A "Moving" Family Drama

When I helped my father move, I finally discovered that his attention deficit was the reason we often felt so disconnected.

Life in the Fast Brain | posted by Kristen Caven

Going back to our hometown is always a challenge for Enzo’s dad and me. Half of my generation relate to the chaotic ballet of a “Divorced Family Christmas.” At their best, holidaysare exhausting because you have to pack in so many celebrations. At their worst, they are compounded with uncomfortable emotional challenges. If you marry someone whose parents are also not together, and also live in the same town as yours, and you have an adorable son that everyone wants to spend time with, taking trips back home wear you out. But you do them anyway, because you love your family.
Every single thing on the “hurt me” list was connected to his ADHD!
— Kristen Caven
A few years ago, the stress level spiraled out of control when we visited my dad, who was in the process of moving. We had planned to help him with the move on Friday, but when we dropped in to say hello on Monday, it was clear they would never be ready. The furniture that would have to go in the trucks was still three layers deep in I’ll-get-to-that-later and where-did-I-put-that clutter that had been building up for years. Always ready to help in a crisis, I excused myself from all the fun family day trips we’d planned with the other family branch, and rolled up my sleeves. On the first day, I made a pathway through the basement office to get to the bundle of cardboard boxes he had purchased a year ago to prepare for the move.
Long story short: I knocked myself out helping him. The process was frustrating, the communication convoluted, the emotions confusing. On Thursday, Enzo and his dad came to help move, almost as planned. Toes were stepped on and shins were banged, but the three of us felt good working together as a family. We smiled at the “Grandpa Gerf” train memorabilia that had been special to Enzo as a child. We laughed at the three wi-fi routers we found, in their original bags, under piles of clutter. No wonder he could never make a good connection!
But on Friday, my dad got mad at me for something he thought I had done, and he unloaded on me. Our relationship was damaged, perhaps permanently.
It took me months to process what had happened that week, and on that final day. I worked with a therapist during this time to unravel our relationship. She had me make a list, without pulling any punches, of all the ways he had supported me and all the ways he had hurt me throughout my life. Being the dutiful daughter, the sweet one, it was hard for me to make the second list. My impulse was to make excuses for all the hard stuff (“But he was going through a divorce”) and forgive him, or just let those feelings go before I felt them. (It’s hard, with ADHD, knowing how you feel sometimes, anyway.) But somehow I got through the list, and it was very long.
Then I stepped back and took a look at it. The good and the bad were very inconsistent.
Then I saw his ADHD.
Every single thing on the “support/love” list was truly him—the talented, educated, fluidly intelligent, and altruistic daddy I loved and felt close to. Every single thing on the “hurt me” list was connected to his ADHD! All of the not listening, the forgetting birthdays, the not keeping promises, the incompletions and interruptions and inconsiderations, the criticisms, the fixed thoughts, the inability to switch tracks, the mis-reading of my emotions. All of these things had confused me, disconnected us in many ways, and, at times, hurt me deeply.
Above all, his vituperous emotional sensitivity, especially to feelings of rejection or judgment, had damaged all of his other relationships with our other family members (I was the only one of seven kids who showed up to help him move). He had finally set his phaser on stun and pointed it in my direction.
Being able to see the invisible, insidious patterns of ADHD enabled me to take this family challenge more seriously, and to start new conversations with my dad. Because I want to love him for who he is. And I do.


Coffee For Your Kids? Three Ways of YES.

Make the COFFEE connection for bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kids.

Life in the Fast Brain | posted by Kristen Caven
Most right-thinking adults will agree that coffee is a terrible thing for kids. Kids don’t need what adults need—a crutch to wake up, an afternoon pick-me-up, a kickstart for the mind, or an excuse for a “special moment” with a friend. Kids need to run around, nap, and get to bed on time. But the world of ADHD is an inside-out one, where “up” is sometimes “down” and “in” is sometimes “out.” And from where I sit, I can count at least three ways coffee is great for kids.

#1: When COFFEE Is an Acronym

On a long summer days and longer cold vacation days trapped inside, our house rule is to do the following each day: · 
  • C: Do a CHORE 
  • O: Do something OUTSIDE 
  • F:  Do something FUN 
  • F:  FIX something that is broken or needs attention 
  • E:  Get some EXERCISE 
  • E:  EAT some delicious, healthy food.

Obviously, these things can overlap — when you are washing the car you are doing a Chore Outside and having Fun while doing it. Or when you take a picnic bike ride with a friend who has a broken heart you are Fixing something, getting Exercise, and Eating.

#2: When It’s Coffea Cruda

Many kids with an ADHD diagnosis have trouble sleeping. For them, here is a homeopathic remedy called Coffea Cruda, which is made from unroasted coffee beans. Homeopathy being a hair-of-the-dog remedy, Coffea Cruda does the opposite of what coffee does: It calms you down when you are jangled.
I take Coffea Cruda (it comes in little white sugar pellets that dissolve under your tongue) in the middle of the night when my heart is beating fast because I drank coffee at a dinner party. My little guy, from about age 9 or 10, self-administers this remedy (it’s very safe) on nights when his thoughts race like sports cars in his head as he lies there in the dark. For us, Coffea Cruda is one of those mythical “magic bullets.”
I have talked about this remedy in other places, and have gone 10 rounds with strangers in comment wars, who have insulted me for my stupidity for “believing” in homeopathics. But you don't have to believe in them any more than you do with Western meds. Some work, some don't. It's just a different approach.

#3: When It’s Actually Coffee

The first time I heard a friend say coffee calmed down her hyperactive son, I couldn’t believe it. She never struck me as a crazy person, but that was just, well, crazy. Then I saw the results. And then there was another, equally sane friend, whose diagnosed son also drank coffee. When I finally began learning about ADHD, I understood that stimulants have a calming effect on ADHD brains. (One doctor told me that people with ADHD who take cocaine calm down!)
And then there are the ADHD-PI (Primarily Inattentive) kids, who have a hard time getting their brains to turn on sometimes. In these cases, coffee works like coffee does for most adults.
This is where I tell the embarrassing parenting story about how I taught my son to drink coffee in high school, mixing it bit by bit with his morning cocoa, because he had to be at school by 8:30. But that was part of him becoming an adult and learning to use the delicious crutches that nature (and Starbucks) gives to those who need the stimulation of mainstream coffee culture.
In other words, you might want to think twice about giving up coffee for New Year’s — it might be just what you (or your child) needs.