How I Get My Foot Out of My ADHD Mouth
A reader recently wrote to me about her dad’s penchant for putting his foot in his mouth. She appreciated how knowing about his ADHD helped her understand his colorful moments. I wondered, “Do my children have the same level of understanding?” I give them plenty of opportunity to experience my own deft skill at stuffing […]
A reader recently wrote to me about her dad’s penchant for putting his foot in his mouth. She appreciated how knowing about his ADHD helped her understand his colorful moments. I wondered, “Do my children have the same level of understanding?” I give them plenty of opportunity to experience my own deft skill at stuffing my mouth with feet.
I recalled a conversation I had a few weeks ago with my youngest daughter. The microwave was beeping forever, a reminder that I had set the timer to do something. Or maybe I had heated something up an hour ago. I was ignoring it, obviously.
“Daddy? What’s in the microwave?” asked my girl.
I wasn’t sure how to answer her. Did I set a timer, or was there food in there waiting for me? I couldn’t remember, so I opened the microwave to look inside. It was empty, just like my memory of why I set the timer. Instead of trying to remember, I shouted, “Oh, my gosh!” and slammed the door shut. “It’s a cat head!”
“Daddy…” my daughter said with full disapproval, but she laughed when I winked. Daddy was teasing.
ADHD whims launch from my mouth like errant torpedoes. My children are used to them. Those torpedoes rarely cause any damage, but when they do, we have a rule: Sometimes I’m in the wrong. This “cat head” incident was another harmless case in which I spontaneously said something stupid that I could have avoided if I had thought about it a second longer. I wish the cat had got my tongue and saved me potential embarrassment.
Why on earth did I say that particular thing? Where did such insanity come from? Couldn’t I have made a clever joke about how the air was done cooking, or just answered her question straightly? Unfortunately for me-or entertainingly for others-where boredom crosses the horizon of weak impulse control, strange events spring to life. Sometimes they surprise even me. Hence, cat head.
What a gruesome joke. I’m fortunate that my daughters are used to this type of offense. They realize that sometimes I open my mouth and regret instantly what comes out. They can see it in my bulging eyes and beet-red face. They can feel it in my apology. Perhaps this is the difference between how they handle my artful foot stuffing versus how others outside my family do: My kids forgive me. Heck, they laugh at me.
I don’t know about my reader’s father who was mentioned at the top of this blog, but I’ve managed to ride the fine line where I can take responsibility for my colorful moments while commanding respect from my girls. It’s about taking responsibility. Our children may forgive us out of hand. We are the parents, after all, but why wear that trust down to the bone? Instead, I’ve taught them to not take my gaffes so seriously, and I apologize if their feelings are hurt. When I respect them, they respect me. This works with my teenagers, too, though there were some rough years here and there.
It remains to be seen if I have taught them not to beat themselves up over social hiccups. For the time being, I give them something to laugh about. In fact, a few moments after I had made my joke and returned to my work, I heard my daughter exclaim, “There’s no cat head in there!” with a shrill note of betrayal. I burst out laughing. She had checked! We both had a good laugh. Another torpedo dodged.
Updated on May 13, 2021