I’ve had ADHD all my life, although my parents didn’t know it when I was little; back in the ’80s, such terminology wasn’t exactly mainstream. Plus, I was fortunate enough to not struggle academically (as so many folks with ADD/ADHD do), so no “red flags” were raised. Yes, I was somewhat of a disorganized, super-talkative whirlwind, but my teachers were kind enough to use such phrases as, “I like to refer to her desk as ‘creative clutter'” and “Emily is a bit distracted at times,” which were vague enough to not be terribly worrisome. (I was too much of a goody-goody to purposely cause trouble at school, but I do distinctly remember the time I was sent into the hall because I wouldn’t stop blurting out the answers to my classmates’ oral spelling words. Every time anyone would walk by me, I’d make my way over to the drinking fountain. What? No, I’m not in the hall because I’ve been disciplined. I’m just absolutely parched is all.)
It wasn’t until high school that my mom was looking over an ADHD questionnaire (that, ironically, had been suggested for another family member) when she realized that he met very little of the criteria… but I met nearly all of it. I know there are a lot of misdiagnoses for things like ADD and ADHD, and I know that the term is bandied about far too freely, but as for me? Let’s just say that, once, when I was taking a “Do you have ADHD?” quiz, I got to the question, Are you impulsive when… and checked the Yes box before I’d even finished reading. POSTER CHILD.
So, I definitely have ADHD, which is neither good nor bad, but simply part of the fabric of who I am. But it can be confusing sometimes, especially when other people don’t seem to understand what having ADHD is really like. When I try to describe my hyperactive tendencies, how easily I can become distracted, how difficult it can be to just have “down time,” or why I have to work hard to get anywhere on time, people tend to chime in with a story of their own. “Oh, I lose my keys all the time, too.” “My bedroom is such a pigsty – I bet I have ADHD!” “I totally jiggle my knee when I’m bored. I know exactly what you mean.”
I can relate to all of those, and it’s great that people “get it”… to a degree… but being forgetful or disorganized or having a hard time sitting still do not, in and of themselves, indicate that anyone has ADHD. It’s… different. It’s all-encompassing. And it’s really, really hard to fully explain (especially without sounding like I’m just making excuses for putting my purse in the refrigerator), like trying to describe a color that someone has never seen, although they’ve glimpsed shades of it.
But, a few weeks ago, something happened while I was making dinner that made me stop and think, THIS is what ADHD looks like. At least, one tiny, distractible portion of it.
And so, HERE is what making dinner looks like – in just 65 easy steps! – through the eyes of this mom with ADHD.
* I know the photos are tiny; they’re the largest that this blog format will allow. You can click on them, though, if you really desire to see them closer. HAHA.
1) Begin making dinner – soup (whose recipe says it will take 20 minutes to prepare) and a salad. Wash the veggies and strain them. Leave the strainer and the cutting board on the stove (duh). Leave another cutting board on the counter. Wonder how many times you’ve heard “Let It Go” today.
2) Get wine out of the fridge and pour yourself a glass. Leave the bottle on the counter – not because you’re having more, but because you forgot to put it away.
3) Notice that, good heavens, the kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it. How can anyone cook in this mess?? Decide that you must start cleaning and reorganizing this very instant.
4) But, before you do, snap a photo, because you realize that this may just be the photo series you’ve been looking for to illustrate what having ADHD is like.
5) Take the photo. Notice immediately that, for some very unknown reason, a cupboard, a drawer, and a twirly cabinet (there must be a better name for that) are wide open. Wonder why that is.
6) Notice, also, that the dishwasher is open, but reassure yourself that it’s because you were putting away the clean dishes before you started cooking. Pat yourself on the back for multi-tasking.
7) Decide to put away the carrots and onions that you were done using ages ago.
8) Ahhhh. Major progress.
9) Hear the song change on Pandora, which is playing through your laptop, and remember that you haven’t checked email in a few hours. Check your email.
10) Hear the soup blurping in the pot. Leave your computer and go stir it.
11) Put the cutting board (that had been on the counter) in the sink.
