I intellectually understand why Hope engages in self-sabotage. I totally get it on an intellectual level. There’s the need to actually be the failure she sees herself as. There’s the need to create a situation where she is not increasingly independent as she moves to adulthood. There’s the reality that her brain, having been subjected to early and multiple traumas just doesn’t make the same kind of connections that neurotypical kids do.
I have read the articles. I’ve listened to adult adoptees. I chat with other adoptive parents. I totally get it.
And then there’s the reality of living with it.
And the reality is that I don’t get it at all. Like not even a little bit. Not even the smallest fraction.
The emotional roller coaster is like being on one of those obnoxious carnival spinner rides that makes you feel kind of nauseous halfway through. The kind of ride where you just close your eyes, take long, slow breaths as you try not to hurl while the ride is still going.
This was an especially trying weekend with Hope. She broke a rule on Thursday night that required immediate and meaningful consequences. Of course, this meant that essentially my first weekend home in a month *we* were grounded. The tearful, depressive “woe is me” episodes were authentic if brought on by her own behavior. I tried to be connected. I had her drive me around on my weekend errands most of the morning. I tried to bond over shopping for Mother’s Day gifts for the grandmothers. I insisted that she come with me and Yappy for a couple mile walk out in the glorious sunshine.
I finished the application for the summer boarding program I hope she will attend this summer this weekend. The application prompted a difficult conversation about the academic reckoning that Hope is facing as she looks to start her senior year of high school. Despite multiple meetings, lots of conferences and long, painful conversations with Hope before today, there’s still remains a core of denial that graduation may not happen as scheduled. We are rolling headlong into some real natural consequences that have been 4 years in the making, and I’m in a state of nausea waiting for Hope to act like none of us tried to tell her that the situation was this serious.
And I’m trying to figure out how to balance a possible delayed graduation with the fact that my daughter has zero desire to grow up anyway. Hope deserves a childhood, but Hope also needs to be doing a few more things independently than she is. I’m not kicking her out, but I do wonder what the long game is for her, for us, for me. Will she ever want to be independent? Will she continue to self-sabotage to see if I’ll come save her? When will it be too much for me? As I’ve been working on updating my estate planning recently, I’m really thinking about my own mortality and how I want to spend the next 30-40 years, assuming I have that long.
And why the fuq will she not just fold her laundry and take out her trash like I tell her to? This on top of all the really serious stuff just is the most triggering because it’s stuff completely within her control which is probably why it’s not getting done. URGH!
I adore Hope. She has added so much to my life. But despite really working hard this year to practice self-care and trying my best to be a more emotionally regulated parent (I’m not even yelling anymore) I’m just exhausted.
In fact, I think I’m not yelling because I’m just spent.
It seems nothing I do motivates Hope. This last year has felt like we’re on emotional eggshells. Family members have suggested that maybe I’ve spoiled her. I would LOVE to spoil my daughter, but I don’t know if that’s a thing for her. I know there are things she enjoys about this life, but after four years, she still struggles to ask for things she wants/needs. I know that her trust for me only goes so far.
And so we just go round and round with me nudging, pushing, pulling, cheering, encouraging, and loving and Hope sitting, stalling, denying, avoiding, and sabotaging.
I’m accepting that this is our life and that she’s undoubtedly having a hard time. I honestly am a little tapped out though. I don’t know what to do or say other than a hug and a pat and a “there, there it will be ok, I promise.”
This weekend has been hard. I’m proud that I didn’t barf—figuratively, emotionally or literally. But I’m going into the next week feeling like I’ve been through an emotional ringer, and it almost always feels that way these days.
I’m not sure when this part of our ride will change, but I hope it’s soon.
April 29th, 2018 at 9:34 pm
It is tough for sure. Hope has blossomed so much these last couple of years you have to keep hanging on. Yes it is a terrible ride at times and you know in your heart it is worth it. Take care of yourself and know that she will come around with time and you are doing all you can to make that happen.
April 29th, 2018 at 11:42 pm
Thank you for this blog post – I can certainty understand the fatigue and frustration that you talk about … I adopted my daughter almost four years ago and we still have to work on getting her to let go of having to be charge… her outbursts can be exhausting…
Thank you for your honesty and candor 🙂
Continued BIG Blessings
April 30th, 2018 at 8:08 am
Nothing will change until you accept that your expectations for what Hope’s life & goals should be are yours alone. Nothing will change until you let go of all that and just accept Hope as she is, which is different than you. Will you 100% love her & be her mom if she doesn’t graduate on time? Will you be able to reign in your own disappointment? Will you be able to view her not as a failure but as a person equally valuable to you? That is the real question.
