Lawnmower Man: The Clark Chronicles

Clark wants to be a liar when he grows up.  Oops, my bad.  A LAWYER.

That Boy.  We just asked him to mow the grass.  A simple task.  A task he performed (sort of) regularly.  Where did it all go wrong?

My teenage Clark navigates life with a faulty GPS.  ADHD blocks many of the signals you and I take for granted.  One of the hallmarks of an ADHD child is their inability to process a time frame other than the present; they operate on  either “now” or “HUH?”  This present-focus renders normal choice-consequences logic meaningless for the young ADHD child, and it improves only slightly as he matures.  Medication helps.  Support helps. But Clark and other ADHD kids find it hard to process why lying now to avoid present unpleasant circumstances will matter later — later is later.  That doesn’t mean they don’t know the difference between the truth and a lie,  that lying is bad, and that getting in trouble is unpleasant.  They just automatically go with “lie now and defer punishment.”

So how do you tell an ADHD lie from a deliberate, manipulative falsehood with the maturing ADHD kid?  It’s pretty dang hard, let me tell you.  Consider our lawnmower incident, for example.

It was a Saturday — chores day for the weekend.  Clark’s assignment: mow the grass in the front and back yards.  Clark had been mowing the grass  for years.  Well, we’d been trying to get Clark to mow the grass for years, anyway.  He always had an excuse.  The mower wouldn’t start, it was out of gas, the bag was full, he needed a snack/drink/to go to the bathroom, there were mosquitoes, yadda yadda.  He could wear a Mommy down, even a tough lawyer Mommy, but we still made him go through the roughly 3.5-hour process each week of the mowing season.

Lately, mowing had been less painful.  Not painless, mind you, but less painful.  Mowing had been accomplished in closer to forty-five minutes on average for a task that should take 20 minutes.  A 75%+ reduction in time.  We could live with that.

So, it was Saturday, and we asked Clark to mow.  Fifteen minutes passed with Clark outside and no roar of the lawnmower.  Then we heard the door slam and the familiar slap of Clark’s flat-footed duck steps as he came to discuss the mowing.

Deep breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth.  I felt the tension gripping my chest wall, and I let it go.  This time could be different.

“Uh, Mom?”

“Yes, Clark,” I said, careful to continue my breathing and not let the irritation show…yet.

“Um, I can’t get the mower to start.”

“AGAIN?” I wanted to say , loudly, sarcastically.  I didn’t.

“OK, son.  But are you sure you put gas in it?”

“Uh huh.”

“What?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Alright, let me try.  But if I can start it, you won’t get paid your allowance, and we’ll add another chore.”

This was a method we had been using to great success in the last year.  Since his little sister could start the mower, we knew he could, and we felt no guilt about adding a few consequences to his helplessness act.

“I know, Mom, but it really won’t.”

And it wouldn’t.  So we called for reinforcements.  My husband Eric couldn’t start it either.  He checked the fuel.  He flipped it over and wiggled and jiggled a few parts.  He went in the shed and came out with some wire.  He did unfathomable things to the lawnmower, from my perspective.

“Try it again, Clark.  It should work now.”

“‘Kay.”

Clark gave the mower a few manatee-like pulls.  It was obvious his heart was not in this task.  To his horror though, the mower started.  Eric gave him a military salute, and Clark shuffled off to mow the yard with the speed and general demeanor of a pall bearer.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“It was missing a little spring; I just put a wire in its place temporarily.  I’ll have to run to Home Depot and get a replacement spring for a permanent fix.”

Thank goodness God pairs women like me with mechanical men like Eric.

The next morning I decided to gather up laundry for Sunday washing.  Normally, I holler up the stairs at Clark, Suz, and Liz to bring their laundry down.  This results in mini personal laundry fire drills all week long, because none of them take the Sunday instruction seriously enough and thus they end up with no clean clothes.  I was feeling magnanimous, so I trudged up the stairs and braved the “frat house” environment of our second floor, affectionately dubbed “the dormitory” at our house.  I honestly only go up there every couple of weeks.  I just can’t take too much exposure to the chaos.

I waded over piles of clothes on the hallway, bathroom, and bedroom floors with mounting agitation.  How did they ever find anything up there?  How was I supposed to figure out was clean and what was dirty?  Oh, so that’s where my nail polish had run off to.  And this array of dirty glasses accounted for the empty cabinets downstairs.

