Comparing Apples and Oranges


comparing apples and oranges

If your child has ADHD, or some other exceptionality, is it fair to compare them to “normal” children?

I’m gonna go off on one of my weird tangents here. I have issues.  But you already knew that, right?

The other night we had dinner with some friends. Watching my son play a game of Boggle with another child his age was a tough experience for me.

During the game my son was climbing on the couch, bouncing around and tickling his friend. He was laughing loudly and racing around – definitely not concentrating on the game. On the other hand, his friend was writing out and spelling four-letter words. He even leaned over to give my son hints.

This sweet gesture encapsulated exactly what is going on with my son right now. My son’s best friend is only 4 months older, but he is so much more mature.

Comparing vs. Contrasting

Comparing myself with others is a lifelong bad habit. I compare everything about myself with others – from the size of my thighs to the car I drive. Making comparisons is human nature, but it can lead to some unhealthy behavior. (Particularly if you hyperfocus as I do.)

These days I find myself comparing my child to other children. I watch him at school and in groups of strangers. I watch him on family outings and in restaurants. I watch him like a hawk, always mulling over my litany of questions, “is he really ADHD? is it my fault?” I have already admitted my ongoing guilt about giving my son a questionable set of genes.

My husband is constantly telling me to stop comparing him to others. As I write this it occurs to me – maybe I am not comparing at all. Maybe I am actually contrasting. I am looking for the differences between my son and other children.

ADHD invites comparisons

Unfortunately the symptoms of my ADHD as well as my son’s diagnosis make it easy to compare us with others. When you put my son in a room with “normal” asymptomatic children, the differences are pretty obvious. You know what is really hard? When other children ask me why my son does this or that. It kills me.

We have a family friend who has taught special education for years. She has evaluated children for various types of diagnoses and then worked with the children and families directly. She tells me that he will do just fine in public school because his symptoms will pale in comparison to other students with more serious issues.

So far she has been absolutely correct.  Our Kindergarten experience has been downright typical, with E’s teacher telling me he is a “good boy.”  The biggest issue facing my child is his emotional regulation – as in, he has to control his reactions a little better.

[clickToTweet tweet=”My child WILL be compared to others because that is the nature of life in our society. ” quote=”My child WILL be compared to others because that is the nature of life in our society. “]

I don’t want E to know that I am comparing him to his friends, or that anyone is comparing him to others. His frustration tolerance is so low and his emotional regulation so poor, that I cannot allow my insecurities to add to his stress.

If you are still reading

What can I do to put this issue of comparison to rest for myself?

My husband tells me to stop comparing apples and oranges. I don’t know if my child was the apple or the orange when he said that.

Oranges have a bite to their flavor, part sour and part sweet. The texture of oranges is sometimes stringy and firm, other times mushy and juicy.

Apples on the other hand are more direct. Crunchy and sweet. Apples are sturdy and reliable – you know what to expect when you bite into one.

Both fruits are delicious. I do not love one more than another, but sometimes I wish I could find the same predictability in an orange that I can in an apple.

Such is life.

What do you think?  Is it fair to compare neurotypical children to children with ADHD?

Am I overthinking this whole situation?




2 comments on “Comparing Apples and Oranges

    • Thanks for reading! As a person with ADHD/ADD I try to break up my posts to make them more readable. I am glad the formatting is helpful to you.

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