Category Archives: Empty Nest

Nothing New

Not much has changed around the house.

Not much has changed between me and Hope. We are polite, sometimes almost close to lovingly so. We might occasionally laugh about something together; I live for those moments. I feel like they give me a peek into the good times. I usually choke back a few tears when we laugh together or she wants to tell me something. We both have some very clear boundaries that we have quietly constructed. I give hers extra wide berth, while she likes to nudge mine just to see how far she can go.

I’m doing more cooking than I have in a long time. I cook on the weekends so there are options until about Thursday. I really cook for Hope. I might get a spoonful or bowl full when I’m cooking, but I generally will have smoothies, cereal, yogurt, bread, etc all week. I am only this week realizing how obsessive I’ve become about this weekend cooking ritual. Clearly some emotional stuff happening there. I also just know that I unconsciously increased the amounts I’m cooking It’s wild.

I wish things were different. I wish Hope truly believed and understood that we are forever. I wish after all these years she could enjoy some peace in permanence. I believe that there were many authentically joyful times, but I also believe her when she says it was fleeting or an act to meet what she thought were my expectations. I wish things were different in so many ways.

In 125 days, everything changes. It may make things horribly worse or it could be the beginning of another beginning for Hope. Only time will tell. I daily caution myself not to think that far out. I know it will zoom here sooner than I’m willing to acknowledge.

I’m keeping the faith that something will change, something will change.

Cheers to the week.


Ouch!

I’m traveling again this week. I went from no work travel for more than two years to two back-to-back trips.

Tonight is night 3 of 5, with the 5th night on a red-eye back to the East Coast.

I’ve been looking forward to this trip because I could see some great friends and my favorite conference, visit a dispensary or two, and enjoy some really good wine.

A couple of days before departing, I started to piece together my old travel habits. I started making a grocery list, doing laundry, making packing lists. I started getting really anxious about making sure that Hope had food in the house, that I should make a casserole and a couple of dishes for her, did she remember how I prep Yappy’s food in the morning and was she going to use his buttons and make sure he got enough engagement throughout the day? (Yes, my fixation over Barkley reached new heights during the pandemic. His separation anxiety is unbearable and I am his emotional support human. But I digress.)

I was telling Google to put some things on the shopping list, when I suddenly asked Hope what she wanted me to make for her before I left.

“Oh…mom you don’t have to do that. “

“I know, but I mean, I gotta leave you something to eat. I’ll be gone nearly a whole week!”

“Yeah…..no. Please, don’t bother.”

My face.

I swear some small tiny place in my heart broke. Just a little tear, like a paper cut….IN MY HEART.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Because if I don’t make you something I’ll be a bad mom.” I have no idea where that deep down dark fear came from, had no idea any feelings like good mom/bad mom truly lurked in there like that..triggered because I was told I didn’t need to prepare food for her to eat while I’m gone.

Hope rolled her eyes. “Are you serious right now?”

::whispers:: “Yeah. I feel like if I don’t leave something I’m a bad mom.”

Now keep in mind, I typically cook on Saturday and Sunday for most of the week. If either main dish is not visible from the very front of the fridge, it does not exist for Hope. It’s always been like that. Sometimes I legit “refresh” the view just to let her know that there are more options available to her.

Most weeks, Hope and I only get to hang out a few hours early in the week or on Fridays. We actually have such different work schedules that we are like ships passing in the night.

It took me a minute to process what Hope not needing/wanting me to cook for her really felt like.

It hurt.

Not because of Hope, but because of me. Hope is a young adult. She orders food all the time. Buys her own little special groceries once a month at one of the local international market. She goes out with friends and always brings home leftovers.

Hope can certainly manage on her own for a week. She doesn’t need me for that anymore.

That. That part. That “anymore” part.

That’s the part that hurt.

When Hope came home from college for spring break in 2020 and ended up living back at home for 2+ years later, it seemed easy and appropriate for me to turn to slip back into Momming activities for Hope on the daily. We needed the nurturing of it during a damn pandemic raging while Satan was president (Don’t fight me, fight ya mama).

