7:00am: My 6 year old, Max, wakes me up because he has to go to school. “5 more minutes” I moan from under the pillow.
7:15: “Oh my God!” I leap out of bed and hit the ground running. We have to be out of the house in 20 minutes and I have to get breakfast made, make sure my son has all of his books, folders, lunch, and the papers that should have been signed yesterday but I put them down somewhere and now I can’t find them. I do, however, find the paper that reminded the parents about Pajama Day….which was yesterday….shoot. I look over at my son to see if I can spot any signs of the irreversible damage that I’ve inevitably already caused the poor kid. He is sitting at the table, eating his cereal, seemingly unaffected by the repercussions of having me as a mother.
7:35: About to walk out the door when my oldest daughter, Zoe, jumps in front of us, blocking the door. “Wait! Mom! Do NOT forget that I have a game tonight! Can you pleeeaaaassse make sure to wash my uniform?” Ah, yes, its Friday again, isn’t it? “Sure honey, but this is a little last minute, don’t you think? You’ve known about this game all week, and you certainly could have washed your uniform yourself.” She lets out a sigh of disgust before snapping, “Yes, and I would have, but we are out of laundry detergent. I told you this two days ago, and you said you would take care of it!” Yep. Sounds familiar. I study her facial expression. It is frustration mixed with anxiety…and is that a hint of resentment as well? It’s too late for this one. The damage is already done. But I do intend on making it up to her. “Oh, right! And I will! Your uniform will be ready to go by the time you get home from school” I kiss the top of her head as I grab Max and run to the car.
8:00: I walk back into the house after dropping Max off and am greeted by the dirty cheer attire on top of the washing machine. I slap my hand to my head. Why did I not stop at the grocery store that is directly across the street from the elementary school? Ok, back to the car I go…but wait….I should take a quick look to see if we need anything else while I’m there. I open the refrigerator. Well good thing I checked! We are almost out of milk, completely out of eggs, and the unopened carton of orange juice reminds me that it is our turn to bring juice boxes to the boys’ game tomorrow. (Actually, it is the first game of the season, and I purposely chose to be “juice mom” for game number one to get that enormous responsibility out of the way right off the bat.) Proud of myself for catching that before it was to late, I sprint to the drawer to grab a pen so I can write it down while its still in my head. No pen. I open the drawer next to that. Nope. Next drawer. Bingo! I start to write out a list and realize that the pen is useless. Completely depleted of every drop of ink that it ever contained. So I put the pen back in the drawer and add pens to the list that I am just going to have to keep in memory. Alright, I just have to jump in the shower and I’ll be on my way.
9:00: I am blow drying my hair and wondering if there is a faster way to get the job done. I mean, when I get a blow out at the salon it takes half the time and looks twice as good. It must be the watts. I wonder if the grocery store has a really good hair dryer with a lot of watts. Probably not. I’ll find out. I grab my phone and Google “best hair dryer ever” Oh wow…who knew there were so many kinds of hair dryers. Some of them over $300. Yikes. You know, maybe its the concentrator. I bet if I got myself a concentrator to attach to my existing hair dryer, I could get my hair to look like my stylist does. I look those up. Much more reasonable. I doubt I can buy one at the grocery store so I’m going to have to order it on Amazon. I pull up my Amazon account and I see that I have 2 items in my shopping cart. Huh?….Oh my goodness! I never checked out after I ordered the boys baseball pants and we need them tomorrow! Oh boy, I’m just going to have to run out and buy some after I go to the grocery store. I think the coach sent an email with suggestions on where to get some baseball pants for a good price. ?I click on my email. Oh look! Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale is going on….and ends today. Well I’m going to have to get my order in quick, while I have the website pulled up.
11:00: Yes, it is now 11:00. ?The good news is, I will be receiving 3 beautiful bras and 5 new pairs of panties within the next 3 to 5 business days. I also came across a website that had some really great cleaning tips that I am totally going to try when I get home. But first, I am going to sort through my coupons to see if I can try to be an extreme coupon shopper today at the grocery store.
