Kids Don’t Want to be A$$holes.

I was surfing around Facebook this past weekend and stumbled upon posts with parents venting about kids’ behavior. The “kids” may have had trauma backgrounds, may have neurocognitive challenges and some had both and more. I could practically hear the frustration through my phone and laptop screens. I empathized deeply.

I’ve certainly posted here about my frustrations around Hope’s more challenging behaviors, and how they were really, really difficult to cope with, so I get it. I have a love/hate relationship with online adoption support communities, but I do think that online support groups are important because we all need safe spaces to just release the big emotions we have in trying to cope with what inevitably feels like very personalized behavior designed to destroy us. It’s natural to feel that frustration. It’s natural to need to vent.

What struck me, though, is how easy it is to go down the rabbit hole of seriously thinking your kid is out to get you, to impose consequences that serve to push the kid further away and to really think there’s nothing going on but what you see on the surface.

Pro Tip: There’s always something going on below the surface.

I learned some time ago that Hope’s behaviors typically weren’t about me at all, but they were a form of communication with me. Parenting Hope through trauma and ADHD was and is…hard. Of the over 2,000 days Hope and I have been a family, I experienced some level of emotional upheaval for at least more than a good third of it.

Way more than a third of it if I’m brutally honest.

This has not been a walk in the park, nor has it lived up to the parenting experience I thought it would be. It’s been, in many ways, better than that notion and way underachieving in other ways.

It took me a long, long time to understand and appreciate that Hope’s most challenging behaviors were really her trying to tell me that she was struggling, that I needed to meet her where she was, not where I thought she should be. She was, and sometimes still is, scared and unsure of the circumstances and her place in those circumstances. She didn’t always have words, so she acted out. She still doesn’t have many words, but she will apologize for not being able to tell me what she needs. Sometimes it’s like we play out charades as I run though a list of potential challenges trying to guess what it is she needs and whether I can do something that will relieve her stress.

Hope was never out to get me in those moments when she was acting all spawn of satan and ish. She was calling for me to save her.

As we spend some time venting, we’ve got to remember that kiddos need us. That they are, in fact, often telling us what they want and need. They don’t want to be acting out. They don’t feel good about any of it. They aren’t trying to stay in those dark places.

According to the US CDC, nearly 10% of kids have an ADHD diagnosis. And although only about 3% of kids have depression and 7.1% of kids have anxiety, there is a high likelihood that if you have a diagnosis for one, you will have a diagnosis for another with a side dish of high incidence of behavioral problems too. For those of us parenting adopted children and/or children with trauma or ADHD, it might seem like these stats are low. They are relatively low; it’s just that we all hang out together, plugging into communities with other parents who are living the same experience. It ends up feeling like it’s a lot more people because we are plugged in.

There was a conversation I had with Hope one time when she was trying to explain what ADHD felt like without meds and what her depression feels like. It was heartbreaking for her to vocalize what it actually felt like, but it helped me understand that as frustrating it is, as much as I feel so personally attacked with some behaviors, as disrespectful as it feels, what Hope feels in those moments is so much worse. I pondered it for weeks.

Our kids don’t want to have behavioral problems. Our kids would love nothing more to be “normal.” Our kids want to blend in. They don’t always have the capacity to keep it together. They don’t always have the skills to even perform normalcy. We have to support them and create space that will allow them to get as close to it as they are able.

It’s ok to vent. Really, it is absolutely ok to vent, just remember that they aren’t trying to be assholes. They aren’t.

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She Did It!

So, Hope is off at college. When I think about it, it’s pretty mind blowing. When I started this journey, of course I wanted my eventual son or daughter to go to college. Once Hope entered my life, I quickly realized that there were certainly way more realistic goals to have. College became a far away, almost abstract concept. I was hopeful, and I did whatever I could to still get her to college.

And I got a lot of feedback along the way.
“Maybe college isn’t for her.”

“It’s not for everyone.”

“She can have a good life without going to college.”

All of the feedback was true, but it didn’t get to the central issues about why I, ABM, was committed to getting her as close to college as I could—even if it was delayed.

Education is very much a central part of my own identity. It is one pathway to more choices, and I believe that choices lead to greater freedom. I want more than anything for Hope to feel free. Education, college, is a pathway to that.

So, fast forward 4 years to the end of Hope’s junior year of high school. We had long talks and agreed that she would start out at the local community college and work towards transferring to a 4 year school at a later date.

Then came the summer program, which also saw Hope do really well academically. That was followed by a year at the boarding school, where she still struggled academically, but had a lot more support.

That school required applications to 3 colleges. Hope ended up applying to 5. By the time it was over, we visited 3, 4 including the community college, aced her placement exam and fell in love with a small liberal arts college in the mountains of VA.

I get a little emotional when I think about the changes she has gone through this year. Last week as we were talking about the big move, I asked her what she thought this next year would bring given how this year took us in a completely different direction that we planned. She shrugged and smiled.

I imagine that next summer, Hope could be on the other side of world, living her dream in an Asian country soaking up the culture, the food and the language.

In the meantime, I’m reveling in the fact that my beautiful brown girl is a campus coed, a new Wildcat and finding her way in the world.

