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My ADHD-Inspired Expletives Weren’t Always Deleted, But Now They Are

I cleaned up my act—and my ADHD mouth.

Pencil with ADHD expletives deleted.

Kids are watching us all the time. They learn from us by our example. This isn’t likely news to you, but seeing it play out, day by day, is sometimes jarring, even if we expect it. The little darlings seem to pick up our bad behavior with relish and ignore all the good examples we set.

I’ve noticed lately that my youngest daughter has been mimicking my car comments. I have a tendency to make a running commentary as I drive. Anytime some bonehead tries to kill me as I’m moving from Point A to Point B, I make wry, oft-times snide comments instead of shouting at them in anger. Years ago I would fling colorful insults in their direction. I learned to not swear in front of the kids, but my insults were so anatomically descriptive that I don’t think they earned me any brownie points.

Adults with ADHD generally have a low tolerance for frustration, and nothing can be more frustrating than rush-hour traffic when you’re already running behind! I seemed to be at my worst behavior back then. Now I just talk to myself calmly while sarcastically thanking them for trying to kill me, but I know which drivers have murderous intent! My youngest daughter criticizes every car that moves in front of us. Hmmm, do I really sound like that?

I’d like to believe that my daughters learn from my good behavior, too, but since good behavior lacks the flamboyant flash of bad behavior, sometimes we have to point it out to them.

The other day my youngest and I were grocery shopping, and I wanted some Milky Way bars as a treat, but couldn’t find any. The cashier offered to help, and quickly rewarded us with our treasure while we waited in line. Mmm, caramelly chocolate! We sunk our teeth into our treasure, but unfortunately, the soft, creamy, chocolate candy bars had become candy boards. The expiration date on them was this month, but clearly they had died and left their remains behind.

I led my daughter over to the return desk and politely explained the problem. The friendly employee invited us to get new ones, but aisle after aisle turned up no more Milky Ways. Were these stale disappointments the only two in the store?! It was hard to conceive. Eventually, we had to travel to the back of the store to an end cap where I found one box left, expiration date sometime next year. Success!

We made our way back to the original cashier since I had found new things to buy, and she talked to us about the candy bars. She had noticed us hunting through all the aisles and felt responsible for giving us the duds, so she gave us a buck off for our trouble. And so the day ended happily.

In years past, such trivial inconveniences caused me to flare into a mighty temper. I’d speak with heat. I’d bend over, ever slightly, at the waist while talking. I’d furrow my brows. I’d leak steam from my collar. I wasn’t the cheeriest of guys.

What a difference years of mastering ADHD has made. I’m still likely to leave my keys running in the car while locking the door, but I’m not a customer-service nightmare anymore. I made sure to point out to my daughter all the good things that I did so she could learn from my example. Good behavior is subtle, especially in contrast to our incandescent ADHD antics.

I felt pretty good about that incident and was certain that my girl learned the results of positive, civil behavior. Then she started criticizing crazy drivers again. I guess I’ll have to work on that next.