Sigh.  We had long ago decided to “pick our battles,” and found through trial and error that rebellion diminished if the kids were allowed to trash their own space.  They participated in a tidy downstairs and cleaned their own spaces bi-weekly.  It usually seemed a small price to pay, as long as I stayed on the first floor.

Well, I at least knew the clothes Clark mowed in were dirty.  I picked his shorts up off his bathroom floor, and, as I did, something fell out of his pocket and made a tiny “plink” sound on the tile.

I picked it up.

A spring.

A LAWNMOWER SPRING.

Oh my God!  My son had sabotaged the lawnmower to get out of mowing!!!!!

As I stared at the spring in my hand, an unstoppable desire to laugh came over me.  I’m a mother post-40, and I laughed until I was afraid I needed to change my drawers, if you know what I mean.

Eric heard my insane cackling and ran up the stairs.  He found me sitting on the bathroom floor, head leaned back against the door, tears coursing down my cheeks.

“You scared me! Are you laughing or crying?” he asked.

“Both,” I said.

I held the spring up for him to see.

Eric’s laugh was appreciative.  “He’s getting smarter.  Very clever.  But not smart enough to throw it away, and now we’re on to him.  Sabotage.  Oh my gosh.”

He sat down beside me and took my hand.

“This took too much planning.  Not a spur of the moment ADHD ‘I can’t help it’ lie,” I said.

“Absolutely.  Pure teenage boy lie.  The medicine is working.  He’s becoming more mature.”

I giggled again.  “How many parents laugh and consider it a good sign when their offspring sabotage machinery to avoid work?”

“There has to be a serious consequence.  We’re going to have to ground him,” Eric said.

“I know.  No more screens until summer.  But let’s put if off a few more minutes.  I don’t feel like being a big meanie yet.  I’m enjoying this, in a sick and distorted way.”

Five minutes later we called Clark in.

I held up the spring.

Clark was 5’9? tall.  He has beautiful, innocent, big brown eyes; he makes wonderful eye contact and looks so sincere, usually.  This time he looked at the spring like Bambi staring at the fire in the woods.

Danger, run, Bambi, run.

“I love you, but I’m going to have to kill you now,” I said.

“Uh, Mom, uh…”

“Clark, if you were smart enough to sabotage the lawnmower, how in the world could you leave the spring in your pocket?  Didn’t you know I’d find it when I did laundry?”

“I never thought you’d go up to my room and get my clothes.”

“Ah…”

Note to self: must keep surprising children, change up my game.  This is how we keep them honest.

“So, I’m, uh, I’m sorry?”

“I hope so.  You know the drill.  Choice/consequence.   Bring me your laptop.  And choose better next time, son.”

I pondered our crazy household.  One child grounded for skipping homeroom (32 times) and another grounded for lawnmower sabotage. We have a 3/5 rule.  At any given time, only three of our five kids will be happy and issue-less, max.  As soon as one of them gets straightened out, another will dip into crisis, leaving us with the conundrum of “how do you root for one to rally at the expense of another one cratering???”  Thomas, Marie, and Liz were all doing great — my husband Eric’s kids…uh oh, I saw a common denominator here.

I inhaled the scent of the freshly mowed grass.

“Honey, is it me?” I asked my husband, who was sitting across the table from Clark, catty-corner from me.

Eric smiled at me, his face earnest and supportive.  “No more than it’s me when both of yours are doing great and all three of mine implode.  He’ll have a wonderful assistant some day and everything will be just fine.”

“I want to be a lawyer when I grow up,” Clark broke in.

Eric turned to me and shook his head.  “I take it back.  It appears it’s you after all.”

Touche.

<3

Clark’s Mom, aka Pamela Fagan Hutchins

p.s. Clark, who approved the content of this and all blogs about him, wants to go on record as pointing out that his mother is a fiction writer, not a historian.   In rebuttal, I offer this:  “If you don’t like it, write your own blog, kid, and stop sabotaging lawnmowers!”

p.p.s.  Clark mowed the grass all summer without being paid his normal allowance as a result of the sabotage

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother’s Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger’s Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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Related posts:

adhd and school, ADHD medication, high school, Pamela Hutchins, treatment ·

About the author

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother's Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger's Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

17 Comments

  1. I know someone, somewhere is writing a book on the excuses kids come up with to get out doing their chores. This needs to be the lead article, the article that truly explains the process. Excellent essay- thoroughly enjoyed it. Bravo 😉

    Reply
  2. LBDDiaries says:

    Well written in a way that makes it so easily understandable. While laughing, you learn and appreciate the true strength it takes to live with and work with ADHD.

