It’s not that I don’t know better. I know I should plan ahead so I don’t stay up late getting myself together the night before a really early flight or appointment. Its’ just that I don’t always DO what I KNOW I should DO! That’s the dilemma of ADD/ADHD.
Let me tell you, it can be darn frustrating! I dream of well structured evenings with dinner on the table by 6:30, collaboratively cleaned up by all (with good humor, no less) by 7:20, leisure time with my kids checking in on items that need our attention, relaxing with my spouse, conversing about our lives and the news of the day, retiring at 10 and getting to sleep at a reasonable hour.
If only it was that easy!
My brain is chocked-full of a gazillion thoughts pressing for my attention. There is always more to “do” or attend to than time allows. If I had 28 hours in a day, it would be no different – I’d fill them up, too. I have an active mind, an active life, and an ever-changing list of things I want to do in addition to those things I have to do.
What I’m describing is likely how your ADHD kids — especially teenagers — feel. They KNOW what you expect of them (at least, a lot of it). They just don’t know exactly how to make it happen. AND, even when they do know the steps, they may still lack the execution skills (or the clear motivation) to actually bring it home for you.
I know I get disapproving looks from certain family and friends (who shall remain nameless, because deep down they do not mean to be judgmental). The tsk tsks behind my back, the shaken heads, all signs of minds that do not truly understand what it’s like to live in the somewhat chaotic though definitely stimulating, creative brain of the ADHD mind.
Frankly, sometimes I make Diane absolutely crazy!
I do the best I can with what I have to work with, and for the most part, I do pretty well. But I also fall short a lot. I could make myself crazy, trying to fulfill rigid expectations that don’t come naturally, and then criticizing myself everytime I miss them.
Or, I can try hard to stay focused on what I think is important, accept that I’m not likely to be an A+ student in running my life by traditional standards, and practice self-forgiveness.
At ImpactADHD, some of our parents desperately want their kids to adhere to rigid structure. It’s a huge value – and I respect that it’s important to them. They’ll serve their kids well by teaching them to embrace structure!
There is a potential risk, though. The risk that our kids lose their sense of self and self-esteem in the structure. We need to assure they still have permission to be themselves. It’s possible that their system of ‘organization,’ one that may appear chaotic to the more structured mind, is what they need to get them where they are headed in life.
Where is the happy median?
I recently attended training on organizational styles with Susan Baum, an international leader in Twice Exceptional Education and a Principal founder at the International Center for Talent Development. She taught about four primary styles of organization, debunking the myth that messy is the same as disorganized. For example, “stacking” is actually an organizational technique used by “Creative Problem Solvers,” very common among those with ADHD. I had to smile when she quoted research that a messy desk is actually a strong indicator of great career potential.
I left her lecture with clarity: I’m pretty well-organized, just not all that structured.
Does that mean I shouldn’t add structures to help me be successful? Of course not. But I need to create structures that work for me, that take into account how my mind naturally works. I never seem to be successful when I try to force myself to fit into a structure that feels uncomfortable.
So ADHD poses a serious dilemma. I know what I SHOULD do to structure myself into a better life, but I don’t always DO what I ‘should.’ I guess, to be honest, I’m choosing something else that I value even more. I’m choosing to love and accept myself for who I am, even if it means I might not operate at peak efficiency. Such is my life, and I’m (finally) getting to be okay with it.
For the record, last week I got all of my stuff done, hit a last minute deadline that was thrown at me on Friday afternoon, and managed to get in bed by midnight the night before an early flight. Kudos to me! I’ll celebrate that small victory, and focus on the success, not the failure.
To those of you who were nestled into bed at 10, who might be tempted to tsk tsk my lack of discipline, I hope you’ll consider this: I do not have your orderly, highly-structured, efficient brain capability. That’s just not the cards I was dealt. But I like my creative, playful, flexible, casual alternative brain, and I think I’ll keep it!
Elaine Taylor-Klaus and Diane Dempster, founders of ImpactADHD.com, teach/write about practical strategies to parents of “complex” kids with ADHD and related challenges. To help your kids find the motivation to get anything done, download their free parent’s guide, The Parent’s Guide to Motivating Your Complex Child.
This article was originally published at ImpactADHD. Reprinted with permission from the author.