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.

Future attorney Clark?

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.


13 Responses to “Not Up For Debate”
  1. I absolutely love this post. I love how you describe the way his mind works and how focused he is in an unfocused way. I really love how he didn’t argue with you!

    • Pamela says:

      We are all surprised each night that the boy survives another day, and that his arguing doesn’t get him killed. By one of us. But it was an amazing thing to watch. I really hope this is something he can excel at.

  2. Irene says:

    If anything, it’ll give him confidence to stand in front of people and speak. I couldn’t do it. It’s amazing to watch your children in action, isn’t it? Watching them develop and become mature. Of course, they’re going to stumble along the way (sometimes those stumbling moments are better left unremembered) but that’s why we’re here…to pick them up and throw them back out into the wolves of life!

  3. ana patricia says:

    Haha wow! Debate team is the perfect outlet 😛 Thanks for visiting my blog!

  4. That is EXCELLENT! Way to go! Great post and I love that he got up there and did so well. It take courage to get up in front of so many people and speak and debate. I’m sure you are a proud Momma….I’m proud of him!

  5. LBDDiaries says:

    This kid sounds more and more brilliant everytime I read about him – and I suspect he is going to take the world by the tail and twirl and shake it until it conforms to his standards and ways! It is exciting watching him bloom!

  6. Eric Hutchins says:

    After having watched Clark during this debate and having judged a tournament with Pamela last week I have an all new respect for Clark and for the thing that is “debate”. What these kids do with relatively little supervision and direction (and that is no slam on the wonderful adults that help organize and instruct) is truly amazing. It has a language and pacing all its own. Some of what they were doing was so foreign. To me I had this odd sensation that I was back 30 years ago watching a game on dungeons and dragons. I was an outside observer to a ritual that I knew very little about, but was complex and fast moving.
    If Clark is able to connect the dots and tie his points together from beginning to end, this is something that he will excel at.
    The other thing that struck me was how easily Clark fits in with this group and how comfortable he seems. This is RARELY the case for him in any other group situation that I have seen him in.

    • Irene says:

      You should be really proud of him, especially with the ADHD! I would hope this might force him to focus and keep his thoughts straight. He’ s more mature than you think. It’s a relief when you see your child finding a niche in life.

  7. Susie says:

    Great blog. Great kid. Go Clark. I am so proud of him.

  8. Pamela says:

    I’m happy you wrote about this Pamela. I knew we talked a little about it, but I think it gives such a great insight into how Clark’s brain works. The more I learn, the more I wish we’d had a debate team at my high school! What a great opportunity to learn to speak in front of others, think on your feet and balance the concepts of “learning & planning” with “fast thinking & decision-making”.

  9. peter says:

    Sounds like the Clark I know (and love). Glad he is enjoying debate.

  10. Sounds like the perfect outlet for him – something that challenges him while teaching him new skill sets all at the same time! And since it’s right up his alley for his future career choice, all the better. It’s always so humbling for me to see my kids excel at their hobbies/teams…fills me with pride, makes me sad that they’re growing up, and puts a smile on my face that they’re doing so well with it. Enjoy it!

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