A Half-Baked Theory on ADHD

Everyone’s just been waiting for me to dispense completely unfounded medical opinions based on a hunch, right? Well, having had occasion recently to closely observe various people going about their daily routines, I have been thinking a lot about ADHD and focus. The traditional line on ADHD is that it’s an inability to focus, that it makes you easily distracted and you forget what you’re doing. But what I have more noticed is that for most daily activities, neurotypical people don’t use their brain to accomplish them; they get into their muscle memory and then their body just executes them while their mind wanders free in the clouds. But for people with ADHD (at least those I have lived with, which is quite a few), this never seems to happen — they have to focus mentally on a task no matter how many times they’ve performed it because when their mind drifts, their body simply stops performing the task and wanders off from it.

I am praised as being an especially focused person and always have been, but I actually am almost never thinking about what I’m doing. My body is just going through the day performing tasks. I even write sometimes while thinking about something else entirely. I would never have to remember where my keys are, because I don’t ever think about my keys. My hands store and retrieve them in a location automatically when I come in the door. I don’t have to focus on doing laundry while also making pasta, because my brain is not involved in that combination of activities — my brain is thinking about the recent loss of my human rights while my body carries on with whatever chores it has started.

So what if everybody is equally unfocused, and this is less about our focus and more about the extent to which our bodies function as programmable automatons, or fail to?

Driving, on the other hand, is an activity that never gets into my subconscious muscle memory, because I am terrified of driving and of being in cars, and that never goes away no matter how many times I do it. So while other people can easily drive and carry on conversations, if someone in the car is talking to me, driving becomes impossible for me. I cannot split my attention in that way, because my brain is always actively involved in the driving — the fear acts as an interruptor that blocks my body from taking the wheel (literally). But that is the exception on tasks I regularly perform; usually, my brain isn’t involved at all.

By the way, sorry if any of this is accidentally offensive in some way (I don’t think it is?), but before you cancel me, I’m allowed to say it, because I also have been diagnosed with ADHD. I don’t really think I have it, but I’m not above indignantly claiming that I do in order to make a point. Although actually maybe I do have it, because whenever I do have to fully focus my mind on something (a conversation, reading, writing something complex), I have to spend like 30-60 minutes sort of meditating myself into it by force, because otherwise my brain keeps wandering off to obsess about other things like, say, the fact that over half the US population is now not in full possession of their own bodies. And I also can’t listen to anything anyone else says unless there are subtitles or I’m also playing with a coloring app on my phone. I took adderall for awhile and it fixed all this, but when Edith was born I decided I cared about longevity and although I don’t know for sure, I just feel like taking speed every day probably doesn’t contribute to living into one’s dotage, especially when combined with all my other unhealthy lifestyle factors which I am making no serious effort to improve, so I cut it out.

And so if you’re ever talking to me and it becomes clear that I have not been paying attention to what you’re saying whatsoever but have just been nodding and smiling and interjecting politely while my brain is obsessing about something like, oh, I don’t know, a massive backslide in women’s rights that will make our overall society substantially worse by just about any metric you could think of, you can’t get mad at me about it, because I’m just trying to stay healthy for my child.

Tantrums and Target

Edith has reached the tantrum stage. It took me awhile to realize that what she was doing was throwing a tantrum, because she goes to 11 immediately, as if she had been suddenly injured and for awhile I thought that was what it was, but I figured it out in short order. Whenever something doesn’t immediately suit her now, she shrieks at the top of her lungs and then continues until her face puckers into a moist purpled fruit. She will sometimes stamp her little legs or lie on the floor as if dead. She does this whenever I am doing anything slightly different to her plan for what I should be doing, which is about 100 times per day. (It has not escaped me that she does not throw tantrums with her nanny.)

I do not want to encourage this form of communication, so I spend much of my evenings lately studiously ignoring high pitched screaming, which isn’t my favorite way to spend time together of those we’ve tried. And if the fit is instigated by my doing something I don’t care that much about, like taking something she was interested in inspecting but which I have no objection to her playing with longer, it’s hard to remember not to just immediately give it back to her the way I’d drop something very hot I’d unknowingly picked up, which reinforces that screaming bloody murder is the way to request it back again. She also screams for inexplicable reasons — for example, every morning now when it’s time to leave the bedroom and come into the kitchen for breakfast, whereas she used to run happily over to her high chair and prepare for Cheerios, now she first spends a little time standing in the bedroom doorway screaming at the living room light.

