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When Routines Go Kerflooey

By Debbie Koenig

If you're a past reader of mine, you know that my fondness for routine is well-established. And, as it turns out, a fairly rigid lifestyle is good for my son, too, now that he’s been diagnosed with ADHD. During the school year, we built a system around keeping a week-at-a-glance board in the kitchen, with a.m. and p.m. to-do lists for him tacked on. He would pull off the relevant one and carry it around the apartment, getting things done without us having to remind him a million times.

He found it helpful, and I found it sanity-saving. Getting him out the door in the morning became 1,000 times easier, with (relatively) little shouting. And in the evenings, he knew not to even ask for screen time until he’d completed specific items on the p.m. list. Sitting down with the board to plan out the coming week became part of our Sunday evening ritual.

But like all good things, the school year came to an end. As he did last year, kiddo is attending six different summer camps for one week each. You’d think I’d have learned from the chaos that resulted last time. Eh, not so much.

For the first week or two we kept up with our week-at-a-glance board, but then he left for five nights at sleepaway camp. I reverted to my footloose ways from before life was so regimented, and it was good. Freed from constantly thinking about my kid’s needs, I was able to follow my own desires for a change. It surprised me, but I found I wanted to eat a lot of vegetables. All these years of cooking with his pickiness in the back of my head has restricted my options.

He came home, and I completely forgot about our calendar ritual. We got through the first week okay, I suspect because we’d all been refreshed by that break. This week, though, has been much more challenging. We’re fighting about the everyday things he knows he must do (like setting the table or brushing his teeth). I’m stress-eating. This morning I realized what’s behind it: For the second time, I’d forgotten to set up the calendar with him.

This morning, after he left for camp, I mapped out what’s left of the week. I expect it’ll take a day or two for things to fall back into our normal rhythm, but it should happen.

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