Practice

Child psychiatrist rocked our world with McDiesel by contradicting common parenting wisdom, common inlaw advice, and common sense. He said, “There is no ‘practice.’” No practicing sitting quietly in church, no practicing eating out at a restaurant, no practicing staying with the cart on a big grocery shopping trip. McDiesel cannot “practice” this; it will not work. This was a huge relief—it legitimized what we knew already (and made amateur advisors back off). There weren’t enough treats, bribes, incentives, or threats in the world to get McD to do church or restaurants or shopping. But lots of books say there are. Here’s a sticker, there’s a Smartie. Five minutes this time, ten the next.

Five minutes—in church, at a school assembly, in a checkout line—with a handful of ADHD is a very, very long and excruciating time. I know because much of my time is spent dreading, preparing for, and living through all the amazing things that can go awry in five minutes.

No practice means not going a lot of the time. Sitting on the bench. All of us. Or at least the half of us that’s staying with McD. But that’s not all.

No practice also means you’re dropped straight into the big game without even the benefit of warming up. Like this: if we’re at the store, I have pretty much to resign myself to the fact that I probably will lose all control of my four-year-old. He will be gone. I must impose my will upon him via telepathic powers only. I grab the soy milk; I am sending a mind-control message: “You will not knock down a display.” I grab the juice; “You will not leave the building.” It’s a targeted mission, so I can hit the necessary aisle or two, all the while following signs of him (running footsteps and people who look like they’re wondering what kind of mother lets her little boy run around wild in a store like that?). Intercept him. Head to checkout lane. He’s clear past that and at gumball machines. Those are between me (at register) and doors to parking lot. This is where he’s got me. He knows I’m stuck at the register. I am at my most vulnerable. Distances calculated intuitively (me to McD, McD to doors, doors to parking lot). Mental plan in place for overcoming all obstacles for reaching him before he reaches traffic. Buy time by feigning to hunt for gumball-machine quarter in my bag. Feels like life or death.

Three minutes like that in the store surely shave three minutes off my life.

But worth it because McD will throw absolute fit and not go to bed without having his milk.

I hear it gets better—maybe some warm-ups?—with age and maturity.

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