No idea.

I think parents tend to overemphasize the aggravating parts of having children and fail to mention the good parts, so I will balance this by saying that, these spells aside, Edith is excellent company and a delight to be around. She is so much fun and makes everything more interesting. We had an excellent weekend — I have found the key to our enjoying our weekend is to over-schedule us out of the house. My goal is to have something planned for every quadrant of the weekend, and we’re 3/4 there. We have baby gym Saturday mornings, a new music class Sunday mornings, and swimming Sunday afternoons. I need something for Saturday afternoons, but there seems to be nothing. It’s the worst quadrant to have open, too, because it’s endless and it’s too hot and sunny to take her outside.

I have begun using it for errands, which I previously avoided, because I hate people and leaving the house, and so I did everything online. But it occurred to me recently that I was actively looking for something time-consuming and indoors to do with Edith, so this past Saturday we went to Target.

It was so much fun! Edith loved it. She was interested in everything, and while she was happy to ride in the cart and point at various things, making quietly fascinated remarks about them, I eventually let her down so she could run around a bit, and that really made her weekend. She trotted up and down the aisles, picking things up, pointing at things, and asking me questions about them. Then, she wanted to help push the cart, so we went up and down the aisles pushing it together and she worked very hard. I couldn’t ask for a better companion. Everyone should have a little kid! If I’d known they were this much fun to be around, I would have always had one.

I just wish she would talk! I’m not worried about it — well, at least, I don’t think I’m worried about it. I don’t know if I should be concerned or not. Moms are always saying things like, “this and that expert told me this or that, but I know my child and I know what he needs, and so I ignored them and I was right.” Moms are always describing their children as extensions of themselves and correctly predicting some condition or other based on very early indications.

Does this sort of certainty come later? I don’t know Edith at all, and I have no fucking clue what she needs. She is an utter mystery to me. To me, being her mom feels less like having replicated myself in some way, and more like I found a gorgeous, mystical, feral creature in the woods which has deigned to permit me to care for it until it learns to function in human society. When I watch her play, I feel like I am witnessing something elemental. My primary feelings toward her are akin to awe and gratitude, which is an odd way to feel about someone who shits themselves multiple times a day and expects you to clean it up. She has my eyes entirely and sometimes when I look at her, I experience the uncanny shock of looking into my own face, but even still, I don’t have any feeling of her being mine or an extension of me. She is absolutely her own person, and she hasn’t told me who she is yet. As my parents are always saying, she is completely different than I was even when I was her age (apparently I emerged from the birth canal reading a copy of the New Yorker and pleading for silence). But even if we were identical in temperament, how could I feel a sense of possession toward someone who is continuously separating herself from me by infinitesimal degrees, especially given that my entire job is to help her do it?

Anyway, I’m anxious for her to talk both because I’m so curious to hear what she’s thinking, but also because it might mean she screams at me less.

I am so overwhelmed with sorrow and rage that I can’t express myself, but if I could, I would say exactly what Jill Filopovic just said, every word.

Outlawing abortion puts women in a totally unique category of person with fewer rights than any other — fewer rights, certainly, than the egg / embryo / fetus women are forced to carry. Outlawing abortion puts women from the moment an egg is fertilized in the lowest possible category of person. Even before a woman is pregnant, she is consigned to this status of sub-person who is legally required to use her body in the service of a fertilized egg imbued with far greater rights than she; she has fewer rights to her own body than any other category of person, dead or alive, in the US.

I’m so sorry, I’m so frightened, I’m so frightened for my daughter. We have utterly, utterly failed.

FaceTime

Every night around 6, Edith and I FaceTime with my parents. My parents are preparing to move in with us, and are currently in Tennessee packing up their old house; my mom already lived with us for most of the last year and doesn’t want Edith to forget her.

