Points for honesty

By Mir
September 3, 2013

The adjustment to the new school year has been… well… a little rocky. It’s been a month, so you’d think things would be evening out about now. Of course, if you actually knew my children, you’d realize that one month is about enough time for all unaddressed issues to come to a glorious, face-melting head of WOE and GNASHING OF TEETH, and that’s pretty much exactly how it went.

[Related: I have never wanted a long weekend to end as badly as I did this past weekend. Instead of feasting on charred meat, we spent our extra day wondering if we could, perhaps, just move away when the kids weren’t paying attention. But apparently that’s “bad parenting” or something.]

Anyway! We are ALL ABOUT the now-dreaded phrase “skills building” here at Casa Mir. It is SKILLS BUILDING to work on consuming your dinner as if silverware is not a foreign concept. It is SKILLS BUILDING to be instructed in the fine art of putting dirty clothing IN the hamper instead of NEXT TO the hamper (I have never understood that). And it is most definitely SKILLS BUILDING to learn how to make checklists for yourself if you have the attention span of a fruit fly and are constantly in trouble for forgetting to do things.

This is the fun part of an ADHD diagnosis; once you get past the guilt of not having realized your child was genuinely impaired and not just a pain in the ass (I’ll let you know when I’m over that…), you kind of go back to the essential building blocks of organizing your time and meeting goals. If Chickadee had been younger when we figured this out, probably we’d make checklists for her. But she’s in high school and she can make her own darn checklists, no matter how much she might whine about it or wander off when she’s supposed to be making one. (Checklist: Item 1: Make checklist. Item 2: Get sucked into Escher-esque infinite loop of impossibility.)

In Chickie’s case, we also have to work on the whole “realistic” piece of things; her world view can be a little… uhhhhh… rigid, maybe. Warped, sometimes, even. A checklist is only as good as the items on it, right? So we are SKILLS BUILDING our way through things like “realistic assessment” and “attainable goals” and “writing down everything” to sort of cultivate this habit of mindfully approaching the day.

So. This weekend. Lord, this weekend SUCKED. The aforementioned one-month-into-school meltdown was in full force for BOTH children, and that meant that our world was overfull with DRAMA and SADNESS and WHY-ME and YOU-ARE-SO-MEAN and all of that sort of delightful stuff which absolutely no one tells you about when you’re holding a tiny baby and thinking they smell like rainbows.

By last night, things had calmed down, issues had been resolved, and I was no longer plotting my escape. As bedtime approached, Otto struck a deal with Chickadee that if she was ready for bed on time AND had made up her next day’s checklist, she could regain possession of her iPod. (Do not ask me why she lost it in the first place. I don’t remember. But assume that life sans iPod is a fate worse than death, because she assures us that it is.) I reminded Chickie that she had to get a booster shot this morning, and she nodded and headed up the stairs.

In short order she had returned, and solemnly presented us with her list for today:

1. Wake up
2. Eat breakfast
3. Take pills
4. Put in contacts and shower
5. Get dressed
6. Brush teeth
7. Pack bag and go downstairs
8. Get in car
9. Sit in germy waiting room
10. Be stabbed by unapologetic nurse
11. Go to school
12. Get a late pass
13. Knock on door
14. Enter class awkwardly
15. Ask about late lab
16. Get an unclear answer
17. Finish school day
18. Go to marching band practice
19. Come home and be confused about bio

I am still trying to decide if this is her being passive in her own life—and requires further SKILLS BUILDING to take a more active role in areas where she may need more assistance—or if we should be rewarding her ability to predict the most likely reality with such clarity. It’s a conundrum, it really is.

Of course, I’m holding her cell phone hostage until she’s caught up in bio, so I’m thinking she may find a way to figure it all out. Fingers crossed.


  1. Rachel

    Skills building. Awesome. Sounds about as much fun as social skills scripting was when my oldest was young. Yay.

    I could not possibly love Chickie any more than I do right now. LOVE her list!!!

    My middle girl is looking at an ADHD dx this year (8th grade). She had to get the 3rd Guardisil shot on Friday. Her list would’ve added “hug mom while she holds me down to get my shot” and “eat ice cream I’m promised whenever I get a shot”.

    Here’s hoping things get easier for this school year. Today is day 6 of school for my middle one, day 1 for oldest and youngest.

    • Mir

      That’s hilarious; she was getting her 3rd Gardasil shot today, too. Take heart—I used to have to hold her down while she shrieked bloody murder, and now she just gets the shot without drama. I never thought we’d see this day!

      • Rachel

        I am going to seriously pray that we get less drama as time goes on! So glad something is easier for Chickie now!

        Mine had a traumatic needle experience as a preschooler (held down by 4 people, 4 shots at once) while in the hospital. And then had to have a lot more needles while in there for 5 days. So some of the anxiety makes sense. Not the level of it, though.

