“It’s Your Fault, Mom!”
These days my daughter is blaming everything that goes wrong in her life on me, her friends, anybody but her. Now I understand why.
“You killed my plant!” My teenage daughter gave me an angry look as she pointed at the dry, brown mini-roses in a little pot sitting on her bathroom sink.
“Lee, it’s your plant, your responsibility.”
“But I never remember to water plants! That’s why you were supposed to.”
She took the dead roses, turned on the faucet, and drenched them to restore the damage. But the plant looked as hopeless as her attempt to blame me.
I’d heard it more and more over the last school year, too. “Mom, I got a C on my test because the math substitute was boring and didn’t help us learn.” Or, “I scraped my knee because Dave chased me to the football field. It’s all his fault!”
[Inside Your Teen’s ADHD Mind]
Through the years, I went from hyperventilating to taking deep breaths when things happened, because, as any parent of a child with ADHD knows, stuff happens almost daily. I learned to tone down my reactions from “You did what?!” to “So you gave in to your impulses; it happens. Own your mistake, apologize, and keep going.” By now she knew that although ADHD was not an excuse, it could be an explanation.
But sometimes the blame got pretty absurd, like last week, when Lee was doing her chores. With her allowance on the line, she never forgot to water the garden. She eyed the big, blue watering can in her hands and looked across the yard where it belonged, on the ground next to the chair where I was sitting. I realized that she was thinking of throwing it, instead of carrying it back, and yelled, “Don’t!” But it was too late. I ducked as the can flew past my head and flattened a pot of pretty pink flowers.
“It’s your fault, Mom, you distracted me!”
[Free Download: Boost Your Teen’s Executive Functions]
I regarded the pot of wet, dead roses in the sink. Back to square one again. I called Lee’s therapist, who reminded me that kids with ADHD are blamed so much for their impulsive moments that they develop a knee-jerk reaction of “I didn’t do it! It wasn’t me!” even though it isn’t true. No matter how many times I’d told Lee, “It’s alright, you did your best in math,” or “You didn’t mean to throw the watering can,” the therapist explained that Lee must have felt stupid or lazy after the damage was done.
I picked up the pot and said, “Lee, we can replace this. But the new one will be yours to water. I can help you figure out a way to remember, but it will not be my responsibility.”
“But I told you…” Then a guilty smile spread across her face. “It’s OK, Mom, you did your best. You didn’t mean to kill my plant,” she said. With a laugh, she skipped out of the room, and I smiled. Somewhere, underneath all the blame, my words had taken root.