When Magic Ain’t Enough

First things first: Hope is doing marvelously. She has friends; she is social. She is trying to stay on top of her schoolwork. She joined a club last week. She’s doing great. She’s also still open to questions for her column, so…Ask Hope by sending an email to adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com.

Me?

I’m not doing so hot.

It’s not an empty nest thing, though some of it is probably a change thing. No, it’s really about work and personal life. I hit an emotional wall a week ago that was just incredibly damaging, and while I grinned and bore it; I’m not ok. And this week I feel like it shows across every aspect of my life.

I recently celebrated 15 years in my job as a diversity and inclusion professional. I love my work; I know I’m making a difference. There is so much work to do, but I can look at several generations of students and see the impact that my work along with the work of so many others.

I’ve got research projects and consultations and student organizations. I give lectures, conduct workshops and create assessment tools. I’ve written policies, standards, papers and books.

I’m not bragging. I’ve just worked hard.

Along the way I went back to school, did a couple of degrees and half raised an amazing daughter.

I feel like if I totally checked out right this moment, I will have left a mark, and that’s immensely satisfying even when I see so much more that can and should be done.

But it has all has come at a cost.

I’ve been one of few people of color broadly and very few black people and even fewer black women, in countless spaces over the last 15 years. I’m used to it. I can hold my own in such spaces, but these spaces aren’t always inclusive or hospitable. I’ve been called names. I’ve heard racist jokes. I’ve been harassed. When I went natural and chopped my hair off the first time, a white male colleague said I looked exotic. I have given lectures that were rated poorly because I didn’t have any effs to give about white fragility.

I’ve coached, coddled, chastised and championed.

I love this work, but it is emotionally exhausting creating content to reach, teach, and move people in ways that keeps them engaged and not triggered by their own fragility. It comes at a high cost that I’m willing to pay if it means that I can make this profession better. My commitment to this work is also why I continue writing about my life and parenting experience in this space, why Mimi and I hosted Add Water and Stir and why I’m now trying to move into doing some consulting with adoption agencies interested in exploring these issues.

I recently participated in a work-related meeting that demonstrated clearly to me that there is still so much more work to be done. It was in a space that positioned me as an outsider, that felt very silencing and was wholly oblivious to how problematic it all felt for those of us who were outsiders—either by professional discipline or race.

No one was mean. No one said anything inappropriate. No one was overtly racist. But it was very superficial and wildly damaging to me emotionally.

It’s been a week, and I haven’t recovered. I’m still working, still producing, still rolling, but feeling like the walking wounded. That space wrung what little Black Girl Magic I had left. It’s gone. It’s like the experience just zapped it. I am broken.

Couple that with a continued barrage of trash on the dating scene and I’m on the ropes. I’m just done. Last week, I pulled my profile down and shuttered myself like I was preparing for a hurricane. It was like a one-two punch and the ref is just hovering over me counting….1. 2. 3. 4. 5…..

I can’t get up.

I’m emotionally empty.

depressed

People can see it. People can feel the icky energy rolling off of me. My therapist knew as soon as I walked into her office yesterday that I was not ok. She remarked that my energy was similar to when I started going to her shortly after Hope’s arrival when I was deep in the depths of post-adoption depression.

And she’s right. I sobbed in her office. I finally said how unseen I felt at the meeting; how so much of my work seems in vain, how the dating scene is trash, but I would love to have a life companion and that I’m hella glad Hope is away at school while I’m seriously falling apart.

My empty nest fall was *not* supposed to be like this. The work I love is not supposed to make me so miserable. Dating should not make me wonder if the next dude is going to be awful to me too.

I’m not going to stay in this dark place though. I’ve booked a 5 star get-a-way for two weeks from now on a whim. I thought as the bill was rising higher and higher as I as I was upgrading this and that, this is getting pricey. Then I asked what would I be like in two weeks if I don’t do this or something like it? What if I didn’t invest in myself? And what would Hope do/say/feel if she saw me like this?  I might be ok, but the people around me will surely suffer—actually I will suffer most of all.