But she’s over it. I mean, I’m sure she loves having food options at home when she has blown her UberEats budget, but she is more than capable of ensuring that she will not go without food if I’m gone for a week, and I’m sure more, especially if I leave the Costco card behind.

This is great and bittersweet. It means she’s confident and capable of taking care of herself. I’m sure she will make different decisions than I might desire, but she will be fine. She’s stretching and taking some baby steps. That is so cool. I’m so proud of her.

I really am. And I’m a little sad because my little girl isn’t a little girl anymore, and while I know that getting her to this point is has taken a lot of hard work from both of us, I feel that sadness that parents feel when you just feel like the crazy joyride of parenting goes by so damn fast.

Hope has no idea (until she reads it) that I think this is her biggest successful flex on me. And without any irony or sass. She didn’t need my casserole.

Again. Ouch.

And again my need to step back in this way is in recognition of her increasing skills in adulting. And that’s so awesome. I just didn’t see it coming into clarity for me in this way at all. I had no idea being told that my Momming Activities weren’t needed in this way would hurt my heart so much.

Well, I split the difference for this trip. I did pick up a few groceries for Hope and made sure that I bought a few treats too. But I did not cook anything. I just created through that and all the related activities and move on down my list.

For now, I still see the empty space on my mental calendar and know it’s because Hope doesn’t need me for that thing I used to do anymore.

That anymore still hurts, but I know that this is a win.

I’ll cook something special for dinner this weekend in celebration.

Ha!


A Party Ain’t A Party

This stage of parenting is seriously turning out to be the biggest mystery for me. Seriously, so much of what Hope is going through, I went through far away from my parents’ view. I was away at college. Now, I’m guessing, that many more folks experience this early adult parenting than I anticipated with more than 50% of college students living at home.

So, apparently, this is kinda the norm?

Ha, it doesn’t feel normal. Even though I’m a first-generation college student, both of my parents moved out shortly after their high school graduations. My dad went into the military and my mom moved to the city. Like everyone, they made their way and figured it out. Again, they were away from their parents’ view as well.

Me, I’ve got a front-row seat to Hope’s shenanigans. And I find that parenting through them is a big discombobulating because these were not conversations that I or my siblings had with our parents, and they didn’t have them with their parents. I’m like, WTF am I supposed to do or say?

Hope had a party earlier this week.

Yep, in the middle of a pandemic surge, she invited about 15 folks over to a party in the condo party room. It was supposed to occur about a week or two ago, but it got snowed out so she rescheduled to this week. I was not a fan of a gathering, but she contracted to use the party room all on her own—which I was really happy about ‘cause those folks were not coming to my house.

She was very excited, and I was excited for her. Social relationships have always been anxiety-inducing for Hope. She finds it hard to make new friends and sustain healthy friendships. Her current job seems to have a nice collection of young people close in age, both younger and older. I’ve met a number of them and many seemed a lot like her in the anxiety-awkward department so she found her tribe.

Well, long story short, only about 5 people showed up for the party. The day after it was clear that she didn’t consider the party a success, that she was really upset that folks who RSVP’d didn’t show, that she felt like she wasted money, and on and on. I asked her if she enjoyed the company of her guests to which she replied yes! Did they bring food? Yep. Did you have leftovers? Already handled. Did they help clean up? Yep, they even helped me pop the balloons! Wait, you had a party with balloons too? Um, ok.

By my estimate, you found your core, solid pals, but Hope and I do different math. She didn’t go to work the next day. She said she was embarrassed, and my heart broke a little.

After I really tried to listen to her and watched her openly wrestle with her emotions, I got to parenting. Hey, don’t give the people who didn’t show up so much attention when these other five folks came out to hang with you. It was 12 degrees that night; you know how I get when it’s that cold—other people get like that too. We just want to curl up in the covers; we will totally be no-shows. It’s not personal; we still love you, and we are still going to bail on that invitation. It’s a whole arse pandemic out here; it’s not a bad thing that fewer people showed up. Risk reduction! I’m sure that if these folks are your friends and they care about you, they’ll apologize for missing your party.

