Oh! I Forgot About That and Repeating Familiar Behaviors

What My Parents Taught Me

Laurie B. Timms

May 12, 2023


Do you lack attention to detail? Or have an inability to focus? What about forgetfulness?

These are common symptoms of ADHD.

What some of you might not know about me is that I have a child living with ADHD. She’s just finishing eighth grade, and we’ve been on this journey together since she was diagnosed in second grade. I’ve spent hours through the years learning about the condition and making sure she has the best circumstances for succeeding in school, and tools for handling life as an ADHDer.

We have kept her in private schools with small class sizes and a forgiving nature when it comes to turning in assignments on time and developing skills that non-ADHD kids easily take to. Her other parents and I (she has four including her biological parents, her stepfather and stepmom) have also learned to see the benefits of ADHD – heightened empathy for others, a high level of creativity, and hyper-focused at times. She’s a smart cookie, and talented in so many ways.

As she’s transitioning to high school, we’re moving her into a public school that has the same schedule daily and classes that are “double-timed” so she finishes entire classes during each semester instead of a full year. Her executive function skills coach believes this structure will work better for her than the A/B schedule that most high schools now have.

Now, let’s double that up.

My husband recently received a tentative diagnosis of ADHD. This explains so many of his typical behaviors, including forgetfulness and inattention to detail at home, but also positive traits, like his propensity to keep massive to-do lists so he can manage tasks. In some ways, it is a gift since he’s managing the entire engineering organization at his employer. He’s also an extremely caring person, which I see as his best trait.

But how does all this impact me, you may wonder.

Recently in a session with my therapist, I had an ah-ha moment. I realized that my father (now 81 years old in an assisted living home) has ADHD. Looking back, I remember how, at his business, his office was always a mess. I remember how he kept massive to-do lists. How my mother played the role of manager at work and at home. He rarely did anything my mom didn’t ask or remind him to do. And she managed their finances and paid all the bills.

When she died in 2012, my dad’s world started to crumble. He needed help with budgeting and paying bills. He didn’t keep the house clean. He didn’t do much exercise. And soon there were piles of stuff all over the house. His behavior didn’t change. It could have been grief and depression, but given past behaviors, I believe those conditions were compounded by ADHD.

Eventually he was also diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus and we moved him to assisted living. My brother and I spent weeks cleaning out the house before putting it on the market to sell. What a mess!

These behaviors are all highly familiar, and weirdly comfortable, to me. Which is why, I believe, I subconsciously sought out a relationship with a husband with ADHD. Being the family/house manager was easy for me to pick up. And my husband mirrored some of my father’s behaviors (but not nearly as extreme!). As for my child, she likely received the genetic trait for ADHD from me.

Now as I’m realizing all this, I’m also seeing that I don’t want to be the family/house manager any more. I had vowed for many years that I would never end up like my mom and dad, where everything that happens in the household and/or family was down to me. But somehow I’ve reached that point anyway.

The hard work comes now, because not only do I need to improve my communications (and my empathy for my husband’s condition), but also I need to simply stop making all the decisions and managing the doing of everything.

Some balls are just going to drop, and I have to be okay with that. Easier said than done, most likely. But I’m willing to try.

Do you have or know someone with ADHD? Are you married to or parenting an ADHDer? Share your story in the comments or DM me at @lauriebtimms

You May Also Like…

IG Live with Kim O’hara

IG Live with Kim O’hara

What happens when you have a psychotic break? For me, it catalyzed my healing journey. Watch this IG Live with my book coach, Kim O'hara:...

read more