Teaching Self-Forgiveness


An ADHD Story

It’s Monday morning. I’m rapidly trying to get everyone moving – myself included — when I hear a shout from my husband. “Everyone, get shoes on and get outside — NOW!”

He got my attention. He’s calm, but I can tell that there is something going on that is urgent. This is not about wanting the kids to take the trash-cans down the hill. Wait a minute, why is he still at home?

I ask what’s going on. He responds, “I’ve had an ADD moment and I need everyone outside, now.” He isn’t angry. The urgency in his voice is building. Man, he gets points for keeping cool, ‘cause clearly something serious is happening.

In retrospect, it’s a funny story, and we were incredibly lucky. At the time, I must admit I was getting nervous. Head count: all kids safe. Whew. I headed outside to survey the situation.

It was like a scene from the Stephen King movie, “Christine.” Two headlights stare out at me from the woods, taunting. My husband’s Prius is half way down the hill, mere inches from my giant oak tree, and my neighbor’s wooden fence.

I go back inside to help rally the troops, and cover up my white blouse – this is likely to get messy. I call for closed-toed shoes – gotta be specific with ADHD kids – and long pants – those woods get buggy, and the snakes are already pretty mad by now.

We come together as a team and push the car out of the woods and into the driveway. Actually, my shirt stays clean because I get to drive. It is touch and go there for a minute, but soon enough, she’s out of danger.

Within 5 minutes, the drama is over, everyone is back in his/her own space, and my husband is on the way to his meeting. I’m proud to say, we’ve all handled it like rock stars.

 In the world of ADHD, every day feels a little like that Monday morning. On the one hand, there is excitement and enthusiasm. Adrenaline is pumping, and we respond to life’s adventures with excessive energy and immediate response (or not at all, but that’s another story). On a good day, we do it with excellent humor, as well.

On the other hand, with plenty of unexpected surprises, there can be a serious need for forgiveness. We make simple mistakes a lot – the natural consequence of the marriage of impulsivity and inattention. Sure, everyone makes mistakes. We just tend to do it often enough that, statistically speaking, we make bigger ones, more frequently. 

Striking the balance between the two -- jumping to action and managing the agony of defeat -- is the art of living well with ADHD.

No matter how many strategies we put into place, sometimes we’re going to have those “ADD moments.” And when we do, forgiveness (for ourselves and our family members) is every bit as important as responsiveness. Perhaps more so. 

You want the rest of the story? It’s an ADD classic:

Running late for a meeting, my husband got into the car in the garage. He turned it on and started leaving, when he remembered that he needed something else from the house. He got out of the car, walked behind it, and into the house.

When he got back out to the garage, the car was half-way across the driveway and on it’s way down the hill. Apparently, he’d accidentally left the car in reverse, but it didn’t start to move until the gas engine kicked in (remember, it’s a Prius). It was actually a rather honest mistake.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. In fact, the car missed the side of the garage, the other car parked in the driveway, AND the oak tree in the neighbor’s woods. Nothing was really damaged except a few scratches, and a little pride.

Not a lot of pride. Instead of beating himself over the head with a stick, my husband handled the situation beautifully. He responded to the situation, got the help he needed, stayed calm, kept his sense of humor, and let it go when the crisis was past. I’m sure he got a little red in the face when he arrived at the meeting, but at least he had a great story to tell, complete with the visual aid of a photograph.

Most of all, he did a masterful job of modelling for our kids self-forgiveness of simple human error.

So what’s the take-away? When mistakes happen – and they will – try to hold them lightly. Practice (and model) radical forgiveness. And remember to keep your sense of humor. Who knows. Maybe the next car to lurch independently out of the garage, on its own free will, could be your own!

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