Everyone knows the famous tale of the boy who cried wolf — he cried out for help so many unnecessary times, that no one helped when he really needed it. My son, Ricochet, is the boy who cried wolf, ADHD-style. He’s always embellishing stories and resorts to tall tales in an effort to squelch overwhelming anxiety.

Case in point, Ricochet was having a really hard time with anxiety at the beginning of this school year (5th grade). He tried to play sick and told his teacher he had puked (when he had not) many times. That never worked because I was on to him with that one since he started trying it in third grade. With every new year comes a new teacher, and a new attempt to fool them into thinking he’s truly sick and needs to go home.

He tried appealing to my compassionate side. “Momma, kids in my class are picking on me.” Or, “No one will play with me Momma.” Or, “So-and-so is calling me names. I feel like I’m nothing at school.” I believed these things were at least somewhat true, but his teacher did not.

One particular morning, Ricochet was feeling extremely anxious. He tried the, “I just threw up in the toilet,” trick. My response was, “If you can’t show me the puke, you go to school.” Then he tried telling me kids were bullying him. I told him we had to go to school and tell someone so they could address it. Then, in desperation, he spun a truly tall tale.

“I got in trouble yesterday and a teacher I didn’t know took me from my class for an hour and I missed lunch.”

Yes, this sounded far-fetched to me, so I probed further. I told him I felt his teacher would have noticed he was missing. I told him they wouldn’t withhold lunch. I told him he had to give me names and details… He continued spinning his web.

“We were lining up to come in from recess and a sixth grade class was lined up next to us going outside. This sixth grade kid, I don’t know his name, called me and my friends four-eyes. He does it every day, so this time I told him to leave us alone. Then, this teacher I don’t know, came over and grabbed my arm and told me I was in big trouble. She took me inside to her office and made me sit in there with her for an hour. My class went to lunch and I got no lunch. She wouldn’t let me talk or anything. One time she even left for a few minutes and locked me in there! I can’t go back to that school!”

Alright, this story was far-fetched, so I needed to test him before I marched into the school and demanded the firing of this mystery teacher. In times past, making him repeat a tall tale to an authority figure would cause him to crack, and retract his statements.

“This is a serious accusation you’re making, Buddy. We need to go right into school and talk to the guidance counselor about this. You have to go to school, so we have to report this and get it fixed.”

He agreed. Hmmm, didn’t see that coming.

His compliance in repeating this story to school authorities had me thinking there was some validity to it after all. I figured some teacher he didn’t know scolded him and sat him in a time-out of sorts for five or ten minutes. Since teachers don’t usually eat with their class, I figured it was possible his teacher didn’t know he wasn’t at lunch. Seemed highly embellished, but still somewhat possible.

So, off we went to school to meet with the counselor. We walked in about an hour after school started and asked to see her. She walked us to her office and asked what was going on. Ricochet repeated the story to her, WORD FOR WORD. Wow! Maybe there was some validity to it. He had cracked under the pressure of potentially being caught in a lie anytime he got to this point before.

The counselor called his teacher in. Ricochet again repeated the story. He didn’t soften one detail. His teacher immediately asked him to wait in the hall. I immediately got an ear full as soon as the door closed.

“Ricochet is making this up,” his teacher stated. “I would know if he missed lunch. I would know if he wasn’t in my classroom. Teachers at our school wouldn’t behave like that. No one would lock him in a room. He is lying to you.”

His voice was dripping with contempt. I felt the I-can’t-believe-you-would-accuse-me-of-this chill penetrate to my core. I began to weep. What was going on at school that could drive Ricochet to this point — to this tall tale and telling it to those in authority? I thought. I knew something really had to be making him uncomfortable, and then some, for him to take it this far.

I expressed that concern on unwilling ears. His teacher said he’d look out for him, but that he didn’t think anything was going on, except that Ricochet just didn’t want to come to school. {Sigh.}

Ricochet was brought back into the counselor’s office and she told him she was going to play detective to find out what had happened and help him to be comfortable at school. She told me it was time to leave. That was the first full-blown meltdown Ricochet has had in her office this year. I believe the total is at least three now. I left in tears as he screamed and cried for me not to leave him there. It was excruciating.

Ricochet has had many social issues since then and his teacher refuses to believe any of it. Now he comes home from school and tells me how a particular student wronged him that day. When I tell him he has to tell his teacher right when these things happen, he says, “He doesn’t believe me. He never believes me.”

Then we talk about the boy who cried wolf. We discuss how he taught his teacher not to trust him because he lied to him. Yet, Ricochet can never override the compulsion to create stories when he gets overwhelmingly anxious.

A couple weeks ago, at the height of his school avoidance issues (which were actually a bad medication reaction issue), Ricochet confided that he felt a lot of the kids at school had turned on him. He told me, “I feel like a nobody at school.” My heart sank and I immediately fired off an email to all teachers and school officials about the fact that he’s avoiding school because he is so uncomfortable there. Yesterday, we had a meeting to follow up on all these issues (I was having trouble getting him into the school building too).

His teacher sat across from me and once again stated that Ricochet is absolutely fine socially and no one is calling him names or picking on him. {Arghhhhhhh!} For once I just wanted to be heard. As Dr. Ross Greene says, “kids do well if they can.” They want to do well. My son can’t read social cues, gets extremely over-emotional about everything, and is only the maturity of a third grader, even though he’s in fifth grade. All I could get from my pleading to understand my boy was, “Maybe, but I don’t think so. I’d be shocked if any of this is true. He has a history of making this stuff up.”

Whatever!” I fired off… in my head.

This was a loosing battle. Ricochet had made his bed, and now he and I both had to lie in it. Five more weeks of school, I thought. I can get through five more weeks.

Can I though? I’m not so sure. Sad thing is, this is not the worst school year we have been through (you can read about the drama and trauma of our worst school year in Boy Without Instructions).

And so, the story of the boy who cried wolf continues to plague kids everywhere, but kids with ADHD more so. Kids with ADHD are impulsive and emotional creatures, and, unfortunately, that often means they spin some wicked tall tales.