April 30th, 2018 at 9:00 am
I absolutely know that these expectations are mine and not shared. I also know that many parents are forced to reconcile what they expected and dreamed for their kids with reality; I firmly believe that if Hope were my biological child I would still wrestle with the feelings I have. The difference is that I think I would be much further along in that process at this stage because I would have had 16 years to work with it and through it. I’ve had 4 years with Hope, and with some of the very real things we’re dealing with, I’ve only had about 2. I do my best, but this is all a work in progress with constantly moving parts and new information emerging all the time. I will never abandon Hope, but I do need to plan for the variety of ways this life might turn out for both of us. That’s also my job as a parent. My faith, love and commitment in and to Hope has never wavered. She’s stuck with me for life, if she’ll have me.
I’m going to push back on the veiled suggestion that I view my daughter as a failure and somehow unequally valuable. I’m sorry that you read my post and felt that I might feel that. I also do not view my daughter as a failure; on the contrary, I often write that I don’t know how she does what she does. She amazes me just as she is. At the same time, I’m not unlike many other parents; I do wish she would do things differently/try harder in certain parts of her life—namely school. I actually have been advocating with her school that she not graduate on time because I don’t think she’s academically or emotionally ready. I think I’ll write a separate post on my own struggles with this specific topic because they aren’t just about “high achievement;” it is more complicated than that.
My personality is one of a fixer and in many ways across my life those skills have served me exceedingly well. In many ways, those skills have helped me harness a lot of resources to keep my little family duct taped and paper clipped together. We are incredibly successful in many ways. In other ways these skills and the personality traits that accompany them are woefully inadequate for parenting in general—I know that. I can’t overnight fix my parenting struggles—those are about me—not Hope. And trust, I spend hours every month in an arm chair talking about it with a mental health professional. The personality traits have high ideals and grand plans to maneuver to get there; I have really had to redefine what those ideals and plans look like in parenting—I think I would have even if I gave birth to children because again, that’s a part of who I am personality wise.
I could go on, but I see this turning into another post. 🙂 Thank you for the questions; I genuinely appreciate the engagement. ❤
April 30th, 2018 at 9:48 am
I also have gone through similar issues with my biological child, so I understand that this is a parenting challenge that is complicated by the adoption factor. I phrased my comment the way I did precisely because that is how my own child viewed my handling of our situation. What I felt was me only wanting the best for him and trying to motivate him to do better, he perceived as me being disappointed in him and seeing him as a failure. I had to come to terms with the fact that he is never going to do school, work, or life the way I do. We’re wired differently. Since having this realization, I have backed off considerably and let him handle school his own way. Of course, I’m still aware of what’s going on and involved when I need to be, but he is now responsible for his own behavior. As a result, he is now much more on top of the school thing, though what that looks like for him is not at all what I had been trying to push him to achieve. Our relationship has improved as well. He hates school, though, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon, because for too many years school just made him feel less than, and I contributed to that. Are you familiar with a site called Hands Free Mama? It’s helped me a lot in terms of validating what I’ve found to work or not in dealing with my kids. Here’s the link: https://www.handsfreemama.com/about-hands-free/
April 30th, 2018 at 9:51 am
Thanks a bunch! I’ll be sure to check it out.
April 30th, 2018 at 4:19 pm
I am living this as well, with my son. He’s a tad older than Hope (he turned 18 in November) but pretty much shoots himself in the foot academically at every opportunity. He pulls it together a bit, every now and then, but he thinks he’s #grown because he’s legal and all that. So, I feel like I walk a very small tight rope between pushing him and just letting Jesus take the wheel. He knows what he needs to do, he is capable of doing it, but he lets social things derail him constantly and then he’s fighting to get a passing grade. Maybe he will graduate next year, maybe he won’t. My only goal for him to is to get his high school diploma because without it he will spend a life-time struggling to find work that pays a livable wage. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. Best of luck to both you and Hope.
May 10th, 2018 at 12:04 am
I just started listening to your podcast and I love it! I want you to know that I work in foster care and my colleague grew up in resource placement and — keep at it — she may blossom into herself late, but all this love you are pouring in, it IS nurturing her even when it feels like you don’t know how the future will go. I completely get what you’re saying about wanting that protection of higher education and achievement. I read your next post on this, too, and I agree—I can’t just blow school off as “their issue” like my friends parenting white children can. I can’t. That struggle plus adoption — whew! You and Hope will make it through, even if the future holds beautiful pictures you haven’t yet imagined.