Author Archives: AdoptiveBlackMom

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, 2013-2018. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!)

Summer Respite

Hope is away at her summer program. She is thriving. Her grades are fantastic. She sounds a lot more confident. Her teachers say she’s a delight. She’s navigating social situations a bit better, and she is getting lots of exercise. She has a little crush on a cute classmate. She refuses to admit it, but she seems to be having a great time.

Capture

I’m delighted and relieved.

As for me, well, this time with Hope away has been interesting. The first few days after dropping her off I felt almost a little lost. Like, Oh, wow, I don’t need to wake her up so I can keep going with my workouts. Oh, I can have cereal for dinner because I don’t need to make sure there’s a real meal available for my kid. Oh, there’s way less laundry. It was really a reminder of what life was like before Hope, which often I have a hard time remembering.

The first few days I also was EXHAUSTED. I mean, like bone tired. Like I hadn’t slept in years tired. I could barely get myself off of the couch. I ate my favorite foods, drank a lot of yummy things and just rested. Take away message, parenting is hard and exhausting, and self-care is important.

Capture

So, we’re well into the second week now and Hope is doing just fine and I’m finally starting to stretch a bit. As a part of this summer respite I’ve focused on resting, connecting with old friends, trying to make some new friends (hello dating apps) and getting a lot more exercise. I’m also not writing as much because I’m busy trying to get out there and live. I’m headed away on a business trip tomorrow for a few days. I had to make arrangements for Yappy, but Hope is away at school so I’m literally packing and walking out of the house. I haven’t been able to do that in years.

I’m expecting that when she comes home at the end of the program I’ll be really refreshed.

I’ll also be glad. I do miss her. The house is missing her energy. It’s a little empty around here; it’s certainly a lot cleaner since things are exactly where I last left them. I am enjoying grabbing something simple for dinner, but I miss meal planning for her and fixing some of her favorite foods. When she was home for a few hours this past weekend seeing how much Yappy also missed her just warmed my heart.

We’ve got a couple more weeks. I’ve got a lot of resting and living to do during this time. This has definitely been a lesson in the importance of self-care and respite.

Advertisements

Summer School

Yesterday I dropped Hope off at summer school.

It was kind of surreal. I got a taste of what my parents must’ve felt when they took me to my first summer program years ago. I went to a two-week writing program at Hampton University. I remember packing up the car with my things, arriving and watching my mom look around my dorm room with a bit of disdain about my living conditions. She and Daddy were at least happy that we had air conditioning.

I remember my parents looking around at how far the boys’ dorm was from the girls’ dorm. I recall them asking about the course schedule and fretting about whether I would be ok.

I’m now convinced that they were worried about whether they would be ok.

As I helped Hope lug her stuff to her dorm room and unpack I was really struggling to keep my emotions in check. In the week before move in, I realized just how much I’m going to miss my beautiful girl. I spent time indulging her with favorite foods, sweets, cuddles with Yappy and me on the couch. I hugged her, kissed her cheek and just loved on her.  By the time Hope used her key card to open her dorm door I was sporadically holding my breath. I was excited to give her this opportunity at something more. I felt worried about whether she’d like the food and if she’d make friends. I had mixed emotions about her not having a roommate but thought having her own space might be nice sometimes. I was happy she had her weighted blanket. I was miffed that she forgot her pillow and a few other things, even though I knew we would need to make a Walmart run because…don’t you always need to make a Wallyworld run when you move into a dorm?

I knew I would miss her so much. I knew Yappy would also look for her like he did this morning.

In the couple of days before move in, Hope just…sank. I knew she wasn’t excited about going, that there was a lot of anxiety about it and that my daughter was just resigned to go since I didn’t give her any other options once she was admitted. To see her withdraw broke my heart and I began to question my decision.

Oh, she was still going, but I wondered if sending her to an academic boarding program would hurt us. I wondered if the return on investment would give Hope a leg up this year, increase her confidence, help her with her social skills…I don’t expect a miracle, but I definitely hope to see Hope grow some this summer, but I pray that any growth doesn’t at the expense of our relationship.

It’s funny, I sold this experience to Hope as a chance to try on a bit of what it might feel like to go away to college. What I didn’t really appreciate is that it would be a chance for me to try on an empty nest. It feels strange that she didn’t walk through the door a little after 3pm or that she wasn’t here to ask me how I slept last night, something genuine and endearing she does every single day. It was strange to buy groceries for one after all this time.

I’m eager to hear from her tonight. I want to know how the first day was, how the food is, does she get along with her suitemate. I’m also hopeful that she’s having such a great evening, that she doesn’t get around to calling or texting me before lights out.

It’s all awesome and sucky all at the same time.


What about the Children

I’m traveling this week and trying to keep up with the horrors of the day in bits and pieces. I’m struggling emotionally with all I’m seeing, so bear with me in this post.

