Guest Blogs

“Dropping the Discipline Hammer On My Teen Son”

I keep getting distracted from important tasks, blaming my creativity for missed deadlines — I’ve got a lot of nerve blaming my kids for their behavior.

“Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love, a secret my daddy said was just between us. He said daddies don’t just love their children every now and then; it’s a love without end, amen.”

– From Love without End, Amen by Aaron Barker, sung by George Strait

Sorry for the long absence. My last ADHD Dad blog post ended with me having just arrived at my parents’ house in Delaware. I was about to pick up the phone and drop the discipline hammer on my 21-year-old ADHD son Harry. I meant to write and post the next part of the story last week, but I was packing to fly home, standing in airports, and then crammed in an airplane seat. I only just woke up from my jet lag, blinking at my home that I haven’t seen for three long months.

Excuses, excuses, I know! And yeah, I should have gotten right to it, but instead of writing, I spent the first days back in front of my own computer. I spent a whole day looking for new desktop icons. I spend another whole day reorganizing already organized files. And then I was updating applications I hardly ever use. When I was done with that, I started untangling a thin gold pendant necklace that my wife, Margaret, had left on a shelf near the bathroom sink. I found it while cleaning and avoiding work.

The truth is I’ve been laying back and letting distraction drive the bus. At one point, I pulled gently on a knot in Margaret’s gold necklace and, as it untangled, I realized that this was the necklace I’d given her when Harry was born. The pendant was a multi-faceted emerald, Harry’s birthstone. I don’t normally believe in signs, but this time I made an exception.

Now I’ve wrestled myself back into the driver’s seat, and I’m typing away. But I keep thinking that considering how I’ve bounced from one bright and shiny thing to the next, blaming my creativity for missed deadlines or off-subject meanderings, I’ve got a lot of nerve getting on my kids about their behavior.

Anyway, here’s the Harry story up to now. While Margaret was in L.A., and his little sister stayed at a friend’s house, Harry was supposed to be taking care of our home and dog in Honolulu, as well as preparing to try college again in August. Instead, against all the rules, he had a drunken, pot-smoking party. The party-goers were making enough noise to wake up our neighbors, including the cop across the street. And the dog got out.

Margaret spoke briefly to Harry when he called to preempt the neighbor phone calls, but the hammer talk is my job this time.

Now Harry’s sitting in Hawaii, waiting for my call. I’m angry and disappointed in Harry, but I don’t know what to say. Since it’s 5pm here in Delaware, I avoid calling Harry by making martinis for my parents. I bring the drinks to my mom and dad in their matching wing-back chairs along with some crackers and sliced cheese. I like waiting on them. I tell my mom and dad what’s going on, and as I get them refills, they voice their strong opinions about Harry’s misdeeds.

As I close the door to the guest room and punch Harry’s number in on my cell phone, I’m hit by the weird irony. A recovering alcoholic son with ADHD, me, serving drinks to his mother and father, before calling up his own son to give him hell about getting drunk and screwing up. I stop dialing – I dread the draconian restrictions and restitution I must and will bring down on him. I still don’t know how to get Harry to really learn from this experience.

Then I remember when I dropped out of college. It was the morning after I’d shown up on my parents’ front porch in the middle of the night screaming drunk, waving an empty scotch bottle, and blaming them for everything wrong in my life before I threw up in the bushes. I still remember what my father said to me.

So I punch in Harry’s number again, and when he picks up I say, “First, I love you.”

Grounding My Kids’ Early-Morning Escapades