12:30: Woah, I better get going. I wasn’t able to find any coupons for the things I need, but I found some pretty good deals that I can get at the drug store by combining the manufacturers coupons I found, with the store coupons, plus a 25% off everything store coupon and my loyalty card. If I am figuring this correctly, I can get 4 tubes of toothpaste, an eye shadow, men’s body wash and deodorant, and disposable razors for about $3.75. I am definitely going to stop there on the way to the grocery store!
1:30: OK, well I did not figure it correctly because I guess the 25% off everything coupon does not really apply to everything. And the two for one deal on the toothpaste ended yesterday, but I did get all of the afore mentioned items for just under $10. Not too bad! Next stop…baseball pants.
2:00: Perfect! I was able to get in and out. Both boys will be properly dressed for their game tomorrow and I am on my way to get the juice boxes they need, so they will be all set, and all possibilities of any embarrassing or awkward moments will be eliminated.
2:30: I enter the grocery store and beeline to the juice boxes. I am so proud of myself, and my husband will be too when he sees that I am thoroughly prepared for tomorrow’s game and there won’t have to be any late night convenience store stops. (Which is wonderful, because you have to buy each juice box individually and the mark up is ridiculous!) I recall the items from the grocery list in my mind, and subsequently gather the eggs, milk, and even the pens. I also grabbed a magnetic pad of paper with a pen attached, to keep on the refrigerator for future list making. I walk out feeling proud and accomplished and so free from the anxiety of being unprepared. Wow, this is what it feels like to be “normal.” How nice. I can get used to this.
3:15: I pull into the garage. Home just minutes before the rest of my brood walks in the door. I grab the bags from each of my stops and I’m feeling so organized and uncluttered and accomplished, that I even grab the empty Styrofoam cup that the old me would have just left in the cup holder. I skip in to the house…..and am greeted by the dirty cheer attire on top of the washing machine.
There are many misconceptions about ADHD. Some people believe that it doesn’t exist at all; that it’s just an excuse for lousy parenting or bad behavior. (“If that were my my kid, I would have nipped that behavior in the bud a long time ago”) Right. Some people say that ADHD is just a buzzword given to label all the kids who can’t sit still. Ha! But the one that really gets me riled up is the notion that ADHD is a disorder that primarily affects little boys. If only!
Now, any impairment in neuro-regulation creates major challenges for those who are affected by it, but having this impairment due to a condition that people are skeptical about, can make it damaging as well.
As far as we have come with gender equality, American culture still considers household duties as cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing, to be, ultimately, the woman’s responsibility. We, as a society, still expect that women are just naturally inclined to manage the family flow. Managing the family flow is typically not a strong point for those of us with ADHD.
Cleaning for me means walking from room to room relocating piles of clutter to a new surface. It also means completing about 60% of multiple tasks, creating the illusion that absolutely nothing was accomplished all day.
Preparing dinner causes a pit in my stomach that starts a little after lunch time and slowly builds until I’m forced to make a decision as to what I am going to feed my family that night. So many decisions, where do we start? Tacos are easy…but we always have tacos. Pasta? Oh no, it looks like we are out of pasta. Now what? We’ll just have to get take out. Or starve. Usually this is where my husband takes over and just whips up a delicious meal from the random stuff found in the fridge and pantry. How does he do that?!
Homework, sports, appointments, and activities. Why. Are. There. So. Many. Of. These? When I was in school I had a particularly difficult time meeting deadlines or remembering to come prepared with all of the school supplies, such as a protractor or, you know, the book. Well, take that struggle and multiply it by six and you’ve got my current situation. Not to mention the dogs’ annual (ish) appointments and updates. It’s usually around the time I get my third reminder mailer that I decide it’s probably time to get those dental exams knocked out. Except…did I just make our appointments for the same day as the gymnastics winter program? Remind to reschedule those please.
Why oh why did someone decide that those responsibilities should fall on the woman? Fortunately, our household does not subscribe to the traditional gender roles, but man, does my husband get a ton of street cred for that! Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy dearly, but when people hear that he is the one who (mostly) does the grocery shopping and cooking for the family, I am inevitably told how lucky I am.