I’m heartbroken and I’m angry. And I’m really having a hard time with the frequent defenses I’m seeing that “these are criminals, and we remove kids from criminals in the US” narrative.

Ok, there are legitimate reasons why children may, and sometimes should be, at least temporarily, removed from parents care. Without question, there are criminal acts for which removal of a child is expected and assumed. This is done for the *child’s* safety and interests, not as a punitive action against the parent. Why? Because we recognize that the biological family bond is important. This is why foster care and adoption is *supposed* to be child-focused, child-centered.

Personally, I’m having a hard time believing that parents who are bringing their children when seeking asylum or simply risking illegal border crossing and residency for a better life are the types of ‘criminals’ we think of when considering immediate child removal. This is not child-focused or child-centered. This is punitive for everyone involved, and this does not center the health, care or well-being of children. Yes, I recognize that there is an adult that needs to be processed/dealt with (preferably in a humane and respectful way), but the children…how families are handled should prioritize the needs of the children. Children should be with their families of origin, whenever, possible: full stop.

When layering on other demographic features like color and poverty, it becomes easier for Americans’ latent, but often overt, racist tendencies to embrace child removal, since the US has always been quick to consider punitive measures when those race and poverty come into play. Don’t even get me listing all the ways this country…my country that I still love…has purposefully broken up families of color. White supremacy is a helluva drug.

I am not in favor of open borders; yes, I do think that we can and should do something humane about immigration—some of that has to do with our global work and positioning in the global economy and less to do with the building of a wall. But we are failing kids. We have become incredibly good, sickeningly so, at failing Black and brown kids in this country; we now seem to be willing to spread that failure, triggering more trauma, more mental health issues, more problems.

Prioritize the needs of kids. They should always be at the center of the discussion and the decision-making. When we do that we will make better decisions.

Can we do that? Will we do that?


Muscle Memory

I had a long drive to Philly today for work, so I got my podcast situation straight and got to listening. I cued up a recent episode of The Longest Shortest Time which featured the host of another show I listen to, Reveal, with Al Letson. It was an interesting story, but what struck me was when Letson talked about moving after a divorce and having several kids move with him and having to parent alone. He shared that in the early days he felt that he was juggling a lot and at night he sometimes cried because it was so hard; it was great, but it was excruciatingly hard. He noted that he kept at it and built some muscle memory around parenting.

Ah, that resonated: Muscle memory around parenting.

I felt like crying so much those first few months of parenting Hope. Honestly, I don’t remember crying a lot, just feeling like I was constantly on the verge of tears. I was pulled in a lot of directions; there was so much to do and I was doing it alone. It was hard.

There was the day to day stuff. Making sure Hope got to and from school—she was pretty skittish so I had to take her to school; then I got her in an after school program that of course she hated . Then I had to feed her; we fought a bit over food. I didn’t keep much teen friendly food in the house at first and frankly didn’t want to bring it in either. There were rules that I needed to create and enforce while still figuring out what the eff ‘connected parenting’ was.

There were spoken and unspoken expectations of family and friends that just couldn’t be met, and that felt like failure because I just couldn’t figure out how to do that and parent.

Homework. Testing. Getting up, keeping a schedule, going to work, being productive.  Coming home, caring for geriatric dog who was not to keen on the familial interloper.

Insomnia.

Oh, yeah, finishing my dissertation.

Epic mental health crash, that was essentially a reset button a month into this new family thing.

Emergence of birth family.

Absurdly Hot Therapist who was nearly hard to look at (it’s like looking at the sun!), but an amazing therapist so I stuck it out.

Finding a psychiatrist and a dentist for Hope—Oh, wisdom teeth removal and braces? Check.

Glasses, lost/broken glasses. The brief, yet expensive, flirtation with contact lenses.

There was always something. ALWAYS. It never let up. None of it was gradual. I had to show I was doing all this stuff to a social worker ahead of finalization.

I was an effing zombie who wanted to cry, but had no time. I just had to keep going. I took a fair amount of Ativan during that period. It helped…immensely.

And as Letsen said, it got easier. It wasn’t that there were fewer things to do; I just found my rhythm. I got the hang of it and developed some Mom Muscle.

Parenting is a daily workout and I had to go from puny punk to being in a heavyweight boxer title fight practically overnight. It was excruciating. There is no way I really could have prepared for it. People ask parents-to-be that absurd question all the time, “Are you ready?”

Of course not. You think you are; you’re ready to jump in and figure it out, but skill set? Nah, this is an on the job situation.

I was chatting with someone recently who talked about her future parenting plans. I saw so much of myself 5 years ago in that conversation. I didn’t offer much commentary, and I tried not to say, You HAVE NO IDEA!!! I would’ve smirked and dismissed anyone who tried to tell me even a fraction of the stuff I now know to be true about parenting, especially parenting a child from a hard place.

