We could also call this guest essay “The Hilarious Revenge of Tom Nardone.” It’s a funny-bittersweet excerpt from his new book, Chasing Kites. This memoir follows Tom‘s experiences growing up in a time when neither children nor adults understood ADHD (his, in particular) on through to today, living a fulfilling life in adulthood, with a diagnosis, treatment and family of his own.
Here is the book’s trailer:
What would it be like to live in a world of distractibility? Your attention is drawn away with the glimpse of a red kite in the sky. As you watch it, everything around you disappears from your consciousness. Even when you want to concentrate, your attention floats and bobs on a breeze you cannot see or control.
“I Had to Live This: Your Kid Doesn’t”
By Tom Nardone
First grade; art class; we had a project where we would take a piece of construction paper and write our names on it with glue. Before the glue dried, we would sprinkle glitter on it and it made this shiny glittery image of our name. Somehow mine came out better than most, and my teacher was very proud. She held it up for the whole class to see. I was proud for that brief moment.
A couple of days later, we had an assignment. The teacher wrote three sentences on the board and we were to copy them. I carefully copied the sentences and was about to turn in my assignment. Then I remembered how excited my art teacher was and, I really wanted Mrs. Ginn to be pleased with me.
I got out my glue and my glitter, and began to write my name on my class work with my glue. I sprinkled the glitter on it and turned it in. There was no time for the glue to dry since I had to turn my work in. I turned it in and the bell rang. We got up and went to our bus
The next day at school, Mrs. Ginn was furious. Apparently my classwork/art project idea had, caused all of the other papers to stick together in a big mess. The second I walked in she got up and said “Tommy Nardone, you come with me.” I had no idea where we were going or why.
We went to the janitor’s closet in the hallway and she slammed the door. She asked me if I poured glue all over the classwork assignments yesterday. Seeing that I disappointed her, I began to cry as I explained that I just wanted her to be proud of me for making my name look so nice for my classwork assignment. She actually began to laugh and apologized for being mad.
I was just as unique a kid as I am an adult. This incident at the time seemed completely reasonable to me. I was not trying to hurt anyone or upset any one. I was proud of something I did in art class, and I wanted to share it with my regular teacher, Mrs. Ginn.
I know lots of people love me today. That is perhaps due in part to the fact that I am different, and unusual. Let me tell you how the kids I went to school with felt about that.
Unfortunately, the glue debacle, like many other incidents, became a source of fuel for the class to tease me about how stupid I was. They got a lot of mileage out of that one. They had no shortage of material. They would make fun of my name, my clothes, my hair, my parents, or anything else that they believed would upset me. I seemed to be a source of entertainment for the whole class.
I couldn’t for the life of me understand why for no reason, so many people took so much pleasure in making me feel bad. I had, up to that point, never been treated that way. I would have understood if the members of my T-ball team gave me a hard time. I regularly jammed the whole team up every game we played, but these people don’t even know me. I tried to get to know them but they just had no interest in talking to me unless it was in the form of ridicule.
The playground was the worst. I hated recess. It was the time I least looked forward to. Many of these kids wanted to fight me. They would constantly hit me in the arm or the chest. I remember asking my teacher if I could do extra work in the library in order to avoid the ridicule and the harassment I received on the playground every day. She always said “No!” I hated her for that. I stopped telling my parents about this. It seemed to hurt them too much to hear it, and I could not bear to see that.
I had never fought back. I did not know how to fight. I took it day after day. It got to the point where I dreaded going to school. I hated the bus ride. I never had a moment’s rest. I remember crying in my bed at night before I would go to school the next day. I would have rather done anything else
One day, I struck back. This is the only good memory I have from my whole first grade experience. There was this particularly evil son-of-a-bitch in my class named Roman. I avoided him at all costs. Roman was normally the ring leader. Every time I thought I might go a full day without any drama, Roman would be sure to get some started. I viewed Roman as the source of all the things in my life that were shitty.
Today would be the last day Roman would ever screw with me. Today Roman falls.
I was in the bathroom standing at the urinal closest to the first stall. Roman came in and went to the first stall and began to pee on my shoe. I did nothing, except move my foot away from the stream.
I thought all day about all the problems that little bastard had caused me during the entire school year. I decided that it was OK if I get in trouble, but this little shit was going to give me my money’s worth.
Near the end of the day, Roman snuck out of the room to use the bathroom without asking permission. As soon as he left, I went and got permission to use the bathroom. Mrs. Ginn said, “Hurry, the bell is about to ring.” I went immediately. I was going in there and I was going to just start kicking his ass, without saying one word. But a better solution presented itself.
As I entered the bathroom, I was so scared. I couldn’t believe that I was going to do this. I began to ask myself; should I just punch him first, or should I throw him on the ground and start hitting him. I knew I would get in trouble, but that day; it was OK. I knew that Roman would probably beat the shit out of me, but if I could get one hit on him, it would be worth it.