Here are some highlights from our journey this week, just in case you don’t follow my FB page (which you totally should)!

 

Totally turns out that we “weren’t” that family. We ended up being modest, as best. Someone even called Hope’s stuff “streamlined.” Kids bring a helluva lot of stuff to college with them.

One of the most disturbing revelations of the trip. I’m still so horribly embarrassed.

The roommate had a beanbag chair, so Hope needed a beanbag chair.

A rare Hope sighting! BTW, she’s still taking questions for Ask Hope! <<—Click the link to drop us an email!

I’ve already had to send her a package since she managed to forget her wallet in the car and flip flops. I also sent a few of those ultrasonic pest repellent doodads.


Days to Go!

We are 3 days out from hitting the road to go to move Hope into her dorm. Here’s what’s been going down.

My house is a mess.

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Ok, it’s really just the dining room back wall where we have piled everything for her dorm room up. I know that this is temporary and that we’ll be loading up the car in a few short days. But there are honestly boxes from Amazon that I haven’t even opened yet because I just couldn’t deal with all of the stuff. Things are packed a lot more compactly than when I was going to college, but still it’s a lot of stuff.

I’m looking forward to an empty nest purge after Hope is gone to school to continue to just get rid of some things. I’m feeling overwhelmed by all of the “stuff” in my home. It’s got to go.

Anxiety has settled in.
Hope and I have been having some great conversations about how she feels about going to college. She’s excited, but she’s got all the nerves of any other first-time college freshman. We talk a lot about specific areas she needs to work on in terms of personal development and strategies to help her. A couple of weeks ago, she kept telling me that her alarm on her phone was clearly not working on waking her up. She insisted that it wasn’t going off. After a couple of days, I sat down with her, elbow to elbow and studied the phone alarms with her.

No, nothing was wrong with the alarm. It worked fine. She was sleeping through it. I suggested that she choose an alarm sound akin to an airhorn. We also had a nice chat about accepting responsibility for the alarm and problem solving.

We’ve had lengthy discussions about medication management and how important it is to take her meds at the same time daily.

And she is…making lists and constantly harassing me about them. It’s funny, when I asked her to make lists, she didn’t. Now that she has lists, she sends them to me; she reads them to me. She reminds me about her lists. I’m good, I don’t need a list at this point. I need to make one more purchase for her dorm and I’m done. Today she asked me if she could put her clothes in the car. We don’t leave for 4 more days.

No Hope, you won’t be putting the clothes in the Nissan today.

I am proud of Hope, though. She is talking about her feelings. She’s articulating her needs. She’s trying to get herself together. I try to compliment her on these things every day because I know this she’s stressed, but she’s actually shouldering it quite well.

I’m prepping the nest.
I am trying to get myself ready for the feels I felt last year when Hope went off to boarding school. I remember feeling just exhausted for the couple of weeks after Hope moved into her dorm. I remember having to get used to the silence in the house, and all the things being exactly where I left them! I remember being able to eat cake for breakfast if I wanted. I mean, I know I can do it now with Hope being so much older, but I don’t I remember slipping into some freedom.

I met someone and dated him throughout this last year. It ended recently, so I’m out looking again.

If you are in a reasonably healthy relationship, make that ish work. These streets are rough. It’s just like the wild, wild west. It’s worst than dating in high school. Maddening. I could go on, but ugh.

I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to update Hope’s room. I’m not taking it over or making an office or anything. I’m looking to paint, purge and make the room look a bit more mature for when Hope comes home in the future. It *might* be time to take down the Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber posters. (Can’t say I’m not THRILLED about this!) Hope picked out a really lux paint color (like an eggplant), so hopefully I’ll be able to get the room updated over the next year. I’m hoping to take this time to also update the rest of the house. I feel like there are just piles of stuff here and there, not everything has a place, the new living room TV needs to be hung on the wall, there’s just lots of purging that needs to happen (If anyone has used one of those handyman apps, let me know about your experiences!). I just feel like I need to make some changes to mark this new chapter in my life.

I’m thinking about the long game.
This weekend Hope and I will also try to schedule which weekends this semester she might want to come home. I travel a lot in the fall so we need to figure out the schedule so I can reserve some train tickets. I’ve also put in my calendar things like, reminding Hope in October to start looking for/thinking about a seasonal job during the holiday break. Before you know it, we’ll be talking about spring break—we usually take an international trip then, and then Summer 2020.

One of the things about this chapter is realizing that at any point, Hope could totally launch. It could be slow, it could be fast, it could happen years from now. I’m just really conscious of the fact that the time we’ve had this summer could possibly be the last bit of time like this. She could be studying abroad next year. She could stay an do summer school. She could do all kinds of things. I suspect that she might be home, but just that possibility that things could change is front of mind for me. A year ago I did not believe we would be spending a weekend in August 2019 prepping for her to go away to college. Things can change so quickly.

It’s exciting to think about the possibilities.

All of that excitement is tempered by Hope’s history. I know her challenges and potential limitations. I’m committed to supporting her through it all. I’m hoping that these things don’t limit her long term, but I know that she’s still finding her way in navigating this life and that’s going to really take some time.