Welcome to the rest of your life and invitations to stuff that you accept only on the day of to explore every possible legitimate, and some illegitimate, excuse not to go to the event.

Afterward, I pondered when and how I learned that. I thought back to parties I had in my twenties, and I just don’t remember. Sure, I have a little pit feeling wondering if people will show, but somewhere I learned that sometimes they just aren’t going to make it and it’s not the end of the world. Somehow I learned that it didn’t mean they didn’t like me or worse. It just wasn’t the big deal I made it out to be.

I don’t know if I helped Hope through her feelings just like I have no idea how I got to the realization that it wasn’t a big deal, in the grand scheme of things. I find I keep bumping into coaching Hope through these kinds of things and I have to really think about how I learned something and when. I mean, this stuff was 30 years ago; it’s hard to remember. Or I remembered how I originally learned it and then learned something new later but not being able to figure out how to explain it. Then explaining more nuanced things…it’s just harder than I anticipated.

I don’t think I’m messing up, but I wonder how other kids who live at home learn this stuff. Are y’all having these kinds of conversations? Is learning through coaching better, worse or no different than learning through lived experience? Does any of this even matter?

I just didn’t expect to coach through some of these experiences, and it feels even more strange than usual.


A New Parenting Chapter

Hope is dating, and without spilling all her business, she has her first boyfriend.

I am emotionally all over the place about this. I am happy for her; she is delighted that someone outside of family is smitten with her. She is smitten, and it’s adorable.

I haven’t met dude, and Hope has indicated that my invitation to have dinner is premature. I have made sure that she has communicated that he could become a hood ornament on my car if he treats her poorly.

Yes, I threatened him. Hey, it’s on brand for me.

Anyway, I’m happy for her because she’s happy. As for me? I hate it.

Now I don’t hate it because I don’t want her to date or because I don’t think anyone will ever be good enough. I hate it because it is forcing me to grow and change parenting strategies during a period of great upheaval.

Yeah, I don’t want to deal with this right now.

Work is draining. Diversity work is head and heart work. It’s teaching, coaching, advising, holding accountable, brainstorming and strategizing and doing it over and over. In periods when there isn’t large scale social unrest, this work can be taxing. I’m good at walking away from it at the end of the day and resting my head and heart and diving back in. But in moments like the one we are in now, the push and pull of work feels unending even when I walk away from my desk at 5pm.

Since the video of police officers murdering George Floyd hit the internet at the end of May is has not been uncommon for folks to call me after hours or on weekends. The back to back zoom meetings are unending. The need for consultation has only expanded. Boundaries are sometimes hard to maintain.

I took the first week of July off, and I don’t even remember that I had time off a few weeks ago. I live for the weekends, when I just crash. The pandemic keeps me home, and exhaustion keeps me on the couch or the patio.

I am constantly feeling like I’m on E. I plan to take another week or so off this month, but honestly, I know it’s not enough time, especially since I’m trapped at home with no place to go. I could use an adventure right now.

So, the notion that I need to also adapt my parenting to accommodate Hope’s love life has me in my feelings.

I fret that they want to go out and spend time together—doing what where? It’s a gotdamn pandemic? Can’t go to the movies, many restaurants aren’t open. And what’s his COVID-19 prevention routine? His roommate doesn’t even want Hope to come to their house (and I don’t effing blame him). And is the curfew I’ve set ok for a 19-year-old in her first real relationship? And how about that I can barely make it to 10pm keeping my eyelids open, is she really making it home on time? When Yappy and I knock out for the evening we both can sleep through bombs.

What are the right questions to ask? What are the new privacy boundaries? How do I check in to make sure she’s ok?

She looked at me like I’d grown horns when I asked her to be sure to have the location feature activated on her phone; she asked why. I told her because if something happened to her with him, I want that phone to tell us where she is. She told me she would be fine. I said, I know, but just in case…

Like Hope, wrestling with this new phase has been on a slightly slower schedule than a lot of my contemporaries. I thought we would have covered some of this ground over the last few years. I was kind of shocked, but happy, that this didn’t happen her first year of college.

