“Day Two… And the System Falls Apart”
Each new school year, we buy folders and binders and backpacks that we hope will magically solve our kids’ organization problems. But then they don’t, and we remember that parental calm is a school necessity not available in stores.
It’s the evening after the second day of school, and Laurie and I are already running low on patience. “How is your brand new backpack already trashed?!” we shout at Isaac.
We’re in the living room helping him organize his school supplies and syllabi. But he’s lost a lot of his stuff, and we’ve lost our cool. There are school supplies spilled out and buried beneath multiple loose pieces of paper. Laurie picks up one of the pieces of paper and asks him, “What’s this?”
Isaac says nothing because he knows there’s no correct answer. ADHD school organization can be a beast. Silence is better than admitting “I don’t know.” Besides, he also knows she’s going to read it anyway, and whatever it is will get him deeper in hot water.
“It’s your service hours log for National Junior Honor Society. There are entries for every month between now and December.”
I jump in. “Buddy, this log is supposed to last four months and it’s already crumpled up. Wait…” I take another look and see it’s been folded several times. “It looks like you intentionally folded it and just threw it in your backpack. Don’t you have a folder?”
“Um, I think so.” He digs around for at least 10 full seconds. Laurie and I both say, “Really?!” in unison. Finally he pulls out a folder which has been folded over. “What happened there?” I ask.
[Back to School Guide for Students with ADHD]
“I guess it got folded over when I put my cleats in there after football.”
We finally finish cleaning out his backpack and send him off to his room. Laurie and I go to our bedroom, shut the door, and spend the next half hour coming down from our adrenaline rush of frustration. Then we begin problem solving with clearer heads.
“We can’t do this every day until May,” she says.
“Yeah, I know,” I say. “But this is how he’s been since he started school. The only days that go well are the ones where we’re able to keep our calm and let this crap roll off our back.”
“Yeah…” she says, “Which is never.”
Just then, there’s a knock at the door. Laurie and I both say, “Come in, Isaac.”
He opens the door with a sheepish grin on his face. “How’d you know it was me?”
Laurie says, “Because this is typically about the time you feel bad for dropping the ball and want to apologize.”
[Free Checklist: Common Executive Function Challenges — and Solutions]
He chuckles. “Well I am sorry,” he says. “I’ll be better organized this year. I promise.”
“No you won’t, Buddy,” I say.
“Well, I can try,” he says.
“No, you won’t,” Laurie says, “But it’s sweet that you think you will.”
“Ok that’s really what I was going for,” he says.
We’re all laughing at this point. I give him a hug, and say, “Before bedtime tonight, you’ll leave your clothes on the bathroom floor and a wet towel on the bedroom floor. You’ll leave the cap off the toothpaste, the lid off the mouthwash, and lights on in every room you leave. And Mom and I promise we’ll get on your case about all these things all year long. But we’ll try to keep calm when we do so.”
“No you won’t,” he says with a smile.
“We’ll try,” Laurie says.
“No you won’t,” he says.
“Well, it sounds like we have an understanding,” I say.