Not Up For Debate
Our middle child, Clark, has discovered a new passion: debate team. Up until now, Clark’s top passions have been arguing and gaming. His passions cause great household consternation — arguing with Clark can make you insane, and we are always arguing with him, whether because he wants us to or because we nix the gaming. We are all really tired of arguing with Clark.
Debate — arguing with non-family members, on purpose — gives us hope. Might this be the outlet we need to distract Clark, or tire out his arguing mechanism? We’re praying…but we also fear it will simply whip him into a perpetual arguing frenzy, with the added irritant of specialized debate terms and rules applied to our household discussions.
So far, it’s looking more like the perpetual frenzy than the outlet. Lord help us.
Clark is the first debater in the family. He gravitated to debate naturally, probably thanks to his ADHD and argumentative nature a la paternal genetics. He assures me that his father’s contribution notwithstanding, he wants to be a lawyer, like me. This was supposed to make me feel better. However, despite my misgivings about the perpetual frenzy of arguing, last weekend we attended our first debate tournament.
Clark and his partner competed in the finals of the Novice Cross Examination category. The match took over an hour and a half. The knowledge of these kids impressed me — they debated on the question of whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Okinawa. The intensity and helpfulness of the judges surprised me. Clark’s team lost, mostly due to novice errors in how to score winning votes. I can’t pretend to understand it all. But none of that is really what interested me.
What hooked me?
I was completely taken in by the stream of consciousness vocalization/demonstration of the ADHD mind by Clark the ADHD Wonder Kid. While Eric marveled that Clark could apply any organization to his thoughts at all, I was blown away by his words.
In the middle of making a point and without taking a breath Clark would add, “I can’t remember what I was going to say,” and then go on to a new topic. Partway through it, he would interrupt himself with, “But I don’t know what comes next,” and then bounce to another point. And just when he was on a verbal roll, he would cut it short and announce, “And I have no idea where I was going with this.” One after another, he made excellent points and jumped willy nilly to his next thought, with these funny admissions/transitions.
I sneaked a glance at the judges when he would blurt out his admissions. They loved it, and they seemed to love him. Despite his rapid-fire delivery of a multitude of nearly-finished thoughts, his intelligence and flair for the dramatic stood out. Most of their post-match critique was a dissertation on how he can take his game up a notch. The other debaters came up to me afterward and said, “Your boy is going to be a rock star.”
Will he? Can he overcome the ADHD enough?
The main critique of the judges was that Clark made excellent points but never followed through on them. The ability to come full circle and tie together all the information that flows through his mind is his daily struggle. He lives in the moment, and that wonderful info he blurted out in the debate was in the present. Tying it to something he had already said or should say later would be a monumental challenge.
Take chess for example. Clark likes the idea of playing chess. If he is in the middle of a chess game, Clark is astoundingly good at looking at the move and making the move for the best possible outcome at that moment. But chess is a game of strategy about many, many moves, of thinking ahead to what your partner will do 5, 6, or 7 steps ahead to set something up. He gives zero thought for the upcoming moves.
He’s a natural speaker with great intelligence, and the bouncing ball feel of debate matches the flow of his thoughts. I’d never seen anything like it. I felt like I knew him in a way I never had.
Can he apply rigor, organization, and planning to his delivery? Can he master his mind? He’s debating with a very organized female partner, which helps. But, I don’t know. I suspect he can. I doubt many people will realize how hard it is for him, though.
After the match, we asked him why he made all the remarks about not knowing what to say next.
“You know, all those times you told us you’d lost your train of thought?”
“Um, I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mom.”
Seriously. The kid had no recollection at all of saying any of them. I don’t know what blew me away more — hearing him say them or hearing him say he had no consciousness of saying them.
“Well you did. And you were great!”
“If you say so. And thanks.”
That boy. But you know what? He didn’t argue with me about it.