At first, Edith really enjoyed FaceTiming with her grandparents — at the end of the day, when I was too tired to engage with her anymore, she had a freshly invested audience to perform for, and really their interest in her goings-ons (unlike mine) is inexhaustible. They will act convincingly astonished to see her appear from behind a chair even if she does it a hundred times in a row.

I also enjoyed this, because it enabled me to lie on my back on the floor and tune out for awhile before the bedtime wars began.

But for the past couple of nights, after Edith has clapped her hands and pranced around a bit and received some initial praise, she’s been over it. She pretty quickly escalates from disinterested to furious at me for continuing to split my attention — after awhile, she starts marching over and taking my hand and pushing it onto the keyboard, trying to make me hang up. And when that doesn’t work, she has a meltdown.

Immediately after I hang up, she cheers right up and falls backwards into my lap with a satisfied grin, as if some overstaying party guests have finally beat it.

And this is all fine, as it goes, but this is also the pattern of how she behaves when I pay attention to anything at all other than her, and I have a vague sense that she is now at the age where I need to start setting limits on this behavior. In fact, my paperwork of “tips” from her 15 month check-up earlier this week includes this disturbing bullet point: “Use brief time-outs to enforce discipline.”

What the fuck? Are people really doing this with 15-month-olds? How would one even begin to give them a time out — tie them to the wall? I know at some point, I have to stop letting Edith do whatever she wants and/or doing whatever Edith wants, but I just feel like my life is far more pleasant when Edith is charge of it.

A Year of Posts

Throughout my 40th year of life, I posted on this blog every single day. This wasn’t initially a goal — during my parental leave, I enjoyed writing a little something here just to get a marker of my baby’s life down and to do something a tiny bit creative while braindead and sleep-deprived. Then, at some point, it became a point of curiosity as to whether I could make it a year, and finally I got so close, it seemed somehow mandatory to reach the benchmark.

There have been good and bad things about publishing here every day:

The good:

  • I have a lovely little treasure box of a year of my baby’s life. I keep a diary but my diary is mostly just a boring emptying of my brain’s current stressors. Because I was publishing here for an external audience, these posts include detail and narrative that I can imagine reading when I am much older and have forgotten all of this.
  • Forcing myself to find something worth writing about every day caused me to be more observant and to think more creatively. I wrote when I thought I couldn’t possibly write, and those were some of my better posts. There’s a lot of stuff here that I’m proud and happy to have written that I absolutely would not have written if I didn’t have this arbitrary self-imposed requirement.
  • I’ve gotten a lot of really nice compliments from people on my writing, including sometimes from people who I had no idea were reading this blog. That’s felt great! Also, my family has really enjoyed reading these posts.
  • It’s taught me that conditions do not have to be perfect for me to write. I can get really avoidant about writing and think my house has to be spotless and I need five hours of uninterrupted time, etc., and this has really broken me out of that way of thinking. This is also helpful for my job, which requires a lot of writing — previously I felt if I were exhausted and not able to think clearly, I simply could not string two words together. But now I know I always can if I make myself; it might not be solid gold, but I can at least get a draft down and refine it the next day.
  • I think I have gotten better at writing.

The bad:

  • There’ve been a lot of good posts that I wouldn’t otherwise have written, but there’ve also been a lot of pointless things that I posted just because I had to post something. I don’t really agree with adding to the noise that’s out there — if you publicly share something even just on social media, I feel it should be of at least some use to somebody.
  • Blogs are dead and writing here has basically been like throwing a party in an empty parking lot. It’s really depressing and lonely to write something you think is good and get no response to it whatsoever; most days here I just get a like or two. Not to mention all the bots that interact with my posts. By comparison, it’s so easy to get real engagement on Twitter. I’ve been doing this for myself when I’m older, but even still, it feels silly some days and vain, like performing for a mirror.
  • I have Opinions about talking about Edith on the internet. I know this is a minority opinion and I won’t go too into it, because most people feel differently, but I think it’s important to be a good steward of her privacy until she’s old enough to take control of how she wants to represent herself. It’s a tricky balance because my experience of motherhood is my own story, not Edith’s, and talking about my life on the internet is one way I communicate and express myself, and I’m allowed to share the most profound thing that’s ever happened to me. But it’s also Edith’s story, and I don’t have the right to tell hers. I’ve tried to walk a line that feels comfortable to me, but sometimes I really feel like I shouldn’t be talking about her at all.
  • It’s a real pain in the ass to have to post something here every day, especially on the weekends.

