Wednesday, April 24, 2013

First things first: a note about routines & the ADD brain

I used to frustrate my mother to no end as a teenager.  That's what teenagers do, right?  No, I didn't drink or smoke or do drugs (although most of my friends did, so go figure).  I didn't date bad boys (although I desperately wanted to).  In fact, I didn't really date at all.  My machinations were much tamer.  I was disorganized, sometimes on purpose just to frustrate the ever-living crap out of my mom.  Little did I (or my mom) know it was the ADD leaking out.

My mother was fastidious.  By this I don't mean that she spent hours on her hair making it look just so, with make-up tastefully applied and earrings that matched the necklace that matched the ring that looked perfect with the knotted scarf around her neck.  That would be my mother-in-law.  Not that there's anything wrong with that kind of detail, but I don't even use a comb.  No, my mother was clean and neat, but the detail work went into the house.  The chairs were never out of place, the floors were either vacuumed daily or scrubbed - scrubbed by hand on her knees! - daily.  The bathrooms sparkled and smelled faintly of bleach.  We never had dishes in the sink unless you count those two seconds before I could pick up the dish towel and dry them.  Mom also was tightly regimented with our schedule.   We knew what was for dinner depending on the night: Saturday was spaghetti with a cheesy tomato sauce, Sunday was macaroni, tuna, and sliced tomatoes.  (Yes, we ate vegetables, these are just the two examples I recall the best.)  She was dogmatic about being punctual.

Enter me.  I arrived as a baby 11 years after the last child so guess what?  I wasn't so fond of her routine.  Every morning starting in middle school when I had to ride the city bus downtown to school, mom would holler down the stairs for me to hurry up.  Sometimes my alarm went off, she yelled down at me, and I answered that I was already up; however, I would still be lying under the covers - with the light on so she wouldn't suspect I was subverting her dominant paradigm - secretly having snoozed the clock for 10 more minutes.  I also languished at the mirror singing Rod Stewart to my reflection while I applied two coats of eye liner.  This made her furious.  One of my bus drivers told me that I would be late to my own wedding (I wasn't!).

As an adult, a mom with two small kids, I now have to - HAVE TO - rely on routines to keep me moving in a forward motion.  That thing I hated as a teenager, that predictable, complacent routine that slowly led to misery then death is what I do every day now.  And it isn't just to keep my kids in line or getting them to school on time.  I keep a routine - and it's loose, let me tell you - because otherwise I'd never make it out of bed.

When you think routine, you're probably thinking back to grade school: first, we get out of bed, then we brush our teeth, next we go to the bathroom, etc. etc.  When I say routine, I break it down into even smaller actions: the order that I take my daily medicine, the order that I put my kids' breakfasts on plates, the order that I put on deodorant and hair products and moisturizer.  Yes, I'm completely serious.  If I do things out of order, just to mix it up a bit, I loose track of what I was doing, and will inevitably forget something resulting in terrible b.o. haunting me at a school function later that afternoon.  Or that could just be the hippy deodorant that I use.

This is ADD at its finest, my friends.  The good news is: I realize this and make use of routines to keep me sane.  The funny news is: I should have listened to my mom all along.  But we all know that now, as adults.  Mom, no matter how inflexible and scowly-faced she might have been, was usually right.