I had a lot going on this week; much of it left me exhausted and cranky. Despite my bad attitude, I really, really tried to practice better “therapeutic” parenting. It’s paying off, even if sometimes things just seem weird. So, here’s the highlight reel.
The mask is finally coming off. Four months in, Hope’s mask is finally coming off. I hate to say her behavior is regressing, because in truth, it’s not. A few weeks ago, in the middle of a conversation about something she dropped some baby talk on me. Yeah, baby talk, like goo goo gaga kind of stuff.
Say what now?
I just kept talking and she just kept babbling, and I tried to just pretend it was no big deal. And she did it for the rest of the conversation, and I nearly came unhinged on the inside. What in the holy hell is this???
Since then, she’s tried to climb into my lap several times. Now, you need to know that I’ve got body space issues. #getoffmegetoffmegetoffme I need a buffer. I love hugs and stuff, love them, love them, but um, on my terms. Sitting on me is not on my term list, but I’ve tried to be comfortably uncomfortable for now. Then there’s the bedtime stories, which is actually a lovely ritual. And then this week, she asked could she do some arts and crafts with macaroni, glitter, construction paper and glue.
Seriously, all I could think was, “There is going to be effing glitter ALL. Over. My. House.” I have no poker face and Hope knows it.
She looked sad and I was all like, “But wait…I was just thinking…um, sounds like an awesome idea (#fauxenthusiasm)!!!”
With each of these things Hope always includes her rationale for wanting to do it: “I never got a chance to do this when I was little.” It’s actually really sad. She needs these memories and developmental markers to move forward. That’s the best motivation I could possibly think of for tolerating glitter in my house.
It does require some kicking around in my brain. Years ago, when I was thinking about what my adoption life would be like, I envisioned a 5 or 6 year old kid in the house. As I went through the process, I realized that in order to actually get a 5 or 6 year old I would probably need to foster or wait years and years and years. Fostering was too emotionally risky for me and years and years, well, I don’t have that kind of patience. I made a very conscious decision to adopt an older child and along with that my whole vision changed about what I thought would be going on in my house. I never dreamed that macaroni and glitter artwork would be a thing that would happen.
I’m guessing you should all place your orders now for kindergarten style glue ornaments…you *know* you want one. Don’t be jelly when my crafty ornament covered Christmas tree is better than yours, all courtesy of Hope’s Crafting Bonanza.
But seriously, all of this stuff is good news, she feels safe. She knows I’m going to help her fill in the gaps; that I’m going to help her create childhood memories that she has a right to have and to still want. I’ll try to be mindful of that every time she tries to crawl into my lap. It’s like cradling a granddaddy long legs. Love her.
I am searching for information about Hope’s bio parents. Now this is a sticky issue. I really have zero interest in these folks, but Hope is an older adoptee and as much as she’s wrestling with healing and filling the gaps that her bio parents left neglected, I also see her tossing things around in her head about who she is and where she came from. There are also things to which she is entitled that I’m intent on trying my best to make right. Things like knowing where her father rests and having the flag she’s due from the VA is important to her. She grieves deeply over the losses that lie within the loss. I can’t make everything right and I don’t think she’s ready for the info right this moment, but I want it for her.
I’m fortunate to have a friend and colleague who does extensive genealogy research. In short order she’s found lots of info—some of it not good, but valuable nonetheless. I’m grateful for my friend and her efforts to help me just get some info. I’ll print it, put it in an envelope and put it away. I have no idea when the time will be right, and I have no idea how that conversation will go. But my gut tells me that getting and saving this info for her to have if she wants will be important at some point.
I’ve come to think about bio parents a lot. I am on several online support sites and most focus on relationships with bio families who have selected families to adopt. These stories are so different from those of us who go the route of foster-to-adopt or in my case focusing my search on children who were already legally free to be adopted. Hope has lived a lifetime already. She had a life that she remembers—the good, the bad, the ugly—before me. That life is real and includes real people who she remembers, people she wonders whatever happened to them. I just want to be able to hand over some things if Hope’s curiosity ever blooms into something more. And I’ll be there for whatever comes after that, because I’m certain something will come after that.
I wish my curfew was later. So in my 20s I stayed out all night on the regular. Leave the club at 3, in the office by 8. In my 30s, I hit the club less and less. Leaving the club at 3 could only happen on a Friday because I needed the weekend to recover and I only had two cocktails. I eventually just fell madly in love with my couch, my bed and one of those backrest things. By the time I turned 40, my regular curfew entailed figuring out how fast I could get home from work and into my PJs—my goal is usually about 6:30 since I have to include time to walk The Furry One. I felt like I earned a gold star if I could find an episode of Law and Order and grab dinner by that 6:30 goal line.
Now I’m almost always home or Hope is always with me. On school nights we need to be home by 8:30 so I can get Hope to bed on time. The weekends are a little more flexible, but Hope’s phobia of bugs is worse at night and she hates being out with all the moths (really this is a thing) such that staying out really can be a miserable endeavor. Respite care allows me that that time out, but I try to be back at bedtime. I’m just getting hype, and it’s time to head home at 10:30 so I make it on time.
Suddenly I have all the energy in the world, and I really want to be out late. Sigh, but I can’t stay out later yet. Hope just isn’t ready and we haven’t found the right sitter. We have a couple we like, but we just haven’t found “the one” yet.
There’s something ironic about the fact that less than a year ago I knew I could go out if I wanted to but preferred to stay home on the couch, and now I have limited opportunities to go out and I want to be out all night. Those are the brakes of parenthood.
I am happy. Sometimes it is so, so hard to be mindful of what’s going right in life. It’s easy to just get mired in how hard it is; I mean really, just look at the first sentence here—I’m whining about it being hard to be mindful. Ugh!
But seriously, I was talking to a good friend this week. Several of my closest friends are going through mayhem of their own; but this friend said to me a couple of days ago that in spite of whatever mess exists, she’s happy. Well, it was such a lovely statement. I was so happy for her. I was so proud of her. It was just such great thing to hear from my friend about her life and about her outlook.
A few hours later I was thinking about this conversation while walking The Furry One. I was thinking about my current state of affairs. Was I…Am I happy? I don’t mean like really right this moment, but rather from that 30,000 viewpoint?
Yeah. I am.
Happy doesn’t always come the way you think it does and it doesn’t always have a silver lining. It might come with several side dishes of crazy, frustration and “you’ve got to be kidding me…”
But yeah, I’m happy. I have the family I wanted, even if it’s not the way I thought it would be constructed. I have a kid that I love, even if we’ve got issues. I’ve got a dog who has been a beloved companion for many years. I have family whom I love and who love and support me in ways that actually build me up. I have accomplished many of my life goals at a relatively young age. I have a great career that I love and which feeds me intellectually and creatively. I have friends who have been with me through thick, thin, cray, sane, poverty and comfort and so much more. I love and I am loved. Yes, I’m happy.
It’s nice to take a breath and just be mindful enough to see the happy.
So we’re brunching and traveling today. It’s a beautiful East Coast day and tomorrow I’ll take Hope to see the bikers in Rolling Thunder. It’s a real sight to see and noisy as all get out; I think she’ll get a kick out of it, and it will be a great opportunity to see some DC monuments on Memorial Day.