Play Date Nightmares: ADHD Edition

If my kids get home with shoes, skin, and dignity intact, we’re ADHD champions.
All Together ADHD | posted by Elizabeth Broadbent

It’s hard to be an ADHD mama. Just getting kids out the door can be daunting: finding shoes, brushing teeth, remembering gummy vitamins and sunglasses and keys and money and snacks. It can be more daunting if your destination is a play date, especially if that play date involves neurotypical mamas.

I’ll rip off the Fresh Prince here: Neurotypical parents just don’t understand parents with ADHD. I look like an airhead at best and a negligent parent at worst. Add ADHD sons into the mix, and we can look like a walking disaster. Things other parents take for granted, like remembering basic necessities, are a struggle for us (think finding socks or car keys). If my kids get home with shoes, skin, and dignity intact, we’re ADHD champions. Luckily, it’s usually only the shoes we forget. But sometimes …

I forget diapers, wipes, or other butt-related accessories. I tell people I use cloth diapers because I’d forget to buy disposables, which sounds like a joke, except that it really isn’t. I am notorious for forgetting my diaper bag, or for thinking it’s stocked when it isn’t. I borrow wipes. I borrow plastic bags. I borrow diapers. I have also, in a pinch, diapered my son with wash clothes, T-shirts, and an African kanga wrap. It’s not like the baby can go naked. I also occasionally forget to bring extra clothes for the potty-training three-year-old. That means I have a pile of other children’s clothing in my house, all of which I keep forgetting to return.

I forget food or drink. Every other mother remembers to bring her kids special shatterproof glass Sigg full of bottled water. My kids, meanwhile, are outside chugging from the hose they turn on without permission. Sometimes I remember juice boxes and a light snack. Other times, my kids are scavenging off everyone else while I apologize and calculate the distance to the nearest Chick fil A.

I double-book myself. ADHD sometimes means I have a hard time remembering where I need to be when I need to be there. So it’s not uncommon for me to book a play date at the same time as, say, the every-week-how-the-hell-could-I-forget gymnastics class. The worst is when I double-book playdates, and I have to choose one to cancel.

I’m late, by more than half an hour. Late is the new normal. No matter what time I wake up, or how much I harangue the kids, or how hard I try to remember everything, I’m always at least 15 minutes late. It takes that long to make the three trips back into the house for necessities, like diapers or shoes. Then someone has to pee. Then the baby has to nurse. At this point, I only feel guilty and text the host if I’m later than half an hour.

My kids destroy the house. Sometimes, kids go play in a back room, and we moms get to talking. Luckily, my friends are really nice, and their kids are equal partners in crime. My kids have sharpie-markered walls. We still don’t know who broke the window on the shed that time, but we know my son once started shredding a screen. Moms of neurotypical kids might think that my kids are monsters. Nope, they just lack impulse control at times.

My kids hit or injure the host’s children. Yes, this happens to everyone sometimes. Both kids want the Cozy Coupe, and someone starts biting. Play date violence isn’t the sole purview of ADHD mamas and kids. But when you combine it with everything else, it sort of looks worse.

I spill stuff. I always, always spill things. When I was a kid, someone told me not to drop a crucifix because it was blessed. It slipped out of my hands as soon as she finished the sentence. I haven’t changed much. Usually my tea ends up all over the host’s living room floor. Sometimes, it isn’t me that does the spilling: You’d think that, by now, I’d know to keep tea and coffee cups out of the baby’s reach. I usually end up mopping up the mess with a cloth diaper (if I remembered one).

I don’t notice my children doing something horrible. Sometimes we ADHD mamas don’t multitask well. It’s easy to start talking, and I miss Junior killing his play date in the corner. Add needlework to the mix—my circle of friends is big on crocheting and knitting—and the kids could be committing arson on the living room floor and I wouldn’t notice. The neurotypical mamas can knit and watch kids at the same time. I’ve learned to leave the yarn at home.

I make an ungraceful exit. First, I have to find the kids. Then I have to find their shoes, put their shoes on, and gather up all the stuff they come with: diaper bags, food, toys, socks, baby carriers, and so on. Then I have to get three kids and all that stuff into car. Usually, I manage to get the stuff, then the kids. I turn around and make two more trips to get things that I’ve forgotten, usually the most important stuff, like my drink, my phone, keys, or the baby. OK, I never forget the baby. Don’t call social services.

We leave stuff behind. Every. Single. Time. Usually shoes. Sometimes we leave hats, or socks, or the plate that the food came on that I somehow remembered to bring. It means my friends keep an Elizabeth pile at their houses full of the things I forgot. The number of things we leave behind is in direct proportion to the hastiness of our exit. If I have to leave because the kids are hitting each other, I’m almost guaranteed to forget a diaper bag.

Of course, sometimes everything goes as planned. We get there, we have a pleasant play date, and we get home without anyone getting hurt or forgetting things. But sometimes … well, parents with ADHD understand.

 
 
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