In any case, I am hyper aware of the fact that my kiddo *could* totally launch sooner than what I thought and that is just a marvel. I’m excited for her.

So today, 3 days out, I’m hosting a family lunch at one of her favorite Korean buffets to fete her as she steps into this next chapter. It’s a big deal. Grandpa is going to the Korean buffet—this dude does not do many foods outside of BBQ, crab cakes, burgers and chicken. Hope is so tickled that he’s stepping out of his comfort zone to come be with her.

This is a really, really special time around these parts.


Ask Hope, vol.3

Do you talk about being adopted much with your friends? Do you notice that you gravitate towards peers that have been adopted?

I have only really talked about it to my friends if a question regarding where I’m from comes up.

I have a few friends that are adopted, but that’s something that I usually don’t find out about until we’ve already been friends for some time; so I would say, no, I don’t gravitate towards others who have been adopted. I’ve known the same little group of people since I’ve been here, and that is who I stay with unless I meet someone new that I click with.

Do you think you would have accepted being adopted if you were older, like 15/16?

I’m not really sure about that, it was never something that I have ever really thought about.

While I was in the system the one thought that came to me many times was that I would just age out and move into my own apartment with some support. I think that if I was an older teen and an opportunity for adoption came up, I think that I would definitely be ok with it, I’d actually be glad and probably happy about it. Although at that point, I may have become discouraged because of how long it took for me to be noticed, but I don’t think that I would ever turn down such an opportunity.

I think that the possibility of me declining would depend on a lot, such as how far the adopter is (location) or just how I feel about moving at that time. If I were to be adopted at that at age, I would be starting or in the middle of high school.

What do you think would make the foster care system better? What advice would you give to kids first coming into foster care and what would you say to the foster parents as well?

Well, in my opinion, the foster care system needs a lot of work. It’s not the best although I know that sometimes they are just working with what they are given. I think that the system needs to be more thoughtful when choosing who is eligible to foster because some people do it just because they can get some cash for housing the kid. Sometimes it’s not even the foster parents themselves [who are the problem], but their own biological children, if they have any. I know everyone has a different experience in the system, but I can say from my own experience that it wasn’t all that fantastic but not every home was bad.

Another thing that I think would be a great improvement for the foster system is that the social workers are checked as well because some of them don’t fulfill their duties and just skim through the process, even though they are supposed to be one person the child is able to look to for help.

As for advice, I don’t know if I really have much advice to give since there isn’t much on the child’s part to do once they are placed in a home. One thing I definitely would say is to not let the foster parents you are placed with treat you any kind of way, tell your social worker. Don’t run away from your foster home, that’ll probably make it more difficult for them to try and get you adopted, and it will put you in a bad spot. It would be easier to just ask the social worker to move houses if the situation is really not working or if they are just nasty people with a bad attitude.

For the foster parents, if you have biological children and are fostering as well, please treat them like you would your own children. They are probably already having a difficult time or have had a difficult time. The mistreatment can stick with them and affect them later on, which makes it hard to really trust or believe in any other adults.  Pay attention to them and don’t tell them every 5 seconds what they may or may not be doing wrong. Foster kids need encouragement and positivity to get through it all. Don’t assume you know what they are going through or know what they feel like, regardless of how long you have been fostering. You aren’t them, so just listen to them.

If she were able to chat with kids still waiting for their very own Adoptive Black Mom, how would she coach them up, i.e., help them understand what to expect and how to emotionally prepare for life with a Forever Family?

Well, for everyone it’s different and the environment that they go to will be different for everyone. One thing that I would tell them is that they should really be serious and think when they are asked about their parental preferences and the kind of environment that they want to live in. When they do finally meet the family for them, both parts [prospective parents and kids] have to work together in order for it work out. If you can, tell your parent about things that help you and about things that upset you. Letting them know some things can really help with them in helping you and understanding your actions/behaviors. Don’t expect something super perfect; parents are people just like you are and they go through things the same as you. If you are having a hard time, let them know.

What is the best response an adoptive parent could give to a kid who is saying something to the effect of, I hate you, you are the worst parents ever.

I don’t really know. I’m sure at some point all kids biological or adopted have said something like “I hate you, you are the worst parents ever.” That’s just how kids are and I’m sure at some point everyone has said or thought the same thing about their own kid or about their own parents. #itsnormal

In terms of what the response should be, I don’t really know, but I do know that an aggressive approach may not be the best choice. Everyone probably just needs time to cool down. I do think that as the parent you shouldn’t just let it go, but I also wouldn’t recommend making a humongous deal about it. Lastly, I think that this is more likely to happen during the adjustment period and is probably just a part of the cycle.

 


When Racism Consumes Everything

I don’t overtly talk politics in this space. There are numerous reasons for that, but ultimately, my very existence is a political act. There are countless adoptive parents who author blogs; I follow and read a fair number. But there aren’t that many who are authored by people of color. I’ve seen blogs come and go since I started my blog years ago.

I wanted to focus on the day to day experiences of a Black woman who adopted a tween. There have certainly been times when I tackled politics head on in this space, and if you follow me on Twitter (@adoptiveblkmom) you already know where I stand.