When I entered, Roman was in the first stall. I saw Roman’s shoes pointing forward with his pants pulled around his ankles. He was sitting on the commode. I thought and I thought and then it came to me. I called an audible, and completely changed my plans. I would quickly reach under and steal his shoes. I thought that would be funny if he had to ride the bus home without his shoes. I also remember thinking that he owes me a pair of shoes anyway. I quietly moved into position, and just as I grabbed his shoes, the bell rang. I jerked my arms back to recover them, but I got more than I planned for.
The shoes were sort of connected to his pants and underwear which also came off. He started yelling.
I quickly turned away and just stuffed all of it into my book bag as I left the bathroom. I walked slowly to get on my bus, so as not to draw suspicion. I sat there on the bus shaking with fear that I would get busted. I thought about police men coming onto the bus to arrest me. It seemed like an eternity until those buses started moving. I thought they have stopped the busses and are looking for me. I hid under my seat and prayed this bus would leave soon. I heard the air brake release and the bus started moving.
I was still scared when I got home. I got a plastic bag and put Roman’s clothes, socks, and shoes into it and went to the creek about a mile from our house. I added rocks to the bag and tied it up. Then I just threw it into the deep part of the creek. The anxiety I felt vanished as soon as the bag hit the water and sunk to the bottom.
The next day, I felt something on the way to school I had never felt. I felt anticipation, and confidence. I realized that I no longer had to be bullied. I felt like a million bucks and for the first time ever, I couldn’t wait to get to school.
It was better than I could have hoped for. When we got to school, Mrs. Ginn and the principal, and Roman’s parents were all there waiting for the class to get in and sit down. The day started out by explaining to us that Roman ended up stranded in the bathroom until 6pm that night. There were no teachers working late as there were only a few more days of school until summer break. Roman sat there on the toilet crying when a janitor heard him and called his parents.
His parents were in the classroom for show. His asshole father (even if only by association) was furious, and his mother was crying. I know it was wrong to feel this way but seeing that made it even sweeter. Now Roman’s mom got a taste of what my mom has been feeling for so long.
Roman’s Mom pleaded with the class to tell them who was responsible, but no one knew a thing. She even talked about what a sweet boy her Roman was, and that he would never do anything like that to anyone. I just held my tongue.
I figuratively kicked his social standing, right in the nuts. Roman was in school the next day and I enjoyed the last three days of the first grade watching Roman take my place as the butt of all the jokes. I did not participate in the ridicule. That is not who I was.
Every year, on the first day of school, I would be so hopeful. I remember thinking “This year will be different.” But the only thing that was different about a new year were the faces behind the piercing words that almost every boy and girl in my class had to say to me.
Don’t hate these kids. I don’t. These are the people who long ago began the construction process. They unknowingly began building and designing the most awesome thing the world has ever known. Today you have access to this greatness. That greatness is I, and I am Tom Nardone. I am here today to entertain you all.
Today many, many years later I stand proud as Tom Nardone, and all the kids who ridiculed me are still a bunch of assholes.
I am Tom Nardone, and you are welcome.
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6 thoughts on ““I Had to Live This. Your Kid Does Not””
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This could be my son’s story, although he never fights back. He gets picked on, sometimes pummeled, and is usually the one to get into trouble, if anyone does at all. There’s always a ring leader and my son is always one of the few their jokes center around. I often want to tell him to fight back, that he won’t be in trouble with us for defending him, but I know that is a slippery slope and not what I should teach him.
You are right, Tom, it is heartbreaking for the momma. It tears me to shreds that others cannot yet see how awesome my son is. You have renewed my hope that one day he will succeed at that.
Author of “What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD” and “Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD”
Thanks for your comment, Penny. I’m sorry to hear your awesome little guy endures this.
You know, I think there are ways of fighting back, but not physically. With cleverness.
Whether these kids with ADHD can rise above the bullying and access the clever part of their brains…that might be a challenge. Perhaps with practice, they can master some techniques.
I have a guest post in the queue. Stay tuned….
Paisan! I’m happy to have you as a friend. Rock on, Tom Nardone!
Tom Nardone’s story shares what many with ADHD experience as youngsters. Many good intentions take on a life of there own when consequences of actions aren’t first considered. I’m sorry it’s at Tom’s expense, but I laughed out loud at his colorfully detailed recount with Ms. Ginn.
Bullying, on the other hand, breaks my heart because it slowly destroys the spirit, especially of a first grader who only wants to have friends and fun. I hope people take away from this article the wake up call you’re giving by sharing this story, Gina.
No one should have to go through what Tom did, especially children with ADHD who already have a more challenging road to travel.
Agreed, Jennie. Bullying in all its forms has no place in the 21st Century. The truth is, kids with ADHD are more likely to be bullied—and to be the bullies. Education and informed strategies address both.