The Gift of Empathy

ADHD, Empathy, Thriving

I’ve talked quite a bit about the challenges associated with being a mom who has ADHD. But there are some upsides too.

ADHD is an executive function disorder. Toddlers are also an executive function disorder. 

Sometimes a toddler is being a brat and not listening to you. Sometimes their brain is struggling to get itself together enough to follow through when you tell them to pick up their toys. I see this in my son. When he hovers around a task but doesn’t do it, I know there’s a good chance he needs a needs someone to build a bridge for him to help through the transition. I see it so clearly because I feel it in myself every single day. I lack those same bridges. When I really needed to start writing this post, I was checking email, checking my Fitbit stats, fiddling around with papers on my desk, getting a glass of water. Basically, I was doing everything except writing the post. 

“I need a nudge.” I turned on my Forest App and was able to get to writing.

For my son, often all it takes is to hold his hand and gently guide it to the toy I’m asking him to pick up. More often than not, his little fingers will grasp it, and he’ll happily put it away along with all the other toys in the room. He’s transitioned tasks so now he will pick up all the toys. My executive function Jedi husband has more trouble seeing this in our son. It’s not a reality he lives day in and day out so he doesn’t recognize it as quickly. He’s more likely than me to get frustrated in these instances, but he’s learned from me how to help our son through transitions.

ADHD has its superpowers and struggles. But in the midst of all of the challenges of mothering with ADHD, I feel like it has given me this precious gift of being able to meet my toddler where he is with an attitude of “I feel ya, Bud. Let’s work through it together.” Will I always get to places on time or have meals that aren’t random items pulled out of the fridge? No. Will I know where to find their shoes? Ha! Will my emotional disregulation and distraction negatively affect my children? Regrettably, most likely. But they will have empathy and understanding from their mother, and ADHD has helped me to give them that gift. 

I can keep no illusion of perfection going, especially for the people I live with. So my children will see from me what it looks like to struggle and make mistakes and own up to those mistakes. They will know what it feels like to receive empathy from someone deeply acquainted with their own faults who doesn’t blame them for having faults too. In my own weaknesses, I can hand my children permission to not be perfect.