Holiday & Travel Planning

The Holiday Husband

“Halfway through a meal at home, my husband is up rearranging the spice rack. How are we going to get through Thanksgiving?”

Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, and ADHD
Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, and ADHD

Sitting through an entire dinner at home with my husband Alaric is impossible. By the time I’m halfway through my mashed potatoes, he’s up rearranging the spice rack or leafing through the bills we need to send out. Because Alaric, a stage manager, was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when he was 13 years old, I’ve accepted the inevitability of my husband’s jaunt from the kitchen and no longer take offense.

I also wasn’t surprised when Alaric’s father Fred, a mechanical engineer, immediately started to clean up the Thanksgiving dinner we hadn’t yet finished because he too has ADHD. Holiday gatherings with family can be tough on these fidgety guys — “Having ADHD is like wearing a hearing aid on all five senses,” Fred says. “You hear the people talking, the clinking of the glasses and the plates. I have an awful time at any large dinner trying to concentrate on just one conversation.”

Alaric, taking the ADHD cue from his father, leaps from conversation to conversation at family gatherings. “It’s like I glaze over the person I’ve been talking to, eavesdropping on what I think is a more interesting conversation while I zone in on it,” he says.

[Free Handout: Become a Small-Talk Superstar]

As if the food, family, and festivities aren’t enough for a sensory overload, adding the tedious tasks of holiday planning — such as shopping — can send my husband into a tailspin.

“The stores play familiar music and I’ll forget what I’m doing and just listen to it,” Alaric says. “It’s weird that I have to take medication before I go shopping, but it helps me stay focused on what I came for, and to compare prices so that I don’t wander back and forth,” says Alaric. Holiday shopping isn’t a treat for his dad either — “I hate the crowds and the distraction of it,” Fred says.

He and his wife Adrienne team up at gatherings to help each other cope — he with his ADHD and she with a hearing problem. “When he goes to the company Christmas party, there’s about thirty people there; and because I wear a hearing aid, it affects me just as badly,” says Adrienne. Fred has learned to focus on Adrienne’s discussions with others so that he can intervene if she misses what someone has said.

This cooperative relationship works in planning for the holiday festivities, as well, “I delegate everything and make decisions,” Adrienne says, “and Fred’s the muscle”. Adrienne’s principal solution to understanding and helping her husband is to put herself in his position, “I have to think like he does so I can figure out where he’s going next,” she said, “he can only handle things for so long”.

As our second Christmas together nears, Alaric and I are teaming up on holiday errands so that neither of us is overwhelmed, and we’re both looking to Fred and Adrienne’s example to help us have many happy (and calm!) holidays to come.

[“What I Wish My Partner Knew About My ADHD”]