Since the president’s offensive tweet last week, I’ve been ducking and dodging a lot of the news. I tend to watch the news as I get ready for work and for a short time on the weekend. I listen to an absurd number of podcasts, several politically oriented. This week the podcasts largely focused on 1) whether the tweets were racist, 2) should we use the term “racist” and 3) what does it all mean.

I avoided a lot of it. I avoided it because it was stupid and exhausting. It’s like living in that movie Groundhog Day; it just happens over and over and over…it just never ends.

This president is a racist, full stop, without any equivocation.

This is not debatable; he has a lengthy history of racist behavior…he’s a racist. #fact #theend

This president has followers who are also racist and/or have a high tolerance and comfort level with being racist adjacent.

This president has colleagues are also racist and/or have a high tolerance and comfort level with being racist adjacent.

These things are objectively true. #allofthem #facts #nodebate

And what does that mean for folks like me and Hope? I’m glad you asked.

It means that sometimes we worry if spaces we enter are going to be safe…are we the only ones? Is someone going to yell at us? Will we get decent service? Will the cops be called because we didn’t get into line quickly enough at Starbucks because Hope is notoriously slow at ordering the SAME DAMN THING EVERYTIME we go so I slip into the loo while waiting for her to once again conclude that she wants a grande caramel macchiato?

It means that I’ve had meetings with school administrators that start out assuming that I have no effing idea what’s going on, because really how could I, talking down to me despite my having a doctorate in education. It makes for a contentious meeting from the jump when I have to gather them right on up within the first 5 minutes of the meeting.

It means that some of Hope’s odd trauma-based behaviors are often attributed to my piss poor parenting because I’m a single Black mother. That’s got to be the reason, right? This also requires me to get folks together.

It means as I help prepare to send Hope to this predominantly White college in a small city in Virginia where the largest evangelical Christian university with a president that openly cosigns on the president’s foolishness coexists, I have to have conversations with her about what might happen when she leaves campus to go into town, what to do in worst case scenarios and how to just stay safe. I spend more time coaching around racial safety than I do sexual safety, as she heads off to college.

It means that we have a dashcam in the car.

It means that I as a single woman who used to “taste the rainbow” when it comes to dating have committed to swiping left on just about all White guys and every dude whose profile indicates they are conservative. I don’t have a problem with the politics (I might vehemently disagree but we can be cool), but I can’t risk that their version of conservatism includes White nationalism.

It means that Hope’s political identity is being shaped by all of this; she will vote in her first presidential election next year. I see the jaded cynicism already seeping in. Despite my deep love of politics and my lessons in civics that I’ve put her through these last 5 years, she’s the type of kiddo who is at great risk of just sitting out of the political system all together. If you don’t think the system is fair or you believe that you are marginalized in it, where’s the justification to participate?

It means when I point out what bullshyte this president is, people actually ask me “Why are you so angry?” Really? Why aren’t you angry? Gee why the eff would anyone be angry? #sarcasm

It means that Hope’s grandparents are talking about how they feel like they did in the 50s and 60s; it’s not good. I worry that that emotional toil of reliving the racial animus they grew up with is literally shaving days, months and even years from their lives. That’s less time with me and my sisters, but it’s less time with their grandchildren, the youngest being just a month old.

It means that even as I do my best to avoid all of this stuff, I’m hyper conscious that the rise and pervasiveness of racism, sexism, misogyny, homo/transphobia shapes my day, every day, all day. It influences what I choose to watch on TV, what I choose to listen to in the car, what books and magazines I choose to pick up, what people I share things with, what people I consciously avoid, how I view safety for myself and my daughter, how I plan my future, where I bank and invest my resources, how I use what privilege I have, what routes through certain neighborhoods I choose to take, how I use Yappy as a friendly opening, why I insist on being called ‘Dr.” in certain situations, where I choose to go to church and what I look for in those environments, why I choose to go to the grocery store in that neighborhood because the one in mine doesn’t have as nice product offerings, what concerns I have when visiting a new health care provider, will that person believe my complaints about ailments and offer appropriate treatment, how I’m expected to conform to certain beauty standards, that my skin color means I need to buy certain beauty products that aren’t always widely available, that natural or nudes in any product are not made for me and Hope, how our hair isn’t universally considered “professional” growing in its natural state from our scalp. And it goes on and on and on.

All of these things and so much more fly through my mind at least once a day on top of just daily living stuff like, should I cook those chicken thighs I took out this morning and I wonder if I Hope is willing to chop the veggies without a lot of pushback.

Every breath I take, every move I make, I am usually reminded that I am different and that my ability to be present in that space is viewed as a privilege and not as a right.

Even in adoption, I was and am aware that for some I’m viewed as unique. Every “best of list” I make, I’m conscious of the fact that there’s rarely more than one person of color who made the list. I am proud to be recognized, grateful even, but I also wonder why the few others out there aren’t also being recognized. Is there space for just one and am I non-threatening enough to make the list? Am I being tokenized? Yeah, pervasive racism will make you down your own achievements and recognitions.

