Sunday, January 1, 2012

Resolutions for an ADHD Mom

NOTE: The term “ADHD Mom” could be taken two ways, meaning either a mom who has ADHD herself or a mom of a child with ADHD. For me, it means the latter, even if there are crazy days when I question my own ability to handle distraction.

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. 
I think some of my worst moments come when I don’t prepare, when I don’t consider how a situation will affect Dylan. What’s worse is that I know better.
Years before Dylan was ever diagnosed, when he was 3 years old, we took him to see Santa. It was actually his second visit to the big man, the first coming when he was about 10 months old and was the friendliest, happiest baby on the planet. The picture from that first visit shows a happy if slightly wary little guy thrilled with being the center of attention. What we didn’t know was that he was coming down with a whopper of an illness and surely was already feeling the effects. You can’t tell from the picture, nor could you from his smiles and giggles that day, which would become typical for him.
His dad and grandma tried to take him again when he was two, but he was not having it. He was not going to sit on the lap of some strange big man in red. No. Sir. Eee.
By three, he was a definite little boy. We staying in Atlanta, recovering from Katrina, and longing to return to New Orleans, but happy to celebrate Christmas in a big city for a change. And visiting Santa for a (finally!) talkative boy was definitely a part of the plans.
His eager smiles for everyone had turned into a definite shyness around strangers. We wondered how we could pull off the Santa visit. Preparation was the key. For weeks, we talked to him about what would happen. We described how there would be a line, that there would be other children – some happy and some not so happy – who would also be waiting to meet Santa. We talked about how Santa would be sitting in a big chair and we looked at pictures of Santa, dressed in his big red suit with his fluffy white beard. We read The Night Before Christmas. We told him how, when it was his turn, he would walk up to Santa and Santa would put him on his knee, and that mommy would not be right there. Mommy would be nearby and he could see her, but she would not be next to him.
We asked Dylan what he wanted for Christmas that year. In our house, the rule is that Santa only lets you ask for three things. Sometimes he brings you more, but you can only ask for three things. I’m ashamed to admit that I only remember two of the things he asked for that year: a microphone and a dump truck. We coached him often on what do you say when Santa asks what you want for Christmas, and he got very familiar with repeating his three items.
Finally, the day arrived. We loaded up the family and drove out to the Peachtree Mall where they have a very convincing Santa (with a real beard and a majestic red suit). There was a line, although not too big, and it looped around behind Santa’s chair alongside a gigantic Christmas tree. Dylan’s eyes were big. We wondered: will he do it? We continued coaching in line. What’s going to happen when it’s your turn? (I’ll walk up to Santa and mommy will stand off to the side.) What will Santa do? (He’ll pick me up onto his lap.) What do you tell him you want for Christmas? (A microphone, a dump truck, and that third item.)
Before we knew it, Dylan was next in line. And despite the fact that he was the kind of kid to hide behind mommy’s skirt, he walked right up to the big man in red, shook his hand, and got up on his lap. On cue, he told Santa what he wanted for Christmas. The photographer snapped a photo (we had prepared him for that, too) and he stepped down with a huge grin on his face!
Preparation worked impeccably well then, and still does today, at least when I have the foresight to think about it!
  2.   Let Go of Guilt

Dylan’s grades for fourth grade have not been stellar and I hold a ton of guilt over that. I don’t come by the guilt naturally (or at least not completely naturally). His school and many of his teachers have helped to add considerably to this pile of guilt. And in 2012 that will end.
I do what I can. I help with homework. I encourage good grades. I try to instill a good work ethic. But I am not his teacher. Yes, yes, every parent is a teacher. But I send him to school to learn the math, and science, and social studies. I can provide back-up, but for the primary task of teaching these subjects I have empowered professionals to do this. And I won’t blame myself for bad grades any longer.

RockStar and I already have plans to visit school the first week back and talk about Dylan's progress, or lack thereof. I will not entertain guilt about homework not done or how long it takes for him to write a paragraph. We do homework in the evening but I won't let him sacrifice sleep for the sake of a few more problems, especially when the medication has worn off by then. The teachers get him at his best and education is not about studying and working non-stop, even if (especially if!) you have learning challenges.  If I can see that he is trying and wants to learn but he is still testing poorly, then someone with an education degree needs to help us figure out why.  While I don't agree with all of the high-stakes testing we have now, the fact is that we live in the era of No Child Left Behind and my child will not be left behind.
3. Find Personal Time
I will admit, I’ve been having a hard time lately. One could even say that I have been depressed. There are a lot of reasons for this and as an ADHD mom, I’m certainly not alone, but one of the big reasons is a lack of quality “me time. My personal time is the very first thing to go on the schedule. Not RockStar’s gigs, not Dylan’s Kung Fu, not Saints Games or Scout meetings. That has to change in 2012.
It’s well known that if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy and that, I think, has been very true for us. I need to recharge. I need to spend time on things that are important only to me. No one else is going to do it for me.

4.        4.  Schedule More Family Meetings

In our house, we are famous for planning to have family meetings that never happen. We need to have them, we need to get on the same page, and we need to stick by our decisions. RockStar and I need to plan our time (see item #3), and we need to figure out together how best to handle Dylan’s challenges (see item #2). Dylan needs a plan (see item #1) so that rules aren’t thrown out on the fly, never to be followed. 

5.        5. Live More Spontaneously

It almost seems contradictory. Almost everything above has been about planning, and now I’m saying we need to be more spontaneous. I don’t think the two need to be mutually exclusive., however. Yes, we need to plan more, prepare more, have guidelines for all of us to live by. But I also think we are so focused on dealing with ADHD and dealing with modern American life that we miss out on the spontaneous moments. So often, Dylan says “can we…” and I say no because we are scheduled to do this or that, or because we need to do this other thing. We all need to enjoy more unscheduled moments. Walking the dog on the spur of the moment. Going to look at Christmas lights when we were going to cook dinner. Choosing to go see a movie instead of going to a sugar- and cake-fueled birthday party. Whatever it is, we need to allow more room for unstructured happenings. Not everything has to happen according to plan.

This list is certainly not all inclusive, but it’s a good start – a good list of broad goals to help us manage our family and help me manage me!


  1. I read that white noise (vacuum cleaner running type of loud white noise) works as well as ADHD medicine. Maybe that would work in the evenings when the drugs wear off just to finish the homework.

    Also, I heard Dr. Hallowell (a local ADHD expert who has ADHD himself) suggest a shot of coca cola with homework for ADHD to concentrate. The caffeine in it helps, I have heard.


  2. WOW....I could so have written this! I have a son with ADHD & is Bipolar as well...hubby is ADHD and daughter has learning home is run by chaos. I am looking to connect with other "mom bloggers" who have similar issues...please come visit me at I look forward to following you more!!

    1. Thanks, Jo Jo, I will gladly follow you, too!