So, I booked exactly what I wanted and needed for 5 days away in a location that’s warm, sunny, beachy, with lots of rum, good food and lots of brown people—majority brown people. I need to be in a space where black and brown folks are the dominant culture for a few days. I need to feel emotionally safe; I need to not be directly under the searing gaze of white folks for a few days. #yeahIsaidit #lovebutyallareexhausting

And tomorrow, I’ll be calling up the doc and getting some new meds. A vacation time-out will help a lot, but I know it is not a panacea for what ails me. I know that it will not bring my magic back. Chemistry will help bring my magic back. So will eating right and continuing to make plans that focus on my restoration

Parents weekend is next week, so I will get to see my beautiful Hope then. I’m so excited about seeing her and getting a glimpse into the life she is creating for herself. I’m so proud of her. With my restoration plan coming into focus; I feel better about the ABM she will see next weekend. The vacation will jump start a new chapter for me; I’m committed to that.

I do not like the dark space. I do not like feeling like I’m wandering or wondering. I want to come back from this. I want to keep going; I want to be strong and magical. I also want to be better at preventing this kind of emotional spiral.

Practice makes perfect right?

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Dating and Parenting

Shortly after Hope agreed to become my daughter, I made a wonderful man, E. E and I were together for about 3 years. When we parted, it was sad, but there were no burned bridges. We keep in touch.

I didn’t attempt to date anyone again for nearly 2 years.

When Hope went off to boarding school last year, I decided to get on an app and try to date. I met someone who I had great fun with but when it ended a few months ago, it did so in an absurd dumpster fire. It’s ok, I’m fine. I walked away easy peasy.

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via Giphy

And so shortly before I dropped Hope off a month ago, I said, ok, let’s try this again. I signed up for 2 months on an app. I carefully curated my pictures; I wrote my profile, and I posted it all.

I’ve been on one pseudo-date. I say pseudo because we met up, went for a short walk and sat on a bench to talk.

I have received numerous inappropriate messages.

I’ve found that men generally think very highly of themselves and their manners.

I’ve found that some men take rejection horribly, resulting in lash out behavior.

I’ve found that some men want to school me on my standards being too high.

I’ve found that despite loving me some men, a lot of men are just really deeply troubled (this is me trying not to call them all trash). #toxicmasculinity

I just about tapped out last week after I rejected a man’s interest, he lashed out in really ugly mean ways that were just completely over the top when compared to my standard, “Hey I don’t think we are a match, good luck in your search” message. Really, I was like, “Dassit, I’m going to get me a few more auntie robes, maybe another small dog, a better bonnet and shut this dating situation down forever.”

But I’m still here.

Now what does this have to do with parenting? A lot actually.

Aside from this process clarifying what my own emotional wants and needs are in a potential partner; I center Hope in thinking about what is best for us. Now, I don’t know who Hope may bring home one day, but I can’t in good conscious make moves that don’t model a healthy dating life and hopefully a healthy relationship. My girl had too many years when she didn’t see these things, so I want to be sure that if she’s looking to me to show the way, I had better make good decisions.

I think even more critically about the types of people I want in my life. I think about what kinds of people, I definitely don’t want in my life. I think about how people talk to and with me; how they present themselves, how they talk about the children they have and the other parents of those children. I think about what they will say about Hope and our story if they ever get to hear it, and how much education on adoption I will have to do. I think about how they talk about women—not females which can be any species and is a term that annoys the heck out of me—but women. I think about how they talk about all kinds of women. I think about a lot of these things.

Most of the things I have considered show up in my profile as some non-negotiables.

And it’s amazing how pissy men who don’t meet any of the criteria are about me articulating my standards.

And I think about that as well. When I see a message, if I respond, I try to meet it with kindness. If I were to kick it and Hope opened my app and saw my responses, I would want her to know that I try to be kind and authentic. I want her to know that about me so that hopefully she will embrace that for herself.

Hope really wrestles with social anxiety; she can be delightfully awkward, but I know she is always looking for behavioral models. She’s trying. I want to always be that model for her.

