Our Dealings with a House of Cards


This post is absolutely nothing to do with the well-acclaimed US drama series which I have yet to view. Nor is it in any relation to its predecessor, the early 90’s UK miniseries, which I have viewed. This post is about an actual house of cards— a cardboard mansion, painstakingly constructed by my eldest child.

A project requiring as much focus and prolonged attention as building a house of cards is downright daunting for an individual with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD. It was stressful for me as the observer… another individual with ADHD. I have no clue why she decided to embark on such a journey, but I commend the effort.

She worked carefully and strategically to place each card. Then, she slowly pulled her hands back and waited, wide-eyed, without so much as an exhale for at least 20 seconds. Sometimes the card fell.  She got frustrated, yelled, ran out of the room and down the hall. Sometimes the card stuck.  She got excited, yelled, ran out of the room and down the hall.  Unfortunately, the end result was always the same… a complete collapse of both cards and child. It was difficult to watch, but she needed to problem solve without my intervention.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is something that people don’t truly understand unless they have it. While I have read numerous articles and books written in third person about how to parent, or teach, or work with an individual with ADHD, I have yet to find one that really addresses the type of mind mapping that makes a James Joyce novel seem direct.


The saying that my family uses for this divergent stream of consciousness is, “Look; a duck!”  At any moment, during any rational train of thought, a duck might wander in. While this happened literally, only once, it happens figuratively, almost constantly. It is not just ducks. It can be any animal, vegetable, mineral, or otherwise. It can be a random recall of something that happened recently, years ago, or in a dream… or a vague apprehension of something that is likely or unlikely to occur. The point is that it is ridiculously difficult to recognize when it is occurring or prevent it from happening again.

None of this is a problem unless you have a job, or school, or something requiring your undivided attention. Undivided attention is not something I understand.  Although numerous individuals have requested it of me throughout my entire life, I never actually experienced it.   Ample evidence of this is documented in 12 years of progress reports, lovingly preserved by my parents.  Even now, writing this post, I’m writing at least four more in my brain. A couple of them are great. Others are definitely not. As effective as I generally am at multitasking, I’m not really that great. How could I be? I know that I omit, substitute, ramble, and forget my main ideas by the time I get to the end. Sometimes, the story ends so far off topic that it’s just easier to rewrite the first paragraphs and call it something else. That could very well be happening here. Hmmm…


I’ll get back to the cards. Another thing that happens in the ADHD brain is that we are excellent at envisioning the goal. We are fabulous at diving into great tasks before we work out any of the details. What is unfortunate is that the finished product, if we ever reach it, rarely compares to the majestic multi-level, card castle in our mind. This is so defeating.  I wish that I could help my daughter better cope with this.  I’m still working on it myself.

I can’t tell you how many classrooms I visited over the years where well-intentioned teachers prominently hang that inspirational saying, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”   I hate this quote. It makes absolutely no sense even as a metaphor. First, the moon is way closer than the stars. If you miss it, you still have quite a bit of traveling to do before reaching the burn of our closest star.  Second, people don’t seem to appreciate when individuals with ADHD are moon-bound. Maybe this saying is for everyone but individuals with ADHD?  The ADHD inspirational banner should just be a picture of where we left our keys… or, possibly, a sandwich.

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Melisa has 18 years experience working with individuals (infant through adult) with diverse abilities. She holds Pennsylvania teaching certifications in Secondary English Education and Family and Consumer Sciences, Pennsylvania Private Academic Certification, Pennsylvania Director Credential, Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature, post-baccalaureate coursework in Child Development, Education, Curriculum and Assessment, and a Master’s in Professional Writing. As a Certified Instructor through the Pennsylvania Quality Assurance System, registered Child Development Professional Development Specialist, and Child Health Advocate, Melisa provided professional development opportunities to educators. In addition to home schooling her children, Melisa is an author, photographer, and illustrator of juvenile non-fiction and fiction. She enjoys touring historical sites, museums, and botanical gardens with her family.