And we’re seeing greater discourse around Black and brown children being separated from their parents. Separation is being used as a threat to reduce asylum seekers. We hear things about how “those” parents don’t deserve their children. We hear about the youngest of those children being placed in foster homes, and we’ll likely see these brown children adopted without consideration for reunification. All of this while the older children languish in cages or group homes. We see schools actually threatening child welfare agency engagement over unpaid school lunches. We see more Black and brown kids moving to White families prompting me to question whether this is a genocidal effort to kill our cultures, to “whiten up” our children, to just destroy our families. It is painful, extraordinarily painful and there are folks out there who actually believe that me putting this out there is radical, not helpful, not collaborative. And then in the end, the gaslighting will resume: “Why are you so angry?”

It is effing exhausting y’all. I’m tired. And this week I’m not angry, I’m enraged.

The thing about all this is whether all these emotions are sustainable? At what point does Stockholm Syndrome kick in, making many folks just give up and give in to the awful rhetoric that is permeating our lives? Do I have the present strength of my ancestors who toiled as enslaved laborers, to withstand this?

We’ve got at least another year of this, and quite possibly 4 more years beyond this, in the event there is a reelection. This racism isn’t new; none of it is. It’s just cool to be open with it now. The environment allows emboldened, overt racism now. It doesn’t feel good or even safe. It is taking an emotional toll.

It’s important that folks who call themselves allies to take up the mantle. I don’t care how you came to allyhood; be a good ally. Being a good ally means being an anti-racist. Being “not” racist ain’t good enough. We need to you go hard into anti-racism.

If you are a TRAP, whether you acknowledge that your kid will feel these things, know that they will. Accept that. This is learned, survivalist knowledge. It is the awful knowledge that we learn and accumulate in order to survive. Your privilege only extends so far over your children. Know that because it is the truth. You need to put your life on the line for them—not just them but for everyone who looks like them. If you’re down with colorblind ideology bs, you are a part of the problem. If you aren’t interested in learning the language of antiracism and the confrontations that are necessary to be actively anti-racist, your silent unwillingness is complicity. Full stop, no excuses, the end.

These are strange exhausting times. We all gotta do better at fighting back. You can believe in some conservative ideologies, but really, draw some lines, practice decency and acknowledge the dignity and human rights of others. I’m calling on folks to do effing better.

Your neighbor’s lives depend on it—whether in terms of the day to day or in terms of total life expectancy.

Let’s all do better, continue to fight and fight harder.


Great Expectations

I am struggling this summer. I mean, I’ve come to the realization that I am emotionally exhausted.

By day, I’m doing research, doing diversity workshops, managing conflict and whatever else counts as “other duties as assigned.” For the record, doing diversity work in the current socio-political environment is…draining. Seriously, I’m not a newcomer to this work, but the environment is often hostile. When I get home in the evening, I need to cocoon in some kind of emotional safe space. I don’t watch much news at home, the bare minimum. I am logging on to stream comedies, snuggle with the dog and escape.

But, that escape isn’t really an escape. Hope, despite my best efforts to force her out of the house to do some volunteering, is rooted in her own safe space.

Our version of safe spaces isn’t the same.

Intellectually, I know that Hope turning into a human slug is a normal, age-appropriate behavior. Emotionally, that isht is the most triggering thing I’m enduring this summer. There’s a reason sloth is one of the seven deadly sins!

Live Feed from Casa d’ABM

The ability to marinate in the same clothes, step over the same trash on the floor, not do laundry for a couple of weeks and subsist on ramen and hot dogs unless I specifically prepare something else…I know that a lot of this is “normal.”

Triggering AF

It’s just not my version of normal. And I’m really struggling with it. Honestly, I have a quiet rage around it.

It is only in the last couple of years with Hope that I have learned to “sit.” My close friends will tell you that I don’t really just “sit” much. Even with my learning to “sit” I don’t sit long or without purpose. Sitting is an activity that feeds my need for some self-care, but honestly, I’m happiest when I’m being productive. So, the fact that Hope can sit without any purpose for days on end…whoooooosaw.

Now I know that some of that is depression and anxiety. They are paralyzing for my girl. I know that. I know that there is a lack of inertia that is rooted in fear. I also know that more than 90% of the time if I can just threaten coax Hope to do something it is a positive experience, often building her resilience and capacity for more. But left to her own devices, it’s just not going to happen at all.

Early in the spring, I started talking about my expectations for and from Hope for the summer. Little has turned out the way I hoped. First there was no paying job. Second, getting Hope to find volunteer opportunities on her own was basically like talking to a wall. I had to do that too. Then I’m having to just take deep breaths when she spends every dime on uber because “I don’t like the bus, it takes for ever” to go 1.5 miles to one of the volunteer sites, when she decides to blew off a volunteer shift because she can’t find her metro card (that is now essential since she’s too broke to uber) or when she says I didn’t tell her to do a chore on the whiteboard when I’ve had to start taking pictures of said whiteboard after I make her daily to do list before leaving for the office.

My emotional workout starts as I head into the office in the morning, wondering what kind of racist, sexist, homophobic, mess I might have to deal with there, only to pray for the end of the day when I can stress out on the drive home about whether Hope’s trash heap will meet me at the front door.

I’m sooooooo tired.

And I’m really ready to drop Hope off at her dorm 4 hours away in 4 weeks.

