It’s Hope’s birthday, and I’m practically doing the pee pee dance I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting for this day with almost as much anticipation as all of our other milestones. Hope is excited, but a bit anxious because whenever she’s asked what we were doing for her birthday, I’ve just said it was a surprise. I asked her numerous times what would she like…did she want anything special. She said she didn’t really know. So I set about, like the overzealous new parent that I am, to Blow. Her. Mind.
Lately I’ve been chatting with her about buying less “stuff” and focusing on more experiences so we can build some happy memories together. This has led to some reflective conversations about her father and her memories of him. She takes a lot of pride in telling me about her memories; sometimes I have to grit my teeth because some of the places she went or things she saw, she really shouldn’t have been taken there or seen those things. But, I try to not sully what are happy memories for her; I also try to give her the freedom to talk about how much she misses her dad. She told me last night that when she’s home, she thinks about him a lot. Grief is a beotch.
Hope also likes to talk about her experiences with me over the last few months and how much things have changed. I love these chats; even if it means that we muddle through tough memories. These chats usually involve me giving lots of hugs and kisses. She loves it; I love it; the Furry One loves it. She also knows that withholding hugs and kisses is one of my Achilles heels, and she routinely threatens after the love fest to cut me off, usually in a joking manner. In the last week, the hugs and kiss strikes have served as my punishment for various infractions. The threats and strikes are hollow—at most they last a few hours– and we typically settle into a puddle of laughter.
So, on the way to her first voice lesson last night, she decided that I should be punished because I was going to the Jay-Z/Bey concert in a few weeks and I wasn’t taking her. No hugs or kisses until after the concert. I said ok, well, just how mad are you? Interested in raising the stakes? I bet her that she wouldn’t make it that long without a hug from her mom. She egged me on and bet me $20 she could (#OhImtakinghermoney). I upped it to $30 and she upped it to $50 that she could withhold hugs and kisses until July 8th.
I knew I had this bet won before we even pinky-swore…which we indeed did! #shedontevenknow
She immediately started trying to renegotiate terms and finding end runs around the bet.
“Air kisses don’t count right?”
“Well, what if I get sick or I’m crying?”
“You can still try to kiss me right?
And on and on we went. Seems she really wants the contact as much as I do.
Miss thing was trying to weasel out of her bet, and our pinkies were barely disentangled. I told her she could do whatever she wanted because I knew I would get hugs and kisses, and I predicted that she wouldn’t hold out long.
“Do you know how long I’ve gone for periods without hugging a parent?” said Hope.
Oy, you just never know when or how the moments of trauma will resurface. I didn’t joke about that; just asked a few questions and reiterated that she could get a hug from me anytime she wanted one, morning, noon and night. She briefly talked about how many fosters she refused to hug during placements. She’s not kidding, if she really wants too, she could strike for long periods of time. I am comforted in knowing how much she wants hugs from me. I’m sad about how many hugs and kisses strikes there have probably been in her 13 years. It put her little strike threats into perspective for me.
So we enjoy the rest of our evening hi-fiving, thumb hugging and blowing air kisses, in accordance with the terms of our bet. After she went to bed, I began executing Plan “Blow Hope’s Mind.”
I wrapped the Katy Perry CD and gently placed it atop of her alarm clock. I hung the concert t-shirt on her bathroom mirror with a note, “You might want to build an outfit around this shirt.” I placed a birthday card with her concert ticket for TONIGHT’S Katy Perry show in her bathroom under her favorite lotion.
True to her word, she didn’t hug me on her way out this morning for the last day of school (yeah, we’re still in school around these parts). But she is excited about the concert tonight. Over breakfast, she told me a story of how a foster parent promised to take her to a concert but didn’t; how the house she was staying in was right behind the concert venue, how she could hear the girls screaming all evening at a concert she was missing.
Joy is often still tinged with sadness around these parts. It’s like she just can’t let herself really enjoy the moment because the blessings remind her of all the bad times.
I’m hopeful that I’ll still get a hug and kiss today. We’ve got lunch and cake and maybe pedicures later before the concert tonight.
Then there’s the second card…the one with the ticket to the Bruno Mars concert in a few weeks. She loves Bruno Mars, loves him probably more than Bieber.
I’m glad we get to do things together, to create new memories together. I hope one day the happy times don’t get overshadowed by the sad history.
In the meantime, I’m looking for hugs and kisses tonight and the settling of this silly bet. #inittowinit