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Christmas Morning with an ADHD Child


Wait for it …..

….. keep waiting …..

….. almost there …..

….. not yet…..

…….. okay, NOW!

Waiting stinks. There’s no other way to put it. It goes against everything our impulsive minds tell us to do. Most of us, if given the choice, would rip through life so quickly we’d outrun the waiting altogether.

The perfect example of painful waiting? Being five years old on Christmas morning and having to wait for everyone else to wake up before getting to tear into your gifts.

Or even more painful… being five years old on Christmas morning and having to wait to open presents while you have ADHD. Now, that’s difficult.

With attention spans half as long as their peers’, ADHD kids struggle even more than most kids to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. Their impulsiveness makes it even harder for them to restrain themselves on Christmas morning.

This week, my ADHD nephew went through his fifth Christmas. It was the fifth time he’d had to try focusing while Santa asked him what he wanted in his stocking. It was the fifth time he’d had to keep his hands off the presents in the weeks leading up to the big day. It was the fifth time he’d had to be intentional about pausing between gifts to tell various people, “Thank you.”

A few days before Christmas this year, my parents went to my nephew’s house to drop off the presents they’d gotten him. As they placed them under the tree, they told him he’d have to wait until Christmas morning to open them. At first, he looked confused… but then the misery hit.

With anguish twisting into his features, he said, “But that’s a really long time to wait.”

My dad laughed and told him, “Nah, it’s not that long. Only a few days.”

My nephew shook his head. “No. Today is only Sunday, Papa. And Christmas isn’t till Friday. That means I still have to get through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before I get to open all that stuff. That’s a really long time.”

See, that’s the thing about Felix. He could tell us the days of the week before he turned four, but he still can’t wait. It’s painful for him. In the same way it’s painful for the rest of us to lose a sentimental possession, it’s painful for him to wait.

Between his logic about the days of the week and his gigantic blue eyes, my parents couldn’t resist letting him open his gifts early. They couldn’t help it. They saw how miserable waiting would make him, and no one wants to put a kid through something like that. Especially not a Papa and Ninny who love the kid more than life itself.

Any guesses how long it took him to open all the gifts they’d given him?

Maybe two minutes.


But it didn’t matter. He enjoyed plowing through them just as much as he enjoyed owning them, and my parents were perfectly fine with that. They’re cool with just letting him be him.

Of course, Christmas morning looked pretty similar to that day. The anticipation was exactly the same, and the gift opening was over just as quickly.

According to his mom, “It was impossible for him to wait for everyone to get into the room before he opened his presents from Santa. It was impossible for him to take turns opening gifts with his sister. It was impossible for him to wait for the toys to be assembled before examining them, impossible for him to keep his hands off his sister’s toys, and impossible for him to keep people’s gifts a secret.”

Everything was just too much.

But the morning came and went, just like it was supposed to, and he ended up snuggled in his bed at the end of the day, just like he always does. He made it through the greatest (and, simultaneously, the most difficult) day of his short, little life.

Now, he only has 362 days to wait for the next one.

Christmas Morning with an ADHD Child

W. R. Cummings

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APA Reference
Cummings, W. (2015). Christmas Morning with an ADHD Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Dec 2015
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