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“I’m Terrible at Keeping Time…”

…So I ask my son for help, who is a time management superhero.

I’m pretty sure my dad had ADHD, even though he was never officially diagnosed. He was never on time for anything. Ever. He always had to finish that “one last thing” before leaving the house. Sometimes that thing was simple and achievable, like loading the dishwasher. But sometimes that task was huge and Sisyphean, like finishing his tax returns or building a shed to house the tools and building supplies lost in the clutter of our overstuffed garage. Building a shed to organize your shed-building materials is very ADHD.

My mother was at the opposite end of the neurological spectrum. She had a finely calibrated internal clock, and she was of the mindset that unless you were 15 minutes early, you were already inexcusably late. When it was time to leave, she would get in her car and back out of the driveway very slowly. The rule was that if you could put a hand on the hood of the car before she reached the end of the driveway, she’d stop the car. Otherwise, she left without you. I’m not great with time management either, but I made it to the car more often than my dad, mostly because I was younger and could run faster.

My dad didn’t like being left behind, and we missed him at family outings. To solve the problem of our mismatched parents, my siblings and I came up with D.A.T., or Dad Adjusted Time. If we were supposed to be somewhere at 6 p.m., we agreed to meet at 5 p.m.—D.A.T.  After a while, I figured out that they built in L.A.T.— Laura Adjusted Time— as well. I was routinely half an hour late to everything.

I internalized my mother’s idea that being late is rude and being rude is a moral failing. All I needed to do to be on time was to try harder. Does that sound familiar?  It should. “Try harder” is the mantra all ADHD people have tattooed on their consciousness, right next to “Don’t be late.”

When I had children of my own, my ideas about being late changed forever. My son inherited his grandmother’s military precision about time. By the age of seven, he knew exactly when we had to leave to be on time for school. No one taught him the secrets of time management—he just knew. His ability to correctly judge the passing of time is freakish to me, like perfect pitch, or the ability to hit a three-point jump shot every time on the basketball court. I’m pretty convinced my son is a time management superhero.

Since I am time management impaired, I rely on my son to get us to places on time. It might seem like an abdication of parental responsibility, but it’s not. Do you think that Superman’s parents asked him for help when they needed to build a new barn or to remove a tractor from the ditch?  Sure they did. They were his parents. They knew that asking a child for help with a difficult task is a good way to build a child’s compassion and sense of responsibility. They didn’t feel ashamed that they couldn’t lift a tractor overhead with one hand. If you can’t lift a tractor with one hand, you can’t. It’s not a moral failing.

The same goes for time management. I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I’m terrible at keeping time. It’s who I am. Realizing that I didn’t choose to be this way has freed me up to ask for help when I need to be some place on time. My husband isn’t much better at this than I am, so the person I ask for help is my son.

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