There’s a cliche out there about ADHD’ers having two kinds of time: Now and Not Now.

This may equip us to relate well to our toddlers. For them, going inside for dinner feels like going inside forever.

Be careful, though — it also equips us to act more like our toddlers.

When I first experienced stimulant medication, I remember the flood of relief when realized a bad week was just a week long. A new one would begin on Monday. Truly revolutionary.

Let’s face it: parenting a toddler is hard for anyone. Toddlers are adorable, brilliant, charming, and loads of fun. They also grin at you while doing something you just told them not to do. They say no to everything just for fun. They’re prone to protracted emotional meltdowns, and they’ll push every button just to get a rise out of you.

I’m no parenting expert, but if you have both ADHD and a toddler, you’re going to love this little trick.

Your happy toddler memory jar

Remember sweet moments on a tough day

Firstly, allow me to confess I’m blatantly stealing this idea from a post about cooling heat-of-the-moment despair in adult relationships on You and Me — and Adult ADDPerhaps we’re continuing our ADHD relationship theme from last week, but this applies just as well — if not even better — to parent-child relationships.

The concept is simple: you’re saving those joyful, charming moments of toddlerhood for a rainy day. When your child does something to melt your heart (or fill it with pride), write it down on a colorful post-it and drop it in the jar. Some examples we’ve already dropped in R.’s positive memory jar:

  • The day he finally mastered “stop and turn around” while playing outside, after many days of reinforcement and time-outs
  • His love of “squeeze hugs,” where he hugs us as tight as he can while saying “squeeeeeeeeeee”
  • When told him our neighbors had just planted a baby tree and he needed to be gentle near it, he walked around exclaiming “baby tee!” for the next several minutes

When you’re having a rough day, fraught with tantrums and opportunities to beat up on your parenting skills, the notes in your jar can remind you of the Not Now. Sometimes that’s all it takes to see the bigger picture and break out of all-or-nothing thinking.

I even managed to turn our whole afternoon around by pausing to write a positive memory from earlier in the day. We’d had a challenging hour or so, and the morning’s fun activities seemed a lifetime away. After I stopped to inventory those sweet moments, I immediately felt calmer and more equipped to continue our day on a positive path.

If you’re diligent about writing the date on your notes, you can even scan them to your computer or save them in a baby book after you empty your jar. When I invited my husband to sit and read the notes with me when R.’s jar got full, he asked, “do we have to wait that long?” What a great way for ADHD parents to appreciate these small joys.

How do you maintain balance and perspective during tough parenting moments? Share them in the comments — we could all use a little help!