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Dream big or go home.

Posted Mar 24 2012 10:05pm
Lots of you that read {a mom's view of ADHD} have young children. Not me. I've already survived the confusing "early" years and the horrendously hard "middle school" years. My son, dubbed by us long ago "Clark Kent," is knocking on the door of adulthood. Okay, he thinks he is anyway. He's 16, and a junior in high school.

I would love to tell you that kids grow out of their ADHD symptoms to the point that life for them -- and you -- turns into a cakewalk. I can't. Clark's father has ADHD, and he still struggles. Clark? Well, Clark is a challenge, but a loveable one. Take this January, for instance.

In January, Clark pledged that he was going to set the academic world on fire. Within two weeks, he was failing five classes for multiple missed homeworks in each class. By the end of the grading period, with death sentence restrictions on screens and girlfriend in place to remove distractions and mandatory 9:30 melatonin and 10:30 bedtime to ensure adequate rest (a chronic issue), he had raised three classes to barely-passing. It pains me to type this, but we called ourselves lucky that he only failed two classes. This from the kid who told us over Christmas that he had renewed his dream of applying to Texas A&M and would concentrate on his grades and upcoming SAT to pursue it. This from a kid with a genius IQ.

Meanwhile, Clark had qualified last fall for the Texas Forensic Association state debate tournament in Cross Examination. Clark is obsessed with Cross Ex, or, "CX," and its format plays into his ADHD and Asperger's strengths beautifully. Unfortunately, his partner had a conflict, and in November, Clark knew that he had until the middle of February to find a new partner and qualify anew, because TFA required partners to qualify together.  Every week we begged him to work on this issue. Every week he assured us, "No problem," until we finally gave up and quit reminding him. Everything has always been no problem to him despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, a blessing of his limited time frame ADHD focus that includes a completely forgotten past, inability to see future consequences, perfect imagination of himself succeeding (with little or no effort), and his Clark Kent/Superman confidence as a result.

The last week in January, Clark settled on a partner. "No problem," he assured me. They competed together. They lost.

The next week, they competed again. "No problem." And, believe it or not, they won the tournament outright and he was selected for the prize he most wanted, "Best speaker." But that wasn't enough for them to qualify. They needed more points.

Two weeks left to go. They competed again. "No problem." They lost.

One week left to go. They needed TWO MORE POINTS. Only two. Two points stood between them and state. "No problem."

They scored four. Talent and determination seized the day. They were in.

And yet he had a report card with two F's on it.  Dilemna-time for parents. We needed a consequence with immediacy regarding his grades if we were to achieve any motivation for him to change them. State was one week away. Would we let him go? (This was not a UIL activity, so there were no academic eligibility restrictions) We really wanted to, but we needed to find a way to make his academic performance sufficiently important in comparison. It wasn't all right to excel in debate and fail to graduate high school! His father proposed "no zeroes" between qualification date and bus departure time. His stepfather proposed manual labor; that's always Eric's favorite go-to because it helps him get through his own honey-do list :)

It was Clark's girlfriend who saved the day. Clark's grades had cost her a lot of time with him, and, in her own quiet way, she was more upset than we were. With a cattle prod firmly planted on his behind, she marched him in with a written proposal for us: no more failing grades this year or he would forfeit his right to participate in debate next year.

Finally, something we could work with. With his signature (in blood), we put him on the bus to the state tournament in Amarillo, a happy, happy boy.

His girlfriend, "Clark Kent," his debate partner, and two other teammates,
outside Amarillo High School during the 2012 TFA State Debate Tournament.

It would have been awesome if he and his partner crushed the tournament. They didn't. They won 2 rounds and lost 3. They had a good time and great learning experience, though, and he's mature enough to appreciate that. And I am proud to say, four weeks later, his grades are fantastic, all passing, the best they've ever been, even with missing five days in two weeks for the tournament; because of the signed agreement, he went in and met with his teachers (with his girlfriend dogging his heels) before he missed school, so no zeroes. I even heard her quizzing him before school (she rides with us), "Did you take your meds?" and when he said no, she pulled a stash from a baggie in our glove box and handed him one!

I'm speechless. And replaced. 

Just to keep us in line, though, he left his dress shoes in the hotel room in Amarillo.

Until next time,

Pamela aka "Clark's Mom"

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. She focuses on the post-elementary school years. Watch for her upcoming books in 2nd quarter 2012: The Clark Kent Chronicles , How To Screw Up Your Kids , Couples Who Make You Want To Puke , Hot Flashes and Half Ironmans , and Life Beyond the Center of the Universe . Visit her blog, Road to Joy , but hang on for the ride as she screws up her kids, drives her husband insane, embarrasses herself in triathlon, and sometimes writes utter nonsense.
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