In our ADHD household, even a 60th birthday is not sacred. Some things, it turns out, are not OK to forget...
by Frank South
My kids and I are always forgetting everything all the time, of course. But we figure in our house anyway, we’ve got a low-consequences zone going on. You forget, okay do it now, or say next time, or whatever. The point is to keep the drama down, which keeps the tension down which keeps the frustration temper flare-ups down for all of us.
Both kids, awhile back when I was laying into my daughter, Coco, about flying off the handle, made it clear to me that I yell and go nuts at them, foaming at the mouth like a rabid lunatic out of nowhere for the tiniest stuff, quite a lot. And, by the way, Coco loved her big brother sticking up for her, and it didn’t matter we all knew it was an opportunistic family political play to get me to stop yelling at him, too. I granted them the point and we called a truce on frustration-fueled irrational insane flaming outbursts. Hence, the low-consequences zone.
All three of us do snap to, however, when Margaret quietly points out something we should draw a red circle around and put some effort into remembering to do -- whatever that thing is she wants us to keep in the normal-consequences zone.
I just turned sixty. I’m not big on birthdays, don’t need presents, and due to the especially nuts time we were all going through this year – I made it clear weeks earlier that I didn’t want a party or anything like that. But as the date grew nearer I started obsessing - Hey, this is my sixtieth birthday. You see movies where family members come from miles around to hug and kiss and shower love and presents on the father figure who turns sixty. Aren’t there movies like that? It’s traditionally a big deal, I think.
So, without any outward signs, I’m freaking out that this big day has been nudged by everyone, including Margaret into the low-consequences zone. I know, I know, I told them that’s what I wanted, but still. Since everybody’s busy and stressed I go to get the stuff for the birthday dinner myself. At least for my birthday I can go off my diet and indulge the one sin left to a recovering alcoholic non-smoker: Safeway bakery oatmeal raisin walnut cookies. I roll the cart into Safeway past all the vegetables and stand stunned looking at the empty display kiosk where the boxes of oatmeal cookies should be. Safeway, for the first time in my admittedly poor memory is out of the only thing that will make it all better. At the bakery counter they say it’ll be a couple of days. A couple of days? I didn’t tear the store apart screaming “Hey! Me! What about me? I want my birthday cookies NOW!”
The weekend goes by with apologies from Margaret and the kids and I keep saying who cares, forget about it, I hate birthdays – and I do, but I can’t get the mushy father-figure movie out of my head and I’m about to roll into some serious self-pity when I overhear my son, Harry tell Coco, “Really, don’t worry about it, Dad’s never cared about his own birthday. He’s cool that way.” Okay, that did it. Suddenly it was time to live up to my son’s vision of me and let the birthday, soppy movie and all, stay where it belonged in the low-consequences zone.
Two days later in one of Coco’s plop-downs at my desk after school she said, “Here, Happy Birthday, Dad,” and handed me a paper box she had hand-made and decorated inside and out with pastel unbelievably gorgeous and carefully executed drawings of palm trees and islands and rabbits and quilts and masks and a skull and flowers.
It was my only birthday present this year. The only one that I needed.