Going forward, I think I’m going to aim to publish something twice a week, and also maybe put a little more effort into my diary. I’m hoping this balance will keep all the good stuff above, but cut out the bad stuff.

41

I am 41 today! I had a lovely day with Edith which then turned into a too-long day, which seems about par for the course with a toddler. She woke up at quarter to five which is her usual wakeup time these days, and I pulled her into bed with me, and then somehow, miraculously, she cuddled up with me and slept for another 90 minutes. It wasn’t like a solid sleep — she kicked and thrashed and rolled, and at one point fell off the bed and howled and had to be comforted — but she more or less agreed to lie there and I definitely caught a couple of cat naps in all that, so it really was a delightful birthday present.

Then, we went to the park downtown which has become a Sunday morning tradition and it was so blazing hot by 7:30 that I was pouring sweat just standing there in the shade. We didn’t last very long, but by the time we got home, it was nearly time for our nap, and when we got up, it was basically time for swimming.

Swimming was delightful as always, and Edith had a blast, laughing and pummeling me with her feet. I have recently realized that Edith can just walk her own ass places rather than me hauling her everywhere (I don’t know what took me so long to put that together) and she was very proud and pleased to strut down the hallway to the pool on her own steam. It all takes ten times as long because toddlers have to stop to admire and experience every bit of lint they notice, but it’s still easier than hauling her and all our gear everywhere. The water was refreshing, there were a ton of parents and babies, and everyone was in a great mood.

Usually after swimming, I change Edith as quickly as I can, throw my dress over my wet bathing suit, and then we go out to the car, and I give Edith some snacks and milk there before we drive home. Edith knows milk is coming, and she is very hungry and thirsty after working so hard, so she’s whiney and fighty through the changing process, and removing two wet swim diapers and a bathing suit wouldn’t be super easy even if she would cooperate, so it’s all a bit fraught. This time around, I moved us away from the baby changing pad we usually use before she was fully changed, because they only had one today and some other parents had an infant. So then, because Edith was vertical while I finished changing her, she was able to dig into our bag for her milk and then throw a fit when she got it in her hand, so I gave in, and let her have it sitting by the pool. That took awhile and when she was finished, I threw my dress on, put her sandals on, and we got in the car.

On the way home, Edith started howling, but that happens. She howled all the way home which isn’t necessarily unusual and I thought she probably needed a nap, but as we pulled into the driveway, I realized that I couldn’t remember putting her diaper on. Sure enough, she was commando under her unsnapped romper and had peed a lake into her car seat.

I hauled her into the house, ran her to the bedroom, stripped off all her peed on clothes, and put her in a fresh diaper, and peeled off my wet clothes and put a fresh dress on. Edith was still crying so I gave her a cup of milk. Then, we headed back out to fight with the car seat. Edith would lose her mind if I went outside without her so I left the front door open and let her wander out after me in her diaper and bare feet. But she came onto the driveway which is boiling, so I sort of perched her in the floorboard between my feet while I wrestled with the carseat which suddenly wouldn’t come out for some reason. I finally got it unstuck and I sort of lifted and angled it over Edith’s head and out the door without dribbling urine everywhere, and meanwhile Edith tumped the rest of her milk out over my knees and feet and the floor of the car. As I reacted to that, I noted that somehow the urine had pooled up in the base of the carseat, and would have to be cleaned up immediately rather than left to bake in the closed car in the hundred degree heat.

I hauled Edith back in under one arm, threw the baby bag and all the swimming stuff into the hall, got paper towels and Lysol, went back out, leaving the door open again, and went to work on the carseat base. Edith wandered out after me and stayed up on the porch where it was shady. I half noticed that at some point, she wandered out onto the sunny sidewalk carrying her little shoes in her hands, but in my distracted brain, I figured she’d just turn around if her feet got hot, because I’m a fucking moron who doesn’t remember to put a diaper on a toddler, and of course before very much longer, she began to scream in pain.

I grabbed her up, ran into the kitchen, and put her feet in the sink under the cold water.

