ADHD to the Fourth Power

by Tatiana Guerreiro Ramos

“Has anyone seen my phone?”

“Where are my shoes??!!”

“Who moved my bag??!”

“My jacket was right here an hour ago.”

Those are direct quotes. Not from my kids. Not from my students.

From me.

I have what is likely undiagnosed ADHD; I was probably 2E - twice exceptional - high IQ, with a learning difference. I was born in the early 70s, when that sort of thing wasn’t, well, a thing. It was “energetic” and “lacks follow-through;” it was “She’s not working to her potential” and “She’s super bright, but can’t focus.” I wended my way through college, applied to law school, took the LSAT cold, no prep, and scored in the 80th percentile. Advertising, personal assistant, advertising again; marriage, teaching, motherhood, un-marriage; personal assistant again. Managed a yoga studio and a children’s clothing store. Did bookkeeping. And professional organizing. There were probably some other jobs in there that I simply can’t remember.

Then I moved to Berkeley. And found Classroom Matters.

I found my superpowers, along with some literature about ADHD. And puzzle pieces started to fall into place.

About me. About my three kids. About how I parented, about how they responded to my parenting. About our shared world and common experiences in school.

About all the things.

And after cursing my genes and railing at my brain a little bit, I decided I wanted my kids to have a different relationship with ADHD, and with themselves.

Parenting and coaching ADHD kids is already challenging, as so many of you know. When you are trying to do so through the brain-scramble of ADHD yourself, it becomes exponentially harder.

Enter the planners. And the checklists. And the phone reminder alarms. And the wall calendars. Add the giant Post-It notes, taped onto doors for increased visibility. More recently, you may come across the writing on the wall. Not the figurative writing. The actual writing on the wall. Bless the inventors of white board markers. And eggshell finish paint.

I try new ways to scaffold my children, then forget to employ those same strategies with myself. I explain to my oldest that if he doesn’t do something when I ask him to, he is likely to forget to do it altogether. Just like I forgot to register him for hockey in time for the early bird discount. I walk my middle kid through a multi-step project, outlining micro-steps and helping him chunk tasks into manageable work periods. Then become a weepy deer in headlights when staring down the barrel of a deadline I have to meet for a workshop I’m running. I implore my youngest to breathe and calm herself, then flip out when I feel overwhelmed.

Cue the Big Top Circus theme song. And the crying. And the wine (for me, not the kids).

Then, just like I encourage my kids to be persistent, and dig deep for grit, and scrape the bottoms of their self-compassion buckets, I talk myself back from the ledge. And I try to model what it looks like to problem-solve and be flexible; to cut myself some slack; to be human and flawed, and still hold my head high.

Because yes, my three kids and I walk through this world with ADHD. We also walk through this world with some badass talents and unique gifts. And nothing is going to stop us from sharing them.

That’s ADHD to the fourth power.