He’s finding it hard to focus, hard to listen to the teachers — some of whom, he says, look like they woke up drunk.
Yesterday Aryn called me. He asked if I understood what ADHD is. He wanted to know if he had it.
He’s been stuck at home, like all of us during COVID. He’s finding it hard to focus, hard to listen to the teachers — some of whom, he says, look like they woke up drunk — mascara smeared under their eyes — pajamas strewn across the floor. “They have it hard too,” I tell him.
But right now, that doesn’t help. Aryn needs someone. He needs his teachers to be able to see him through the screen. Aryn wants to know that his classmates won’t giggle at his accent. He wants his teachers to answer his oh so many questions. “It’s hard, I tell him. Don’t take it personally; you’re doing great, Aryn, you’re trying; that’s what matters.”
But Aryn really really wants to know about ADHD. “Why,” I ask him? Do you think you have it?”
“The school had us take a class about it. I have a lot of the things they say, Nova. And if I fail my classes, my parent will be angry. They will say I’m not trying. I can’t concentrate, Nova.”
I wonder who decided to offer this class to thirteen-year-old boys and girls during “stay at home orders”? I’m thinking about how hard a time I’m having concentrating on work, how easily I get distracted, how often I open the fridge…just because.
“Aryn,” I say. “If you’re concerned, we can get you tested (I don’t want to minimize the concern I hear in his voice) but, I don’t think you have it. I know you well, Aryn. I think you are just a typical young teen.”
“But how will I ever learn?” he asks. “The class said you would have it forever.” And the tears come. “Nova,” he says, “I’ve been crying a lot, and I don’t even know why.”
Aryn stands between two worlds — one foot in America and the other in Middle East culture. His parents speak little English. Naturally, they want to keep their culture alive through their children — wishing them to become living museums of all they left behind. The children attend Quran school on the weekend (also online); they perform Salat (daily prayer) five times a day; the men eat before the women. The girls must not expose their hair or skin.
“Aryn,” I ask. “Do you think you want to talk to someone? A therapist? I am glad you are sharing with me. I will try to get you help.”
“Yes,” he says. And again, the tears come.
“Ok, I will try Aryn. I will try to make this happen.”
“Virtual hug,” I say. “ I love you, Aryn.”
“I love you too, Nova. Thanks for talking with me.”
And we hang up the facetime call, tears visible on both our screens.
( Writers Note: Aryn is a refugee from Syria. He arrived here with his family in 2017 when he was nine years old. His two-bedroom apartment is spacious compared to the 4' X 8" tent he and his family lived in for four years. To learn more about the family, follow my blog here. I’ve changed the families names and have opted for words that hold the same meaning as their birth names)