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Confessions of a Recovering Naggy McNaggerson

Confessions of a Recovering Naggy McNaggerson

By Mir Kamin

My name is Mir, and… I’m an insufferable nag. (Now you say, “Hi, Mir!“)

I know that nagging is not flattering, is rarely helpful, and tends to make everyone really cranky. I know that my teenagers—darlings that they are—are sometimes less likely to accomplish the things I beseech them to do if I nag them about it. I know all of this. And yet… there is a light side and a dark side to the universe, and as a mother, if I see the light fading, I nag. (Also if I see clothing on the floor, dirty dishes in the bedrooms, etc. Details.)

My Nag-o-Meter is further complicated by the fact that love may mean never having to say you’re sorry (that’s a stupid expression; love means being willing to say sorry, I think), but ADHD means never remembering stuff that doesn’t matter to you… stuff like clothing on the floor and dirty dishes in your bedroom. My daughter takes medication for her ADHD and it’s very helpful, but the bulk of the time I get to spend with her—or, more accurately, around her—is in the evenings when her meds have worn off. Hooboy. I will ask her to do something and she’ll say okay and an hour later that thing is still not done. She’s not being defiant or anything, it’s just how her brain works (or, y’know, doesn’t). Years of constant reminders about matters both big and small have bled into a habit of repeating and repeating and repeating and… I am probably lucky she hasn’t stabbed me in my sleep by now.

Well, guess what—that child of mine is almost 18. Nearly an adult. And whether you accept 18 as the arbitrary entrance to adulthood or not, there’s no disputing that in a few short months she’s moving out of my house and heading off to survive college without me there to harass her about everything she should be doing. She’ll be fine, but this whole year has been an exercise in shutting myself up (with varying degrees of success, if I’m being totally honest).

We started last summer, with her college visit planning, and later, her applications. I backed off and let her handle it all. It was clear that this was both exhilarating and terrifying for her, which was just as it should’ve been. From there, I backed away sometimes with a proclamation, sometimes more subtly. “You will now handle your own laundry with no reminders and if you run out of clothing, too bad so sad.” (Let’s just say that her brother is a little more fastidious, and also easy to bribe. Someone had been enjoying laundry service for a while.) A few well-placed emails let key folks know that I was removing myself from various conversations/planning, and she was in charge of her own stuff. I have been measured and deliberate. I have reminded myself that she can handle these things, and I need to give her the space to do so, and better all-around for her to encounter some failure while still at home with her safety net than to embark on independence after she moves.

So far, so good. Mostly.

The problem? It’s not her. It’s me. I’m perfectly okay letting her schedule her own doctors’ appointments or work out her class schedule for next year or handle everything at school right now completely on her own. The big stuff, y’know—I’ve handed it over and manage to keep my comments to a minimum. But the little things. It turns out that recovering from a lifetime of dedicated nagging is hard.

If you have a kid with ADHD, I bet this scenario sounds familiar: Despite numerous alarm clocks and backup plans (the truth is that her brother gets her up nearly every school day) and routines and reminders, my daughter is late getting out the door just about every morning. This is not a surprise. This is not unexpected. And yet, here I am in the middle of it, frustrated and annoying, barking, “You’re late! Go! Get out of my house. Brush your hair when you get there, just go!

By the time the kids leave, everyone is stressed out and grumpy, and the reality is that there is nothing I can say that’s going to make her move any faster. Nagging doesn’t help. It makes us both angry and accomplishes nothing. Why do I do it? Because old habits die hard.

Similarly, there has been a basket of clean laundry sitting just inside the door to my daughter’s room for several weeks, now. I’ve asked her to put her clothing away and return the basket countless times. Every time I ask, she rolls her eyes and huffs, “I will,” and we glare at each other because I don’t understand why she won’t just do it and she doesn’t understand why I won’t just stop asking. Now, if she was 10, maybe this would be a matter of teaching good habits and cooperation and discipline, but she’s nearly 18. Really, am I going to convince her to become tidy with my words at this stage? Am I going to give her a consequence for non-compliance when this is something happening in her room that doesn’t affect me? Honestly, I just had an epiphany about the laundry. And that epiphany was: Mir, stop. You’re being ridiculous.

As my daughter raced around at the last minute this morning, collecting her things and looking for her shoes (dear lord if you just put them where they belonged they’d be easier to find I thought, but I didn’t say it), I asked her—in my mildest tone—if she’d bothered putting that laundry away, yet. “Nope,” she said, “but I did move the basket so you can’t see it, anymore.”

