When my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD I was not surprised. I felt angry at all the teachers who said they were not surprised after receiving the diagnoses, and yet they said nothing about the possibility of ADHD before, they just wrote her off as a bad kid. I knew that this new diagnoses didn’t change who she was, nor was it a bad thing. The doctor there said the public school system expecting everyone to learn the exact same way is like expecting a tall person to comfortably drive a tiny car; there is not a one size fits all to learning, but this mis-sizing is what the public school system is built on. The school system is a microcosm of a lot of societal expectations.
We received the diagnosis in the morning. Afterward we ran errands and had an impromptus visit at the ROM. Something was weighing on me, but I could not put my finger on it, just as she couldn’t keep her hands to herself; she was touching everything we passed. She does this all the time, but on this particular day every brick her finger traced, every ledge she had to sit on, get up, sit on, get up, sit on get up – it all felt like my nails were dragging across a chalkboard.
I will not apologize that my daughter is socially constructed as different. I do not feel guilty for ‘making her this way’. I felt guilty that day for not really getting it before. I didn’t get why she exhibited a reckless lack of self-control, or why she couldn’t just sit and do her homework – everyone says she is so smart, so why can’t she just sit down? I felt guilty because I cannot change how the world will treat her in this case, or any other case where she may differ from the ideal (whatever the fuck the ideal is). I cannot change the world the same way I cannot control the way she kicks in her sleep or how she is always overheated because her body is quite truly radiating energy.
I do what I can, like I always have. I have reached out to others and have put my library card to good use. Like everything, she has handled it all much more gracefully than I. She accepted the diagnosis and is not at all embarrassed about it. We ended that day with a ukulele lesson at my friend’s place. I sat on my friends bed as I listened to them sing and strum. My baby was so focused, calm, and determined. If the world she was born into constructs her as wrong, I know she will make everything all right.
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Photo from National Geographic