KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Livin' La Vida AD/HD

I am an introvert and a homebody, and thus spectacularly suited for self-employment, but there are other reasons—3 of them, to be precise—for my not being gung ho about getting out and about. They are
  • My 46-year-old husband, Ed

  • Our 13-year-old son, Neil

  • Our 6-year-old son, Jared
They all have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), and getting them all out the front door on time for any event takes a herculean effort. By the time we're all on our way somewhere, or some or all of them are on their way somewhere, I'm mentally exhausted and out of sorts. AD/HD is a neurobehavioral disorder that impairs executive function, that part of the brain that keeps a person focused on the right task at the right time. Because I don't have AD/HD, my executive function is fine, so I'm usually the one who keeps everyone on track. I'll go as far as saying that my executive function has been supremely honed by being depended on by several family members.

Yes, I know, they could all take their AD/HD meds earlier in the day so that they could focus better during the getting-ready part of the day, but then the meds would wear off too early, leaving them all unfocused during the critical homework and end-of-the-workday time. Somebody please invent an AD/HD med that provides 24-hour coverage!

And yeah, I do like to be on time, so maybe if I didn't care about lateness, this all wouldn't be as big a deal as it is. But my daughter from my first marriage, Becky, now 25, doesn't have AD/HD, and by the time she was a teenager, she was pretty much getting herself ready each school day. I didn't have to prod her. And ya know, teachers like to start classes on time and bosses expect people to be at work on time, so it's not just me.

My having to herd the guys used to seriously get in the way of our going to church on a regular basis. It's pretty hard to feel spiritual when you've had to cajole, prod, and even yell to get 3 guys' attention multiple times to keep them on track so everybody won't be late. And it's super hard to feel spiritual enough to be helping lead worship as a worship assistant or as a member of the choir after having to do all of that. When the church we went to showed the full extent of its conservative nature (after the very liberal pastor we loved went on to lead another church upstate), we decided that that was no longer the church for us. But for me, the monumental work involved in keeping my guys on track for showing up at church on time had nearly already been enough to make me want to stop going each Sunday morning. And now, it doesn't make me enthusiastic about seeking out a different church to attend. Will the new church have anyone who will come to our house and light firecrackers under my guys' behinds? Probably not.

Here is what a typical school day is like, when Neil's bus arrives in front of our house at about 7:10 a.m. and Jared's arrives at the stop at the end of our block somewhere between 8:45 and 9 a.m., and with Ed (who is self-employed now, just as I am) responsible for getting Jared to his bus stop (because I was responsible during all of those years that Ed worked away from home):
6 a.m.: Ed and I stumble out of bed after our alarm clocks ring. We decide who will be the one to wake up Neil the zombie teen. This morning, it's my turn to do the impossible so that Ed can get some extra sleep. (Yeah, yeah, we should've figured that out last night, but bedtime arguments aren't conducive to romance, doncha know.)

"Neil, wake up." Gentle shaking. "Neil, honey, wake up." Firmer shaking. "Neil, come on. It's a school day. Gotta get up." Shaking and tickling. "Neil!" ... Ten minutes later, I'm pulling the zombie up into a sitting position, I'm tickling him, I'm jiggling him, I'm moving him all over the place.

"Huh ... wha ... ? I'm awake, I'm awake!" And then he flops back down, asleep again.

Repeat for a few more minutes. Finally, my entreaties for him to pick out what he wants for breakfast sort of get through his fog. The boy who for years now hasn't liked eating cold cereal for breakfast finds himself standing in front of the pantry that contains the cereal boxes.

I'm surprised, but I say, "Okay, pick out a cereal, then."

"Cereal?!" he says, indignant. "Why do you want me to pick out cereal?"

"Because you went there as if you wanted cereal."

"I did not! I don't know why I'm here!"

Eventually, he chooses prefab pancakes that have to be heated up in our toaster oven.

6:20 a.m.: I stay with Neil throughout his breakfast to make sure that he stays awake and keeps moving. He's surly through most of the meal because I dared wake him. But toward the end, I get him laughing by making Star Wars jokes. "I bet you'd be wide awake if I put on a Star Wars movie on the TV."

"Well, of course!" he says with a reluctant grin.

"Luke, I am your mother," I say in a Darth Vader voice. "You must eat the incoming pancakes before the compound is overcome!"


"If you do not hurry, we will be overcome by furry Ewoks!"

"Heh, heh." He finishes eating and takes his AD/HD meds and vitamins.

6:40 a.m.: "Come on, Neil. You know the drill: brush your teeth, get dressed, get out lunch money."

"Al-l-l-l-l right!"

6:50 a.m.: "Neil, come on already!"

7 a.m.: Neil's AD/HD meds are finally kicking in, and he's finally moving at seminormal speed. By this point, he's as cheerful as he'll be—he was born a serious little old man—and he's now huggy, which is a nice change after all of the surliness. This transformation takes place every school day.

7:05 a.m.: Jared stumbles out into the kitchen from his bedroom, waking up a half hour early on his own. He comes over for some Mommy kisses and hugs, all soft and sweet, then plods over to the living-room couch, where Neil is playing a handheld video game while waiting for his bus. He snuggles up to Neil and watches the game over his brother's shoulder. It's nice that for once, the boys aren't fighting.

