Walking in My Son’s ADHD Shoes

By Leslie Josel

Living with me can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, since I understand the ADHD experience, and in particular, my son’s rhythms, strengths and difficulties, I pick my battles carefully. On the other hand, I look at EVERYTHING as a teaching moment.  “What tool are you going to use to remind yourself to go to that meeting at lunch?”  “If you have that paper due Monday and we are away this weekend, when do you need to start it?”  I can be a bit relentless to say the least. Thank goodness my husband provides a healthy balance.

One gospel I preach daily is not waiting to the last minute to get things done. I’m all about starting things ahead of time to ensure that deadlines are met and there is “just in case” wiggle room. It makes me sleep better at night. My son? Not so much. His mantra? Being organized, always on time and completely prepared 3 days in advance can actually stifle creativity.

Now I know everyone has their own styles but I just can’t wrap my brain around this one. So let’s rewind to last summer. I was asked to speak on time management (how ironic!) at a conference in mid-October. The PowerPoint for my presentation was due on August 1st.  Clearly, the organizers of the conference are my kind of people! An August 1st deadline means I can prepare well in advance and in what should be my less stressful summer season. With that, I decide on the specific topic I want to focus on, craft my slides and materials and send them off.

I’m feeling pretty good knowing I’ve finished the work and that I won’t have to try to complete the preparations in the middle of what will be a very busy time of year for me.

So what happened? Two nights before I was set to leave a nagging feeling set in. Was this really what I wanted to present? Did I do my best work? With a desire to present the best workshop I could, inspiration hit. Like a ton of bricks! And I realized that the topic and materials I had prepared months before were NOT what I wanted. With a quick email to the conference chair begging to change my presentation, I locked myself in my office, churned out slide after slide, created handouts, made copies and sent off the results. Working late into the night, I was exhausted and exhilarated. I felt it was the most creative work I had ever done.

So what does this have to do with my son? Everything really. I told him the story. And his response? “So, how did it feel walking in my shoes?”  And mine? It was a teaching moment for sure. But this time for me.

Leslie Josel is the Principal of Order Out of Chaos, an organizing consulting firm specializing in student organizing. She is the author of several books including the recently published How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away.