A Common Affliction


I believe I suffer from a common, but seldom-discussed condition; I’ve coined it Parental Attention Deficit Disorder. Not with the Hyperactivity component though. Certainly not that. Anyone who’s ever seen me on the sidelines at one of my son’s games can confirm that I’m definitely not hyperactive.

In fact, once at a basketball practice, I actually fell asleep, my forehead in my hands. One of the Dads sitting next to me on the bleachers had to poke me in the arm when my son couldn’t get my attention. If I’m being totally honest, I’ve also fallen asleep at soccer practice and baseball practice, but I was in my car in the parking lot, so no attention or focus was required from me…

Fortunately, I haven’t ever fallen asleep at a game or an event that was really important. Practice doesn’t count.

But I digress.

In fact, I’ve already gotten up twice from my computer since I started writing this piece.

There’s a new app on my phone called GameChanger, and I believe it’s designed for parents especially like me. Well, maybe also for parents who have to work during their kid’s Little League games. Someone Responsible (usually a coach) updates the app as the baseball game is going on, pitch by pitch, so you can keep track of what’s happening. It’s fantastic!

I don’t know if they have an app like this for soccer or for basketball. Basketball is where I can best disguise my Parental ADD. It moves so fast that you can’t even verbalize an answer to the question “What’s going on?” before at least 3 or 4 different things have happened in the span of a deep breath.

Watching soccer requires a little more focus than basketball on my part, but much less than baseball. The ball goes up and down the field, up and down the field, up and down the field. If someone scores, the teams stop to “reset”. But don’t ask me to keep track of the score.

Before the GameChanger app this year, a typical baseball game for me would go something like this…

I’d settle in with my bleacher seat and blanket, ready to focus on those Little League players. One batter, a few pitches, another batter, more pitches, a parent sits next to me and we exchange pleasantries for literally what seems like 5 seconds… when I look back to the game, the second batter is nowhere to be seen and a new kid is up to bat. The first batter is somehow on second base, but I don’t know how he got there, and I don’t know how many kids came to bat between the second kid and the kid who’s up now.

It doesn’t help that our Little League fields don’t have working scoreboards (or anyone to operate them).

“So how many outs are there?” the Pleasant Parent next to me asks. As if by virtue of me being there before her makes me The Keeper of this knowledge.

“Um…” I falter.

“Two,” another parent who overhears us says. He’s obviously paying attention.

Two? I wonder to myself. How did batter number two get out? And who was the second out? Oh crap. Was it my kid? Did I just miss my kid’s at-bat? I smile nervously and refocus my attention to the game.

I watch batter number one score a run and then another kid gets on base. I haven’t seen my kid up yet, and I get more nervous that he was the kid I’d missed. I look around to see if any other parents have arrived that I know, and on the other side of the field I recognize a group of parents from PTA functions, and one of them is holding a puppy. Oh my god, it’s the cutest little puppy… When I look back, the side is over. Our kids are running to their field positions.

Did we score again? I wonder. I decide not to ask. Someone else will ask and I’ll just listen in.

I hear some parents grumbling about the teenage umpires (who really are just big kids… the umpires, I mean) and I try to focus in on them to see if they’re classmates of my daughters.

Suddenly I hear the crack of the bat and the other team’s parents are cheering. Kids are running, scrambling, and then our bleachers are cheering. When I finally get a beat on where the ball is, our kids are heading for the dugout.

Wait. What?? Was I staring at the umpires for that long? Did the other team just score? Did we get a double play? How did the inning end so quickly?

Another parent arrives and cheerfully asks, “What’s the score? What’d I miss?”

I keep my mouth shut. I gratefully listen in as The Parent Who Pays Attention gives the run-down. If I can just keep my mouth shut, I should be able to glean enough information to fill in my attention gaps. One can only ask the coach what the score is so many times before they are clearly annoyed with you for not paying attention. Spoken from just a little bit of experience here.

And sometimes I just cannot keep my mouth shut. Sometimes I socialize way too much and I have to keep asking what’s going on. If I wasn’t socializing though, I would have missed loving on that two-month-old puppy walking by. Who can resist a two month old Sheltie mix?

Eventually The Parent Who Pays Attention will give up getting annoyed with me (at least outwardly so) because I make him laugh. I explain the Parental ADD phenomenon and at least four other people chime in, Hey, ME TOO! and we all laugh together. Even if one of them is the mom with the two year old and the four year old in tow, and she is supposed to have Parental ADD. I have no such excuse. I have zero toddlers.

I also try to explain it loud enough so the coach would overhear me and not ever ask me to do anything important, like run the GameChanger app. Because that requires a kind of focus that I’m just not able to sustain at a sporting event. I think he got the message.

Before GameChanger, all of my attention gaps would be on full display. But now, I can just pretend I’m constantly watching the game unfold on my phone, as well as live in front of me, because I’m interested in the team’s stats! Not because I can’t focus. No. Not because of that.

Oh look! A puppy!

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