“Back-to-School Shopping Pushes My Executive Functions Beyond the Brink”

Last weekend, I realized it was time to buy supplies for my daughters’ upcoming school year, so I did what any reasonable person with ADHD would do: I avoided back-to-school shopping by throwing myself into a different — and completely unnecessary — task.

The bad news is my kids still aren’t prepared. The good news is that I have three new bird feeders and an app for identifying birds from the American Southeast.

Back-to-School Shopping Fills Me with Dread

It’s not that I think it’s more important for me to learn about finches and sparrows than it is for my 9-year-old to learn about pronouns and fractions or for my 12-year-old to learn about monarchies and democracies. It’s just that back-to-school shopping fills me with dread. I have ADHD, which impairs my executive function, such as the ability to plan things, motivate myself, and focus — all skills that shopping for school supplies requires.

Planning the purchases is hard because, well, where even are the school supply lists? I tried Googling them once but turned up dubious websites. Another time, I searched for them on the school district’s Facebook page but had no luck. I did, however, succumb to a targeted ad for Schitt’s Creek colored pencils.

Driving to a Big Box retailer might be easier. Some parents have said school supply lists are posted at Walmart. But I’d have to put on real pants to see for myself. All my real pants are dirty. That means I’d have to wear the ripped athletic shorts I slept in last night. And that means I’d have to shave my legs, and you know what? Forget it.

[Free Resource: Your Back-to-School Playbook]

Even if I got to the store, I’d be so distracted by the neon notebooks and glittery binders that I’d stray from the school supply list. Instead, I’d return home with a planner for myself (but will never use), a fishing license, a Beaches DVD, a fourth bird feeder, guilt, and mental fatigue.

What would I not bring home from the store? Something essential, like pencils. (If only I could send the kids to school with the Schitt’s Creek colored pencils. Unfortunately, colors like “Roland Schitt Brown” aren’t school-appropriate.)

School Supply List Solution

So, this year, I’m trying something different. I accept that I’ll order everything online at the last minute — after my mom texts me the supply lists — and have it overnighted. That’s what I’ve done every year so far, and my kids have been OK.

I mean, last year, my older daughter gave a poster presentation on theoretical vacation travel to the solar system’s outer planets. My younger daughter won the third-grade essay contest and built the most stable chopstick-and-marshmallow tower in her class.

[Self-Test: Executive Dysfunction in Adults with ADHD]

Sometimes I need to remind myself that they’re thriving, that I am doing enough, and that I am enough.

Besides, I make up for the conventional back-to-school shopping experience by impulse-purchasing nonsense my kids want all year—from scented markers to hand-knit backpacks decorated with frogs.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to photograph this bird. It’s incredibly urgent that I find out if it’s a chimney swift.

Back-to-School Shopping: Next Steps

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Melanie Wachsman

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