This summer has just been a whiplash of developments for Hope. They’ve mostly been good. She’s worked hard. She’s kept a schedule. She’s dating. She’s actively trying to figure out this chapter. I’ve been distracted with work and really in a reactionary posture related to parenting. I’m usually a step ahead of Hope, but I haven’t had my eye on the ball.

And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Hope needed a bit more autonomy and independence. That’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t.

But it makes me feel…neglectful somehow, and that raises all kinds of complicated feelings when I think about the situations Hope endured early in life. I know that it’s not a fair comparison on a lot of levels, but I do feel like she definitely hasn’t got the best of me since she’s been home due to the pandemic.

And now, she will be home at least until January since her college decided to go remote. Her being home means active dating and active parenting continues, right here, right now.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of this. I know this. My rational brain knows that all of this is normal, that things will be fine and that Hope will be fine and I will rise to the occasion, but real talk: I don’t want to deal with it.

It’s hard admitting that. I have so much guilt about that. So. Much. Guilt.

But really, I don’t wanna.

I’m glad Hope is home and safe. I’m glad she’s happy and learning what it is to be really be smitten and to learn about herself as she continues to blossom. I’m excited to see how I will change during this time. I’m looking forward to having her around through the end of the year.

But I do need people to stay at home, social distance and mask up so that she can go back to school in the spring and I can go through empty nest emotions again.

Sigh….


Parenting a Young Adult

This last month of staying at home with Hope has been hard for me. She has been testing limits in ways that are new. It’s normal; it’s age appropriate, and I hate it.

Since the ‘stupid games’ episode, Hope seems to have forgotten a number of truths: I no longer trust her because she lied. I rarely forget. We are not roommates; I am her mother.

This week Hope announced her plans to me on a number of occasions. She was going to the outlet to shop for shoes (Ok, she really needed shoes). She was going on an all day date (Oh really? Did we forget we were supposed to be experiencing the consequences of stupid decisions?) She was taking the car to go out on Friday.

This is where I drew the bright line. Hella irritated by these declarations brought on by Hope’s trying on of adulthood, I said no. I initiated a conversation about how I’m trying to give her space to develop some independence, but I needed her to reframe her declarations to requests. We ain’t roommates; that’s my car and she needed to ask to use it. There are still expectations of a curfew and I fully expect to be told where she’s going.

That conversation was several days ago, and I’m still struggling with Hope. She is a good kid, but she is wildly immature. She recently ordered about $100 of slime.

SLIME, y’all. 🙄 A sophomore in college and binge spending on slime. Woooosawww. Ok.

When you see those kinds of purchases rolling into the house and then get *told* about how your car will be used without any consideration about any plans you might have… Well it’s triggering.

I’m committed to not yelling, to discussing things like adults and to coming to positive resolution. Yeah, all that. But real talk, I didn’t issue any ‘declarative statements’ to my parents until I was living completely independently with my own address in another zip code. This version of young adulting is foreign to me, and I. Don’t. Like. It.

I can’t even get Hope to do the chores I ask of her when I ask, so my emotional struggle these last few weeks has me hot under the collar. Lots of deep breaths.

I have tried explain my response to these shenanigans. I have attempted to articulate my communications needs. I have tried to find some grace, especially since I only have another month with my daughter before she heads back to campus. But, real talk, I’m seriously annoyed.

And what’s even more annoying? There only so much I can do. I’m super conscious of that. This is a gray area. I need to offer some rules and guidance— less of the former and more of the latter. I’m trying to grow the trust (super hard lately) and independence while insisting on respect for me, this home and my things. I’m also hyper aware that there are things I would never do to Hope, like threaten to put her out. I did tell her that if she wanted to do all the things she thinks she’s grown enough to do, she might make plans to get and finance her own apartment next summer since somethings just ain’t ever going down here. That said this will always be home, but it comes with some rules.

I’m struggling, and the more I struggle the more irritated I become. I worry that this conflict will engulf us. I need to avoid that, but I need Hope to find her emerging lane and promptly get in it.

I’m really worried about Hope going back to school next month, what with the pandemic and all. That said, I am looking forward to missing her a bit. I’m ready for a parenting-cation.


