Yesterday was our monthly visit with the social worker. I really do like her a lot; she’s so supportive and encouraging. While I will be glad to finalize my adoption of Hope; I will kind of miss my check-ins with Ms. E. She’s been a nice, unbiased, non-familial attached person for me to check in with and actually ask for advice from rather than just getting unsolicited advice. While thinking about our visit, I was able to really give some thought to the goings-on of the last couple of weeks. I haven’t done a recap in a while, so here goes.
Respite and self-care: Where have you been all my life?? To everyone who told me to find a way to take a break to just take a breath and get my bearings; thank you. You were right. After interviewing half a dozen people I wouldn’t leave a houseplant with, I finally decided to use the sitter service that I got a Living Social deal on a month ago. Last week I got myself a sitter for Friday and Saturday and wouldn’t you know it, I’m a new woman. Now I talked incessantly about my kid while I was out, but I didn’t call once to check in and I felt free. We tried two sitters, one who was a late 20s and in grad school and another early 20s undergraduate student. Turns out the younger of the two was a hit with us and we’ll be requesting her on a regular basis, because yeah, I need a break sometimes. The investment was worth every penny. I came home feeling like a new woman, and after Hope got over the anxiety, she found that it wasn’t so bad since I came home in a good mood.
People do strange things when they know you’re adopting. So, Hope’s teachers know that this is a pre-adoption placement. They have been kind and helpful and understanding. And then things got weird on the field trip. Suddenly, I had no name other than “Hope’s Mom.” No really, while introducing the chaperones to the 140 kids in the auditorium, I literally got introduced as Hope’s Mom, with no name of my own. Every other parent got introduced as Mr. or Ms. Smith/Jones/Rodriguez/Jenkins and 70% of the time their kids’ last name was different. It was almost as if this was some attempt to make sure Hope and I were bound together publicly. It was weird and awkward and well, just kind a weird. Hope was completely nonplussed; she has not called me by my given name in months, so to her, that kinda is my name.
Hope tends to be pretty transparent about being adopted. I try to follow her lead and not disclose unless she has. I’m sure the other parents thought I was a bit weird too. Clearly some of their kids had shared with them that Hope was from the West Coast, but she or they must not have shared that her move was a part of an adoption. In making small talk, I was asked how I was adapting to the East Coast and DC area. Ummmm….Hmmmmmm. Yeah, “It’s lovely here.” “Rough winter.” I’ve lived here forever, and Hope’s adjustment has been…big. Yep….a big adjustment….
I have developed the “Mom” look!!! Holy shizzle! I have successfully managed to master the look that mothers give their kids who are cutting up. You know, the looks that say, “You betta get it together!!” This is huge. I had to use the look while chaperoning my first field trip this week. Before we even got on the bus, I had to snatch Hope up and get her together because she attempted a smart mouthed neck roll in front her little friends in the group. Um, no girl. Midway during the trip she attempted a modest break bad moment and all it took was a LOOK! Hot damn, momma is cooking with grease now.
I need to tackle my anxiety/frustration/anger about being judged. I had an unfortunate run-in this week with someone very close to me because of a comment that felt judgy. The truth of the matter is a lot of things feel judgy these days; I’m hyper-sensitive, and it’s really my thing like 78.8713% of the time. It’s hard (especially for this overachiever) to take critical commentary about something you’re working so hard on and for and is complete and utter mayhem on the inside. It’s easy to become angry and resentful and just all around pissy. You withdraw and the circle of confidants gets smaller and smaller until you really are just confiding into the folks you’re paying to make this thing happen. It’s a vicious cycle because then the less people see, know and/or hear about, the more they come to believe that, well, your little adoptive family must be getting along like gangbusters, while secretly, you lie in bed alone nightly watching the ceiling fan spin, while crying and knocking over the red wine glass you had delicately placed next to you.
Oh, that hasn’t happened to you? My bad.
(Yes, I know that bio parents are probably also watching ceiling fans and knocking over wine glasses in bed too.)