I don’t think I’m a particularly good parent; I do ok. I’ve provided a safe, supportive environment for Hope with lots of love, support and hopefully great opportunities. I have kept her fed and clothed and progressing in school. I’ve read to and with her; defended her, talked with her, cooked with her, did homework with her. I’ve sat at her sick bedside and held my tongue at the bedside when she was seeking attention. I’ve attend awful, passable and actually decent band performances. Quality has vastly improved, but no lies: I still hate them.

As my and Hope’s experiences grew, I managed to remember some things that worked before and things that didn’t get us to the desired outcome. My decision trees became more defined, and I managed not to screw up nearly as much, much to my and Hope’s relief.

I finally feel like I have the hang of things, and of course, Hope and I are facing new challenges. I have a bigger back of tricks and skills now so I feel more prepared for the unknown than I did before. I don’t anticipate too many tears (from either of us), but who knows.

If you’re on the front end of this journey to instant parenthood, especially with an older kid, you aren’t alone. It’s ok. You’ll be ok; you’ll find your mojo. Just keep plugging away.

Also, it’s ok to sit in your shower with wine and snacks and cry. Totally normal. It’s part of you’re parenting workout—a rest day/moment—that is essential to your ability to build that parenting muscle. I can’t say that the individual challenges get easier, but your ability to face them will. I do think that there is a bit more social space for single parents to talk about how rough the transition to parenthood is; it’s assumed to be harder, lonelier. I’m guessing that it’s hard and sometimes lonely for most parents.

Just know that you got this. Give yourself some grace and dust yourself off and keep going.

Get your parent workout on.


Ending Eleventh

Another school year is over. Hallelujah.

This has been an incredibly challenging year; seriously frustrating. Hope is really bright. There are some serious issues with executive function; there is an unwillingness to ask for help or even checking in for guidance. This is the trauma stuff and the ADHD stuff.

Then there’s the teen stuff where you’d just rather do other stuff that was far more entertaining.

Our county shows its schools to be very competitive nationally; I was always so proud to live in this county and was proud that the schools here are quite good, even the ones on the less affluent side of the county where we live. Well, there’s an unfortunate underbelly to our school system. When students who’ve done poorly all year even *modestly* trend upward in the final quarter the final grade will show as the lowest possible passing grade. This keeps the completion stats high and the course passage rates solid.

And this is how my daughter will pass two core classes without actually being proficient in the skills taught in those classes. I’m furious since we will go through yet another set of classes next year for which Hope is unprepared. Additionally, Hope has now 3 years of conditioning that her proficiency is better than it actually is. We are set up for the same frustrations for a 4th and final year.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of school.

I’m sure Hope is tired of school too. I know she is. She hates school.

I’m starting to hate her school too.

I’m hopeful that sending her to a summer academic program will help her develop some skills, but my expectations are low. I am more hopeful that she will learn how to engage with her teachers and classmates in positive ways. I am hopeful that she will learn how to try out a little independence in a safe environment.

She is a rising senior now. I’m looking forward to some of the milestones that come with this year. I’m wondering how many I should insist on so that memories and traditions are created and, in places, continued. I want her to enjoy finally being on top—being a senior has been important to her since 9th grade.

I want so much for Hope. I’m hoping that the gap between the amount of hopes and dreams Hope and I have is narrowed this year. I want her to dream big. My wish for Hope is that she will dream big, work hard and find her version of success. I don’t know what that will look like, not really for me to say or determine. That’s her journey.

For now, we’ve come through another year of school. It was hard fought, but we did it.

On to the senior year.


Four Years a Family

Hope and I marked our fourth year as a “legal” family this week.

We didn’t do much. I took her to school, which is a rarity these days. I did her hair for her. We shared a hug and said that we were happy to be a family.

That’s it. No big todoo.

We’ve come a long way since that date four years ago when we both peered into the screen of my iPad looking at the judge and social worker 3,000 miles away. My daughter has the permanence that she desperately needed. I could say that adoption plays a huge role in our life, but really, it’s all the stuff that led to the adoption that shapes and contours our life.

Hope was 12 when we met and when we finalized. She’d lived 12 years. She had 12 years of life experiences. Those experiences taught her a lot.

She learned a lot about love and family. She learned a lot about hurt and pain. She learned a lot about trust and how not to have it. She learned to be scared. She learned to also be a fierce advocate for herself. She learned how to survive some of the things that she experienced. She learned to survive the foster care system. She learned that bad things happen to good people.

She learned countless other things too.

Some of those lessons were hard for me to wrestle with in thinking about how to create a family with Hope. Hope also had to learn that some of what she experienced in her short life didn’t have to be her whole life. I had to learn patience (something I still am working on) and deeper levels of compassion and empathy than I ever knew.