And then I feel guilty about wanting my kid to go off to college so that I have some time and space to get my stress levels down…you know while I fret long distance about how she’s doing at college.

It effing never ends. I’m wound up and exhausted.

I had these expectations that after this last year away at school and getting into college would light a bit of a fire under Hope. But she’s still the same kid she’s always been and that’s ok. This expectation this in my issue.

I shouldn’t be disappointed, but I am.

This last week has been especially challenging because she was just making bad decisions and the consequences were just spilling all over the place. It’s been hard. And I’m tired.

And thus a bit cranky.

I’ve largely bit my tongue, until today, when I told Hope, “I’m disappointed in you.” I limited it to how she’s handled this summer based on what the original plan was. I said I didn’t know if there would be a correlation between the summer and what would happen this fall, but I am worried that this is what this fall will look like—long term marinating. I said, I hope that you feel confident about working hard this fall. I said, I know you needed an academic break. I also said, I am disappointed and I just don’t know what to make of all of this.

I looked at my daughter’s face, and I knew that what I said upset her. I also knew that it would not result in any of the behaviors I actually want to see. I just knew that I was a bit tired of chewing on my tongue. It has many, many teeth marks.

I just need some down time. We’re 4 weeks out from departure. I’m hopeful that something, something might improve for me and my emotional well-being during this time, but I also know that I will continue to grind it out.

I’m headed to the patio with a glass of something that has aged; it’s been a long day in a long week and it’s only Tuesday.


Ask Hope, vol.2

What are best and hardest things about being adopted as an older kid?

Being in school, at some point talk of one’s parents comes up eventually and so for a while, I was constantly telling others that I was adopted and that I wasn’t from Virginia. Mostly this happened because I came halfway through the year.

One of the better things I guess is because I was older, I didn’t have to worry about losing any more friends that I made from moving around. I was able to keep friends from that time onward.

What are you most excited and nervous about as you enter (young) adulthood?

I don’t think that there is anything that I am particularly excited or nervous about. I’ve spent the past school year at a boarding school so I am ok with living away from home for a long period of time. Although I’m not worried about living without my mom, I am worried about how my procrastination will develop. I lose track of time very easily so I am definitely worried about how I am going to manage myself and keep myself in check and make sure that I keep my focus on what is important rather than getting caught in an endless loophole of distraction.

[ABM adds: We’re looking at some cool productivity apps that set timers and block sites for periods of time. If you have apps you like that help reduce distraction and increase productivity, please share them!]

What’s your current fav song??

I really love Kpop. Right now currently my fav song(s) are Wave/Illusion – ATEEZ and Twilight – ONEUS

What’s the best dirt on ABM?

Dirt? Hm, I don’t really know what I could possibly tell you. What do you already know?

[ABM responds: WHEW! Grateful I grew up without social media!]

Do you have any advice for younger kids who may feel out of place sometimes (for whatever reason they may feel that way)?

I’m not quite sure in which situation you are asking about but if it is in the foster care system then I don’t really have much advice for them because there isn’t much that they can really do but to try and wiggle their way into a group of people that they can talk to. It’s pretty likely that a kid in a foster home with other kids will feel slightly out of place. Although they may all be in the same place or situation doesn’t mean that they will be kind or will work with the other kids.

If I would give any one piece of advice it would be to not just let yourself be outcast, it’ll give the other kids a reason to come after you. Try wherever, whether at home or school, to make friends or at least find someone who you can talk to and someone who actually acknowledges you and treats you in a friendly manner.

What do you wish people understood about being adopted from the foster care system? What could adults (teachers, parents, doctors) do to be more helpful?

I’m not quite sure.

I do think that many who are adopted from the foster care system might have an issue with trusting the people around them, especially adults. Another thing that people should try to understand might be that the child could have a very hard time adjusting and that they might have some other issues from earlier on in life, or just during their time in the system.

I’m not really sure, but giving them space, listening to them, and just working with them. One thing that helped me was that I had some time to adjust to my surroundings before I started school so that everything wasn’t completely foreign to me. I got to see and do lots of things and had many experiences which helped me become comfortable and assisted in the progression of our relationship.

 

 


A Reflective Birthday

Hope is officially a baby adult, and we have feelings…big feelings.

I can’t believe that so much time has passed since she emerged from the secured part of the airport with her small suitcase (the bulk of her personal items arrived later). She’s so different now. She was a scared little girl in a teenager’s body. She was overwhelmed by the trajectory of her life; she was moving into a completely unknown chapter…with me.

I remember being so green that night, watching a petite 12-year-old emerge from security. I already had so many hopes and dreams for her and her future. I knew we would have challenges, and that Hope would have specific challenges, but I didn’t really grasp what those would look like. I didn’t really understand that we would end up with a hospitalization, frequent anxiety related visits to the urgent care (they knew us by name), multiple therapy appointments per week and different kinds of therapy. I didn’t understand at the time that my hopes and dreams needed a serious reframing. I really had no idea what this journey would look like, and it still doesn’t look like anything I could have imagined.

And now Hope is 18 and college bound, and another chapter is starting.

