Baby Boomer Living with ADD-ADHD-Dyslexic learning differences has been traumatic. My life is complicated. My learning differences made everything more difficult. But I have to say, in hindsight, the differences have been blessings more than a curse.
Baby Boomer Background
Oh, how blessed we were! Born to post World War II newlyweds, what could be better? Everyone was full of optimism. The economy was solid. There was lots of positive energy. Having children and owning a home with a car in every driveway were the primary goals of every returning serviceman. What’s not to love about that? And, loving they did because just in our small neck of the woods children were popping out at a regular pace, every twenty-four months or so. We were a mob generation! Our little pack experienced life-like no others before: television, telephones, breakfast cereals, processed packaged foods (frozen TV dinners), amusement theme parks, plenty of after school fun in scouting, church and volunteer activities. So wholesome, so fundamental to our generation we grew up thinking everyone was like us because that’s what television shows told us on the only two networks available, so it must have been true, right?
And, what did a Baby Boomer do with our life? Many of us were the first to attend college. We studied home economics, education, agriculture, textiles – no doctors, lawyers, scientists or authors that I knew of. Nursing, while an acceptable job (not career) was only offered through vocation schools along with auto mechanics, drafting, and dental programs. Limited and simple, so much was determined for us, not always by us.
We went on living our lives, having our 2.4 children (who had that percentile child?) pursuing that great American dream: buying a home with all the latest gadgets along with not one, but two, cars in the driveway. We were very successful if we added the boat, swimming pool, summer home, and all the extra-curricular activities we could cram into our children’s schedule.
Meanwhile, from our very birth, the Boomer Generation was constantly referred to in advertising and promotions by documenting everything from the diapers we wore to the flavor of our ice cream. Every item invented was with a commercial, billboard or print advertising. Feel good television shows reflected the All-American Family telling us what fashions to buy or when to upgrade the family car. We never realized how we easily we fell under the power of advertising and marketing. The industry literally determined our every decision while laying a foundation for our never-ending need to keep pushing, buying, climbing, improving . . . Think: “Mad Men.”
Until the millennials were born,ours was the largest group of children born to any one period. Along with the Boomer distinction, we had the comfortable knowledge that we were a force to be reckoned with: we had both buying and political power. Movies, songs, food, fashion, cars were all designed to attract the Boomer dollar. And because of our lucky birth into a booming economy, we all enjoyed purchasing and political power like no other group before us.
As a boomer I was in the greatest. My classroom size was large. There were four other girls with the same name as mine. Our parents were solidly middle class. Everything was perfect. Except, I had multiple learning differences that no one within my school system knew what they were or how to work with them.
I could not read until the second grade. I had trouble following oral instructions; written ones did not help because I could not read well. I tried to hide my difficulties by being overly social: too talkative, too active. I did not understand the emotions of my classmates; I could not understand hurt feelings. I was awkward, out-of-place, and did not understand why. This was the beginning of my lifelong feelings of insecurity and depression. If any boys acted the way I did, they got extra attention and help from the teachers; girls did not. I had to behave, sit still, and do the work. By the third grade I was falling behind in comprehension and math but somehow managed to get by enough to satisfy parents and teachers alike. No extra help came from any of the “experts.”
In high school I was falling asleep by 10 a.m. each morning having consumed a breakfast of sweetened cereal and milk. My morning routine began two hours early just to be perfectly dressed and coiffed, not a hair out-of-place. Think Priscilla Presley. Always with a knot in my stomach, living daily with bad headaches, my high school years were bad diet, poor sleep patterns, and worse learning skills. Thank goodness the entry-level for college was so much lower than today. No one in our family had gone to college but I was determined to go. I did every artistic project I could for extra credit on my grades. Thankfully, I got accepted to one of our major state universities to study art.
University art programs were no walk in the park; no extra credit projects available. Classes in German, Logic, Geology and more were also classes in every art medium . Foreign language and Logic were next to impossible for someone with ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia, and speaking in front of strangers — with a Southern accent, no less, was a miserable grade of C I could never improve. Thank goodness I transferred to another state university. By marrying and developing better studying skills, I managed to focus enough to graduate. I had to graduate because all the “cool” kids did.
I am writing this Blog because I discovered a Google search for “Living with ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia” written from the first person does not exist. No one is taking time to share a lifetime of stories living with these learning differences. As a former teacher I find that to be a big void. As a former teacher I remember how many children, teenagers and adults I saw who are living with the frustrations from having learning difficulties, mostly not diagnosed. No diagnosis meant no learning aids, teacher support, parental understanding, employment opportunities, even the possibilities of having a happy marriage. I find that incredibly sad.
And before closing
Let me highlight what I believe to be the single, most powerful thing that set our happy Boomer generation on its ear: the age of corporate down-sizing and the job transfer. Our generation was the first to take part in the mass relocation movement still going on today. These transfers were supposedly for better futures suffering the loss of family support, education continuity, life-long friendships and more. But we survived that and more. Billy Jean King shared her thoughts on being a boomer on a YouTube video: “The Invisible Senior—and How the Baby Boomers Will Change That.”
The Wall Street Journal, USA News, published an article October 30, 2017: “Homeowners Renovate and Stay Put,” by Laura Kusisto and Christina Rexrode on how the trend to move for upward mobility has actually been decreasing for the last couple of decades. Though they site the recent housing and financial busts, it appears that more people are deciding that there are more pluses to staying put then to uproot the family for a few dollars more and/or a bigger house. Let’s hear it for family stability!
“Dare to be yourself.” André Gide
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