We both had to change quite a bit to make this work, and we did. We’ve evolved a lot in a relatively short period of time.

As a parent, I often feel like I could always be doing so much more. The metrics along the way can be really challenging and I like metrics—but they aren’t easy in day to day parenting. On the one hand, I have managed to keep her alive, clothed, fed and a few extras–#winning. On the other hand, I’m not sure how to measure my parenting performance when it comes to some of the landmines that we’ve endured during these years: am I doing the right thing for her with school? Could I do more in helping her navigate her extended birth family relationship? What about her social interactions? Am I supporting her enough there?

Who knows.

What I do know is I’m committed to doing my best for Hope. I’m gaga for her. I look at her sometimes, like recently at the boarding school interview, and I’m like, damn, this kid is really going to be ok. I’m honored to be a part of that.

I don’t know what future observations of our finalization anniversary will bring. This was low key. I’ll never forget the day; I just know that I won’t. It’s significant for me. I probably won’t bring it up again for Hope though, even though she seems to enjoy the acknowledgement. Who knows.

I’m just grateful for the opportunity to parent her and to reflect on our journey.


The Gap

Let me start off by saying that I deeply believe in family preservation and open adoption whenever and however possible. I think there would be far less of a need for adoption and foster care if we really believed in family preservation and providing families with the support they needed to parent successfully. I also think that fears about whether and how we process our emotions and relative standing around family status is a huge barrier to successful open adoption. It’s so much easier to see families as a threat and inconvenience than it is to see families of origin as having meaningful standing in the lives of adoptees. Yes, yes, #notall situations can be preserved or open, but smart folks can easily distinguish those situations from the mass.

Hope’s adoption opened weeks after finalization. I didn’t want to be that judgy adoptive parent, but in many ways I was. I desperately wanted to protect Hope, who at the time was still easily overwhelmed by just about everything. Her family wanted to reconnect, but in their excitement they just kind of breezed past several years of Hope’s chaos. There was a huge gap, and I had to get right into the middle of it to sort things out.

That was four years ago, and we’ve all grown in our understanding of how this big family thing works. Family can be really messy, and my daughter’s emotions about how she fits is messy too. And there’s still a huge gap and I’m still right in the middle of it, and sometimes, like lately, it’s really, really sucky.

Hope is now an older teen. She’s matured some; she’s developed some more coping skills. She has unpacked some of her trauma and her emotions around the need to be adopted by a non-family member. She’s really doing great even as she has a long way to go.

She’s happy to be in contact with her extended family, but she still hasn’t unpacked a lot of her feelings about all that happened or figure out what kind of consistent contact, if any, she wants or how to manage the increasing expectations of family that she be more participatory in big family events.

There’s a gap. I reside in the translational gap.

I’m there to encourage some interaction, to manage expectations, to make some desired connection happen, to decline some invitations, to offer some explanations, to try to facilitate and guide negotiated connection.

My daughter is increasingly clear about what she doesn’t want—even if she isn’t clear about what she does want. Her family is increasingly clear about what they want and hope for—even if they don’t get why that vision isn’t shared by Hope.

In the last year I’ve found myself the bearer of really difficult messages to share.

“I’m sorry, she doesn’t want to come.”

“Is so & so going to be there? If so, that’s a non-negotiable no for Hope.”

“I’m not sure when we will get to visit next. Hope doesn’t want it to feel like a huge family reunion; she wants it to be like this….”

At every point of connection, I check in with Hope, see how she’s feeling, what she needs, how does she want this thing to go, what will make her feel good about this, figure out what success looks like for her. It’s actually getting harder on her end. As she gets older, her desires are crystalizing around what kind of interaction she wants but the latent desire to please and to capitulate makes her shut the whole thing down. Her choices are different than what most of us want; I do my best to honor them. I often find myself in that gap, feeling like I’m delivering news that just hurts.

I know the news hurts her family. I hear it in their voices. I see it in the texts and emails. I try to be open and transparent, and I often wonder if they think it’s me keeping her away. I often wonder if they think I’m really an ally.  I’m trying to be, but I also know that Hope will always come first. #teamHope #alldayeveryday

And then something will be said that feels like there’s still an obliviousness around the history of the situation.

“I really wish I knew all that happened to her.”

“So and so just said it was XX, which doesn’t seem so bad.”

“If I knew what happened, I definitely would have responded differently.”

And I get emotional, and I’m reminded why it is so complicated for Hope. I get that she wants and needs a very specific type of acknowledgement about certain events in her life. I also get that we aren’t specifically dealing with her birth parents but extended family who may not be privy to the story as I know it or the story as Hope lived it. And Hope isn’t ready to share her full story with them, so…

There’s a gap. It may be there forever. I hope not, but it might be there for a long, long time.