All day, Hope was sullen on her birthday. She shrugged when I tried to hype this big birthday. She nearly recoiled at the idea of being an adult of any kind. At one point, she actually booed. We went out for an early Korean dinner (of course) and bubble tea. She had no activity desires or a list of preferred birthday presents. In a word, my daughter seemed depressed about turning.

And I was sad. I wanted to be excited about this life marker. I wanted to make a big deal about it. But I got the impression early on that Hope was not all that keen on a big celebration.  A recent conversation revealed that she was thinking about her alternative lives—the one that might have manifested with her parents and the one that might’ve been had she stayed in the foster care system. Those lives would have been drastically different, and in the foster care scenario turning 18 would have had serious implications. She seems stuck in that hypothetical place even though this life with me is the one that she’s living. There’s some reconciliation that seems to need to happen around all that.

When I think about my own life and those forks in the road leading to a completely different outcome, I find my own reconciliation resulting in gratitude, not for any person, but rather for the fact that my life is different. I don’t expect gratitude for Hope, and I recognize that this birthday dredges up a lot for her. I’m not sure how to help her reconcile the different scenarios with where she is now. I’m at a loss other than just continuing to be supportive.

There’s also the resistance to being pushed out of the nest, which I’m not actually doing with Hope. The prospect of being an adult is not embraced by Hope at all. To be clear, I am committed to supporting Hope in every way indefinitely. That said, I am also committed to teaching her life skills that will allow her to function as an adult, to one day live independently, and to embrace that independence. I want to foster a confidence in her that lets her know, she can stand on her own, but I’m still right here, beside her, behind her.

It’s hard though. A recent chat with AbsurdlyHotTherapist let me know how angry Hope is about not having the life she was entitled to. Grief is still very much with us; it still very much has Hope in its grips. I’m at a loss on how best to pry those cold hands from around her to set her free. I also know that ultimately, I can’t do that; Hope will have to get there on her own. It makes me sad on multiple levels to know that she is and likely will be so controlled by her grief for a while yet. It’s not that I don’t understand it; it’s just…I can’t fix it.

This is not at all what I thought this birthday would be like. I have become good about moderating my expectations when it comes to Hope. I still seem not to have made the appropriate adjustments this go around. I know that there are seasons when happy life markers trigger dark thoughts, memories and just sadness. This birthday seems to be one for my new baby adult. I’m treating her tenderly with it.

I guess I should probably do the same for myself.

I’m still driving her towards learning some life skills this summer. I’m finding that each time she does something new, usually successfully, she gains a little confidence. These little wins will add up over time, and she will learn to do more things for herself. Yeah, I’m still here, but I want to change positions where I’m behind her, rooting her own instead of in front of or beside her, leading her.

Only time will tell if she moves forward as I move backward. For now, we just will press on.


The Debut of “Ask Hope”

It’s been in the works for a while and it’s finally here! Hope is answering questions from HAPs and APs interested in adopting tweens and teens! If you have a question, feel free to forward it by email at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com with “Ask Hope” in the subject line or send a message through the blog’s social media channels! These are Hope’s answers, not mine, though I will sometimes weigh in with contextual info or perspective!

Without further ado, here’s Hope’s first set of Q&As!

Via Giphy

If Hope had just one important piece of information to share with those interested in adopting a teen, what would it be?
I think that although it may be difficult and very frustrating, just be patient with them but don’t be too lax with them. It’s never going to be a smooth ride from the jump, but I think that giving space and then trying to talk about everyone’s feelings on everyday things will probably help a lot. One last thing is to, maybe if they are comfortable with it, listen to their story to see how they have experienced life so far.

What made you feel safe during the transition?
I don’t think that there was any one thing that made me feel safe during the transition. I didn’t feel unsafe during the transition though I did at a point for a moment feel like it wasn’t going to happen or like it might not have worked out. As my time here lengthened I began to feel at home though it took lots of adjustments, but all of the good and bad experiences throughout helped me feel comfortable and like I belonged in this home.

How would you have felt about getting adopted by a family that has really strained relationships with extended family?
I didn’t really think about that kind of stuff when I was trying to get adopted, but during visitation that’s when I started thinking about it since we spent time around mom’s family. I would probably be curious, but as long as I didn’t have to deal with any drama, eh ok. I had an idea of the kind of family I wanted to be in, not extended, but just the core. I didn’t think about the others. For me, I would make sure that family and friends you do connect with/to treat the adoptee the same as the bio kids in the family.

We want to start the process, but will probably be moving sometime in the next two years. How would you have felt about moving right after being adopted?
I would not have been happy about it; I would not have said much about it, since I wouldn’t want that to be the reason someone didn’t want me, but how would I be expected to trust anyone after another move when I’m going into the adoption thinking I don’t have to move anymore. I guess it would be different if it came up later, but going into adopting me with a plan to move right away? Nah. But I probably wouldn’t actually say nah if it meant I didn’t get adopted.

[ABM: Hope had to move cross country with our placement; she was constantly trying to negotiate when the move would happen. It was very stressful for her. VERY stressful; so much so I think it made adjustment more difficult. It took time. When I was offered a job about a year or so later in another state, I didn’t take it because I wanted her to have the chance at being in one location for a long period of time. She’d already moved around a lot; I didn’t want to contribute to the feelings of not being tethered to a homebase. The side benefit is that our current location meant that we were only about 4 hours from biological family; so for us, it worked out.]

