Sometimes, it hurts to think about how my learning curve impacted Hope. I mean, I think we’re doing great now that I finally got a clue and because I’m constantly working to learn how to parent her and meet her needs. I’m proud of my growth, but yeah, I get sad and a wee bit embarrassed to admit what a bit of a parenting shrew I was in the early days.
I also recognize that I may be hard on myself, and I have had folks tell me to go easy on myself. I guess because I know that a lot of people were hard on Hope and didn’t go easy on her that I won’t allow myself that grace in her name.
In either case, that learning curve remains steep.
We are sliding into our match anniversary soon; three years ago, some crazy professional people thought I would be a good match for Hope. Their decision changed our lives. I remember so many people asking me if I was ready to parent a tween who had been in foster care for years.
Um, nope, but hey, I’m going to do it. We’ll get through it.
And we have, but not without so many struggles.
The transition was a dramatic struggle. At one point I thought that this would never work; she was having such a hard time.
Convincing her to buy into my idea of family life after having been in foster care was a struggle.
Food choices were a struggle.
School is a struggle.
Social interactions, yep, you guessed it, a struggle.
Therapies, medical care, medication compliance, all a struggle.
Understanding the full grasp of diagnoses and whether the labels help or hurt have been a struggle.
It hard. It’s all hard. And me and Hope, despite our narrative and this blog, we aren’t special. We’re just everyday folks trying to live from one moment to the next. I reject all the halos and angel wings folks try to foist on me; we’re just a family trying to make it.
One late night recently, I was catching up on reading some posts in an adoption support group. I was reading about a struggle a new parent was experiencing that Hope had endured and that, frankly we still kick around a bit: chores.
I reflected a lot as I was trying to type out my answer on my phone.
My biggest struggle in being Hope’s adoptive mom is checking my entire ego at the door. Admittedly I have a huge personality, I give off big energy, I like having a big voice and probably at some point in my life even demonstrated a few bully tendencies. Setting down my ego and keeping it in check is one of my life struggles as a mom.
Chores are a big flash point in my need to ego check. Like many foster kids, Hope moved from place to place in trash bags. Valuing and caring for material things was a rare practice because things routinely disappear, are lost, stolen or otherwise just or go missing . The chaos in her room tends to reflect her emotional state. She loathes doing chores (who am I kidding, so do I). She wants to earn money, but she is so used to not having things over her short lifetime that she isn’t strongly motivated to do chores for money. Her ADHD typically means that unless the task is directly related to something she wants to do, is time bound, and personally beneficial, it really doesn’t ring her motivation bell.
It took me a year to realize that me telling Hope to clean her room actually jived with her desire to have a clean room but operationally she would try to clean every drawer, refold all the clothes and dig under the bed and the cleaning exercise would turn into a 10 hour, yell, cry-laden experience that made us both miserable. When my light bulb went on, I realized that I would have to be responsible for deep cleans and that Hope needed a short list that represented a tidy room daily.
My point really is that everything I thought I would do parenting Hope was, frankly, off course. My therapist sat me down one day and said:
“Do you want to be right? Do you want to give an ish about what other people thought about me and my parenting? Or do I want Hope to thrive? If it’s the last option, you’re going to have to put that ego of yours and those preconceived notions of yours in a box and put them on an emotional shelf in the back of the closet because they have no place here.”
Part of checking my ego is about redefining success. I’m forced to constantly adjust myself and family assessment. I was away for nearly a week for work recently. What did success look like when I arrived home:
- Hope took her meds every day.
- Yappy didn’t poop in the house due to anxiety.
- Some of the healthy food I left behind was consumed.
- Chores while I’m gone? What are those?
- Yappy got a bath while I was gone, not because I told Hope to bathe him but because she said he needed one (10 extra points for Hope).
- I know that she bought school clothes that met my criteria for just one step outside of her jeans and tee comfort zone (30 extra points for Hope).
- Her room was nearly spotless when I got home from my trip.
I treated her like she won the super bowl for Casa d’ABM because she showed initiative AND followed directions remotely.
The rest of the house was a mess. There were dishes in the sink that might have been there long enough to wave at me.
I made a short list of things for her to do the following day that began to get us re-regulated.
I used to be furious to have to do that. I used to get mad at the nanny for not taking care of more stuff around here. But then I realized that my absence was stressful; that the nanny’s job was to keep Hope and Yappy alive and entertained and that my job was to play my position—to love the kiddos, not judge them as they survived the stress of my absence and to get us back on our regulated journey.
The irony is that in fact, it was all about me. They missed me, and I missed them (note Yappy gets all zonky too, so yeah, it’s them). But my job is to help alleviate the stress and fear that I’m not coming back; in those moments, it’s not about me at all. It’s all about them.
Parenting is humbling, it really is. The decisions are tough, the expenses are crazy, the scheduling is consuming. It really is like just thinking of yourself as a cup and pouring it all out for the benefit of your kid. It is pretty selfless and pretty exhausting.
But ahhh, those moments when Hope tells me some parent-approved version of her secrets, smiles when we are in the kitchen together or just texts me that she loves me, those moments are everything. They are the greatest reward for learning to practice humility.