I understand that when people say things like that, there may be some truth to the assertion that modern kids, and modern audiences are getting less practice at disciplining their attention spans. I ABSOLUTELY see that there could be truth to that. I absolutely see that it is easy to overdiagnose ADHD. Absolutely. But we were a family that for a while didn’t even have a television. We also NEVER went to movies (probably because neither of my parents can sit through them, haha). Both of my parents grew up in rural areas where kids self-entertained for hours, and as much as possible that is what our life was like when I was little, just in a more urban place.
When I was little, I would READ for HOURRRSSS. I would play and invent games, and even play alone…I would ride my bike, and color and draw, and play with dolls. I loved swimming. I loved listening to music in my room and dancing. And I loved, loved, loved, activities that involved crazy amounts of detail and precision and focus. Hyperfocus…if you will. In fact, I was the Queen of Hyperfocus. I would get so absorbed in reading or play or whatever, for so long and with such intensity that I did not want to stop to eat, or go to the bathroom, to the point where I would only notice because I felt sick. Sometimes the only thing I would stop for was following my mother around for hours and hours and hours, snapping my fingers incessantly and talkingtalkingtalking until she couldn’t stand it anymore.
We did not rely on “quick” entertainment. We all had our own hobbies and activities, and there was actually a LOT of quiet in our house, especially on the weekends. I was given tons of time to form my own thoughts, and opinions in my head and through my activities. And I always had plenty of things to keep me entertained at home. I read novels, while my peers were watching cartoons.
The second I left the house it was another story. Kids talked about video games and tv shows and movies that even now I can’t believe that anyone would let a child watch. They talked about being “bored”, a concept I had no real grasp of. They honestly, a lot of the time, talked about things that didn’t interest me even though it seemed to me that they should, and this created a lot of confusion. My friends would ask what I did on the weekend and I would say “my parents made soup and then I rode my bike and we all read the newspaper”.
School was dull and confusing. I felt like I was being pulled in a bunch of directions all day, few of which interested me, and would spend the day in fear of “getting in trouble” because I knew I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do, but didn’t know how to “do” whatever it was I was supposed to do. If things did interest me, they were over too quickly, and the movement from one activity to another all day was weird. But isn’t that the definition of ADHD? Inability to regulate attention? When you can’t regulate your attention well, and the scenery constantly shifts…this cannot be a good combo. The overhead lights bothered me all day and the kids didn’t make sense, even though I thought they were funny and terrifying. Teachers were always confused about why I seemed to understand things, but couldn’t keep up on the in class assignments at all (as reflected in my report cards). I rarely got in trouble because I wasn’t disruptive, but even as a child I didn’t quite understand why I would have so much trouble doing the assignments, but they would send me to the next grade anyway. It made me feel like I was getting away with something, and that I was faking something.
At home I would wrap my teeth as they fell out in little tissues and keep them in a little box, but at school I truly couldn’t figure out how to keep my desk organized, and it was really embarrassing. As I got older it was messy notebooks, messy lockers, messy bedrooms. At home I would make lists and lists and lists of names and places and things that I obsessed over and labeled and organized and categorized, but at school, I was the girl with the fruit flies hatching in her desk.
All this time, I lived a life that had little to do with TV, or movies, or quick fix entertainment.