How would you have felt about having a choice between home school or regular school outside of the home?
I would be ok as long as I had a choice. If the home school situation was secular maybe I might do that, but I would probably just go to public school because that’s what I know.

[ABM: Religion has been a sticky issue around these parts. Sometimes it’s hard for kids to reconcile religious beliefs with why some things have happened to them. I would imagine this might be common among older adoptees, but that would be a guess. I eventually just looked to raising a religiously knowledgeable kid without all the trappings and expectations of religious adherence.]


Letting Go, Trusting the Process

I’m experiencing all kinds of cognitive dissonance over here. So, this is the summer of life skills, right?

Right. I’m all in on making sure I foster competent independence in Hope.

And then, I’m constantly wondering if she ready. I’m constantly doubting whether she’s as competent as I hope she is. I’m overwhelmed when she is unable to do something; I try not to say it out loud, but it just lingers.

And then sometimes I just think, what the WTEntireF?

Last year, when Hope interviewed for a spot at her boarding school’s summer program, I remember sitting watching the interview and how my girl was charming, smart, poised, and confident. Even if I know she doesn’t usually feel like any of those (#depression), she rose to the occasion and really hit it out of the park.

I’ve found that sometimes Hope really can perform like a 17 year old who is college bound and ready for the world.

And then, there are times like when I was away on the business trip recently and Hope texted me that the remote control to the main TV stopped working.

I sent her this.

giphy-1

via Giphy

 

She actually texted me back to ask what should she do?

Really?

I am nearly 2,000 miles away. I dunno, maybe watch TV in your room with your TV?

She texted me about the remote control, y’all.

And you know what, 2 weeks before that, she texted me, from her phone, a Google-able question.

My response.

giphy-2

via Giphy

 

These are the moments, ironically usually by text, that keep me up at night. She’s not going to be interviewing every day….no, no, she’s going to be watching TV while asking me questions she can ask her phone. It’s the daily tasks, the ordinary stuff, yeah, that, that’s the stuff she can’t do.

Or won’t do.

I found Hope a volunteer opportunity that would allow her to work every day, though I’m voluntelling her that she needs to put in about 20 hours a week.

Me in the AM: Hope, call the store to set up your schedule.

Me in the PM: So, what’s your schedule?

Hope: Oh, right. Yeah, I looked on the website.

Me: Huh? I told you to call.

Hope: Yeah, but I looked at the site.

#IDONTGETITATALL

Are we even involved in the same conversation? I’m not even sure anymore.

giphy

via Giphy

 

We went around like this for 2 days, until I announced that tomorrow I would just have to physically sit next to her to bear witness to her calling to set up her schedule. #unbelievable

Contrast this with her performance during her college orientation this weekend. *That* version of Hope was anxious, but made conversation, asked questions, and charmed a few other parents along the way.

I know that a lot of this is normal, but it is dizzying.

I am reminded that Hope is a bit behind the curve. She’s still immature; her emotional age still lags behind her peers. She’s catching up; I can really see the gap closing, so deep down, I know that she will be ok, but that gap tho…

I think about the emotional age gap and the depression and the anxiety, and the trauma and the and the and the, and sometimes I feel like we’ll never catch up. And then I spend time wondering what “never catching up looks like?” I wonder what it will look like for me. I wonder what it will look like for Hope.

This transition is certainly less scary than when Hope and I transitioned to be a family. The stakes are really so much lower, but I’m still feeling like…is she ready? Do I believe she’s ready? Does my angst mean I’m possibly not ready?

I dunno…I also feel like Hope’s ability to survive or thrive in college this fall is a reflection on me and my parenting. Did I do everything I could to help to Hope? Did I provide her enough safety? Did I support her enough emotionally? Did I invest enough in her education? Did I try enough different kinds of therapy? Was I the best mom I could be to her and for her?

I feel like I’m about to be graded, and I never worry about grades, so why am I freaking out about whether Hope is going to get to college and text me that she has a hole in her sock, wanting to know what to do?

As I spiral this post out of control topically, I’m realizing that I’m wondering if I’ll be judged on what is probably dumb ish that all kids do because ours is an adoptive family?

I mean, in adoption, you get the halo because you “saved” a child (I hate this) or the horns because you “saved” a kid but didn’t “really” save them because they are still a dysfunctional hellion.

It’s absurd.

And I thought I’d stopped caring a long time ago about being judged for my parenting activities and choices.

Looks like I care after all.

I also know that when Hope needs to be great, she’s more than steps into that. All the other times she is what’s probably a normal slug of a kid.

I know I did my best for Hope. There’s always room for improvement, but I would like to think I’ve done a good job mothering Hope these last few years.

I also know that I am spending a fair amount of time every day thinking about how it will all feel if Hope doesn’t have the best experience there.

So, while I continue to press on with Hope’s life skills curriculum this summer, I’m going to try to trust this process and where it will take things with Hope. She’s going to be ok. She’s going to learn how to do the things she needs to do.

She will be fine, and so will I.


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