Yesterday, Hope and I celebrated 3 months post-placement, and by celebrate I mean we dined out at a pizza buffet and I let her watch a Netflix movie on my tablet—in her room. Yeah, admittedly Netflix’ing in her room with an HDMI cord is my new reward system that rewards us both! #giftsthatkeepgiving #alonetime
These last couple of weeks have been rough for me. I know they’ve been rough for Hope too. They weren’t the roughest weeks we’ve endured during the last 90 days, but I struggled with issues in our relationship, in my relationship with family members, and at work. I was losing the capacity to have much patience; I was snippy. I parented in ways that I’m not particularly proud of sometimes. I got cussed out. I wanted to cuss out a whole mess of folks. I got things tossed at me. I got hurtful notes. Hope huffed and puffed like the Big Bad Wolf at least once daily. I felt like everyone had an opinion or “helpful” word that they were oh to happy to share when I really just wanted to crawl in a hole and cry, then maybe sleep. There were days when as much as I wanted to be honest with some folks in my life, the truth about the emotional mayhem going on at Casa de ABM was just too much to share. I came to believe that some folks just wouldn’t believe it anyway. The decisions that needed to be made to protect us were at times painful and offensive to others, but critical to helping us press forward. Some days, most probably, I was my own worst enemy as I was plagued with self-doubt, self-criticism, sentiments of failure and worthlessness. It’s been a weary couple of weeks.
It was nothing but grace that got us through the last 90 days, especially since these last few weeks weren’t even the worst of it.
It certainly hasn’t been all rough. There were days, even a couple of weeks when we finally settled into our routine and I would breathe silently each night with a smile, “Yeah, that’s what’s up.” There have been friends and family who’ve checked in on us; patiently given us space or just allowed me to vent, cry and fall apart on the phone, by text, by skype, by email, over coffee. There’ve been fellow bloggers and other adoptive parents who have let me know that all of this messiness is normal, or at least normal for us, as we help our children get settled and begin healing. I’ve had a lot of positive support and encouragement from my agency and my social worker; the encouraging words helped keep me going on some hitsay days. #piglatin
I saw grace in those moments too.
Then Tuesday, on the eve of our month-a-versary and in the middle of family therapy, I saw Hope through a different lens and consequently saw us through a new lens too. Yesterday, Hope finally decided to participate in our therapy session. Actually she dominated it. She prattled nervously, but made conversation, shared dark things, things that I didn’t know, things I knew all too well and things that just surprised me. As I sat and listened, making eye contact with our shrink and my daughter, I thought, well *now* we’re getting somewhere. Hot therapist would make eye contact back with a subtle nod, “Yeah, we are getting somewhere!”
At one point Hope brought up something from the Easter sermon at church, applied it to the topic of the moment in an appropriate but hilarious way. I nearly cried; I did audibly gasp. I remember the second week when she whined about having to go to church and now she talking about what she learned and what it means. She smiled when she saw my reaction. I learned about how a woman who briefly was in her life years ago reached out to her on social media and how she rebuffed her attempts to connect, saying I have a great mom now, I don’t want you around, and I don’t like how you treated me. I heard her coming into a self-awareness that wasn’t there three months ago. I heard the grip of fear loosening in her life. I heard her trust in me. I heard her making plans for her life here. It was so beautiful to see my girl’s progress in a 50 minute session.
On the way home, I got stung by some kind of insect and Hope sprang into action, insisting that she take care of me. She made me tea, prepped an ice bath for my swollen hand, got the Benadryl and put it in one of the Dixie cups that I use to dole out medications. Then she fixed herself a cup of tea and sat with me, timing how long my hand was in the ice bath and fetching a second dose of antihistamine for me an hour later. Hope clucked about whether or not I needed to go to Patient First and if she needed to get our neighbor to come help. It was a little sting and yes, my hand was swollen like the dickens but after 20 minutes I knew I wasn’t going to die and besides I have some epi-pens in the house. But her care and concern was so earnest, so genuine that I let her fret over me for nearly two hours while we snuggled on the couch watching Swamp People.
It was a beautiful way to spend an hour on our 89th day together. It was us turning another corner together.
Hope is my daughter. I am hers, and she is mine. And it’s kind of cool to think, hey, I had a hand in getting her to this emotional space that allows her to be a bit more tolerant of therapeutic treatment of emotional grief and trauma. Monday night had me high-fiving the Holy Homeboy during my evening prayer. Good stuff.
Her social worker told me to today that they were moving forward to get the adoption finalized. Hope will be mine forever before her birthday in June.
I cling to moments like these. It’s hard for some people to understand that regressive behaviors are a part of the very normal, yet painful process for us. I know that we will continue to wrestle with things. If our pattern holds true, then the shoe will drop by week’s end. Maybe we’ll start a new pattern, who knows. I know that the grief that pervades her life continues to crush a part of her spirit even as she can say that living with me and being my daughter is a good thing. There’s still a strong need to test it by sabotage. She grieves the life she should’ve had with her parents; she’s angry that they failed her, that they didn’t put her first. The nicer I am to her, the more it hurts her some days because she knows that this should all be happening with her biological parents, but it never did, and it never will. It’s hard for a young girl to bear that reality in the face of a new life. She is starting to show gratitude, not for being adopted but just because she’s beginning to appreciate the kindness shown to her. Most people won’t get the subtle distinction, just assuming that our add-water-and-stir family should gel easily because we’re all so happy to be here. The path to permanency for my daughter sucked arse big time. No child should endure what she has.
And yet we are such a different pair than we were 3 months ago. She told me she doesn’t even remember her first two weeks here. It was an overwhelming blur. She remembers my birthday about two weeks after she arrived, but it happened to be on Super Bowl Sunday and it was hard to forget that! It’s like not remembering what happened when you were a toddler; emotionally, she was starting all over again. I can see how she was so overwhelmed now. I was overwhelmed too.
I look forward to seeing where this year takes us. We have grown so much over the last three months. We have so much more growing to do as we continue on our journey.
Onward and upward.