12) Get out a few of the ingredients for the salads.
13) Take notice that the silverware drawer is open. Close the silverware drawer.
14) Take another photo.
15) Look back at the counter and decide, now that you’ve tackled the misplaced food, that you absolutely have enough time to put away all of the cooking items; that’ll only take, what, two minutes?
16) Put the strainer, cutting board, tupperware bottom, and enormous knife in the sink.
17) Put away the clean dishes that are sitting in the other sink.
18) Drink some wine.
19) Go back to the computer to fast-forward the song that Pandora is playing. Why on earth did they decide to play “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” in March?
20) Pet the dogs.
21) Remember that you have a task at hand that does not involve the dogs: MAKING DINNER. You reaffirm that dinner will be made, stat.
22) Fifteen minutes after you began putting the cooking items away, put the blender back in the twirly cabinet.
23) Close the open cabinet. Even though you just used it – and, thus, might have thought it wise to close it – leave the twirly cabinet open.
24) Pause to take a photo of your daughter who has just come downstairs wearing her Gryffindor costume.
25) Realize that you needed the blender to puree part of the soup.
26) Get it back out of the twirly cupboard and use it.
27) Do not close the twirly cabinet.
28) Take another photo.
29) Declare that not nearly enough progress has been made and promise yourself to really buckle down now and finish the damn soup already.
30) Sip wine.
31) Reach to get bowls into which to begin ladling the soup and discover that all of the clean bowls are in the dishwasher.
32) Decide that right now is the perfect time to unload the entire contents of the dishwasher. It’ll only take five minutes.
33) Set one bowl on the counter for soup. There will be four people eating tonight, but this does not matter.
34) Hear children say that one of the dogs is running around in the street. Tell them to get the damn dog (but do not actually say the word “damn” out loud) and to go back outside and close the damn gates (but maybe do actually say the word “damn” this time) that they must have left open earlier.
35) Climb up to the cabinets above the fridge to fetch a lantern when said children complain that it is too dark outside to close the gates.
36) Finish putting away the dishes. It’s only taken ten minutes; not bad.
37) Turn back to counters and finally realize that the twirly cupboard has been left open all this time for no reason. Close it. AMEN.
38) Put the wine bottle away; one is enough, thanks. Two glasses is clearly too much.
39) Where were you? Right, dinner. Must finish soup and make salads, pronto.
40) See the dirty dishes piling up in the sink and decide to wash them immediately.
41) Take a photo and then stand back and admire your far tidier kitchen.
42) Become annoyed with the clutter by the dog kennel and spend five minutes rearranging it.
43) Look more closely and notice the salad makings that are still on the counter. Decide to make the salads once and for all.
44) Stop to put a french braid in your daughter’s hair so she can method act as Elsa.
45) Listen to “Let It Go” for the 37th time. Today.
46) Decide that you mean business about the salads.
47) Make salads. THANKS BE TO GOD.
48) Turn off the heat on the soup so it doesn’t burn the girls’ mouths.
49) Drink some wine.
50) Call the family down to the twenty-minute dinner that took eighty minutes to make.
51) Take a photo.
52) Distribute the food.
53) See the clean dishes in the sink and decide that you need to put them away right now before you eat.
54) Put the dishes away.
55) Tell family you’ll be joining them for dinner in just a moment; they can start without you.
56) Wash your hands.
57) Realize you need to use the bathroom.
58) Wash your hands again.
59) Notice that the floors are dirty; sweep the floors a just bit.
60) Check Facebook.
61) Remember that, oh hey, you’re hungry.
62) Close the computer to turn off Pandora.
63) Take a final photo of the kitchen (where all you were supposed to be doing is making dinner).
64) Notice that the lantern is now sitting on the counter after your daughters brought it back inside.
65) Decide to put it away. Tomorrow. Because heaven only knows what will happen if you allow yourself to become distracted and flit from task to task.
And that is what “making dinner” looks like when… Wait, it’s nearly ten a.m. and I haven’t had breakfast yet? I do believe I’ll do that now. Catch you later!