Last week Hope and I celebrated her placement with me one year ago. I read other blogs in which I was cautioned to not expect her to want to celebrate what was a rough transition for us. I started to let it ride, but then thought better of it. I mentioned it. She smiled. Hope was surprised a year had passed already.
So, we did dinner at the fancy burger place nearby and settled in watching tv. Nice low key and easy. Maybe we’ll do something special to observe our finalization date, maybe, maybe not.
Adoption is tough. Adoption of older kids who have lived a lifetime before meeting you is rough, tough and awesome. It’s all awesome, really, somewhere in there, but make no mistake, it’s rough and it’s tough too.
Since the new year, I’ve been working on getting some of my parenting swagger back. I’ve learned a lot this last year, but I have so much more to learn. Parenting Hope is…sigh…well, I suppose it depends on the day.
We have come so far, but the tentacles of that previous life are always threatening to pull her back in and drag me with it.
I see the impact of neglect in how she engages me sometimes. I see her easing in to this life with me evidenced by her low desire to care for herself in some ways; she wants me to take care of her, almost baby-like at times. I see her joy in having a mom to talk girly stuff with. I see the social struggles that come with a lower emotional age and her Saraha-like thirst for attention, accepting negative attention in lieu of positive reinforcement of more mature behaviors. I listen to her abuse disclosures, stuff that never made it into the files or were so epically understated that they could be characterized as nearly lies. I see developmental delays revealing themselves as her hard shell softens, and I try to figure out how to balance them with my own academic expectations. I work with her through lingering legal issues from her life before me; decisions that make me question all kinds of things I’ve said believed about the criminal justice system for all of my adult life. I sometimes feel the effects of all the trauma just rolling off of her likes waves in an ocean.
Yeah, my therapist says it’s secondary trauma. Nice…not really. It sucks.
Sometimes all of the messy is so clear and evident; other times I’m just hanging on for dear life moving from one crisis to another.
I don’t cry so much now, but I do cry. I fell out of praying for a few weeks not long ago; I just was tired, I was (am) still pissed about how my church treated us.. Didn’t really lose my way, but just really couldn’t say anything to the Holy Homeboy without being furious that the space I felt safe in was no longer safe.
As we mark a year together, it’s a strange time, trying to figure out what the future looks like. Older child adoption is special; there’s something really, really different about showing up with a teenager who is taller than you when just last week you didn’t have one. To some degree we are open about our story; sometimes less so. Hope and I appreciate the ability and choice to just blend in and be mistaken for biological family. We like to give each other knowing looks when it happens.
We’re considered a success story. I’m not sure I know what that means or how I feel about it. We constantly get requests to use our image on adoption awareness and promotional items. On the one hand, it’s flattering, on the other hand, it makes me wonder if we will be able to maintain our ability to hide in plain sight. We’re comfortable with disclosure now, but what about 6 months or more from now?
Aside from that, I don’t feel like a poster family. We have struggled this year. We’re still standing and we love one another, but success? I guess. We finalized…so there’s that. We haven’t killed each other…so there’s that. My vocal cords from the epic NY’s day meltdown seem to not have sustained permanent damage…so there’s that.
The parenting counselor from my agency told me recently that now that we’ve been together a year, ish is about to get really, real. Dear Holy Homeboy help me.
I worry about my own attachment with my daughter. I wonder (full of guilt just thinking it) if I made the right choices. I ponder what my life would be like, now, 2 years in to this adoption journey if I had made different choices. I wonder what new trauma will surface next week, and whether my mouth guard will survive the pressure when I am grinding my teeth trying to maintain my composure.
It’s crazy that it’s been a year already. I look forward to many more years, but that anticipation is mixed with some fear and anxiety probably from both of us. This ain’t easy, but she is worth it. We’re worth it.