I always suspected I was weird but kept it quiet and hoped no one else would notice.
Ten years ago, my mom suggested I might have Attention Deficit Disorder. I read a seminal self-help book and agreed that I did.
Then, a few weeks later, I decided I didn’t. There was no way I would let pathology excuse my character deficits or allow me to pretend I was somehow unique or special. I wasn’t good enough to have ADD. I just needed to try harder.
And then I proceeded to carry on in the same never-ending, self-defeating cycle of searching for the cure to being me.
The possibility lingered somewhere in the back of my mind for quite some time, but I beat it into submission. Until it fought back with a force I could not deny. My ADD decided it would not be pushed away. It pushed me back.
So I revisited this notion that my “character deficits” may be, just maybe, connected to my attention deficits. My second child was nearing his first birthday, and I realized that the adjustment from one to two kids was taking me an exceedingly long time. It was probably made harder by the fact that being a parent the first time around came surprisingly easy to me. And because there were only 18 months between them.
As my son grew out of infancy and into toddlerhood it became clear that an 18 year gap wouldn’t have made a difference. I could not cope well with having my attention split between two beings I loved so passionately and so equally. And while I could just about manage myself and a child, I was not built to manage a family.
Or so I thought.
I searched, internally and outwardly, for the answers to my problems. If I could just figure out…
– the “secret” to parenting
– the key to guiding their behaviour consistently
– the trick to keeping a house clean (or getting it clean in the first place), stocking a refrigerator, having the kids fed when they are hungry instead of an hour later, getting somewhere on time, not forgetting appointments, not forgetting necessary baby items on outings, getting out of the house at all, getting done what I’d said I get done, remembering in the first place that I’d said I’d do something, listening to what the kids were saying or just listening to anyone period …
… then I could figure out how to be a proper parent.
I knew other mothers were privy to this secret, but there was no way of asking them without incriminating myself as incompetent.
The fact is, in the realm of mature and responsible adults, I had always been a con artist. Having kids just shone a spotlight on me. I was a replication artist – I could make life look sort of like the real thing from a distance, but up close and personal it become obvious I scribbling outside the lines.
I researched and read what I could about every single dilemma I was faced with. I developed system after system to fix each of my issues. I devised schedules for laundry and cleaning, pre-printed grocery lists to track needed inventory. I pasted pictures of silly faces and soothing quotes around the house, reminding me to be mindful, to stay calm, to think clearly, and most of all – lighten up.
I kept a large white board on the kitchen wall inked with all my commitments, and a note pasted to my tea kettle reminding me to look at said white board. I even wrote a list of every single activity that I could do with the kids – at home or at large – when we were bored, so that I didn`t have to think on the spot. Listlessness (the state of being listless without a list) is my biggest barrier to planning. Being bored doing nothing is favourable to being bored doing something that requires effort.
Not surprising then that I was bored a lot.
And none of those systems got implemented for more than a day. Maybe the tea-kettle-post-it-note should have been pink instead of yellow? Back to the drawing board (aka rumination) I went, again trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
Aha, I figured it out! It wasn’t that I was an inadequate mom; I was just an incompetent person. At day to day stuff anyway. Real life stuff. I’m pretty good at crisis and adventure, not so good at crying kids and afternoon naps.
No matter what the issue was, I was central to it. Everything was down to me, my fault. If I could fix me, I could fix everything.
It was kind of narcissistic, don’t you think?
I have been doing this dance for my entire life, as long as I can remember: the “what’s-really-wrong-with-me-and-how-can-I-fix-it” waltz. Maybe this sounds familiar to you?
Until ADD beat me into submission. It wouldn’t be ignored any longer.
I finally learned about ADD – the one possibility I’d never allowed myself to entertain because of an ego that told me ADD would take away my control in the matter. ADD wasn’t my fault. My ego wanted it to be my fault so that I could fix it.
All these years of trying to fix myself, I had actually been reading the wrong user’s manual. That’s what learning about ADD showed me. I had been trying to operate a Mac with a PC handbook or navigate New York with a city map of London.
What a waste of time!
I’d lost years of my life trying to fix the glitch in my matrix, never realizing I was working with the wrong code. That was the dawn of my “awakening”. Giving up control gave me the power to do something real about the challenges I face every day.
I got a new manual. The manual tells me how to work with my brain instead of against it. Interestingly, it doesn’t tell me how to be a domestic goddess, but it does tell me that I wasn’t built for that role in the first place. There are other ways to be a good mom.
My new manual reminds me that a Mac isn’t best used for spreadsheets but it does excel in other applications. In future blog posts I will reveal the “secrets” from my “manual” in hopes that it will help you gain greater clarity around your abilities and talents.
However, my manual is only an adjunct to the manual you must write for your own life. If you haven’t got around to it yet, quit wasting time and get writing it! And I hope you will share your wisdom …