So, even on a dating app that I hope she never has to deal with, I try to be authentic and think about What Hope Would Say or Do? #WWHSD

Centering her and the model I want to set for her, even with her away from college, has kept my terrible frog kissing to a minimum since I’m really trying to screen hard for the worthy prince.

the princess and the frog GIF

Via Giphy


Beyond the Mug Cakes

So, this is where we are with me at home and Hope off at college:

Yeah, so, I do in fact miss Hope, but not like when she went away to boarding school last year. I really was so sad after she left for the year. I fell into a bit of a depression and felt a little rudderless during the first couple of weeks.

I do not feel rudderless this go ‘round. I feel…different. Not sure I have a word for it yet. I miss Hope. We text every other day or so and talk on Sundays. She sounds happy, if a little anxious. She seems to be thriving socially. I do miss her, but, no I’m not crying over her departure. When folks ask me how I’m doing with my empty nest, and I reply “FINE!” they seem to be disappointed that I’m not falling to pieces.

One thing is the same as when I experienced my first empty nest last year: the fatigue. Active daily parenting is frigging exhausting and when your regular parenting involves a lot of anxiety and a major life change on the immediate horizon, it’s a wonder you can get up in the morning.

This past weekend I enjoyed the ridiculous luxury of taking 2-3 hour naps Saturday and Sunday. It was decadent, and with the break in the weather serving the smallest whiff of fall, this was prime napping weather. I was couch-drunk most of the weekend.

So, yeah, there’s that.

Now what?

Well, I’m back in the dating hunt, which is….challenging. Dating when you’re older feels different. Your priorities are different. You are forced to even see yourself differently. The rose-colored glasses come off pretty quickly. Trying to be intentional about getting out, meeting people and dating raises my insecurities about all kinds of things.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m a catch. I know I am, but for whom? Some standards have gone way up like I really want to be with someone with same or similar educational attainment and a solid career. But as we slide into the late forties, how I think about myself and others is morphing. I still see myself through youthful glasses, and then I see the pool of men and I think, “Oh, we are aging. I mean, we still look good (some more than others), but that glossy veneer has worn away.” It’s a sobering gut check.

But I’m still out here trying to foster a healthy and robust social life.

And then there’s my role in the adoption community. I mean, it hasn’t changed, but it kind of feels like it has. I’m pondering what things I will write about, how will express the feelings of watching Hope navigate this next chapter. I’m taking on some volunteer consulting around diversity and adoption agencies. I’m looking forward to that and hoping it might turn into some other opportunities since how people of color show up and engage in and around the adoption community is important to me.

I’m diving into work and feeling like there are new challenges and opportunities ahead with my career. I see a shift in my work on the horizon. I’ll be getting a new colleague soon, launching new studies, debuting some new research. I’m passionate about my career, so I’m excited, but I’m also…already thinking about my exit strategy. I’m thinking about what my next chapter will be, when will I be able to retire and what will I need to do to make that happen. Even then, I’m eager to plan my retirement. I’m curious what and who I will be then. There have been a few evenings since Hope has been gone, when I just sat on the patio and dreamed about what that chapter might look like. With Hope in college, it seems like I can think about it for the first time in a long time.

And Hope…I do worry, maybe worry isn’t quite the right word. I’m concerned. It’s not eating at me yet, but it’s rambling around in the back of my head.

Is she overwhelmed?

Does she feel ready?

Is she ready?

A recent chat with AbsurdlyHotTherapist suggests that she’s really internalized the anxiety about being in college. She’s saying she’s fine to me, but being a bit of a pill in therapy.

How long is that sustainable?

And what plans should I put in place to guard against a meltdown or pick her up after one?

What would life be like if she isn’t successful on that path? As resilient as she is, would she recover from that?

Would I?

So, yeah, I’m concerned now that classes will officially start in 4 days. I’m going deep into the prayer closet this weekend.

I’m holding it all together and trying to map my next moves with and without Hope. I’m trying to be judicious with the mug cakes and get more exercise to compensate for this evening delight I’m currently digging.

But all in all, I’m good.


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.


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.

 

 


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