I am sensitive to the fact that I sometimes see Hope mentally comparing “us” versus “them.” My family and the family she’s been grafted into is different. Not better, not worse, just different. My family has long joked about our dysfunction—every family has some—but what and whether that looks like dysfunction to someone new(ish) is different for every family. That seems to be the case for Hope; it’s normal.

When I was little I couldn’t understand why my two sets of grandparents seemed so very different. It was something I had to reconcile in my mind. They weren’t better or worse, just different. I see Hope doing that processing at nearly 17. I probably did it at 5.

There’s a gap.

I’m prepared to stand in it for a long time. It’s really uncomfortable though, can’t lie about that. I know it’s uncomfortable on some level for everyone involved and that that discomfort is probably way worse for Hope than for me. There are no regrets about trying to figure out this family thing. I know it’s in Hope’s best interest to have access and relationships with her extended birth family. More is more. But it isn’t easy. It requires constant scanning, checking in and assessment that her needs are being met, whether it’s to visit or to decline to visit. I pray it gets easier for Hope, that she’ll find her way and heal from the hurt. I also pray that the family gains a better understanding of the hurt and what it has been like for her.

I think that will be the thing that narrows the gap, maybe even eliminate it.

I hope so.


Thoughts on Being a Newbie

In the last several months, I’ve had numerous hopeful and new adoptive parents reach out to me directly or through referral for some advice, guidance or new parenting wisdom.
Let me say this: I. Am. Not. A. Sage.
I am making this ish up as I go along.I also routinely reflect on my parenting and have resorted to a pass/fail grading system because too many choices always results in me self-grading at a C or below.
As I was reading something in my Twitter DMs recently, I thought, maybe I should write about this. So, here goes. It’s just a list, a random list of things–in no particular order–I did, wish I did or whatever. Keep in mind that these are all through the lens of older child adoption and may not be as applicable to other forms of adoption–though I imagine there may be numerous parallels in international situations.