Lucky. Because my husband contributes to the needs of our family. I work full time and take online grad school classes. I take care of the finances. I am the one who knows the names of the kids teachers and doctors and what size shoes and clothing they are currently in. I do the Christmas shopping and wrapping. I help with the school parties, the invitations and the thank you notes. I wash, dry, fold, and put away the never ending piles of clothes, towels, and bedding of 6 humans pretty much constantly. But he takes the kids to the grocery store and people are falling over themselves to gush about what an amazing dad he is. And don’t even get me started on the reaction he gets if anyone sees him putting our daughters hair in a ponytail.
We work well together and we have a system that allows us to keep our head above water in this crazy, busy, beautiful life that we’ve created, but I can’t help the creeping feelings of inadequacy when I hear over and over again just how lucky I am to be married to such an amazing man. Trust me, I do realize what an incredible, kind, talented, hard-working man he is, but it’s not because he can make a great dinner or a ponytail.
If I were to go away for a weekend, leaving my husband home with the kids, and things at home got a little chaotic and some of the chores went unfinished (or unstarted) you better believe that he’d have the support of the entire neighborhood to help him out, seeing that he was left to fend for himself. But if my husband were to leave for the weekend and the house fell apart in his absence – well then – I’m falling short of my womanly duties.
I have learned that we can’t change society’s expectations of women and mothers overnight (working on it though) but we can change our own expectations of ourselves. We can learn to not be so hard ourselves. We can learn to create a system that works for our family’s individual needs. We can recognize and embrace our strengths and once we are able to accept ourselves for who we are and to love ourselves anyways, it becomes much easier to not really care about – or even notice- what other people think of us. Remember the wise words of the brilliant Dr. Seuss who said, ‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.’
One of the most challenging symptoms of ADHD is emotional dysregulation. When multiple family members suffer from ADHD, it can make for a pretty chaotic household, overwhelmed by the frequent impulsive episodes of emotional extremism.
Parenting is hard enough as it is. Even with the most easy going, even-tempered kids, it is not always easy to determine when being protective or nurturing blurs into overbearing and enabling.
Being a parent with ADHD, to a child with ADHD, seems to create additional obstacles in distinguishing between what is helpful and what is harmful. First of all there is my own emotional impulsivity. I have learned that my initial “instinct” is often clouded by the flood of adrenaline and cortisol, and it has taken me a good portion of my life to learn how to control my response to these emotions – but throw in an equally emotionally impulsive person, specifically a person who had not yet learned the tools to emit an appropriate response to their emotions, and things can get ugly. Things can get so heated that my “instinct” may be telling me to throw said person out the window.
I often look to the internet “professionals” for advice. Parenting websites seem to echo the suggestion to “go with your gut” or “follow your heart.” Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of being in tune to the unique needs of each child as an individual, but after many many years of learning ways to use experience and logic guide my choices.
My son came home from school the other day and while we unpacked his backpack I noticed that he had not eaten any of his lunch. When I asked him about it he looked upset, like he thought he was getting in trouble and he told me that he forgot to put his lunch in the bin before recess. I know that this has happened in the past because his teacher sends home a daily report and whenever he has forgotten to put his lunch in the bin, he gets an X, which in his eight-year-old mind, means getting docked for bad behavior. So on this day, rather than telling the lunch aide that he forgot his lunch again, he would rather go without.
Well at that moment my heart wanted me to call that teacher and give her a piece of my mind. We just talked about his struggles at the last conference – and she seemed to have an understanding of ADHD, so why is she still using these negative disciplinary practices? I considered picking him up at lunchtime every day so we can have lunch together, just the two of us, and no fear of getting X’s or going hungry. However, after some thought, I realized that the world isn’t always going to change the rules for my son just because his brain works differently. I tell him that while I hope that he continues to try to remember to put his lunch in the bin every day, I understand full well that we can easily forget things sometimes when our brains have so much to think about all. the. time. and that I would rather have him get an X than not eat.
Another time he was outside playing with the neighborhood kids and he felt that one of the boys “cheated” at baseball. Now I didn’t see an Apple Watch, so I’m not sure if my son suspected that little six-year-old Tommy was a juicer, but in any case, he got angry and pushed him to the ground. I happened to see it happen, so I grabbed him and brought him in the house and told him that it was not ok to hurt his friends and that he was done playing outside for the rest of the afternoon.
