A Dad – His Dude

My wife and I were sitting in a psychiatrist’s office. He’d just spent an hour with my six-year old son. We were there to hear the news that we already knew. Our son has some expressive language issues, cognitive learning challenges, fine motor and gross motor skill delays, dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder(ADHD). As time progressed, I’ve slowly accepted that—he’s perfect for me.

I was a rambunctious and bright kid with a knack for storytelling, comedy and sports. I was not however, adept at math and science. So for some strange reason, I chose to study Mechanical Engineering in college. It was a blood bath of low GPAs. A war of attrition where my professors realized I wasn’t going away, so they waved white flags and passed me along when I eventually began retaining some theory spread across countless hours of lectures.  Many of my shortcomings were due to the fact that I was always auditioning and landing lead roles in plays such as Troy Maxon in Fences where I would learn pages and pages of monologue overnight. But could not commit a thermodynamics equation to memory with my dad holding a gun to my head reminding me how much tuition I was blowing.

Fast forward to now as I sit at the homework table with my son as he and I slosh through a blood bath of reading comprehension, grammar and writing. It’s a war of attrition that he usually wins because my frustration mounts when he can’t remember a word we just read thirty seconds ago. Then we turn to math where I’ve discovered—he’s a genius. He breezes through all of the exercises with numbers, patterns, symbols, adding subtracting and multiplication. But there’s a bridge that connects his challenges to his strengths—his attention span. I know this because as I work with and notice the amount of time he focuses on one particular item, it’s reminiscent of my own inability to focus.

It prompted me to revisit my own learning challenges where I remembered sitting in Physics class taking notes and two minutes later, I was writing a poem.  I recalled the test scores and teacher conferences when reading comprehension were chronic low scores. As I watched my son, helped him and learned more about his challenges, it occurred to me that we share some of the same struggles. His, diagnosed early. Mine, denied, delayed then discovered only recently.  And I have my little dude to thank for that.  My brilliant, funny and perfect son.

Homework and learning for us is a lot different these days.  It’s a lesson in peace talks and negotiations with my son working independently then asking for help as he needs it.  There’s no yelling or expectation of perfection for every exercise, every sentence every letter. Instead there’s an understanding that my son needs a dad to understand and appreciate his mind, the way he’s taught me to understand my mind.