all day, how he doesn’t feel like the other kids, how he feels different. He said, “I don’t want to go to school all day. It’s so exhausting.”

About a week before, I picked him up from school and asked him if he wanted to go get ice cream. He replied, “I just want to go home, Mom. I’m exhausted.”

When I look back, school days seemed ridiculously long to me, too.

I wasn’t able to pay attention, and because of that, I’d daydream. I’d spend hours in my own world, lost somewhere beyond the fence in the back of the school property visible through the classroom window. I’d see how long I could go without looking at the clock, which moved so unbelievably slow; and it always seemed as big as the wall, so I couldn’t miss it.

I didn’t learn how to properly manage my issues with the anxiety that came with my attention problems, so school was hell most of the time. I faked being sick constantly in an attempt to stay home.

I hear and see everything that’s going on around me, which makes it difficult to concentrate in a classroom setting or anywhere that’s full of people. Taylor is the same way.

He gets nothing but praise from his teachers for being a good student and for being a great helper. No one can see how much he may struggle to keep it all up every day. Sometimes if a task seems daunting to him, he may struggle to finish work and need time out in the hallway away from the distractions to finish.

Taylor is also on the autism spectrum. When he’s home or out with us, he flaps his hands or stiffens up when he’s excited. At school he hides it, and the energy it takes can drain him by the end of the day. I’ve often wondered if I’m on the spectrum too since I did (and still do) similar things to hand flapping. It’s all so exhausting when you try to suppress yourself all day. I know how it feels.

So when I saw him with his head in his hands at the table, staring down at his cereal saying he didn’t want to go to school, I believed him. People who have not been in our shoes can have a hard time understanding what it’s like to function as we do in a typical day. They might label us as lazy, which is not the case.

For me, it’s hard to watch my kid struggle through the same issues I did. I can’t help but feel a tinge of guilt about it.

I tell him it’ll be OK, and that he can ask for a break if he needs it. I made a note to myself to call the school and ask for a meeting to discuss further accommodations for him. In the beginning of the school year, the teacher and I discussed waiting before we went ahead with a 504 (a 504 is a formal plan made for accommodating a special need or needs). It was time to discuss moving ahead.

He has me, I’m his biggest advocate, and I’ll make sure the changes he needs are made for him to be successful in school. Until then, he still has to go to school and do it all over again until we can get a plan in place. It sucks that as a parent I can’t wave a magic wand and make everything better for him right this second.

I realize I’m thankful I’m not a kid in elementary school anymore. I’m an adult who understands and can try to help Taylor through this.

After my phone call to school to schedule the appointment, I sat and thought for a while.

I wonder what my son is doing in school right this minute? I wonder if he remembers what I told him before he left for school this morning? I hope so. He can ask for a break in the hallway if he feels overwhelmed, and not to be afraid to ask. I told him not to suffer in silence, like I did. I hope he’s learned the clock game, because I remember seeing a clock in his classroom. I also hope he remembers he’s got an ally in me.

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