      • Nance

        We’re still in the “have panic attack for 15 minutes, finally get self under control only to scream bloody murder and need to be held down” stage of shots. Z starts Gardasil next year. I can’t wait.

        Sounds like we had a similar weekend. Complete with my 13 year old biting her brother on the ass because he went in her room uninvited. Yes, my teen has the impulse control of a 2 year old.

    • js

      I am so proud because it takes 3 nurses and myself to hold down my tiny little child who bears the strength of a Greek god when getting her shots. Sure, it’s embarrassing and I practically beg and bribe her with whatever works, then she throws a fit anyway, but I am still skills building myself so I don’t cry while she’s crying.

  2. deva

    I’m sorry, but I am giggling uncontrollably at her realistic-yet-confusing-to-you checlist, because it is so… awesome. And so something I probably would write if in a bad mood. And a teenager. I just think those thoughts now.

  3. AliceM

    It is such a relief to hear that we’re not the only ones who have trouble with 3 day weekends. I am never glad to see them coming. The combination of the break in schedule, and an extra day of “togetherness” really sends my aspergers son over the edge. I can totally relate.

  4. jodifur

    I am actually sitting in my office giggling out loud because that last one is SO ME. Remind me next time we have one of our twitter dm session to tell you about the time I hung a list on our front door when I was a teenager about ALL THE WAYS MY MOTHER WAS RUINING MY LIFE. Or something.

    • elz

      Ha ha ha, oh, mercy. This makes me feel SO much better about the dramatic crap I pulled. I never posted a list…at least I don’t remember doing so.

  5. Mame

    I wish you didn’t feel guilty about not having realized Chickie had ADHD. Having read your blog from the beginning I know that you have done your very best for your family. I have a dear friend with ADHD who was diagnosed in his 50s when his 3rd wife figured it out. He doesn’t blame his parents who were both medical professionals. You’ve done your best, you do a great job. Now give yourself a break.

  6. Brenda

    You know what? I love her list. Because even though I would probably have something to say about letting Bio continue to be confusing if it were me or my kid (skill building opportunity, I guess), it’s an honest and funny list. And sometimes teachers just aren’t clear even when you ask for clarification. I’ve been there.

  7. Laura

    That is the most awesomely realistic checklist I’ve ever seen, and I love that girl and her sense of humor.

  8. Chuck

    I still don’t really understand how they have AP classes in the 9th grade. When I was in school back in the dark ages known as the “grand old eighties” we didn’t have any classes that advertised themselves as “AP” until my senior year.

    • Mir

      She’s in 10th, but her school allows (even encourages) the kids to start in 9th. I don’t understand it, either. They vary widely; AP Gov is usually taken by freshmen without a problem. This AP Bio class, though, something like 30% of the enrolled kids have already dropped because it’s so hard.

      • Becca

        AP Bio is probably the worst of the APs. It covered WAY more than college bio did, and then they revised it to *fix* it. Only issue is that they made it HARDER; before the exam revision the ‘5’ scores comprised 19.4% of the tests sat. Last year (when I had the joy of taking it!) only 5.4% percent of testers recieved a 5. Does Chickadee have the study guide that goes along with the Campbell textbook? as a former AP bio student I can tell you that was the BIGGEST LIFE SAVER EVER.

        • Julie

          I took AP Bio in 2005 purely to fulfill a graduating with honors thing and to be with my friends. I failed the test (I think I got a 2) but got an A in the class. I completely blame my teacher because I feel like those two grades should be correlated in some way. Either I should have failed the class because I didn’t learn enough to pass the test, or I should have been able to pass the test. Hands down worst class of my life.

  9. Chuck

    Er, I guess she’s in the 10th grade now, isn’t she? Whoops. Still seems a bit early for the AP designator.

  10. Lucinda

    I love that. My daughter would write that list if she were a bit older. I would reward that because she is injecting humor because I live for sarcasm.

  11. Chickadee

    Much to the delight of all of you, I have retrieved my missing bio lab. No confusion, yay! But now my checklist is off-track for the rest of the day…

    • Mir



      • Chickadee

        Nah broski. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat.
        (I’m obviously quite the gangster)

        • js

          Gangsta. Actual gangsters don’t spell words correctly. They ain’t got time for dat!

          • Pip

            *fo dat

      • bryan

        Eating lunch was not on the list.

    • Dezi

      Kudos, Chicky on your list. Personally I see your mom’s writing talent shining out through your humor/sarcasm. Loved it!!! Congrats on the BIO victory too!!

  12. Sharon

    The best Labor Day weekends we had when the kids were young were the ones we went “camping” with other families in cabins on a lake for a completely organized weekend with activities and a dining hall. Three-day weekends are hard but just as school is starting they are beyond difficult, so we found that distraction to be the answer. Chickie’s list is great:)

  13. s

    Who knew checklists could be so entertaining!! Kudos to Chickie and thanks for not including anything toilet related.

  14. suburbancorrespondent

    Like being pecked to death by ducks, isn’t it?

