I watched a piece of the most incredible show at my brother’s house the other day, “Crossroads”, a music festival that features some of the most revered and renowned guitarists alive. I couldn’t help but be awestruck not only by the talent, but the absolute dedication to the craft that each one obviously possesses.
I am what you could call a ‘jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.’ In many ways, that speaks volumes about me. My mother would tell you that I have a huge musical talent. I would say that a mother’s love looks through a magnifying glass. She would also likely say that I could have gone so much further, if only.
As a child, I took piano, organ, violin, clarinet, and voice lessons. I played violin and viola in the school orchestra and clarinet in the band. I played hand bells for the River City Ringers (May they rest in peace) and recorder for a quartet. But I am not the master of a single one. Oh, I can read music, but not well enough to play an instrument and impress you with it. That takes years of practice, something I have never had the fortitude for.
Voice doesn’t count. Voice comes easy. I’ve never had to work at that particular instrument; it just does what I want it to do. Piano was boring. It was hard; it was no fun, and as soon as I found it confusing I just shut down. Violin and clarinet were OK as long as I didn’t have to practice, but I had no passion for them and eventually put them down too. Even after I finally felt the thrill of performing with the River City Ringers and finding a real love for the hand bells, it’s somehow still not enough to compel me to church.
So, what’s the deal? If it is so easy for me to play that I can hold first or second place in the orchestra AND the band without ever practicing, if I can play in public with a selected group of talented people, if I can do all these things, why didn’t I go that extra step?
It would be so easy to blame this on the ADD…oh so easy. To be able to place a label on this would be a convenient salve for my self-pitying soul. I can’t. I won’t. Let’s be real here. There is a gift that those performers were born with that I was not and in some ways, maybe I AM just lazy.
If you want to know what an ADD person is passionate about, look at what they are doing when they are supposed to be doing everything else. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out that many of those great musicians, artists, writers and actors are full of the stuff.
I think about the children my mother has home schooled over the years, several of which were diagnosed eventually with ADHD and what they are like. In particular, there is one who is now about 12. He is so bright, gregarious and loving; you can’t help but love this kid. He is also obsessed with birds. He can identify the eggs, the feathers and the nests of so many that you would think he was Audubon incarnate. My daughter can name a trillion anime characters, complete with the colors or their outfits, the special powers, their theme songs complete with Japanese lyrics, and on and on, that she could practically be an emissary overseas. I used to draw and write. I had stories and characters in my head, every facet of their culture imagined, each one rich and as detailed as my daydreams would allow.
I wasn’t encouraged to indulge in my passions. Even if they had been considered a practical and viable option for adult employment, I think they earned a stigma that made it too tempting for a teacher or mother to discourage instead. Why would you encourage a kid to keep drawing when they keep doing it during an Social Studies lesson? That’s not what they are in school for, but I think it may be wise to pay attention to what they are doing, even if it needs to be directed to a more appropriate time.
I think – and this is my opinion only – that the best thing we can do for an ADD kid is to give them some slack, a little wiggle room, but better yet, a real big push right toward what they are telling you they love and are good at. They are just like any other kid, but here is the thing, the ADD kid has a little gift too, in a way. They have a great big signpost over their heads that says “I WANT THIS”!
They make it so much more obvious. We just need to look. They are screaming it at us. We just need to hear.