I read an article on the Tiny Buddha this week called “Transforming your Relationships by Assuming Best Intentions.” Ahh, this article was a bit of church and one that I will take to heart in all of my relationships. There are far fewer people in the world who care enough to wish you harm and failure than those who wish wholeness and love for you. People who don’t care about you actually don’t care about you, and they typically don’t even care enough to comment. I have people who care about me, and it’s silly to continue to rationalize that they are out to get me. Now, changing this mindset will likely take some doing on my part but I need this transformation for myself and my daughter more than anything.
People are going to say some really unhelpful, sometimes less than constructive things; my challenge is to charge it to the head and not the heart.
Hope is starting to really try on her new identity as my daughter. I already mentioned that she calls me Mom and sees me as Mom, but it’s interesting as we approach finalization to hear the questions that she has. I told her yesterday that I had hired an attorney and that we were heading to finalization in June. She was delighted and said something like, finally I will stay here forever. It was a great response and then the questions started, like, “Will I still be from WA or does that all get erased?” I fielded all her questions and then she asked when would we get her passport and when could we go to the Bahamas; a trip that would require her to show her passport with her new name.
Of course the trying on of this identity also comes with a side of trying me, which is delightfully, annoyingly normal. Amazing how normal can also be painful, but whatever. The girl refuses to understand that there are consequences, positive and negative, to every action. And in three short months the sense of entitlement has rooted itself surprisingly strong. We are at the beginning of a tech blackout since rules have been broken and attitudes have been slung. Sigh…
Overall, things are better. I’m hopeful; I know that we’ll be fine. Things are still very hard; there are moments of anxiety and nail biting and anxiety words and withdrawal and spouts of anger. It still can be overwhelming, but it’s ok. I can see the growth and I know it will continue if I just stay the course.
In the meantime she is punishing me by yelling, screaming and sporadically playing a harmonica. While $10 noise cancelling headsets are not quite as effective as Beats by Dre, they get the job done when coupled with a glass of wine, a pre-dinner brownie and a music playlist. I love her, but I know she’s not ready to be consoled or comforted.
And that’s ok. We’ll get there.
April 28th, 2014 at 7:10 pm
You are amazing. I am glad things are going well and that you understand the importance of self care.
April 28th, 2014 at 9:58 pm
Thanks! Yes, yes to self care. I didn’t believe we were stable enough for me to step away and I was scared she would punish me/us. But I reached a breaking point and just the act of scheduling the sitter started to settle my attitude. Respite, even just a few hours, is EVERYTHING! 🙂
April 28th, 2014 at 9:39 pm
June!! OMG. That is awesome and sooo soon. LIke, next month. Wow, that six months went by so quickly.
We are still working on that childcare thing. Well, not really, but we should be. I can’t wait to cut a rug without a two year old handing onto our leg. I miss dancing and from a relationship standpoint, we need some time out for us.
I love this article about assuming the best intentions. Wood and I often have this issue with each other. In fact a large amount of our arguments are often about misunderstanding the intent of what was said/done. I might have to forward this to him.
April 28th, 2014 at 10:31 pm
We’re actually finalizing a bit early. WA doesn’t want to wait, so we’re going about 6-8 weeks early. Very exciting.
Yes to time to yourself outside of work and kiddo.
The article spoke to me–just the title drew me in. I saw a lot of myself in it, so it was a bit convicting but in a healthy way. Definitely share. Tiny Buddha is on FB and Twitter too, good stuff. \
April 29th, 2014 at 8:50 pm
Just wanted to chime in to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over the past couple months. I do academic work on adoption and motherhood and you provide an invaluable voice that is so rarely heard. I actually cited you in a conference paper this past weekend. I know my words carry very little weight, but I think you’re a wonderful mother and Hope is a very lucky girl to have found you. Thank you!
April 30th, 2014 at 9:42 am
Thanks for reading my story Sara. Would love to hear more about your work, drop me a email. Humbled that my ramblings might actually be in a paper somewhere. Ha! Thanks for the kind words.
May 1st, 2014 at 10:38 am
Chin up, ABM….sending cyber hugs your way. I remember my mother being like kryptonite to my “mother confidence”. I felt like she was aways judging and had no filter when speaking to me. So..I hear you. You are able to self reflect and call a spade a spade and I think that makes it easier to start making the needed changes.