    Reply
  3. Thanks, Ridgely. Clark could provide fodder for the intro and several chapters, ha ha! KIds. Love 'em.

    Reply
  4. LBDDiaries: I have a few close friends that have ADHD, and they certainly became better able to cope with it as they matured, but it always impacts them. Clark's dad is ADHD, and, while we are not married anymore, we talk frequently about the impact it has on him, and his frustrations. And his unique ability to understand and empathize with Clark.

    Reply
  5. Judy Harper says:

    My daughter called me yesterday, a teacher with ADHD, is saying my 8 year old grandson, has ADHD. I'm not sure I agree, though my daughter has made an appointment with his pediatrician to discuss this with him. You would have thought the doc would have noticed this. I think Sean is having a hard time adjusting to his mom and dad's divorce. I am going to give my daughter your web site.

    Reply
  6. This is still my very most favorite of the Clark Chronicles. Too funny!

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  7. @Judy Harper

    I will tell you that my husband and I would have sworn our son, now about to turn 8, couldn't have ADHD before he started school. No pediatrician, family member or anyone else suspected it before he attended school. His kindergarten teacher may have suspected it but she didn't tell us. It took a second year of school hell to figure it out. He just seemed like an energetic little boy out in the worked and at home, but in school his disability was so obvious. I don't tell you this to say he's definitely ADHD, but I do think it's a good idea to check on these things sooner rather than later. The younger a child is when diagnosed, the better off they'll be later typically.

    Glad you found us!

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  8. Clark is pretty awesome. I would be too afraid to remove the spring for fear of breaking the whole thing.

    On the real, I am taking this anecdote to heart as my son will lie about the color of the sky these days, and never for any good reason. I'll be learning the difference between the stupid lies and the malicious ones.

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  9. well clark.. sounds like my stepson.. and you held your cool.. those kind of defiance.. throw my husband into fits of rage…. and I feel duped… but I am going to forward this to him….. and see what he says… I think you are a great team.. you and your husband.. keep it up. I only wish I could be as consistent and firm…
    Lisa
    wasabi mommy

    Reply
  10. I laughed until I had tears in my eyes! It has helped me so much reading all these stories of kids with ADHD to help me find the humor in dealin with my own girlie. We always say she was born in her own time zone, the kid has no sense of urgency in life whatsoever, of course that means she will live to be 150!

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  11. @nf1andprek-whisper oh there are days of rage. But, the anger only shuts him down. And gives him something to focus on and fight against. I lose it…more than I want…and when I do, I always lose GROUND. It's so hard. I'm sending y'all a hug 🙂 because I know how often Eric and I need to hug each other and say “oh, that boy, oh oh oh”

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  12. @poteetlindsays We laugh now, we laughed less when he was younger. He is hilarious. And unique. And infuriating. And scary. But, if we don't laugh…we'll kill him! Ha!

    Reply
  13. @Kelly
    It is so darn hard to tell the difference sometimes. But when the action takes a lot of planning and execution, and hes had time to think, I don't personally see ADHD. When it is spur of the moment lie,especially a lie that in some way is to avoid a present issue that he doesn't want to face (removal of a positive, or introduction of a negative), I generally see some ADHD in it, and I'll say, stop. Clark, stop. Think. I'll let you do this again. I'm going to ask you to re-answer. And he is old enough now that sometimes he'll say ugh you're right, let me redo that. Sometimes. 🙂

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  14. I have two ADHD boys, so I can totally relate to this. I love what you said – I love you, but I'm going to have to kill you now… We've had so many of those moments too. I do think it's hilarious that he was diabolical enough to sabotage the lawnmower, but enough of a dumb kid to not hide the evidence. Kids are an adventure!

    Reply
  15. @adrian's YOU”RE OUTNUMBERED!!! Oh, it must get awfully busy at your house. 🙂

    Reply
  16. dmd says:

    So glad we haven't gotten to the lying…(yet?), although I do suspect his claim of having washed his hands may be stretching the truth (I'm sure they were near the sink). The first thing Dylan usually says is what color he got at school – even if it's not green. I hear from other parents that his classmates are not so forthcoming. I guess I should enjoy it while I can!

    dee

    Reply
  17. @dmd Maybe you'll never get there — I'll think good thoughts for you. By the time Clark started school, we were into it It's adorable that Dylan's so open.

    Reply

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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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