  • Breathe. No seriously, thinking back to those first few weeks post placement, I swear I would find myself holding my breath sometimes. Your body needs oxygen, breathe, even if you have to do it intentionally because you aren’t naturally just breathing!
  • Make sure you have your favorite foods available to you. Yeah, yeah, for the emotional and physical health nuts who are like “don’t eat your feelings.” Eff, that; resolve to eat your feelings for a few weeks. I made a homemade cake with buttercream frosting every week for a while just so I could go to my happy place. Of course over time I packed on a good 40lbs, but I don’t regret the soothing process of cake baking and consumption.
  • Before the kid arrives, find a therapist and consider antidepressants, and for Holy Homeboy’s sake get a script for Ativan or some other situational anti-anxiety medication. There was a period where I was popping those things like Tic-Tacs. You think you won’t need a shrink; you maybe never have gone to a shrink; you may think shrinks are hokey. Whatever, get your fanny a shrink, and a good one who understands adoption and go, regularly. If for no other reason than to have a safe, private place to let all your emotions hang out because this journey will pull you, push you and make you reconsider/reframe everything you thought you knew about life. Get a shrink and possibly some drugs.
  • Learn about post-adoption depression before it happens to you. It’s a thing. It’s real. It’s hard.
  • Learn about secondary trauma. This is also a thing and it plays hella nasty with post-adoption depression. Take these last three bullets, do them, rinse and repeat.
  • Order a lock box for meds, valuables, important papers, anything you think is critical.
  • Keep an emergency bottle of wine or alcoholic beverage of your choice in said lockbox–I prefer a red that doesn’t need to be chilled and can be opened and consumed immediately. I like screw-tops because they are easy, but single-serve cans are next level too and constantly improving in quality. Wine—drink it.
  • Say no to welcoming social events–trust me you and your kiddo cannot, will not, be able to handle things for a while. They seem like a good idea and folks are eager to see your new “baby” but these events create expectations that likely are impossible for your kid to meet. You’ll go, the kid will have a meltdown; people won’t understand, graciousness will be in short supply, kid and you will be judged either in the moment or for days, weeks, months after. Protect you and your kid and just say no, not right now, maybe later.
  • Prep your family on what adoption is and what it isn’t. Try to educate them that while it might be a joyous occasion for welcoming a new family member, adopting an older child means that they’ve lost so much to be in a position to get to this place where adoption is even a necessity. It may not be a joyous occasion for your kid and folks need to respect that.
  • If you are friends or family of a newbie or hopeful adoptive parent of an older child–throw them a shower. Do it dammit. Newbies and HAPs ask for one. Don’t act like these parents and families of older child adoptees don’t need this kind of acknowledgment or prep for their “new arrival.” Do it before placement. Register. Do the stupid paper plate games. Party like you’re having or adopting a chronological baby since apparently everyone gets all excited about that life marker. You need that love and support too, even if you have to go MIA for a while after because the needs of your child/family are different than those with a newborn (see next bullet). I can’t say how many families I know of older child adoptees totally get shafted on this–it ain’t right. I’m super grateful to my childhood friends N & J for throwing me a shower. I created an Amazon wishlist, and family and friends gave us movie tickets, restaurant gift cards, spa gift cards (hello respite!) and more. This helped a lot with allowing me to provide Hope with some additional things she needed and take her on fun outings as we got to know each other better. I can never repay their kindness and support, but I have tried to pay it forward to families I’ve met online who did not get this kind of celebration before placement.
  • Prep your family and friends for the child’s arrival and that you might be MIA for months. This will likely be counter to everything they expect since they will be an older child. They will have expectations and misunderstandings that are just too high and flat out wrong. They may even guilt you for forgoing that arrival shindig. Disabuse them of these notions so that you can woo them into being the support system you need, not the one that they think you need or want.
  • After you’ve managed their expectations, be sure to have zero expectations of your own. None, or at least put them at floor level so you can claim achievement by opening your eyes every morning. That and actually getting up should count as a legit win in the beginning when the honeymoon is over.
  • Buy lots of Frebreeze or a knock-off; I’ve found that I and others with older kids experience funk at levels that rival what you might’ve imagined Vincent Price spoke of in Thriller (the funk of 40,000 years). It’s almost like the body emits noxious fumes in an effort to provide an added level of protection for the kiddo…keeping you away from them and from bonding. Add that many of our kids also have other challenges with maintaining hygiene and the funk gets beyond real. Spray some odor neutralizers, slather a little Vicks under your nose if necessary and get in there and SIT WITH THAT KID. They need to know the funk won’t keep you away. #realtalk
  • Get closed trash cans for bedrooms and bathrooms. No one, especially you, wants/needs to see that mess every day. And there will be mess. #blessit
  • Get a food delivery system. Yeah, kinda pricey, but one less thing do you have to do and older kids can follow the directions and help with dinner. Cooking=bonding.
  • Housekeeper as often as you can afford. One less thing for you to worry about, so you can focus on maintenance. It took a long time for Hope to do chores; she still struggles with them.
  • Breathe through the notion of putting Pandora back in the box. Hope had to learn how to be a kid again, which was hard for her, but necessary. It also meant that I had to have quite a few restrictions on what she watched and did. It was rough at first, but worth it in the long run.
  • Have planned respite. After the initial rough transition, I had someone come twice a week in the evening for months to just give me 2-3 hours to myself away. I wish I had done it sooner. By the time I did it, I was really lonely since most of my friends had kind of “moved” on since I wasn’t confident that Hope and I could be meltdown free during outings. I usually got take out and went to the park or sometimes even sat in my car, cried and napped. It was rough. If you’re in the DC area, I have used ASAP Sitters for years, and we’ve had several regular “minders” (<–phrasing from my very British educated ex) over the years who have made our world better. (Waves happily and most gratefully at P!)
  • Order a copy of your kids’ original birth certificate before the adoption is final. For so many states, getting the OBC is nearly impossible post-adoption. Ask the social worker to help you get it before finalization! Make it easier for your kid later, get it, put it in that lockbox and give it to them.
  • Any other legal docs pertaining to your kid–order them. I’ve ordered death certificates, military records, social security records and more for Hope. They have come in handy as she puts together the pieces of her life and constructs her own narrative. Knowing that I supported her having these documents and getting them for her have helped our trust bond.
  • Know that it’s ok to take moments to sit in your shower or on your toilet in your bathroom, fully clothed to cry, whisper a vent session to a listening ear, drink wine or whatever. I swear I spent a quite a bit of time hiding in my bathroom the first few weeks. I ate cake in my bathtub with no water on more than one occasion.
  • Figure out how you’re going to answer curious, yet overly intrusive questions about your child’s background. Folks you barely know and folks you grew up with, alike, will ask you *all* about your child’s business and their family’s business and truly think they are entitled to know this information. They aren’t, and it ain’t your business to share. Be careful about oversharing online and in person without your kid’s permission. I try to write from my lens and when folks ask questions of us, I follow Hope’s lead on what she chooses to share. This has been a progression in our relationship since when she was younger I fielded those questions more often alone. Sometimes I get my framing right; other times I realize maybe I should have framed things differently to protect my daughter’s privacy. I’m a work in progress.
  • Work on developing compassion for birth families. It’s very likely the child does NOT hate their first families; in fact, they likely love their parents immensely and even as older kids long to be with them. Whether that makes sense to you is inconsequential. It’s easy to have righteous indignation about their decisions, the effect of those decisions and choices on the kids. It takes a lot more personal work and stretching to understand sickness, addiction, how consuming poverty can be, and other surrounding sets of systemic circumstances that may have led to this child needing a home other than the one of their birth. Sure there are just a-holes who were a-holes to their kids, but for most families, I’ve learned to just embrace the “there but for God’s grace go I” belief. We are all really only one or two shitty decisions from a life collapse. Let the judgment and whatever possible sense of entitlement or deservedness you think you might have over their birth parents go–it ain’t healthy for you or your kid. Practice empathy and compassion for your child’s benefit; your relationships will be stronger because of it and you’ll model that for your kid.
  • Know that older pets may have a rough adjustment to newcomers. The Furry One experienced quite a bit of stress in his final year when Hope joined us. He was going on 15, deaf with eyesight failing. He was in the home stretch of life anyway, but the disruption was really hard for him and for Hope–he routinely chose her room to soil, when he had not previously had an issue with random incontinence. I wouldn’t have changed things; couldn’t have, but just know that it the humans in your home may not be the only ones struggling with change.
  • If you’re doing the transracial parenting thing–specifically white parents with kids of color; leave that colorblind parenting BS alone. It is a punt, a cop out and not even a good one. The goal should be to raise a healthy, well-adjusted kid who knows who they are, sees folks like them on the regular, has the vocabulary to talk about race and ethnicity personally and societally and to be raised in an anti-racist environment supported by behaviors that are anti-racist. Being colorblind is not a thing when raising kids of color. It’s not. Get your mind right about this. It’s not enough to be “not racist.” Your goal needs to be creating a loving environment that is “anti-racist” where your kids–kids of all colors–can talk about race, racism, how it shapes their life outside of the safeness of your home. Talking about race and racism is not racist behavior. The pretending that race isn’t a thing and that you are blind to skin color is inherently racist: full stop. It shuts down all conversation about the literal shell the kid walks around in day in and day out. It is oppressive: full stop. If you are doing the colorblind parenting thing, your home is not a safe place to have conversations about that experience. And in a world that is highly racialized, trust, it’s a thing. If your home isn’t safe to talk about skin color and how life is impacted by that color, then what else isn’t it safe to discuss in your home? I’m going to stop there, because like that pastor at Harry and Meghan’s wedding, I need to wrap this up. #abouttoreallygoin #separatepostoneofthesedays