So that’s… progress? I think it is.

As for me, I’m going to try very hard not to ask about it again. I’m making progress, too.

Mir Kamin
About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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Comments

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  • TC

    This is SO what went on here the year before my daughter (now almost done with her freshman year at college HOWISTHATEVENATHING???) left for school. Except, if I needed that basket, I dumped the clothes on her bed. And then she slept on them. Because, ugh, teens.

  • My Kids Mom

    Well, no ADHD here but we go through the same laundry thing every week. I’ve tried refusing them dinner until it is put away and I’ve certainly tried nagging. The younger one (12) has been given three warnings (probably really 10) and has lost the privilege of having mom wash and fold his clothes- starting when school gets out this summer. If he treats his clothes badly at that point I will walk away and close the door, but I won’t continue to fold them neatly and then let him wad them up any more.

  • Aska

    It took me years to get rid of stubborn refusal to do simple chores, simply because I could always hear my mother’s nagging whenever I had to do it. Years!

    Turns out, it’s not the end of the world if you run out of clean laundry. And you can recycle a shirt for a day, or eat cereal out of a coffee cup. But it’s nicer not to. And it’s nicer to do chores because you want to feel better, than because it just has to be done.

    Just saying, get ready for Chickie’s habits to descend into chaos once she’s breathing in all the freedom of independence. 🙂 And that’s completely normal. Hopefully she’s not as silly as me, and it’ll take her a few years less to see the light, than it did for me. 😉

    • Ha! This is interesting to me, as I was an incurable slob when I lived at home as a kid, and as soon as I moved out and felt my space was MINE, that changed.

    • Kim

      Gonna second the chaos thing, because – yeah.  ADHD, and not caring.  The one thing that is really difficult, and that she may need some prep for, is sharing a room with someone who prefers it neat.  I thought my first -year roommate and I were friends, but at the end of the year, she couldn’t get away from me fast enough. Wasn’t the only time I lost roommates due to my slovenly ways. Now I have a family of ADD types, and I find myself the queen of clean, and ask, “how did I get here?”

  • Caroline

    Please move /pack away the laundry and return the basket by xyz (once, a fair time frame). If no dice, pick up basket, dump clothes on floor of closet, Shut closet door, remove basket. voila. The passive-aggressive ”I moved the basket”… yeah. No. In your dorm room, do as you wish. In my home… and yes, constantly picking is a terrible habit, one many of us are guilty of it because, kids… and yes, learning to let go of various, really-don’t-matter-at-all things is healthy for everyone. I too have an ADD, he is a nightmare for exactly what you describe and of course shouting and nagging doesn’t make life pleasant and is often ineffective long term. Consequences that ”hurt” (not physically!) do. Refusing to play ball also helps.

    • I guess I’m a little conflicted about this because on the one hand, I have a right to reasonable expectations of cleanliness in my house, but on the other, it is her room and she’s nearly an adult. I grew up in an environment where I was not allowed to consider my room “mine” and really hated that, hence my waffling on my own preferences vs. giving her that space because her room is hers.

      • Myriam

        Did you think about a “don’t go in to fetch or return” approach? This assume you have a laudry room however… You will only wash clothes that were brought in the laudry room (designaed space for it) and leave clean clothes in the laundry room (designated space for it too). 

        • Oh, I don’t do her laundry anymore. The kids start doing their own laundry in middle school. I just want the basket back (I may be approaching the “dump it out and retreat” point).

          • Myriam

            Or buy her/have her buy a dedicated basket! As she’s washing her own clothes, I would feel “cheap” dumping it on the floor/bed…

  • Kim

    I’m sitting here with my cup of tea after the mad dash to get the eldest out the door by 8:30. I can’t even fathom a day when I’m not yelling “Are you dressed yet?”  I’ve got two little distractos, and the gods help me if my ADD kicks in too – we’re a mess in the mornings.
    But when we got diagnosed in the middle of the eldest’s first grade year, I made a conscious decision not to yell in the mornings.  I informed the school that I’d rather deliver kids who were happy, healthy and ready to learn a few minutes late to school, than unhappy stresscadets whose mother had been screaming at them so that we would make the bell.  We aspire to be on time, but it isn’t the priority. 
    BTW, our trick is a series of alarms on my iPhone, spaced 5-10 minutes apart, each with its own ring tone (ours get progressively obnoxious.). Very helpful for breaking through the early morning ADDdazes, with the added bonus of finding your phone well before you need to leave the house.