She was fine, it was just a brief second, but I felt like the biggest asshole alive. Then I still had to Lysol out the car, and disassemble the car seat and put the cover in the wash, and I had really, really meant to finally roast those goddamned vegetables tonight, but we got takeout instead (which Edith didn’t eat).

Anyway, this also marks 365 consecutive days of writing on this blog, which was never a goal I set, but at some point became a marker it seemed sensible to go ahead and hit. I will write more about that later, but not tomorrow! I will not be writing anything here tomorrow.

Biscuit

This morning I made biscuits (from a can obviously) and gave one to Edith.

She squeezed and sniffed it and then placed it on one of her books and carefully and intentionally sat on it.

“Edith!” I said. “Don’t sit on your biscuit!”

I moved it a little distance and she looked at me dubiously and then shrugged and went and sat on it again.

We did this a few times. I wouldn’t have thought it, but I guess if you have an Edith-sized butt biscuits DO kind of look like things to sit on. So toddlers teach us to see everything in new ways.

Vegetables

There are many ways I consistently fail throughout my life, but possibly the most omnipresent and shameful is produce-based. I can’t recall a time when I did not have vegetables rotting in the fridge that I was simply unable to deal with. Right now, for example, there are any number of bags of pre-cut vegetables that I paid extra for, knowing this would make it easier for me to toss them in the oven for roasting. For about a month, I did! But then I got tired of roasting vegetables; the act of roasting vegetables began to seem unpleasant and then impossible. This week, I began to resent the vegetables: who the fuck do they think they are, do they think they control me? Nobody can make me use my scant free time to roast vegetables if I don’t want to; I’m a free adult.

There are some people (I live with one) who, when they notice vegetables turning in their fridge say something like, “Gotta cook these tonight, it’s the last night for them” and then…do it. Like it’s nothing.

I will never be one of these people. For me, spoiling produce is a rebuke, a battle, a vice, a deep personal shame, a symbol, a resentment, an enemy, and finally, garbage in about that order.

Meanwhile, I ate an entire bag of goldfish crackers for dinner last night.

Needs

Back when I used to write plays, we talked a lot about constructing scenes based on each character having a compelling, urgent need that then is frustrated in various ways, causing that character to have to pursue different tactics in an attempt to get it. If you boil it down, this is essentially what all storytelling is. For plays, because they mostly take place in the present moment and in a way that is easily stageable (that is, they’re mostly people standing around talking to each other) you really want someone’s need to be frustrated by the person they need it from pursuing their own need. If you have both of these elements blocking each other, you have a scene.

My toddler and I act out many of these sorts of scenes every day, in which I am pursuing a particular need that is being blocked by her pursuing a need of hers. Yesterday after work, for example, I had a pressing and high stakes need to retrieve and empty my menstrual cup at the precise time that Edith had a very urgent and deep need to climb into my lap.

What resulted was one of the more entertaining and ludicrous bits of physical comedy I’ve seen in some time, albeit not appropriate for a general audience and we’d likely have difficulty finding a venue willing to stage it.

Computer

Yesterday I knocked a Nalgene full of water all over my work computer. It immediately made hissing frying sounds, so I knew it was not good. I failed to Google what to do when you dump water on your computer (the answer is turn it off immediately and don’t turn it on again for 48 hours), so I kept trying to turn it back on, likely doing further damage.

I have a work computer for work and a personal computer for personal use and I am fanatic about keeping everything entirely separate. As a result, I had no way to get into any of my work stuff on my personal computer because all of my passwords were in my 1Password which is only on my work computer.

The idea of leaving the house unexpectedly in hundred degree heat to drive into Austin and go to the Apple store in a busy mall was about as appealing as being repeatedly punched in the face; I would almost rather have abandoned my job and my mortgage and waded out into the sea.

BUT! At some point, my computer booted up long enough for me to copy down the essential passwords. I thought it might be back for good, but then it blacked out again.

I was able to set everything for work up on this tiny 11″ MacBook I’ve had since 2015. So the key thing now is for this computer to continue functioning until my new work computer arrives.

But now I wonder: how are we not constantly dumping liquids on our computers? It seems like this should be a weekly occurrence.