Lessons from the Road

It seems we’ve turned a corner in Casa d’ABM. I am on my second business trip and a third is right around the corner. I’m tired and probably a bit irritable. My forced absence from my home for work has resulted in Hope really stepping up. She’s doing laundry and really hanging in there. I expect that she might go off the rails before it’s all over, but so far so good. I’m proud of her; I know that it’s all a challenge. It’s a challenge for both of us. We’ve got great help and we’ll make it through. This change in routine has resulted in some new lessons for me. Yeah, always learning; always reflecting.

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This teenage girl thing is a hot, flakey, buttered mess.  I’m so glad that Hope talks to me, and I’m trying to keep my mouth shut at key moments so that she will keep talking. I wish that I could make things easier for her, but what with hormones, talk of anorexic lunch mates, school fundraisers and bullies… it’s all a bit much. Some people have said I jumped into the deep end of the pool; some days I feel like I jumped off a cruise ship into the ocean.   But for now, she tells me things. I watch her watch me for even the most subtle facial expression as she decides what and how much to tell me. I watch her retreat into her room when things just get too much. Hours go by. She’s ok, but she just needs time. I watch her start to fret about her outfits; she’s evolving from a jeans and tee girl. The rough edges are smoothing ever so slightly. Hope is growing.

All this growth has resurfaced some old behaviors. Old habits die hard. Early on, Hope and I struggled with the lingering impact of her being put in caretaker roles. There were days when this kid thought she was all the way grown. #nomaam #haveseveralseats It was challenging to get her to trust that I was the sole adult in this relationship and that I took care of everything. At some point the pendulum swung all the way to the other end of the continuum with me engaging her with very childlike things. She was very much baby-like for some weeks there.

And now we’re back to trying to be grown. Lawd, this child. There are moments when I really just feel like saying, “Sit your $5 behind down before I make change!” Right now we are really struggling with some of her assessments about the adults in her life, particularly teachers. She fancies herself an educational expert and is quick to conclude that a teacher is not appropriately deploying the curriculum. #eyeroll It is a tedious process of Q&A to help her question her conclusions, focus on the learning, and considering what she might do differently to elicit a different, more positive response from folks. In the end, it’s always about whether she feels like she can trust the adult to take care of whatever it is that needs to be taken care of. We seem to be in a season when she isn’t as trustful. A lot has happened already this school year, and I know it’s resulted in some of this setback. It’s tough.

Adoption conversations occur all the dang time, and they require so much energy. Yesterday it was a question about why we call animal mutts and what that says about their parentage and hers (is she a mutt?). A few days before it was a chat about how to see her biological grandmother and an aunt without the rest of the family knowing she doesn’t want to see them. Days before that it was a desire to see her original birth certificate, then a conversation about her thoughts on ever seeing/talking to her biological mother. Then there was the confab last week about the upcoming holiday season and establishing traditions that are mindful of broken traditions before, of pleasant and horrible holiday memories, of how completely overwhelming it is to start over again.

Then there’s the movies (last week The Amazing Spiderman), the TV show (Grey’s Anatomy) and on and on. Sometimes I feel like I’m just always waiting for a shoe to drop on an adoption topic. Some days they spark lots of conversation; other days there is no noticeable impact, but I know it’s lurking.

I’m not afraid of these conversations. She is committed to establishing herself in this family, but she’s also trying to figure out who she is and how to reconcile it all. It’s a lot for 13, especially when 13 is already so messy.

And speaking of messy, we are going to work to expand the family connections. Hope has concluded that she wants to try to broker a relationship with two family members. Of course, it’s the ones who seem to respect boundaries. This is cool, though it’s all so very emotional. It means I have to work hard to manage my own assessments and learned experiences of the last few months in relating to members of the family. I am struggling to figure out how to protect her from the other family members who don’t respect established boundaries and who she is very adamant about not seeing, hearing from or having any contact with at all.   I’m learning a lot more from fellow blogger, Mimi (www.ComplicatedMelodi.com), on how to be empathetic towards Hope’s biological family. It’s tough though when my experiences haven’t been great and when her experiences haven’t been great and her expectations have been dashed before. Oy.

High expectations hurt people over and over and over. This journey changes you. It changes the people around you. It brings out the best in people. It brings out the worst in people.

There are always so many expectations, and they are so very high. Your own expectations are the worse. You are your own worst critic; especially when you are wrestling with some rough stuff going on at home. The expectations just never seem to let up whether they are internal or external. And there’s no way to meet all those expectations.

I find myself sometimes feeling furious and exasperated by all the expectations and my subsequent failure when I don’t live up to them. I don’t have too many confidants who aren’t other adoptive parents; sometimes other people just don’t understand. I found myself confronted by outrageous expectations this week. I was furious; I was hurt and I just wanted to lash out. And I did to some degree. I know I can’t do it all or the way other people want me to. I can’t live up to it all. I don’t even want to. But it hurts like hell when all you want to do is what’s best for your kid and folks muddy the waters with unreasonable expectations about ish they know little about.

Hell, it’s bad enough when I muddy my own waters. Everyone, including me, just needs to take a chill pill.

Technology is providing a great assist in this parenting thing. Hope is shady. Of course she’s shady, she’s developed extraordinary survival skills during her 13 years, and well, she’s 13, she is wired to be somewhat shady at this stage. I try to stay at least one step ahead of her and technology helps me do it. I use various apps to manage her online experience. I block pages, I monitor how much time she’s allowed to have online. Some of my faves are Screen Time (only $2.99 a month) and Blocksi (free), which is a browser add on that blocks certain content, including specific pages you enter. Hope whines a lot that I don’t trust her, and occasionally I’ll loosen the reigns to give her some space to show that she can handle some freedom. That usually lasts a week or two, and well, we find that some of the blocks come back online.

Since I’m traveling a bit at the moment, I needed to be able to continue sending her personalized notes first thing in the morning. Usually I hang these in the bathroom for her. Google Cloud Print has changed the game! I now just create my notes in Google Drive and print to the house so that the nanny picks it up and hangs it in the bathroom. Tonight I printed an updated chore list—Hope acted both amazed at my ability to print remotely AND blow up her chore duty spot at the same time. Ha! ABM’s tech game is strong!

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So, anyhoo, we’re doing. The travel separation is tough; I know I will have a different kid at the end of the month. It’s scary and exciting, though. She’s doing some real growth right now. I can’t wait to see what the next blossom entails!

 

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted tween a few years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2017. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

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