He sat by the window and watched his friends playing without him as tears ran down his face. His remorse was evident and he asked no one in particular, why he could not “just be a good boy.” My heart was telling me to let him go back outside and enjoy being a kid in the summer, but I knew that it was best to remove him from the situation and that he needed to understand that hurting someone out of anger was never acceptable and that we might take this opportunity to discuss different ways to respond when we are upset about losing a game.
When I drop him off at school every morning, I watch him clumsily jump out of my car, usually with his backpack open and the contents all but falling out. Often his shoelaces are untied and sometimes he forgets his jacket. I want so badly to follow my heart. I want to follow it right into that classroom, wrap my arms around it, and keep it safe by my chest where it will be protected from all of the very big and very overwhelming challenges that come with having ADHD. But instead I watch him walk in and hope that he realizes how very, very much he is loved.
I am not inconsiderate. ?Although, I can see how it may appear that way. I am late, (a lot) I interrupt, (working on it, I swear) I forget important dates, events, names……(but I know that I like you!) Just writing this makes ME?mad at me! But the definition of inconsiderate is literally “done thoughtlessly.” My problem is quite the opposite. There are just. so. many. thoughts. I get trapped in my own head and it becomes impossible to put myself outside of time. I am somehow always surprised when I look at the clock and realize that I am running late, which then flips my switch to frantic mode, and then I run from room to room trying to figure out which steps I need to take and in which order, to get myself out the door. I spin through the house like a tornado, tearing the whole place apart looking for my keys or my other shoe, while panicking over the thought of being a giant, chronic, living, disappointment. While you are sitting there, checking your watch, tapping your foot, and cursing my name, I am sweating profusely, racing for the train…….and also cursing my name.
I really do want to hear what you have to say. ?I know that you are talking to me, and I know that it is important to you, and I desperately?want to be able to hang on to your every word…..but there is another conversation going on between the couple three tables over, and I don’t see one, but I most certainly hear a baby crying somewhere around here. And that phone just won’t stop ringing! I swear that I just absorb the energy within my environment and it can get really overwhelming sometimes. I like to compare it to listening to multiple different radio stations at once at a high decibel, while trying to learn the lyrics to one song. Not easy.
ADHD is real. ?Unfortunately. ?What I wouldn’t give to have the ability to “just choose” to be organized. Or punctual. Or prepared. I understand the skepticism, though. Even I had a hard time believing my diagnosis. All I ever heard, growing up, was how easy it is to “just remember” to turn the lights off, or bring my books to class, or pay attention. After so many times of failing to perform such basic tasks, starts to take a toll on a person. I didn’t believe it had anything to do with a neurological dysregulation; I figured that I pretty much just sucked at life. The more I started to read about ADHD however, the more I was blown away by how much I could identify with every single symptom of the disorder. Learning that there were ways to treat and manage my symptoms was a huge relief, and with some help and practice, I was able to just that.
But it’s not an excuse.? ADHD has given me an explanation for a lot of the challenges I’ve dealt with all my life. Understanding the neurobiological basis for ADHD has helped to alleviate some of the feelings of inadequacy and inferiority I’d been living with, and has helped me to take control of my life and my future. I’ve learned not to be so hard on myself and to let go of some of the unrealistic expectations I had of myself. I’ve learned to discover and harness some amazing qualities, and I am continually finding new ways to manage the qualities that are not-so-amazing. I am an eternal work-in-progress, and it delights me to feel that I am always becoming a better version of me.
I value my relationships. ?I may never answer my phone, rarely answer my texts, and flake on important dates, like, oh I don’t know…..your birthday, but its not because I don’t love you. Trust me, I do. And if you catch me on a night that I don’t end up cancelling plans at the last minute, you can bet the farm that we’ll have a BLAST! I’ll never want to leave and you’ll have to drag me out of whatever establishment we happened to wander into. Then I may just fall of the face of the earth again after that. But believe me when I say that if you were ever going through a difficult time, or needed help in some way, I would drop everything I was doing and do everything in my ability to make things easier for you. Because you know…..that’s what friends are for!