I frequently find myself going through parenting articles and blogs, trying to figure out how to do all these things that contribute to your kids eventually becoming responsible, routine keeping adults. There is SO MUCH great advice out there, but it gets overwhelming. Not the amount of advice, that’s not overwhelming. It’s the actual advice itself. Why?
As a mom who has ADHD, I struggle with every aspect of being a typical parent. I ended up with the “inattentive” type, which medication does help with. However, medication alone doesn’t fix every aspect of the daily struggles a parent with ADHD has to deal with (well…I guess “avoid” is more appropriate here). This type of ADHD is one that is unlikely to be diagnosed in girls early in life, as we tend to fly under the radar. We make our way into adulthood riding the average train, mostly staying out of trouble until actual adult responsibilities start to slip through the cracks.
Let’s briefly go over one of the most debilitating ADHD symptoms in an adult, specifically in women.
Your executive functions are what allow you to do everything during your day. Get out of bed. Brush your teeth. Take a shower. Get dressed. Make coffee. Go to work (or be a parent). Do your job. Everything.
Each task, from the moment you wake up until your head hits the pillow, requires executive functioning. Your brain will analyze the task, organize the steps needed to complete the task, create a timeline for the steps, and then carry out those steps until the task is complete. The step planning and initiation happens in a matter of seconds. For someone with executive dysfunction, the process is simply not there. If your brain is not allowing you to even analyze a task, you’ll be unable to plan the steps and follow through to completion. This plays a major roll in time management.
We’re time blind. One minute, we pick up our phones and start scrolling through Facebook. Suddenly, we look at a clock and two hours has passed. It’s not just with social media, though. It can be anything our brains have decided to hyperfocus on. Painting. Cleaning. Designing. Anything, really. Which, in turn, makes it extremely hard to use our time wisely.
Being time blind makes it difficult to accurately determine how much ACTUAL time it will take to do anything, which will cause us to overpack our schedules until we are so overwhelmed that we just shut down and become unable to follow through with promises that we so wanted to keep. Maybe if we were just more organized…
We’ve all heard it. A tidy house makes for a tidy mind. Or is it “A clear space…” Either way, it’s probably true. Except keeping an organized and neat house requires a working executive function, and we’ve already established us ADHD folks just don’t have it.
How does this all tie into being a parent?
Well, it doesn’t. It’s actually fused right into it from the very beginning. As soon as you take that very first pregnancy test, executive functioning is everything. I have five kids. How is it possible that I’ve been able to raise them up to this point with a brain that doesn’t have the ability to affectively “adult?” The truth is that I never got off that average train that has been carrying me under the radar my entire life.
Most parents are planning the milestones their kids need to hit, making sure they are at a reading level for preschool, teaching them to tie their shoes, ride a bike, swim, potty training. Not me. I’d love to sit here and tell you that I allow my kids to be free spirits, unschooling them and generally allow them to grow at their own pace. Nope. Nothing about my parenting style is intentional. It’s all just the effects of my lack of time management, organization, and overall follow through.
Here are a few embarrassing truths about my kids that ADHD has had a direct impact on:
-NONE of my kids know how to swim. I’ve never taken them to a public pool or any body of water large enough to swim. I’ve researched swim lessons in my area countless times, but never followed through with getting them enrolled.
-My oldest three still don’t know how to tie their own shoes. This is something I actually did attempt to teach them on numerous occasions, but the frustration of them just not being interested or understanding/remembering got the best of me.
-I failed to get my oldest into preschool while he was in the age window. He actually started kindergarten halfway through the school year and ended up having to repeat. Now, him and his sister are in the same grade.
-Although my kids now have a set bedtime, that didn’t start until my oldest two were already almost 4 or 5. Even now, the bedtime routine is scattered and not even so much a routine as it is a thing that vaguely happens every night, with normal bedtime tasks in a randomized order.
-Potty training. My three oldest are all potty trained only because of my mother, Bobbi. She is actually the driving force behind all of my kids hitting their milestones. My second youngest just turned 4 and is still not potty trained. We’ve made attempts. She will sit on the potty, but not until after she already goes in her diaper. Again, the follow through is the issue here.
So there it all is. A tiny snapshot of me attempting to be a parent while also having ADHD. There’s no advice in all of this, just the possibility of solidarity in the struggle. I will, however, be posting more on what NOT to do as a parent.
I will be your walking cautionary tale, if you will. Here’s your very first “don’t do what I did.”
Easter baskets. Every year I put them out while the kids are sleeping. They wake up, find their respective baskets packed with all the chocolate, candy, and garbage toys, and live on the contents of the baskets for the whole day. I eventually find myself cleaning billions of wrappers and smooshed chocolate off the ENTIRE floor. And every year I tell myself that, next year, there will be much less candy and more books, activities, etc. Never actually follow through though…
On the bright side, though, the kid that usually gets sick on candy holidays took the initiative to limit his chocolate intake. I was super impressed! At least one of us has some self-regulation.