Guest Blogs

“We Live in the Kingdom of Forgetfulness”

Our family could use a planner, but we’d probably lose it anyway.

“I hate my ADHD forgetfulness!” says my seven-year-old. “I can’t remember anything.”

He was lamenting that he’d forgotten his plan to hold his pet snake that day. Meanwhile, I’m lamenting everything else: He can’t remember to take his backpack to the car, and, from the car, to the classroom, and then from the classroom to the car, without me doing it for him. And I have adult ADHD. So if we take his backpack somewhere, we will leave it there. It pretty much lives at a friends’ house, until we go pick it up. I need to put an alarm on the damn thing, or tie it to him or something.

I’m also lamenting that I have to make my coffee with freaking almond milk, because I forgot to buy creamer. That’s if I remembered to buy coffee in the first place. If not, I’m stuck bundling children in pajamas into the car and driving to Starbucks. Then there’s breakfast: Did I remember to get bread for the kids and yogurt for me? If not, it’s another car trip to the local drive-through diner for eggs, bacon, and hash browns. They know me so well that they gave me a Christmas card with my name on it this year. This is disturbing for people who see me only without makeup on.

Then it’s school time. We’re usually pretty good about it, but there are always quirks: We have to find the book we’re reading. We have to find the pencil sharpener, the good paper. I now leave the official school record book in the same place every single time, and update it every single day. Last year it got lost under the loveseat for two months, and I had to somehow reconstruct 14 days of days of learning. Luckily, it was only kindergarten, and I dated artwork.

After that, did I remember to do laundry? I have to fish out clothes for three kids and myself. It’s a question whether they remembered to put underwear on under their pajamas, but I think that’s a boy thing unrelated to ADHD. And it’s depressingly hard to dress three kids in matching, clean, unstained clothing. I shoot for adorable, which means lots of layered shirts, so they have to remember which shirt goes on top and which goes on the bottom, and put them on in the correct order (even if they’re laid out in the correct order, this seems bafflingly difficult). Then I have to remember if the cute plaid pants are clean, and pick if I’m going to put the kids in the plaid pants or the plaid shirt. If I let them dress themselves, they’ll wear pajamas. It’s probably because of all our pajama-ed morning outings.

[Self-Test: Do You Have a Working Memory Deficit?]

And poor Blaise. He’s always losing his toys. LEGO people come apart and never go back together in quite the same way. Pretend kitchen parts, meant for the bedroom, end up in the living room. Hot Wheels find their garage under the couch. Markers get lost, favorite dinosaurs end up under the dresser.

Don’t talk to me about our record with library books — not regular library books, but those stupid DK Star Wars books my kids seem to need to get by the bundle. I finally decreed that the books had to stay in the car. That way, at least I know in what general area they’re lost. We’ll probably have to pay for them anyway.

At least we don’t lose the dogs, though sometimes I think my husband with ADHD fed them, and he thinks I fed them, and about mid-afternoon they’re barking and roof’ing at me and following me obsessively from room to room. I make sure to give them a special treat when that happens: bread, leftover chicken tenders, whatever my kids haven’t eaten. This food is inevitably gluten-free and more expensive than heroin. In this house, even the dogs are accidentally milk- and gluten- free. We just have to get them off soy now and we’re golden.

At least I remember to feed the kids. Well, most of the time. They’re growing, so they want five meals a day, and I’m programmed for three, so two meals get lost in there somewhere. They have to start whining before I’m offering a banana or toast or waffles or whatever I can whip up without much effort: apple slices, maybe, or fruit cocktail, both of which are universally reviled until put on the table. By that point, though, they hate everything until they eat. I have to remember kids need to eat three meals and two snacks a day — and when snack time falls. Also, granola bars in the car. I need to remember granola bars and juice boxes for the car.

We live in the kingdom of forgetfulness. It’s like the Greek Isle of the Lotus Eaters, except with dog hair and laundry and checkbooks (which I’ve lost). But somehow, we muddle along. Even when I forget Blaise’s ukulele lessons three weeks running, with a personal text from the instructor, we manage. We do art and read books and take the dogs for walks. We’re happy. We could probably use a planner. But I’d probably lose it, and stress out. So we’re happy just the way we are. If only we could forget a little less.

[Like a Personal Trainer for Your Brain]