I swear, I’d really like to believe my boys are exceptionally bright but sometimes they make me think I should set my expectations a wee bit lower. This evening I was sitting on the sofa helping Joe practice his words for his spelling test tomorrow. Spelling has never been an easy subject for Joe, but even as the words have increased in difficulty during his fifth grade year, he has been doing a bit better with spelling this year than he did last year. (Yes. I was, in fact, simultaneously knocking on wood and typing just then.) I’ve begun to see a light at the end of the tunnel, as if his hard work is paying off and things are finally starting to take root in his brain. He didn’t struggle at all with hemisphere and he breezed right through isthmus. He was even able to give me the correct spelling and a word-for-word definition for archipelago. Then, just when I was starting to get a bit cocky thinking that all the time and effort I’ve put into being a stay-at-home caregiver was at long last yielding measurable results, he said something that really confused me.
“Okay, Joe. Spell tributary.”
“Mom…wait. Wait. I have to tell you something first,” he pleaded.
All too familiar with his stall tactics, I pressed on.
“Spell tributary and then you can tell me,” I replied.
“T-r-i-b-u-t-a-r-y,” he spit out. Then, as quick as lightning without a pause for breath in between his words he spewed forth, “Mom-today-I-stuck-my-nose-in-the-corner-of-the-dining-room-by-the-magnetic-board.”
He said it so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to catch half the words. Still, he was looking at me expectantly as if he’d just divulged the magic fix-it solution for the holes in the ozone layer.
“What?” was all I could muster. Well…that and a quizzical scrunching of my eyebrows.
“I-stuck-my-nose-in-the-corner-of-the-dining-room-by-the-magnetic-board,” he said again, slightly more slowly but still in a barely intelligible way.
“Okay,” I said with brows still furrowed, “that time I got corner and magnetic board. What corner?”
“UGH!” he was getting frustrated with my slow-uptake skills. “The corner in the dining room by the magnetic board.”
“Yeah? What about it?” I asked.
“Today, I stuck my nose in the corner of the dining room over by the magnetic board,” he repeated, trying very hard to be kind to his old and clearly mentally impaired mother.
“What? When did you do this?”
“When I was working on my math homework,” he replied.
Okay. This was starting to make some sense. It’s not unusual for any child to seek a break from his math homework. It’s even less surprising when your ADHD child becomes distracted from the process of long division.
“The next question, I guess, is WHY?” I asked, drawing out the end of that interrogative word hoping it would help him to understand how truly bizarre what he had just disclosed was.
“Because I’ve never done that before. I’ve never seen the house from that angle,” he replied with a tone that told me he was making perfect sense and I was an idiot not to understand it without explanation.
“Wow, Joe,” I said, trying my best not to look concerned about his mental faculties. “That’s an interesting reason to subject yourself to voluntary time in the corner.”
“I was curious,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. Then, as quickly as the conversation started it was over. “What’s the next word?” he asked.
Later, I was retelling the story to hubby who had been out with his parents this evening. After laughing about it for a bit, we started thinking about how differently Joe views the world. We’ve never been able to enter into how his ADHD mind works. We continue to try, but without firsthand knowledge and experience, we’re befuddled. We began to wonder if perhaps Joe knows something we don’t about the world. Maybe there’s something we’re missing? Simultaneously, we went and stood in separate corners in the dining room to see for a moment the world through Joe’s filter.
“I’ve never done this before,” Steve said.
“Me either. Ten years in this house and I’ve never once had my nose in a corner,” I replied.
“Does your nose touch the actual corner of the wall?” Steve inquired from the other corner of the dining room.
“Well, the magnetic board is blocking me at my height, but if I scrunch down a bit let’s see. Yep. Yes it does. It fits right into the corner,” I told him.
“Huh,” he said.
“Why? Does yours?”
“Yeah,” he replied.
Now, you could think we’re a little nutty for sticking our noses into the corner the way our son did, but after 11 years of grasping at straws trying to find a passage into Joe’s ADHD brain we will try anything. We desperately want to understand him better. Any hints at all would be welcome. The funny thing is that I started out thinking my son was crazy for choosing to stick his nose into the corner of the dining room, but the more I thought about it the better I felt about it. While most people take things for granted, Joe investigates. He theorizes. He experiments. He doesn’t accept things at face value. He is deeply curious, and there are far worse things you can be in this world. So, I take it back. I am totally okay if my son, by conventional standards, doesn’t appear to be exceptionally bright. If some people choose to think he’s exceptionally weird, that’s okay by me too. The bottom line is that he’s exceptional, and that’s pretty freaking fantastic.