Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stepmothering your baggage away...

...my ADHD stepdaughter and I survived homework together this evening. It was a fruitful, productive chunk of time spent.

It was extra challenging today because she was very tired, and it was later than usual for homework. It was also a rather disrupted day: Sonny did something random and awful to his back and is basically immobile, so I did all of the parenting duties solo today for the most part. The kids seemed to enjoy it, but any change of routine is a little jarring for wee ones.

And...and...she's in the third grade. Most of it was math homework. I remember third grade...the year I went to the nice math tutor, because math was very hard for me and it made me feel very embarrassed. One day I punched a boy in class because he starting yelling in front of the whole class that I had only finished two of my math problems, when everyone else was finished. My teacher did NOT punish me for this, other than confirming that it was not a great choice...HE got punished for being a snitch.

The math tutor had suspenders and looked like a grampy. We kids all liked him, and the kids who didn't need a tutor were a little jealous of those of us who did, who got to spend time with this nice man. I still have a hard time with the math that challenged me then. I had a really nice teacher that year too, who would come to my desk to help me refocus, but couldn't seem to pinpoint why I was totally unable to focus on my work. She guessed that I might just be a bright student who was bored. Close...that was part of the problem!

The homework this evening involved story problems, which were the ultimate in terrifying for me, so much so that they still burden me with the same terror. And...they weren't just any story problems, they were "Guess and Check" problems. An exercise that, to me, is simply child torture. Fuck that, it's ME torture.

But...I had to be the bigger person here, so we stuck with it, came up with a system...and I worked to help her focus.

Here's what worked really well...reviewing clear steps for each problem and using the same steps from problem to problem. Making her a special seltzer drink to perk things up. Being really patient, because her ADHD brain was REALLY tired. Lots of encouragement was good. But I think the best tactic of all was rotating through assignments to keep her interest rolling. We would do a chunk of one assignment, get to a logical stopping point, and then switch, until we finished. Yes, children with ADHD should be encouraged to push themselves, so they can learn what they are capable of...but not after a terribly long day, when they have an exhausted brain. We just needed to get through this pile of homework before bedtime, and we succeeded.

I was not able to completely extinguish my own math terror, but I think I did a good job of hiding it. Feeling it again after so many years was fairly surprising and unwelcome!

Monday, November 8, 2010

...off the friggin' wagon...

Damn, here we go again. I suddenly realized this morning that I was right back to where I've been so many times before.

Years of book-learnin', lots of therapy, and a wee bit of medication still can't save you from that occasional moment of ADHD WTF.

Yes, that's right, ADHD WTF. Someone close to you, maybe even you, may be experiencing it right now, but don't worry, there's help!

Just kidding, there's not...at least nothing permanent. But I guess that's okay.

ADHD WTF: it's that moment when you look around, and while you have no idea how it happened, it looks like your ADHD house of cards has collapsed, again, and you don't know why. For me, it often looks like this...the garbage on the right hand passenger floor of my car is about two feet high and I have no idea what's in the pile. The back seat and trunk are filled with the remnants of the last project I forgot to unload. There's a bag of dog treats and some used tissues on the dashboard. In the house, I'm about 6 LARGE loads of laundry behind and the baskets are overflowing onto the floor. I just noticed about 4 piles of unidentified slips of paper of varying colors that must have come out of my purse. Speaking of my purse, I've switched purses because a couple of days ago I realized that one was too messy and I couldn't deal, so...on to the green purse. I feel like I keep cleaning but the house looks like a tornado hit (the children and animals do NOT help alleviate this sensation). There's a sleeping bag in the middle of the floor of the bedroom and I've stepped over it several times now. The sewing and music room exploded somehow...then Sonny cleaned it just enough to fit two racks of laundry in there because duh, I am 6 loads behind and the kids needed school clothes. Laundry surrounded by shrapnel.

In the middle of all of this, everyone's fed, clean and basically sane...but this fraying...this fraying must be stopped. The thought of taking action, however, feels overwhelming this week. I'll figure it out. We'll figure it out. We always do, because you see, and this is my point...I'll do this every so often for the rest of my life, and so will Sonny. Sometimes we'll do it at the same time, and sometimes (when the almighty powers are feelings merciful) we will stagger it and do it separately.

Today, this realization, which I've probably had before and have maybe even written about before...it really asskicked me. I will move on and move forward...but I think if we forget to allow ourselves a moment of mourning, when it seems due, the baggage just piles up. Better to feel it now, than let it own me later...I tend to be able to pick up the pieces and move forward more effectively if I just give myself a moment, maybe an evening of "dammit". And maybe a beer.

I am an ADHD American

I actually said this to a potential employer last week. Yes, yes I did. It wasn't a first interview and I know my strengths exist despite my ADHD so...fuckit. I said it. Yes, it was a joke, I wouldn't be able to say that phrase with a straight face. I told them that because I am an ADHD American, I live in fear of the empty inbox.

Incidentally, I got the job.

More on that in later posts, at least to the degree that discretion allows!

It's important for us to choose our moments, and I'm not honestly sure that I'd choose to reveal myself in this situation again if given the chance, but nobody died, and I did get the job so hey...whutevs. I'm me...if nothing else, I'm me. We can do great good in the world by being our true selves.

I have written about this before but it's worth restating...especially when I meet parents of kids with ADHD, I reveal myself.

It is also the case that we can best serve ourselves, only by being our true and real selves, and by being honest with ourselves about what we are dealing with.