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Forget and Forgive?

The forgetting part of ADHD never goes away, but I am trying not to be so hard on myself.

Once, when I was a kid, I locked our front door with a skeleton key (it was an old house). We were supposed to hang the key on the nail next to the door, but I forgot. I set it on the couch without thinking, and went off to do whatever kids do at that age. My father went to unlock the door, saw the key was neither in the lock nor on the peg, and went ballistic. “Where’s the key?!” he demanded, breath hot in my face. “Where’d you put it?”

I had no idea and told him so, tearfully.

We scoured the house for hours. He wouldn’t let me stop searching, wouldn’t let me quit looking. Finally, we discovered the lost key: It had fallen off the arm of the couch between the cushions.

[I’m Not Irresponsible — I Just Lose Things!]

This was one of the most dramatic occasions of me losing something, because my dad got so angry. It wasn’t the only time. I once went to a horse show without my saddle. I showed up at Catholic school in a prom dress, on a regular uniform day. I kept leaving textbooks at school and needed to go back and get them. That’s no big deal when the school is three doors down and your mom’s a teacher; it’s a bigger deal when it’s 25 miles down winding country roads. I had to write down every assignment. I could never find a clean uniform shirt and skirt.

This forgetful tendency continued when I had children. I was terrified I’d forget to my feed my oldest son, but luckily he let me know when he needed to nurse on demand. I had to set multiple phone alarms to remember his doctor’s appointments. And mine? I figured that I didn’t need to get seen at six weeks postpartum.

Newborns are good about reminding you of things. They scream, you pop a boob in their mouth. They scream and/or smell stinky, and you change their diaper. We used convertible car seats, so I never accidentally left them in the car; I needed to slot them into a car seat before we could go into Target. I did, however, always forget wipes, sometimes diaper covers (we used cloth), and occasionally, diapers themselves. Most of the time I just forgot the whole diaper bag.

As the kids got older, they started to have social lives of their own. And it fell to me, as the stay-at-home parental unit, to keep their social calendar. I inevitably double-booked play dates, which is embarrassing because you have to cancel one and admit you had already made plans. Or I’d make a play date on the same day that they had a regular, once-a-week-every-week homeschool co-op class. I’d tell someone I could watch their kid, only to recall a day later that my kids had Swim and Gym at the YMCA. Or worst of all, I’d tell someone they could come over and completely forget about it, only to suddenly realize it that morning when they Facebooked me.

[Free Download: Keep Track of Your Time]

Unlike babies, you can forget to feed big kids. Big kids need breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner. You cannot omit the snacks or their blood sugar falls and they get crazy, especially if they have attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) like my sons. But sometimes my kids don’t ask for food, and we all get wrapped up in something — because we all have ADHD — and the snack is forgotten. Eventually, the rage sets in, and it takes some raging before I realize, “Crap, my kids are just hungry.” At that point they’d rather rage than eat, so I have to coax them to the table with wonderfully delectable snacks, like Oreos. I wish I could give each of them a food pellet in the morning and forget about it.

The forgetting part of ADHD never goes away. I used to forget homework. Now I lock my keys in the car (or the house), leave my cell phone on the park bench, and forget to grab extra clothes for my potty-training three-year-old. It’s one of the most annoying symptoms of my primarily inattentive form of ADHD. I try to use calendar and phone alerts, but mostly, all I do is live with it. It sucks. I know I’m not alone.

Updated on September 20, 2019

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  1. I forgot my password for this site, and had to reset it just to leave a comment. Ugh. I have my phone set with 5 alarms just to get kids to school on time! (Wake up. 2nd wake up in case I sleep through the first one. Make breakfast, put shoes on, everyone to the car NOW or we will be late.) Then there are alarms everyday to feed the pets, do the laundry, an alarm to remind me to remind the kids to do their chores! One to tell me to make lunch so I don’t forget to eat, then of course the one to remind me to put away the lunch making stuff so I don’t have to toss out the mayo and sandwich meat…again. An alarm to pick up the kids at school on time, so the school doesn’t phone asking if I am on my way. An alarm to start making dinner so we eat before 9pm, and the bedtime alarm, send kids to brush teeth… Otherwise I realize it is 11pm and the kids are still up. I have always struggled with my internal clock and paying attention to the time. Luckily in highschool I got pretty good with an agenda book, so I don’t usually double book stuff. But remembering to check what is planned for the day is a bit harder to keep up with.

  2. My daughter was diagnosed last year by her teacher at school. Once I read up on it, I realized I had ALL of the symptoms of the inattentive type. Last year she was late to school 30 TIMES! Mostly because we had power struggles every morning and I never accounted for that extra time. I remember feeling so guilty for passing this down and afraid that she was going to be labeled. My recall is awful, but my memory for stuff gets worse when I’m stressed or overwhelmed. Welp, turns out being a single mother while working full time and going to school full time doesn’t leave much room for stress relief, so my symptoms intensified. At the time, I didn’t know I had ADHD, so I started researching early signs of dementia to try and figure out why my memory was so bad. The upside to this is I’ve adapted a written planner habit which is less distracting for me than keeping a google calendar. I use both, but the written calendar keeps me from surfing the net. I also have a much better relationship with my daughter because I know that she’s not doing crazy stuff on purpose I have a lot more patience.

  3. Alarms used to be helpful, but there are so many these days that I either don’t notice them, I notice them and they are ill-timed so I ignore and forget, etc. I definitely need an insurance-provided personal assistant…

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