Sunday, May 11, 2008
Written by my sister...
"If you can't behave yourself then I'm not going to bring you to Costco again!"
I said these words, which wouldn't have been such a big deal, except that I was saying them to my mother. She had already been scolded twice by the Costco sample ladies for trying to grab their food straight out of the microwave. "But I don't want to wait for them to cut up the food. I'm in a hurry," she whined. Even though we both knew we weren't in a hurry at all.
My mother is a brilliant, opinionated, artistic, spiritual woman. She also has severe ADHD. When I think of ADHD I picture a third-grader who can't sit still in class, not a retiree whose life resembles one of those Chinese plate-spinning acrobats. She is a very enthusiastic starter of projects. Not much of a finisher, though. Each day when I came home from school, the detritus of her latest phase was everywhere: Sawdust and tools from building new kitchen cupboards from scratch; little bits of wax and silver covering every countertop during the jewelry-making phase; sheets of cork and leather when she decided she would be making her own shoes from now on. Don't even get me started on the stand-up hot tub or the giant flower-shaped lamps she welded. Mom would enjoy an invigorating day of creativity, then spend the afternoon napping, leaving her three children to clean up all of the messes.
For a long time I resented her selfish pursuits, her messiness and her complete lack of normalcy. ("Mom, if you're going to pick me up for an orthodontist appointment can you please not come to school covered in wood shavings?" or "why can't you just crochet or watch soaps like all the other moms?") I used to sit in class fantasizing, not about cute boys, but about a quiet, sweet mother. She would be beautiful and stylishly dressed at all times (no weird homemade shoes, to be sure). She would be reserved and a good listener, not a noisy, brash know-it-all. Most of all, she would be still. Not always starting something. Not always distracted.
As I got older it helped to understand what adult ADHD means: The disorganization, the difficulty finishing tasks, the inability to follow directions, the lack of a filter in conversation (if my mom thinks it, she says it), limited listening skills and the tendency to interrupt. Mostly I just try to think of her as a responsible eight-year-old. I don't tend to be as judgmental or harsh that way. I can enjoy her zany exuberance a little better when I picture her as an enthusiastic child, not just a weird old lady.
This time of year, as Mother's Day rolls around, I think about her and what it's meant to have her as a mother. The roles seem to have changed and somehow I have become the mature, responsible one; the matriarch of the family. I'm now in my 30's but the woman can still embarrass me in no time flat. Since I have become a mother, though, I have come to appreciate and cherish her ADHD as a gift to my children. She is the "fun grandma". The one who doesn't get tired of taking walks or giving piggybacks. The one who has an endless repertoire of fairy tales and Bible stories (spooky/funny/silly voices included). The one who will spend hours helping her grandchildren cut out and decorate homemade gingerbread. And when I walk into the kitchen and see flour and cinnamon and cookie cutters scattered on every single surface, I take a breath--a big breath--and notice only the smiles on everyone's faces."
Ahhh....all so true. Our mom is a nut, but we love her! Happy Mother's Day, Hilde!