Me and My ADHD Family — Happily Imperfect Together
The best thing we can do for our children when we blunder is to show them that we don’t hate ourselves.
I had just finished writing my latest article. The month wasn’t even over yet and it was done. I was on fire! The article was funny, cleverly written, and illuminated a humorous anecdote from my life as a dad with ADHD. It was perfect, really. I couldn’t be prouder.
As I fired up my e-mail program to send the new article to my editor at ADDitude magazine, I discovered an earlier email with the same exact blog title. Yes, I had somehow not only written about this funny anecdote before, but I had given it the same title, and had submitted it two months ago. My pride escaped from me with all the elegance of a balloon set free.
Meanwhile, in the other room, my youngest continues to work on a loom project for Christmas. This has been difficult for her. We are on our second try, with two months passed since the last attempt. She has cerebral palsy, so fine motor control is something she struggles with. This time, however, she’s making great progress. This is thanks to my careful attention to the initial stages of the project. I taught her how to do it. I helped her get going. I corrected her mistakes gently here and there. I also boosted her self-esteem with every success. When she seemed to have momentum, I allowed myself to get busy on my own project. However, writing my article while helping her probably contributed to my editorial error.
Write a sentence. Help her out. Write another sentence. Make sure she’s focused. Write another sentence. Answer her questions. Write another sentence. Set the TV up so she can watch while working. Write a…where was I again?
When I am looking at 550 words of wasted effort, I can’t help but feel like I blew it. What a colossal waste of time! While I shook my head in disbelief, I knew I needed to cut myself some slack. I just had surgery a few days ago. I was barely out from under the anesthesia and still groggy, but I expected to write professionally and be Super Dad, too! When I figured out what I had done, instead of beating myself up, I let out a big Santa laugh. Then I began writing a new article.
I’m going to share something with you to keep in mind over the holidays, no matter which holiday you observe, about what to do when you make a mistake:
You are not perfect, so forgive yourself.
Adults with ADHD are notorious for poor self-esteem. We drive ourselves hard, often achieve less, and feel like failures. Every time we punish ourselves for failing, our soul atrophies. This is so destructive, and it sends the wrong message to our children.
The best thing we can do for our children when we blunder, trip, and complicate simple tasks, is to show them that we don’t hate ourselves. We need to teach them to love themselves by beginning with ourselves. Mistakes are mistakes. No amount of paint can disguise them sometimes, but having a healthy attitude about making mistakes is the difference between setbacks and failure. These coping strategies might help:
- Laugh. Yes, sometimes mistakes can be funny, and laughter helps prevent depression and self-loathing from settling in.
- Take a moment to see if anything can be salvaged from your efforts. There might be pieces that can be repurposed for another project. All doesn’t have to be lost.
- Give your mistake a positive spin. In my case, the article was a wasted effort, but I told myself that it was one doozy of a warm-up. That was enough.
- Get back up on that horse. In the end, it is the results that matter, not the path we take. Dust yourself off, and get working again. It’s better than sitting in the mud looking befuddled.
- Give yourself proper credit when you succeed. It is key to positive self-esteem and continued success that you let the mistake go, and focus on the victory. Don’t continue to beat yourself up over something you’ve already surpassed and vanquished.