Dumb kid tricks – is it ADHD or because he’s an 11-year old boy?

English: Symptoms of ADHD described by the lit...

English: Symptoms of ADHD described by the literature (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of weeks ago, M showed up at school one morning with a long sharp piece of rusted metal. I received a very polite email from the principal later that day telling about the incident.

Normally when a child shows up to school with anything that could possibly be used as a weapon, the school goes into lock down mode and calls in the Calvary (aka officials from the school board). The parents are called and the child is removed from the school. The principal has to make a detailed report. It doesn’t even have to be an actual weapon – a couple of years ago, a couple of boys caused total panic when they brought in empty bullet casings from a Cub Scout visit to the police firing range. Never mind that they were essentially hollow metal tubes – the fact that they were bullets in another life was enough to get them classified as contraband.

I appreciated that in this case, the principal used her judgement and determined that M had no intention of hurting anyone with the piece of metal. When I asked him where he found it, M told me it was on the stairs he walks up ever morning on his way to school. When I asked him why he picked it up, he looked at me like I was soft in the head. It turns out, the piece of metal was loose and he had to kick it off. Once he done that, of course he had to take it with him to school. Duh mom!

Like many kids with ADHD, M can be impulsive. He also gets easily distracted. We joke that it’s the “squirrel syndrome.” M can change subjects on a dime, it’s  the conversational equivalent of watching a dog catch sight of a squirrel. So it’s entirely plausible to think that M saw that a section of the stair was loose and he kicked it off – perhaps over the course of several days. On that particular morning, we were all running a bit late, so he didn’t get his meds until just before he left for school. Given that it takes him less than 5 minutes to get to school, there’s no way the meds had kicked in. So when he saw that loose piece of stair, he kicked it. Maybe if it was 30 minutes later, he would have passed it by. Or even if he’d kicked it off, he would have left it on the ground, because he recognized that taking it with him would get him into hot water at school.

It may well be that M’s ADHD contributed to his lapse in judgement in taking a piece of rusty metal to school. However, I grew up with 2 brother and a bunch of male cousins. I know first hand that pre-teen and teenage boys do dumb things, for no apparent reason. I still remember the summer at the cottage that my middle brother and one of our cousins decided to teach themselves to light entire packs of matches on fire by flipping them open backwards. They had enough sense no to do it in the cottage, but they would practice outside on the deck. A few time, they flipped the pack of matches off the railing of the deck into the underbrush below. Did I mention that the deck and the entire cottage was made of cedar? I seem to recall that was also the summer they took up whittling, which they did like to do inside, using as sharp a knife as they could possibly find. Then there was the time that they decided to clean up the rocks near one of the docks by dragging the motor of my uncle’s boat on the bottom of the lake. They managed to rip a couple of big chunks out of the propeller and provoked my usually genial uncle into ripping a strip off their backsides.

None of my brothers has ADHD. Neither to my knowledge, do any of my cousins. But they did goofy things all the time, usually egged on by one another. They didn’t deliberately set out to wreck the motor – one of them wondered whether the motor would move rocks and the other one grabbed the boat and off they went. They didn’t worry about the consequences. But even if they did get into trouble, it usually didn’t stop them from doing something just as dumb a week or so later. Given some of the stunts my brothers and cousins pulled over the years,, it’s a miracle that no one was ever seriously injured.

When your kid has ADHD, it’s easy to see that as the root cause for much of his behaviour. But all kids do things that seem to the adult mind to be completely stupid. They just don’t have the same sense of danger or consequence. Apparently boys’ brains mature later than girls’, so they are especially prone to taking risks. The piece of loose metal on the stairs was a temptation for any 11-year old boy walking by. Having to kick it off made it all that more challenging. What would be the fun in just picking it up off the ground?

I know I can’t stop M from doing goofy things. After all, half of him comes from the same gene pool as my brothers. And his dad tells me he did a fair number of pretty dumb things when he was M’s age. I can make sure he gets his meds earlier in the morning, so they have a fighting chance of keeping M on track till he gets to school. So if he sees a squirrel, he’ll just keep walking.



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