I’ve noticed lately that because we’ve had such warm, pleasant weather, spring fever has hit my boys early and relentlessly. They are already mentally finished with school, and they aren’t actually finished until May 25th. I’ve been pestering, wheedling, bribing, and cajoling to get them to focus on their studies.
Today, I made the boys sit down and get to their homework as soon as we walked in the door from school. Joe had 30 sentences to write for spelling. He did not want any help from me. Before I knew it, he was over at the counter stapling a couple loose-leaf pages together. I could tell from across the counter that his work was nearly illegible.
“Let me see your paper,” I requested.
“No, Mom. It’s done. I’m going to put it in my folder,” Joe replied.
“No, you’re not. Give it to me.” He looked at me, fear in his eyes. “NOW,” I bossed.
He acquiesced. The second the paper hit my hand I knew what I had to do. I was not happy about it.
“Seriously, Joe? Do you really think this is ready to hand in?”
It was a rhetorical question. His handwriting, usually difficult to read, was indecipherable. It might as well have been Sanskrit. While he had managed to capitalize the first word in every sentence, some sentences lacked final punctuation. Many words were incomplete. Most of the sentences did not have the spelling word underlined. Some of the spelling words were actually misspelled.
“No way,” I told him. “This has to be redone. This is not even close to acceptable work.”
“The WHOLE thing?” he gasped.
“Yes. You need to rewrite all thirty sentences. Neatly.”
“But, I’ll never get outside to play,” he cried.
“Yes, you will. It’s just going to take longer because you didn’t take your time the first time through. It’s a bummer, I know.”
Although I could tell he was livid (and sad too), he was careful to select new paper without any sign of tantrum, knowing that would bring down the Wrath of Mama Bear. No one wants to incur that. He sat focused for a while and his second paper was much neater, although still not perfect given his “sloppy Joe” penmanship.
Joe struggles with his schoolwork, not because he’s unintelligent but because his ADHD makes it difficult for him. The great weather and the approaching end of the school year are merely additional distractions he must face. I feel badly for him. It is much harder for him than it is for his classmates, even with the special concessions the school makes for him (like allowing him to print rather than use cursive for his written work). I truly loathe making him redo his work, but if I don’t make him do this now he will never learn. So, nearly every day he has homework we go through this same routine. He does it. I make him redo it. It’s like one long Groundhog Day. And this would frustrate the living daylights out of me if I hadn’t seen him catch on in other instances. It takes four times longer than it would for another child, but he eventually gets it. I know there’s hope.
I used to wonder whether the diagnosis of ADHD with Joe was unnecessary, whether we’d rushed to judgment. I’ve since realized that this is not a phony disorder with Joe. If you ask him, he can tell you that every sentence should start with a capital letter and end with a period. He knows it. He is simply unable to translate this knowledge because his brain thinks differently and he processes things unlike other people. Joe and I have a tacit understanding: I will keep harping on him until the basics become second nature, and he will keep giving me reasons to harp so that I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he truly struggles because of ADHD and not because he’s lazy, stupid, or unmotivated. He doesn’t want to redo that paper any more than I want to make him redo it. We’re where we are because it’s where we are. Someday we will push beyond this, and there will be another obstacle. But, I have no doubt that we will overcome it. That is what we do, Joe and I.