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Grads, Dads and Community

This is for every parent of a kid who has struggled in school, been labeled and stigmatized, bullied sometimes, overlooked at other times, and still keeps to it without getting discouraged. This is for every parent who has a child with ADHD and has struggled with the decisions they make on how to manage it. This is for every one of you out there who hopes for your child’s success in spite of and perhaps because of their ADHD, or learning disability, or dyslexia, or whatever it is that challenges them. And finally, it’s for every teacher who took just a little bit of time to see a student with the potential to become something better than he was that day, the sum of a greater total with just a little bit of encouragement, involvement, and attention.

Sticks graduated Friday with a 4.1 GPA, a scholarship to college, and a community within and outside of the school celebrating his success and the collective success of the class of 2007 alongside him. It was a wonderful day for us, one that wouldn’t have happened this way but for the people he has been blessed enough to have walk with him over the rocky spots.

His aunt said from the time he was 2 that there was something special about him. (Of course, at that time I was saying yeah, there sure is something special but my inflection was along the lines of the Church Lady…) She saw it then and has never wavered from giving financial and moral support for everything he does.

Because graduation turns me reflective, I started thinking about how different the outcome could have been for him, and in the course of that thinking realized what a profound impact BD’s involvement has had on Sticks. He’s been there for literally everything.

In Kindergarten and First grade, he would show up with his guitar twice a week to play and teach the kids music for an hour, mostly to give the teacher a break from the little blonde kid bouncing off the wall.

When Sticks said he wanted to take Irish dance lessons, Bigdog supported that and drove him faithfully to every lesson for the first year (I thought it was a passing fancy — what did I know?). When Sticks wanted to take drum lessons, it was Bigdog that made sure he had a practice kit and found the very best teacher he could in our area for him. His dance teacher and drum teacher were the first two teachers he had that saw him as a talented kid instead of a hyperactive problem child.

BD was at every concert, every football game, every dance competition. Tying shoes, polishing cymbals, being the roadie in recent years. He hasn’t missed one performance, no matter how difficult it was to put it into his schedule. Simply put, he has made it his business to support whatever Sticks does, without leaving behind expectations for Sticks to conduct himself properly, to work hard in school, and to put 100% into whatever he wants to do.

When your dad is 100% there, it’s pretty hard not to be 100% there yourself. Even so, without the teachers in high school seeing his potential and that he was capable of so much more than the minimum, and taking a risk on him, he wouldn’t have had the same outcome. The biology teacher who recommended him into honors chemistry, the honors math teacher who took him on despite the fact that he came in to the school classified as Title I “at risk” in math (thanks to a not-so-great middle school teacher who saw him as a hyperactive hopeless case), the physics teacher who let him take the class even though he wasn’t taking Calculus concurrently, the band director who let him run with his vision for a small combo this year, and all the others who were there for him every day in addition to his dad, his drum teacher, his church and his family.

Managing his ADHD symptoms was such a small, minor part of things, but it laid the foundation for him to be taken seriously — to be seen as someone with possibility instead of someone to give up on. This is why I get so outraged when I read the stuff about parents medicating their kids as a way to avoid parenting. I cannot think of too many dads who were as involved and as caring in their kids’ life as BD has been. The medication helped Sticks focus on what he can do instead of what he cannot. They enabled him in some ways, but so did BD’s standing beside him every single day, cheerleading and just being there. BD didn’t have to applaud for Sticks to know he was proud, because he has always been THERE, giving him his full attention and support.

I wish I’d had a dad like that. I’m grateful every minute of every hour of every day that Sticks and DG have one. He’s a great stepdad to the Eldest, too. I hope that someday when Sticks has kids he’s that kind of dad. And to every parent out there who wants to scream because they’ve got yet another school complaint about their kid, are struggling to be involved and help their kid through the dark days of whatever they’re wrestling with, give yourself a high five for caring, for being there, for finding ways to celebrate who your child is, warts and all.

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