These are just some of my reflections on being a new adoptive parent. Feel free to share other life lessons you’ve picked up along the way. Thanks to all my readers and followers for being with me and Hope on this journey. We still have miles and miles to go and we are learning more every day.


Sneakers and Blue Hair

So, if you follow me on FB or Twitter, you know that Hope had an interview for a summer program this week. For a lot of reasons, I looked at programs that would offer Hope the opportunity to academically reset in a really structured environment. We chose a program together, I submitted the application and was delighted when she got an interview.

So, then I had to coach my daughter on presentation. I was a bit fussy about what she would wear and her hair. I ended up doing her hair in an updo and she chose to wear a pair of black slacks, blazer and white shirt. She tried to ditch the blazer, but I insisted that it be worn—it ended up raining buckets, so she easily bought into wearing it in the end.

Where we ended up having some drama?

Shoes?

Hope wears sneakers all the time. That’s her thing. She likes her sneakers, and she’s a creature of comfort. 99% of the time she will be spotted in jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers. I manage to get her into a dress a couple of times a year, namely Easter.

So, as she was walking around the house, I told her to put her shoes on because we needed to get on the road to drive the 75 miles to the school. She huffed and puffed.

“You don’t want to wear your flats?” She replied no, but that she didn’t feel like any of her other shoes went with her outfit.

I paused and then said, “Well…you could wear your black high tops.”

She just stared at me.

“You can, and you can wear some of your funky socks.”

“But they will see them when I sit down.”

“Yeah, so. Those socks are you, totally you. And you should be comfortable and authentic. Just be you. The black sneakers will go with your suit and the socks will be your pop of color.” I reminded her that I have this amazing colleague who collects Jordans and wears them with her business attire and how cool that is.

“I can do that?”

“Sweetie, your mom has blue hair….Yeah, you can do that.”

Yes, my hair is currently a pale blue. Last fall, I realized that my hair, which is mostly gray and resistant to being colored means that I could play with color! I can dye my hair lovely colors with no commitment. It’s been pink, purple, teal, and most recently blue—which has been my favorite, so it’s likely to stay around.

In the last 6 months or so, it’s been a big statement and has been received actually quite well in my professional life. I love it and it’s just the non-conformist thing that makes me happy.

So, yeah, if I can roll to the hoity-toity boarding school with my blue hair, my kid can sure as hell roll in with her uber cute socks and her black sneakers.

She looked great; more importantly, she looked comfortable and so she was more comfortable.

