ADHD Makes It Hard for My Daughter to Pay Attention ... and Me Too

The size of my attention span, give or take
Last year, I went into one parent-teacher conference expecting to leave feeling completely bummed. It was a roundtable discussion including all of the folks charged with educating my child and they had been giving me plenty of heads up that Miss Thing was treating her school experience more like a social event at the country club. So I trudged into the meeting knowing that it was not going to be an immersion in feel-good.

But as I was soaking up their comments and observations, I noticed a pattern in what they listed as her problems: “Skylar is a bit flighty.” “She doesn’t stay on any one thing for longer than a minute.” “Her attention span is about thisbig.” “She has the potential to do better, but she’s so restless.” I could’ve punished the child, but I would’ve been dead wrong. Poor baby got all of those qualities fair and square straight from her mama.


I can’t ever remember being a scatterbrain as a kid but heaven knows I’ve got it down pat now as an adult.

In college and a few years after I graduated, I prided myself in my ability to juggle several tasks at once. Then when I got my first real job, moved out of my mom’s house, and navigated the responsibilities of being a single mother without the help of her and my grandmother, I mastered the art of being an expert multitasker. I swear, there were times I would be cooking dinner, packing Girl Child’s lunch, helping with homework, talking on the phone, ironing a school uniform, and answering emails all at the same time. I felt like one of those Kuan Yin statues with a thousand arms, all in action to get as many things simultaneously checked off my to-do list as I could possibly handle.

But the older I got, the more I noticed that I was having a harder time holding onto a thought for longer than a few minutes, if I was lucky. I’d start doing something and forget what that something was because I was doing too much flitting from one activity to another. My body was on fast forward; my brain was not.

And that’s where I am today. Even as I’m writing this, I’m watching my third or fourth rerun of The Golden Girls, typing away on this post, eating a snack, taking a moment to fold laundry every few minutes or so, wrapping up a phone conversation, and hopping up every so often to do something that apparently must be done right then and there. You don’t even want to see the eyebrow of my Internet browser, which has like 20 open tabs for pages that I flip back and forth between when I’m not submerged in some Word doc. It’s the running joke that I have one site up for every hour of the day.

So with that in mind, how in the world can I come down on my child like a safe full of hefty bricks about her ADHD tendencies when I struggle with them myself?

A few years ago, I noticed she was easily bored and hard pressed to stay occupied by any one activity for long so I asked her doctor to test her for the condition. If she had it, I knew I wasn’t going to put her on meds. I hear they really drag kids out and completely alter their demeanor. I didn’t want to extinguish her inner spark. I just wanted her to be able to control it so she could settle down, focus, and get 'er done when she needed to, whatever 'er was at that particular time. But at the end of our doctor’s question-asking and survey-taking, she concluded that that wasn’t the problem.

Teen Girl may not have inherited ADHD proper from me, but our habits sure are similar. So vividly similar, it’s like I personally handed them to her instead of passing them on on the ridge of a gene. Still, she needs help and I managed to find a tutoring specialist who can coach her about zeroing in on the assignment at hand. Maybe I’ll sit in and listen. Nobody needs to know that mama needs some structure, too.   

What bad habits or qualities did your kids pick up from you?


Image via Biking Nikon SFO/Flickr

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