This post originally appeared on my tinyletter, Where is my Mind?
There are socks all over my living room. The kids get home from school and the first thing they do is take off their shoes and socks because the weather has gotten so warm. And so there are socks everywhere. Socks on the floor, under the couches, between the seat cushions. Socks that don’t make it upstairs to the laundry basket.
There are balled-up tissues all over my kids’ rooms. It is allergy season, and they are blowing their noses constantly. They have trash bins, but the tissues never seem to make it in there, so once a week, I tell them to do a sweep through their room to pick them all up and throw them out. Inevitably, when I go in to tuck them in, I find piles they overlooked.
The entryway to our place is always a mess of shoes and bags and coats. I tried to help by putting the shoe rack and a coat rack by the door, complete with hooks low enough for them to reach it. The shoes come off and stay where they land, while the coats are on the floor under the coat rack. I come home and say, almost made it today, coat and shoes. Maybe tomorrow.
My son puts the toilet paper on the role backwards and often forgets to flush. My daughter has clothes all over her room, even though she has an empty closet (empty of clothes, at least). I recognize all of these behaviors as a part of their ADHD – it doesn’t matter to them so they don’t do it, not out of malice, but of literal indifference. I recognize their behavior because I was exactly the same way when I was a kid.
As I sat on the toilet, flipping the toilet paper back around the right way, I remembered when I was a kid being severely punished for this same misstep. I would get yelled at, pulled into the bathroom aggressively and made to turn it around, so that the toilet paper hung the right way. I would get yelled at, sometimes hit, over the tissues all over the house. When I was older, my step-father would yell at my mother about my poor behavior and laziness, which was usually just my absent-mindedness manifesting itself.
I’m a much better parent now that I know that my kids have ADHD, now that I know I have ADHD. I wish I could have had the patience with them that I do now, the ease of being able to get frustrated, but then laugh about the tissues or the shoes. To just turn the toilet paper around myself and be glad he actually switch the role at all. That my daughter’s clothes are clean and hers to do with what she wants, especially since she’s going to grow out of them anyway.
I remember when the kids were younger that I didn’t have that same patience, forgiveness. I wasn’t as rough on them as my parents had been on me, but I still got unnecessarily angry with them at times for things I now know are outside of their control, outside of my control. I wish I hadn’t, but I was also dealing with my own depression and anxiety stemming from my own ADHD, as well as the trauma of how I was been parented, working through all the ways I didn’t want to be a mom, but having no idea what I did want to do.
I’m writing a lot about my past these days, writing and revising and in a certain way, reliving, but in a way that feels different. It’s less…triggering, for lack of a better term. I can remember the incidents over toilet paper and be ok with it. Be sad that it happened. Be happy I’m not like that with my kids. The memory itself isn’t a flood but a snapshot, now a little blurry from time and wear and tear. That happened to me, but it isn’t me.
Some other memories are still open wounds, but it comforts me to know that maybe they won’t always be, that someday, it’ll be like this one, healed over, with a scar, but barely noticeable anymore. It is a relief to be able to forgive myself for not being the best parent before, but that I am working on it now, and that’s what matters. Maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive myself for other things, too.
I am extending the same patience with myself that I am extending to my children. That’s not nothing for me.