And later, on the drive home, after her stellar interview performance (that resulted in being offered admission before we left campus because she’s friggin awesome!), I asked her if she knew what it mean to be authentic. We had a nice chat about always being yourself. I took some time to remind her that she has NOTHING to be ashamed or worried about regarding her past in terms of how other people felt about it. She can and should always be herself.

I hope with my blue hair (today) that I’m modeling that for her. I know it’s been more and more important to me as I grow older and give fewer effs about what other people think about me and my life.

I’m so stinking proud of her. She’s really an amazing kid.


Doing Right by Hope

I listen to a podcast called, Terrible, Thanks for Asking. A recent episode explored the feelings of a father and daughter who lost their wife and mother to cancer when the daughter was just a toddler. The father remarried and never really discussed his late wife, so his daughter was never sure whether it was ok to talk about her.

As I was listening to the show, I started wondering am I doing enough to make Hope feel comfortable talking about her birth family. We have a relationship with a portion of her birth family, and that has been a little hit or miss just based on Hope’s desire. I made sure that I got numerous pictures of one of her parents and they are hung prominently in our home. I have made it clear that whenever she is ready to visit her family, I’m down to make it happen. She expressed an interest in her birth mother, I looked for her and found her. When she said she was satisfied just knowing where she was but didn’t want contact, I put the info away and told her she can have it whenever she wants.

I’ve told her numerous times that if she wants to talk, I’m here. Anytime, anywhere.

And yet, I do wonder if I’ve created the right environment for Hope to feel like she can tell me what she needs around accessing her birth family.

I have learned that my daughter’s feelings about her family are complicated. There is a lot of loss, feelings of rejection, anger, but also love and affection. I know that my daughter can sign a birthday card and say that she hopes to see them soon, but when I ask to schedule a visit she says no, what she wrote was really just a pleasantry.

Early on, I fretted that her birth family would be upset that I was keeping her away from them. We are a four hours’ drive away but are connected by phone, email and social media. We’ve visited several times; of course, they would like us to visit more often. I don’t want to put up roadblocks to reunion if that’s what everyone wants. The reality is that my daughter’s idea of reunion and theirs don’t jive at this point. I’ve learned to be really honest with them about what she’s going through and how much contact she wants. Those are hard conversations to have with a family that also feels like Hope is the prodigal kid, who was lost and now found. I try to make sure that cards get sent, pictures and band concert programs are mailed so that they can see she’s doing well, but truth be told, there’s not much contact between Hope and her family.

On the daily, we don’t talk about her family of origin much either. Occasionally something will remind her of an episode from before my time and she’ll share it with me, usually something funny, sometimes something dark. The dark stuff is always very sad, and honestly, those are the stories that more often get repeated…verbatim. Therapy has helped her write some new scripts, but old habits and trauma die hard. Occasionally, I’ll ask about a parent and she’ll share a little story or shut down the conversation, depending on her mood. This is how we roll; I don’t have much to compare it to, so I guess this is normal. I listen to adult adoptees and know that it can be super complicated. I know that Hope will come into her own and decide if, how and when she wants more of a connection to her birth family. I just don’t ever want her to feel like she doesn’t have my support or that she can’t bring it up in our home. I try to follow her lead on creating and sustaining chosen connections.

On the whole, I feel like I’ve tried to create a space that supports her, values her family yet consistently prioritizes her emotional needs. It’s hard though; it’s complicated. I find myself wondering if I’m doing enough or too much sometimes. Hope is getting older; emotionally she’s still pretty young despite her gains over the last few years. I see her turning into a young adult; I see her questioning a lot of things about the world and about herself and about her personal history as she lived it and interprets it. I know in the coming years I’ll be transitioning from active parenting to a parent-guide of sorts as she comes into herself and launches into the world. I have no idea whether what I’m doing on the birth family stuff will bear fruit—or even what that means, honestly. I just know I want her to be happy and healthy, and I want her to know I’ll always ride hard for her.

I hope I’m doing right by Hope.


Blacker the Berry

Releasing the shackles of the mind

Riddle from the Middle

real life with a side of snark

Dmy Inspires

Changing The World, With My Story...

Learning to Mama

Never perfect, always learning.

Dadoptive

An adoptive father's story

The Boeskool

Jesus, Politics, and Bathroom Humor...

Erica Roman Blog

I write so that my healing may bring healing to others.

My Mind on Paper

The Inspired Writing of Kevin D. Hofmann

Mimi Robinson Online

One black woman's journey through infertility, adoption and now being a SAHM

My Wonderfully Unexpected Journey

When Life Grabbed Me By The Ears

Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

These are the adventures of one family in foster care and adoption.

imashleymi.wordpress.com/

finding the balance between being a mom and a marketing maven

Stephanie Rodda

Pondering Faith and Family

wearefamily

an adoption support community

Fighting for Answers

Tales From an Adoption Journey

Transracialeyes

Because of course race and culture matter.

%d bloggers like this: