My mom recently posted this picture on Facebook:
I have been thinking about that little upside down hanging girl ever since I first saw her. I totally get her. She looks like she’s having fun, right? I mean, what’s not fun about hanging upside down and swinging like a monkey? That’s a good time.
I’ll tell you what’s not fun about it. What’s NOT fun are those four little punks standing next to her. What a bunch of goody two shoes. They’re paying attention to the teacher and are going to know exactly where to put their arms and feet at the dance recital. They’re going to make poor little monkey girl look bad; she’s going to just have to stand there and wave at Grandma to try to distract folks from realizing she doesn’t have a single idea what she is supposed to be doing. You know how I know that’s going to happen to her? Because I AM her.
On one of our many, many trips to the Doctor over the years, I remember a conversation with a Pediatric Neurologist. I would guess that about 95% of the Doctors we have spoken to in search for Eddie’s cure have been really terrific. Just the tiniest portion of them, in my opinion, have needed a gentle throat punch. This Neurologist was one of them. She was crabby and condescending. I knew right away that I wasn’t going to be her fan. One reason I knew that was because she told me that I probably had ADD.
Really? You’re going to have a 15 minute conversation with me and tell me I have ADD? I told her that I was pretty sure she had Rheumatoid Arthritis. Just based on my initial tests, which I gave her magically, with my brainwaves. You can’t diagnose someone with ADD without some kind of official test, right? I didn’t think so.
But, do you remember that I’m a bit of a hypochondriac too? I couldn’t just let her suggestion sit there without pulling out all my medical journals and taking all the on line tests to figure it out for myself. Here’s what I learned. I am on the ADD spectrum. Here’s how I feel about that. A lot of other people are too.
I think many of the people I know have some ADD and OCD tendencies. I know that ADD and OCD can become debilitating, but for a lot of people (like me) it’s just a nuisance, and something you have to try to manage. And, I guess, sometimes, in a weird way, those gene mutations (that’s the scientific explanation that I made up) can occasionally help you succeed as well.
After my conversation with the Neurologist, I started figuring a lot of things out. Do you realize how useful this ADD knowledge would have been to me when I was younger? I drove my parents crazy. I was a disaster. And now I KNOW that is because I have a MEDICAL CONDITION!!!! A medical condition, people! How are you supposed to get your homework done, keep your room clean and remember to go to piano lessons with a medical condition? Now I have proof that all that stuff wasn’t my fault. My parents were just being cruel to me and my medical condition.
I remember many times being the only one in my grade school class to forget to return important papers. I also have some vague memories of teachers making a fuss over me in first grade. I was given some special testing, and there was some talk about moving me ahead a grade. Then they spent more time with me. They changed their minds. They decided reading well wouldn’t help me in the next grade if I couldn’t actually remember to do my work or bring my backpack to school.
I also remember when I graduated from high school, I came home from the graduation ceremony in my cap and gown. I was so excited! I pulled in to the drive way and my dad came out of the house and said, “Go back to school. You have to return your cap and gown. You were the only one in the class who didn’t understand that is what you’re supposed to do.”
That stuff didn’t bother me at all. It happened all the time. It was part of living with my brain. I almost always didn’t hear instructions, because I almost always was hanging upside down, thinking about something else when the instructions were being given.
I started thinking about my life as a young mother too. When my children were pre schoolers, I would meet my friends with our children at McDonalds every Wednesday morning. One morning, our 3-year-old little girls were up in the slide for quite a while. They were especially quiet. When they came down, all of them had lipstick on their lips, cheeks and faces. Olivia had given them makeovers.
One of my friends was a super mom and drill sergeant. She was mad. Her girls NEVER played with make up. She wanted an explanation from me. I said, “I’m sorry. Olivia really likes lipstick. I gave her mine this morning.”
She said, “Did it ever occur to you that just because your kids want to do something, doesn’t mean they always can?”
I said, “No. That hardly ever occurs to me. But, I’m going to try harder.”
