From my Mailbox–A College Student Speaks Out

Eric, a senior at a university in Maine, wrote to me last week:

I’m a senior attending my state’s university and I have to tell you, I was one who didn’t really care for doing or not doing my homework. I understand the importance of it- there isn’t enough class time to teach all that needs to be taught, but really? I mean I remember doing 2 hours of homework each night…short-cutting it doing only what I had to. This didn’t include all of the papers or special projects.

Forget about the others who had real trouble studying. We hear about obesity rising in our kids. There are other facts attributing like marketing junk directly to kids, the age of technology, and just plain motivation.

But don’t people think that if the kids had more time free, and with the help of a little parenting, kids wouldn’t have “ADHD” if they had more time to play and burn energy.

Here’s my main reason why I wanted to email… as I mentioned I remembered doing tons of homework over the years and projects, and when I graduated high school my parents asked me what I wanted to do, now that I’m out. I had no idea. There’s always the popular policeman, fireman, doctor, etc but really… I didn’t have much time to research on the thousands of possibilities. I was assigned so much work that when I didn’t have homework I was working or hanging out with my friends. The stats of kids who enter college because they are supposed to and attend thousands of dollars of classes then switch majors because they don’t really want to do that career, is more common then most may think. Kids need the downtime, not only to clear their heads, play, and have a social life, but to explore what they want to explore without affecting their social/family life. I know you have either thought or heard a lot of the reasons, but I had to mention this reason. I really think it gets overlooked by many.

One thought on “From my Mailbox–A College Student Speaks Out

  1. Eric asks: But don’t people think that if the kids had more time free, and with the help of a little parenting, kids wouldn’t have “ADHD” if they had more time to play and burn energy.


    YES! The explosion of ADHD diagnoses should alarm every parent out there. I attended a CHADD conference last year (for the record, I don’t like CHADD, Chidren and Adults with ADHD) and they gushed how the rise of children on medication is because we have better means of detection. I counter that by saying we’ve simply devised better means of screwing up our children.

    We know that a lot of brilliant children are scattered, as they say, distractible. But it’s often a gift. Einstein came to his remarkable discoveries through his daydreaming. Do we really want to kill off daydreaming and meandering thoughts in every child? I’m not a zealot, I know that medication does relieve symptoms in so many children. However, we are medicating more and more children in order to make them compliant.

    The issue needs to be looked at very very carefully. Medication is often the first resort rather than the last. I attended a CHADD lecture on homework (don’t get me started on what I heard) and the speaker told us all enthusiastically how she’d just begun medication for her six year old and it was a miracle, he was a completely new child. A six year old.

    Again, I am not a zealot nor an idealogue. My own daughter is on medication but I can tell you I want to take her off, have wanted to for some years because of fears she will lose the delicious quirks I love. I’d rather repeat the question three times than drug her. I am sorry we ever started because now my daughter won’t let me stop and my husband defers to her. So believe me, I know from whence I speaketh here.

    We go to a pediatric psychiatrist for medication management and when I tell the good doctor I want to take her off and my daughter says please no, the doctor looks at me as if I am a Christian Scientist, refusing medical intervention for a dying child, choosing prayer instead. There is a lot of pressure from psychiatrists to keep a child medicated. Think about that. It’s their bread and butter today, medication.

    I’m on a rant. I have to stop now. We deprive children of play and sleep and friends and fun and family time and overwork them but congratulate ourselves we have a pill in every color to remedy every affliction.

    If you have a smart, passionate child diagnosed with ADD but she doesn’t have a DEFICIT of attention (it’s a focus disorder for mine, there’s no deficit). my advice: Steer away from CHADD and turn to Edward Hallowell instead. CHADD remediates weaknesses, Hallowell explores the strengths. He’s the author of “Delivered from Distraction” and he’s very focused now on the gifts of ADD because in fact, in many children, the gifts are considerable. CHADD rejects this whole “ADD is a gift” notion, comparing it to how we once romanticized schizophrenia. Pu-leeze.

    In conclusion, I probably have some semblance of “ADD” myself although I’ve never been officially diagnosed and am not on medication. But after a number of decades, you know yourself pretty well. Here’s a quick anecdote.

    When I homeschooled my daughter, we’d take long walks. On days we weren’t walking to the metro to head into town for a museum day or such, we’d start every morning off with a walk in the woods behind the house. My daughter awoke when she was rested, ate when she was hungry, and learned at the most optimal time for her. The very notion of spending a day doing academics with hours and hours more when she was already tired was anathema that year, it never happened. We’d start the morning off with a hot long breakfast while we discussed current events, read the paper. On warm days, we took our breakfast outside and lingered under the tree while she learned.

    We lived in an urban setting but still, there were woods behind the house. Although you’d never know it from this post (five hours sleep, anxious about daughter’s five projects all due in the space of two days, next week), I’m a writer. When we walked together, I would tell her, “a good writer is observant. A good writer notices everything.” I went on to tell her that my ADD has allowed me to notice every detail because I’m always looking. If I’m not distracted by my inner worries, I notice things. I notice things other people don’t see, I would tell my daughter.

    I’d stand off in the corner during the reception after house of worship services ,and just watch people. I noticed the curve of their chin, the stripes in their scarf, how their eyes moved when they spoke. I would tell my daughter, look at the sky, what do you see? I taught her to notice details and shapes and colors. Ann Tyler is my favorite novelist and I spent a lot of time during that 8th grade homeschool year reading and talking to her about Ann Tyler. Tyler is a master of nuance and detail to make the point. A good writer captures the scene so vividly, you are building a picture in your mind as you read.

    That’s the gift of ADD. Hallowell is a master at helping you to unwrap that gift. We know ADD is a pain in the tuchus. But it has gifts, boy does it. When we medicate every child whose mind wanders, we are losing precious gifts.

    Don’t let teachers wear you down. In many states, it is even illegal for them to suggest medication. Parents feel very vulnerable, backed into a corner. The teacher hints, the pediatric psychiatrist trots out that line, not medicating is a greater risk than medicating and the next thing you know, you’re at the drugstore. We know many kids are diagnosed with ADHD who are not ADD, just severely sleep deprived.

    If you want medication and have thought it through, you should have that right. But no one should ever coerce you into medicating your child if your gut is screaming NO.

    I got way off track here to make a point. Chalk it up to ADD!


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