I have a son who has ADHD. Throughout his academic life, it’s been a great struggle for him and us, his parents. At first, we chose not to medicate him. When his ADHD became too overwhelming, we allowed him to decide to try medication. Unfortunately, through a series of events, he became suicidal. We were unsure if it was the medication or that he was going to school online and lacked friends. Either way, we decided together to stop the medicine.
My son also loves gaming, spending hundreds of hours on his computer. There were dozens of distractions right in front of him. Then, to make matters worse, COVID hit, and we went to online school…again. This time, he had friends, but we couldn’t limit screen time when his entire academic life was online.
In parenting, we let our son take the lead. (Photo credit Alice Shikina)
I watched other more conventional parents set screentime limits, push their kids to excel and play sports, whether they liked it or not, and guide them firmly towards college. I did none of those things. It wasn’t because I did not care about my son. It wasn’t because I am a bad mom. At least I wasn’t trying to be a bad mom. It was because I cared about him and wanted him to be happy. I also believed in him.
I enrolled him in a school that could manage his outbursts in class and his constant talking out of turn. I enrolled him in a school where teachers would not destroy his self-esteem and self-confidence by putting him down and making him feel like a loser. Was he difficult for teachers to manage? Absolutely.
Did we have countless parent/teacher meetings to figure things out? Yes. Did we have schools that asked him not to return? Definitively. And all the while, I fought hard as his mom to ensure he always felt loved and accepted. I refused to let him think less of himself because he struggled with ADHD.
My son was a boy who built his computer without any help at 12. Since then, he has helped several other friends make their computers. He is a boy who knew from a young age that he did not want to attend college. He is also a boy who has learned to manage his ADHD without medication. He recently shared that he was glad he had the tools to manage his ADHD.
My son decided on his own to take college courses during his senior year in high school. To keep up with the coursework, he removes himself from the computer and works in a different room while listening to classical music. On his own, he decided to consider attending a community college for two years while figuring out what he wanted to study in college. He said he did not want to waste money going to a 4-year-college when he could first look at a community college.
He also has ambitions to become an entrepreneur, like me. He started taking business classes, so he would have the skills he needed to be successful. He is considering starting a salsa business once he is out of high school.
All this is to say that I did not follow the traditional way of raising a child. I allowed him to lead, as I supported his decisions. The course may not have been what I wanted, but he needed to learn to make decisions and live with the consequences.
His decision not to apply to a 4-year college might not have been the same as mine, but he has learned to think critically about his life and the choices he must make. He thinks deeply about finances, learning to drive, and his grades.
The most important thing for me is that he is happy, kind to others, and thoughtful. I have always chosen a road less traveled path regarding parenting. The gift I give them is control of their own lives.
My son is free to make whatever choices he wishes. He knows that I love and support him in all he does. I am the wind beneath his wings, and I know that he will soar.
More Great Reading:
There Is No One “Correct” Path for All Teens
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
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