My ADD tendencies have certainly affected my parenting. It’s soooo hard to keep track of other people, when you can’t keep track of yourself. I mostly think kids are awesome, funny and clever. I’m very weak at discipline. It’s tedious.
I recently ran into another mom from my children’s preschool days. We lived in another town then. We were laughing and catching up. She said, “I was just talking to some of our other friends the other day. We were wondering how you are surviving without us to manage your calendar.”
I told her, “Not very well, at first.” It did take me a while to adjust when I moved away from those ladies. They would just tell me where to be and when to be there; story time tomorrow at 10:00; park at 3:00 this afternoon; Karen’s house for lunch. I think it’s called enabling. I love enablers.
When I started thinking about having ADD, I started feeling sorry for Scott. What kind of a joke is it, to have someone with ADD tendencies paired up with someone with OCD tendencies? Maybe it happens a lot, because you’re attracted to people who have strengths where you are deficient. I like that theory.
Scott and I had some decent challenges in our first 5 years of marriage. Now I know why. He wasn’t fond of the way I started sentences and didn’t finish them when I became distracted with my own thoughts. Or, I would start with one thought, and then abruptly move to another. Sometimes I would start in the middle of a thought. I’d say something like, “…he isn’t going to need the car on Friday.”
He’d say, “What is that supposed to mean? Who’s he? What car?”
It’s always the third degree with him. He likes information, and he wants to know the details. Every painful, boring, mind numbing detail. I hate details.
I was always thinking, “Jeez, do I have to spell it out? Can’t you just figure out what I mean, without me having to say it?”
He can’t. It doesn’t work. I have learned that you actually have to say the words that you mean for people to hear. It’s super annoying.
It was kind of nice to figure out why my brain has been sort of fogged over my whole life. It also made me feel badly. I don’t like having malfunctioning parts, especially if I have passed them down to any of my children, and I have…to at least one.
I knew there had to be something positive in this new information. There is. You know those drill sergeant, super moms? They’re not very flexible. I’ve been on committees with moms like that. They’re good. They’re really, really good. They are organized. They follow through. They are reliable, but they find compromising to be more difficult. They have a hard time switching gears. I don’t.
Oh, you want to change the color of the decorations? Sounds good to me. What’s that you say? You want to have the event on a different day? Sounds good to me. Oh, you don’t like the venue. You have a better idea? Sounds good to me.
I’ve been in the middle of conversations where more than one woman is trying to enforce her agenda, because she’s really attached to it. I pretend to get what all the fuss is about, but I really don’t. Because it all sounds good to me.
Let’s also not forget that a person with ADD has the ability to hyperfocus. When you want to accomplish something at warp speed, get someone with ADD to get excited and engaged about your idea. A lot of folks with ADD do not know how to pace themselves when they’re excited or engaged. They will get something done in a fraction of the time it would take a normal person to do the same thing. What is strange to me, is that Scott actually told me that I had this trait many years before I read about it in a book, or knew it was related to my “Medical Condition”! Oh, you know I love a good medical condition.
The other positive is thinking about how I have developed strategies for coping over the years. I wish I could have learned some management techniques 35 years ago. I didn’t. I had to figure things out on my own.
One of my best strategies is right in that picture up above. It’s those four little girls who are NOT hanging from the bar. See how they’re all looking at the teacher? They are listening and learning what they’re supposed to be doing.
I was just kidding when I called those cute little girls punks. They’re actually super sweet, and they’re going to save their upside down friend’s butt…again. They’re going to whisper in her ear at the recital and tell her when she needs to run out on stage, when she needs to point her toes and when she need needs take a bow. They are so nice to her.
Plus, that little upside down girl is going to be watching her four friends. She sees how nicely they act. She likes the way they take care of their things and do things in a nice, logical order. She knows her brain doesn’t want to do things the way they do, but she is smart. She can watch them, and copy them. When she does copy them, she realizes their orderly ways are good. She likes order; it helps her relax.
So, thank you to all my sisters and friends for paying attention while I was upside down. You didn’t even know how much you were helping me, but you were. Who needs medication, when they have sisters and friends like you? Because I really think I have ADD do you like my sweater?