7:10 a.m.: The bus arrives, and Neil heads out the door with a good-bye to Jared and to me. I wish him a good day, and then I tell Jared that he can go in and wake up his dad.

Jared, now really awake and getting enthusiastic about the day, says, "Yay! I'll jump on him!" After a while, Ed stumbles out, followed by Jared. Ed heads to the shower, and Jared heads to the playroom, knowing that he's not supposed to go there on a school morning.

7:35-ish a.m.: It's time for me to eat breakfast with Jared. "Jared, come out of the playroom, please. Time to decide what you want for breakfast."

His whine has awakened: "But I need to finish putting this together!"

"You can do that later if you finish getting ready early or after school. Let's eat."

"Fine!" He's in full crab mode now. "I'll have the dumb cinnamon Life cereal, then."

Still trying to show who's boss, he grabs my usual place where we eat breakfast. I play along and pretend to pout.

He capitulates. "Fine! You can have your spot!"

I graciously tell him that he can sit in it today, and he scrambles back to it. Then he snuggles up to me and eats, being cute but talking my ears off. This yackiness apparently is something that comes with AD/HD a lot of the time. All 3 of my guys have it, and not even AD/HD meds lessen it. Imagine my plight as an introvert—someone who needs plenty of quiet time to feel centered—living with people who talk so much that sometimes I feel like running away for a brief vacation by myself.

7:50 a.m.: Ed's finally finished using the shower as a visceral alarm clock. He joins us for the last bit of breakfast time.

8 a.m.: I remind Jared that it's time for him to put his breakfast dishes away and brush his teeth. Ed finishes eating and follows Jared into the bathroom. Much conversing between the guys follows. Though Ed has just taken his AD/HD meds, they'll take a half hour to kick in, so he's still scatterbrained and thinking more like Jared's best buddy than like his parent.

8:15 a.m.: I can't stand all the talking because when their mouths move, their bodies stop doing anything else. "Ed, honey, ple-e-ease stop yacking and move Jared along!"

"Okay, honey. Jared, stop talking."

Yeah, like you weren't doing any of the blabbing, Ed!

8:20 a.m.: Everyone's teeth finally brushed, both of the guys start getting dressed for the walk to Jared's bus stop. Meanwhile, I've settled in at my computer to read e-mails from friends and colleagues and clients before starting on paying work.

8:40 a.m.: Jared's finished dressing in our living room. Ed's off in our bedroom. After a while, I notice that he—Ed—is taking a really long time to get ready ... and that Jared's bus will arrive in 5 to 10 minutes! "Ed, come on already, honey! You're going to miss the bus!"

"All right! I'm coming, I'm coming."

Uh-huh, sure you are. I've heard that 50 million times before, and it's never true. "Ed!"

8:45 a.m.: Ed finally makes his way back to the kitchen, dressed except for his sneakers. Jared's been waiting for a while now, his jacket on and backpack in place, and he'd taken his AD/HD meds 15 minutes before. He decides he's heading down to the bus stop without his dad. I'm still in my nightgown, not yet having gotten dressed for the day because Ed was supposed to be handling the trip down to the bus stop. I'm not inclined to accompany Jared down the block in my nightgown.

"Argh! Ed, you're making me crazy! Jared's out the door and heading across the neighbors' yard and down to the bus stop—by himself!"

"Okay, okay!" And out the door he hobbles, his right leg not yet totally healed from the Achilles tendon tear that he sustained on Super Tuesday.
It's the same routine Monday through Friday, throughout the school year. (Summer is divine, not only for the great weather but also because I don't have to get anyone but myself moving in the mornings.) And just imagine with how little joy I looked forward to going through the same routine on Sundays after having done it 5 weekdays in a row.

Can you see why I'm exhausted before my workday even begins? I love my guys, but geez, it can be hard being the only person in the house who doesn't have AD/HD.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this wonderful post. I myself am an introvert and a homebody, so I can relate to your plight.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Earplugs R Us, eh, Editrix?

libhom said...

I wonder if your other family members need help with finding coping mechanisms to deal with their AD/HD. I figured out the dual tracking thing on my own as a small child (one track for what I'm supposed to focus on and another for where my mind actually wants to wander). However, I doubt that's the only way to cope.

There is such an obsession with the drugs these days, that I don't hear or read about the kind of practical help people actually need.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Hiya, LibHom.

They've developed good coping mechanisms (setting phone or watch or clock alarms, following the same sequence of events for a particular task each time, etc.) that help them throughout the rest of the day, especially after their meds kick in. It's in the early morning, before they have meds onboard to help them better focus, when they have the most problems. Well, it's also at the get-ready-for-bed time for my 6-year-old, when his meds have run out and he is spinning like an overwound top and my husband's meds have run out and so he's not focusing well on guiding our youngest through the bedtime routine.

Ed and I use a lot of behavioral modification and goal-setting with the boys, and we've made the boys aware that if they fail to take certain actions when they're expected to, they will face consequences such as loss of favorite privileges. These things work well, as does discussing issues as they arise.

But even with meds for all 3 guys, parenting training for Ed and me, and counseling for all of us, it can still be wild and woolly and stressful sometimes. Things would probably be a tad more laid back if I weren't a very detail-oriented, methodical, precise person. If I weren't, though, would I still be an editor? Probably not. ;-)

Unknown said...

I don't know what to say. I hope writing it down and being witnessed helps you feel supported!

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