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“Please Tell Me I’m Not the Only Parent Who…”

…arrives with 90% of what we need …thinks everyone else is glaring at us for being late or disheveled …struggles to balance giving my child increased responsibility with taking the risk that he will fail …loses perspective more than I should.

We’re half way to basketball practice when Jayden announces, “Oops. I left my basketball at home.”

“What?!” I say. “I told you three times not to forget it!’”

“Yeah,” he says softly. “Sorry about that.”

[“I’m Tired of Reminding Him to Do Things”]

I ignore his apology. “Bubs! How did you forget the single most important thing?”

“I don’t know.” His voice keeps getting lower.

“This is not good, Bubs. You’ll be the one kid at practice without a ball.” I glance back at him playing on his tablet. “Oh! But I see you remembered your games.”

He says nothing, probably because he knows from experience there is no correct response. A few moments pass. I can tell from the awkward silence he’s paused his game. He’s waiting to see if the admonishment is going to continue. After another minute of awkward silence, he resumes his game. And I decide I’m done, at least for now.

At practice, he runs around with his teammates, high-fiving and air-jumping over every positive thing they do. I don’t why this ticks me off. What did I expect? Did I think that his body language on the court would communicate to me, “Sorry, Dad?”

[Every Direction, Every Time]

Maybe I’m just upset because he’s having fun while I’m kicking myself that I didn’t remind him a fourth time to grab his ball, or that I didn’t just get the ball myself. Which is what I do most of the time. I tell him, “Put your dishes from dinner in the dishwasher.” He says, “Yes, Dad.” Then 30 minutes later, we repeat the exact same dialogue. Then an hour later, we repeat it again. Finally, after he’s gone to bed, I see his dishes still sitting at the kitchen table. He’s only 10, I tell myself.

As I watch practice, I observe the other kids on his team. Each one has an untied shoe, a mismatched sock, or bed head. One kid is in shorts but is still wearing his parka. Another kid’s wearing two totally different sneakers. For a moment, I think, I’m glad I’m not that kid’s Dad. Then I remember that five seconds ago I was kicking myself for not catching my kid’s mistake in time for practice.

I struggle to know when to nag my kids, when to allow them to fail, when to bail them out, or when to just take a deep breath, and just ask him to do it in the morning, or load the dishwasher myself and move on. I try to remind myself that this is basketball practice. It’s not a big deal. We’re here to have fun. And if he’s having fun then I can, too. I remember that watching Jayden play basketball is incredibly fun. He plays with a ton of heart, and has pretty good instincts, too. Within a few minutes, he’s drenched in sweat.

I hear the coach tell the team to take a water break, and Jayden comes over to me. “Dad, you forgot my water.”

[12 Ways to Make Instructions Sink In]

I look at the rest of his team drinking from their water bottles. “Son… do you want to rephrase that?”

He smiles at me. “Oh, sorry. I forgot my water.”

I take a deep breath. “There’s a water fountain outside.”

Then he runs off.

I forgot his water, I say to myself out loud. Then I remember he’s only 10. I guess he’s half right.

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  1. Last night was our regular mens choral practice at the church at 7pm …used to be at 730 but now i am used to it but running late as usual. I have been tweeting my trading deadline Hockey Jet opinionis at any that will read. Now at 73 thats probably only my Daughter. I slept this afternoon to catch up a bit and suddenly its 5 oclock and i have to make dinner. Cleanup Shower and be out of here by 630 . Of course i didnt make it and rushing out the door the only thing i remembered was the water bottle.
    The good news. I did use my well developed catchup skills to turn a Twenty minute drive into twelve minutes. No speeding, sort of, but a few yellow lights…..
    Also good news that i was early enough to shmooz an extra set of music from the librarian. Overcoming forgotten items and halving driving times has been a life long skill development lesson. The other lessons involve accepting the consequences and like your son forgiving himself and having a good time. I waited 70 years to find out why and i will not chastise myself for timeliness or forgooten items one more time.
    Faulty equipment was the conclusion of the panel investigating the accident. Case closed, no charges.

  2. Because my 9 1/2 year old boy is so obsessed with his tablet, I have started setting up alarms/notifications on that appendage of his to help remind him of recurring tasks. So far, it’s working! No more verbal reminders from me to feed the dogs,start homework, get ready for school/bed, etc. And he gets rewarded for my NOT having to nag by earning some allowance for each task done independantly. Lemons into lemonade!

    1. An absolute necessity for those of us at either end of the age spectrum to young for or not in the budget for cell phones. And yes the alarms went off 3 times to get me to the rehearsal.and the reminder list appeared first thing in the morning.

  3. I’m not sure sure the question is whether to let him fail in order to help him succeed in the long run. A counselor told us once that these kids get 200 negative messages a day on average. That’s no way to live a childhood. Is your son on medication yet? If not, get him on medication as fast as you can. We learned the hard way that we were ruining his chances of succeeding by resisting medication. And my son had such a sense of relief with it.

    Even with medicine, the forgetfulness is still a challenge. I remember the day that things changed for the better, though. I was chastising him for having forgotten his social studies book. We had been studying every night, night after miserable night, all week for a big test. Long story short, I was scolding him like you described doing and finally told him to run back into the school and get his social studies book as fast as he could. He watched me earnestly, took off running, and came back a minute later with his math book. It was only then that I realized that I was the problem in the equation, not him. I was asking him to do something he was not capable of doing. No, that is not exactly right. I was constantly giving him negative feedback because he couldn’t do something that other kids could do and that I needed him to be able to do; because it seemed like he OUGHT to have been able to do it, I treated him like it was his failure, not mine, over and over again. Your son sounds like a typical boy with ADHD who is lovely and has lots of heart. He does not want to let his father down. It is very difficult to do, but you have to get to the point where you understand it is not his fault. If he could do it, he would.

    I hear you say you were driving him to practice. Please tell me he is not attending a Catholic school. We sent our sons to Catholic school and, for my son with ADHD, it was disastrous. We finally threw in the towel and sent him to sixth grade in public school. We didn’t think our local school was good enough. The truth was, we had no idea how well the public schools take care of ADHD kids. My son was given a dedicated case manager and resource teacher. She acted as the team lead, with participation of and guidance from the head of the counseling office, to a group of all of my sob’s teachers. Every week or every other week, the team met to discuss my son’s case and to see how they could better support him. The public schools are so, so, so good at helping our kids succeed. A public teacher later told me, “Oh, yes. Every year there are two or three kids like that to come from Catholic schools. They start out with no confidence, hesitant, and sheepish and within a couple weeks, once they have realized that they are actually good kids, they blossom into happy, confident kids.” She was exactly right in our case.

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