  15. not supergirl

    I seriously love that list, and I also love that she left room in her approach for things to work out, based on her comment above. LOL Your girl is a winner.

    We’re a week and a half into school, but last week doesn’t ocmpletely count. We had such high temps all week (high 90s, low 100s), and lots of our schools don’t have A/C (old, no money, etc.) so we had early dismissal all week. This meant scrambling to change the plan for those of us who have work schedules that need to dovetail with our kids’ school schedules. It was less than fun, but this week looks like beautiful weather, so all should be well. Of course, with the holiday, it won’t be until next week that we actually have our first full week of school. Crazy!

  16. meghann @ midgetinvasion

    I love making checklists. I think the key is adding things I’ve already done, so I can cross them off. Then I can say, “Look! Half of my list is done already!”, and I can feel less bad about the things I don’t get done on the list.

    • Brigitte

      Hee, me too!

  17. Brigitte

    Looks like my daily checklists . . and yet I so rarely manage to get past the first few items!

  18. TracyB

    I love checklist and whoever created Post-it notes is a genius!!! Just saying, without both of these, I couldn’t make out the door in the morning. Or maybe I could, just wouldn’t know where or what I was suppose to be going/doing. :)

  19. Ann Woodruff

    I think she is brilliant…..really.

  20. bj

    I write lists like that when I’m feeling particularly unproductive (though admittedly without quite so much teenage snark, since I’m not a teenager). I like being able to check off brush teeth and feel like I accomplished something.

    I agree that the list contains some useful info about how to deal with particular situations (oh, I so remember the awkwardness of having to enter a classroom late — frankly, these days, enough that I might consider letting my kid wait until they knew the next class was going to start).

  21. Rasselas

    Checklists can be both awesome and infuriating. Sometimes it’s great when you’re in a productive mode, and keep checking things off. The impetus of productivity is so powerful, when you realize how much you’ve managed to accomplish.

    And then there will be that one task you absolutely loathe, and do everything else but the things on the list because you can’t even face it anymore. That’s when checklists utterly fail for me.

    I think it works as a temporary routine, if you can be reasonable about managing your own expectations of productivity.

  22. Carrie On

    That list cracks me up – gotta love the GT kids!

    And don’t tell anybody, but the smart@55es in my classes were always my favorites when I was a teacher. Now that I’m an educational diagnostician and don’t have to convince the GT kids to do stupid busywork, I REALLY enjoy them!

  23. Sandra

    SKILLS BUILDING… Brilliant! I too have a child who doens’t believe in silverware, and who also prefers the floor to the dirty clothes hamper.

    In addition, our weekend also consisted of a lot of complaining by both children over the stupid things ever, so I also imposed a $1 fee from the complainer, to me, the complainee, since I’m D.O.N.E listening to the complaining. You don’t want your sister using the shampoo and conditioner you use, but yet I PAID FOR? Too bad, and, fork over a dollar.

    I made $4 in compaining fees on the American River this weekend listening to the 10 year old complain over and over why it’s sooo unfair she has to be in our boat (husband and myself) while her sister gets to be in the other boat. I might have considered pushing her overboard a couple (few) times.

  24. Brigid

    I may have mentioned once (under my breath of course) that I couldn’t wait for Tuesday when everyone would go back where they were supposed to be… work and school and not in my house. My family is LOUD. (Also, you used my least favorite word: rigid. Brings back such horrible memories.)

  25. Pip

    When I was 16, my head of year at school got really mad at me after looking at the calendar in my school journal. I’d labelled each of the days in the two months leading up to my GCSE exams (The first Big Exams in the UK) – ‘Panic.’ ‘Panic.’ ‘Panic.’ ‘Freak out a little.’ ‘Panic’ – and then on the last day before the exams I’d written ‘REVISE EVERYTHING EVER.’ with ‘Go to your Doom’ for each of the days in the two week exam period.

    I didn’t get points for realism. She told me off for being negative.

    (Same woman blamed me for being bullied. I remain not a fan.)

  26. Carmen

    Chickie is just like my kids. Love her so much.

    Isn’t ADD SWELL???

  27. Chris

    Loved the list and loved the response from Chickie.

    First day of school here and we actually got out of the house on time including photo taking (which has to be done at home so I don’t embarrass them at school). Probably helped by our joint remembering the worst first day of school, which including late leaving, traffic, and car accident (minor but still!!!!) and eventually abandoning the car (with other driver still in line) to walk across overpass and into school – all of this on my youngest first day at a new school which she was very stressed about. Some tears were shed but today was gorgeous and accident free.

  28. Karen

    I love her list. Is it ok to say that?…. just…lol… smart kid. And I do believe, with exceptional intelligence comes difficulty in life. You know that saying – Ignorance is bliss -? I think it’s just so freak’n true.

  29. Kathy

    It is just shocking that your daughter is such a smartass…I think that list is awesome…

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