I am pretty sure that the start of the school year upsets me more than it does my son. My son is worried about the end of summer, class workload, and social dynamics. I am worried about packing lunches and making sure I put on real pants to drive him to school (usually late) every morning.
As a mother with ADD, I hate the school year. I hate the restrictive schedule and the tons of repetitive and random tasks that need to be done. Keeping up with a school schedule means being organized, in advance. For example, you need to have both breakfast and lunch ready in the mornings and lunch needs to be something you can pack and will remain safe to eat hours later. You also need enough dishes done so you have containers to pack the lunch in!
Seriously, packing lunch sets me over the edge, almost every day. Not only do too many tasks in the morning overwhelm my ADD brain, but my son has a lot of food restrictions and problems with food texture- especially when the foods are cold. There is almost nothing he can eat that can be eaten cold or made and packed days in advance, like sandwiches. This means hot meals for breakfast and lunch, for all of us, every morning. No bowls of cereal or instant oatmeal. No deli meat sandwiches made on Sunday nights that last all week.
I have tried, for years, to figure out how to get my son ready in the mornings. I finally understand that the problem has not been me, but rather that I have been getting advice from all the wrong styles of thinkers. We judge organization as everything put away in drawers, files, and closets. We perceive people who are good at managing food and grocery shopping to be the ones who batch cook on the weekends and shop for everything they need once a week. It is assumed that good parents are the ones that make their children’s lunches up on Sunday nights for the week- or on Sunday nights and then again Tuesday nights to ensure no soggy sandwiches. Schools assume good parents are the ones that get a calendar at the beginning of the year about events and when they are supposed to bring snacks, and they remember to do all of these things.
I have tried all of these ways of organizing and they never work for me. Many people with ADD need non-linear ways of organizing. We do not do well with lists of tasks and large projects that “set you up for an organized week.” Batch cooking is my enemy!
Now that I know better, I will apply the Montessori methods I use for people with dementia to this school year. It will take a while. I will need to find simple recipes that I can make the night before- recipes that have a limited amount of steps as well as a limited amount of transitions. For instance, a recipe that needs sautéed vegetables, then seared meat, and then for all of that to go into the crock pot or oven has too many transitions. I will grocery shop more often during the week because when I have too many items in my refrigerator, I forget half of them are there because I can not see them.
Most importantly though, this school year, I am working on not caring if other parents, teachers, or anyone judges me to be a bad, lazy, uncaring, irresponsible, parent or member of a school community. Too often parents with ADD are judged negatively because we do not fit the idea of a good parent. But really, all of us have different kinds of brains. Some people are linear thinkers and thrive on a repetitive schedule and lists of tasks to do. Others of us are not. Some of us can go from meeting to meeting and handle a packed schedule. Others of us need more down time or our brains get overwhelmed and shut down.
For what I lack in organization and my ability to handle lots of things in one day or even remember what day of the week or month it is, I make up for in many awesome parenting skills- or so my son says.
My son talks to me, trusts me, thinks I am totally weird, and knows that he is safe with me. I would not trade any of that in order to have what other people think is a “normal” brain and to act like a “responsible” parent. Every time I try to take on lots of tasks and be the "ideal school parent," I shut down and can't function at all- resulting in a lot of not so great parenting. The ability of a parent to cook batches of cookies for the school, go to PTA meetings, and never get their child to school late is not an indication of a healthy parent.
A healthy parent is one who is honest about their gifts and challenges. One who totally messes up and apologizes, and works hard to do better next time. A healthy parent is one who is perfectly human and perfectly imperfect.