A week has passed and I’ve met with Hope’s counselor, her teachers and consulted with Absurdly Hot Therapist.
It’s true, Hope has issues. Everyone is willing to help Hope develop better strategies to manage her shortcomings in executive function and pull her across the finish line of this school year.
After we got through the excuses about why she can’t do stuff, and she was confronted with my newfound knowledge about her bad behavior at school (which really should have resulted in detention by now) and the realization that she might not make it to 10th grade…well, she at least expressed some interest in turning things around.
When I realized that her ADHD and issues with executive function seemed to be a problem last fall, I took a lot of time sifting through my own “stuff.”
What are my expectations? Are they too high? Do I expect her to be like me? What if she had to repeat the grade? What if she didn’t go to college? What did Hope want out of life? Did she know yet? Did she know what she might need to do to get there?
Were our hopes and dreams even in the same universe?
Well, the answer to the last question is kind of. The reality is that Hope is finally emerging from the childhood fantasy that she will be the next Beyoncé and settling into pursuing some kind of career in music. I’m totally cool with that. She still has no appreciation/understanding for what kind of persistence it takes to achieve.
And the absence of this appreciation/understanding is where I see my gaps in appreciation/understanding as well.
I had numerous luxuries growing up—not monetary, but I had both of my parents, a safe home and home life, a supportive community, access to good schools with teachers who recognized my talents. I had no shortage of encouragement to achieve anything. I also had the luxury of self-determination. I’ve always had a sense of what I wanted to be and what it took to get there. Sure it evolved over time, but, directionally I had the internal drive and the external support.
It’s strange to think of those things as luxuries, but each one is a unique luxury for a child.
For most of Hope’s life, she didn’t have any of this stuff, and two years is simply not enough time to believe that what exists now is true permanence.
I get that.
I have a lot of hopes and dreams for Hope, and like her own hopes and dreams, they are a work in progress, an evolution.
But there are a few things that are crystal clear in my desires for Hope.
I want her to grow up to be self-sufficient and independent. I also want her to have the additional social-economic and political protections that come with being educated. I want her to have some kind of privilege that might buffer her from succumbing to racial profiling, stereotyping and police brutality.
I wrote it. #realtalk
I’ve been struggling with articulating this for months, and very much so since my last post.
As a mother to this beautiful cocoa hued kid, I am terrified for her. I see whatever privilege outside of race that I have managed to amass as a set of wings of protection for her right now—even if they can’t stop all of the foolishness, they can protect her from a lot of it.
I want—no need—her to do reasonably well in school in order to create the base for her to step into this privilege as an adult. I worry about the cascading effect of academic underperformance in how she’s treated, how she’s perceived, how she feels about herself and how that in turn affects the decisions she makes. She had 8 years of a messy home life and she’s got multi-generational baggage of involvement with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. I know that when she’s a mess emotionally she creates chaos around her; as an adult, not only are the stakes even higher, but given all that’s happened over the last couple of years, I sincerely worry about her very life.
I lay awake thinking about it.
Just so you know, this is what living in a structurally, marginalizing system looks and feels like, and what persistent exposure to racism and perceived racism looks and feels like. It doesn’t matter if you think I am overreacting or if you think that failing algebra can’t possibly turn into all of this—it is my reality as Hope’s mom.
I am sincerely afraid for her, and the potential absence of privilege associated with education and class makes me feel like she will be even more vulnerable than she already is.
I am afraid.
But there is a selfish component as well.
I struggle with my and Hope’s struggle. Honestly I don’t know where the strength comes from some days. There are still times when I go into my bedroom, close the door, then go into the bathroom and close that door, and sit on the side of the tub and have a snotty nosed cry about how hard this path is.
It is lonely. It is painful. It doesn’t always feel like there’s a silver lining and sometimes when you think it can’t possibly get worse, it does.
There are times when I wonder if Hope will make it. Can I really help her heal enough to be self-sufficient, to be independent? Or will I spend my latter middle and gold years, supporting her financially and physically. Will I ever have to bail her out? Would rehab ever be in our future?
In another 10-15 years, I’d like to be in a position to wind down the formal part of my career and start shifting to do other things I’m passionate about. If I can’t help her be a blended version of successful (philosophically hers and mine) will I be forced to sacrifice those personal dreams?
This is real, existential ish, I’m talking about. When I talked about this post with my therapist this week I just melted down into sobs.
So, really this isn’t just about making sure that Hope gets the help she needs, this is about the long term set up. I do need to be careful about making sure that she feel supported and that she knows that I believe in her and that my nagging doesn’t undermine her already fragile sense of self. But I can’t help but feel like so much is riding on everything.
I am trying to take a step back and breathe. To make like Elsa and let it go. I want to feel safe and that I can find other constructive ways of protecting my daughter from a world that undervalues her life. At the moment, I’m hung up on this.
I do think that since last week, we’ve found some tools that can provide some additional supports and I’ve strengthened relationships with teachers and counselors at Hope’s school. I work on my delivery so that it’s less judgmental. I’ll pray even harder for her safety and well-being. I’ll pray for Hope’s security and for her motivation as well.
I believe in a bright future for her…and for me. I just need to help us get there.
It is about a lot more than performance.
I need to go lie down. Chronicling my fear has exhausted me today.