Parenting a College Student

Hope and I have settled into a nice routine of semi-daily texts and 1 phone call a week to catch up and talk shop.

The “catch up” part is really what’s going on in our lives. The “talk shop” part is derivative of the first—it’s how we talk about the things we need to do as a result of the “catch up” part.

If I’m lucky, I get a 2nd call a week because Hope misses me and just wants to chat for a few minutes.

The texts are pictures of Yappy (which as decreased because she can see every pic on our google folder for Yappy), memes, quick check ins and good nites.

I’m really loving this rhythm and what it represents: Good attachment!

I feel good about that. I’m also thrilled that I’ve managed to train Hope to tell me the important stuff by phone and let’s keep texting fun and not the place for good chats. I’m hoping that she is able to transfer that concept to her general texting interactions. #stillparenting

She doesn’t ask me to send her random stuff anymore. I nipped that in the bud after the first month. She proudly told me that she gets her groceries delivered to campus each week. Good for her, but “groceries?” I reminded her about that ‘generous’ meal plan I’m on the hook for…use it. I’m thrilled she figured out how to get what she needed.

Each conversation I see Hope growing a little. I hear her struggles but also how she is trying to problem solve things. I don’t hear too many excuses anymore. The biggest realization is that my opinion means a lot to her and that she trusts me as a knowledgeable human.

May every parent have this moment because like Jesus, I wept. Of course my tears were from joy.

This is the period of life, those adolescent years, when you just think that you are the schitts. You know EVERYTHING. And if you didn’t know it, someone in your peer circle probably knew it just like you probably knew that one rando thing that they didn’t know. And you think that anyone over the age of maybe 25 was pushing off to the nursing home any day and couldn’t possibly know more than you because they have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel and had no doubt lost so many brain cells that they should be on a mush diet.

Yeah, you know the age.

Y’all we are past it.

giphy

via Giphy

Hope doesn’t just want my opinion, she actually thinks I’m smart, like really smart. She knows I don’t know everything, but she knows that I know a lot, certainly way more than her. So Hope will text me questions; she will have deeper philosophical conversations with me. And in the moments when our chats are delving into “advice” territory, she actually pushes through the conversation, prompting, asking me for my thoughts and insights.

It’s really startling.

Of course then she will send me a video of someone trying to light farts. #disturbing #cantunsee

We have a ways to go yet.

Our chat a few days ago covered this knee injury she has, her recent cold, her grades, realizations about her ADHD and her upcoming trip home for the weekend that slid into us talking shop.

The student health clinic wanted to refer Hope to a specialist about her knee. We discussed and decided that she would see our GP when she came home this week and go from there. She’s happily over her cold, which I think developed from sinusitis and allergies. She said I might be on to something there. I told her she needed to get some Tylenol or scope out a kid on the hall whose parents remembered to pack Tylenol (I sent her with the gigantic jar of Advil. Whatever she can trade).

She confessed to not turning everything in on time and why and how she’s struggling to control her ADHD symptoms in the afternoon. I told her she should talk to our GP about that as well since he’s handling medication management these days. I told her I didn’t want him to hear it second hand (from me) and that she could just call the office to talk to him about her symptoms since we’re in a practice that allows that. She paused, toying with just asking me to do it or with the idea of dropping it. She said, send me his number. Since I’m coming home to see the doc can I talk to him about this too with him?

Me grinning on the other end of the call; “Yep.”

We talked about a hair appointment; she said she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her hair. I didn’t press but said, well, I found some salons in your neck of the woods that do Black natural hair. When you’re ready just make an appointment and check in with me to see if you need extra money to get it done. We verbally shook on it.

I swear boards of directors could take a page on the efficiency of our “talk shop” conversations. They’ve evolved and it’s really cool. It means we’re on the same page—What has to get done? What needs a step towards a solution?

And even more cool, Hope has real, cogent ideas about solutions. She may have even tried an idea or two before telling me. We’re beyond the, “maybe Beyonce’s foundation will pick us…” days. #girlwhat?

Oh there are many days when she has ridiculous ideas mixed in (all the time), but she’s more confident about all of her ideas and sharing them with me.

I don’t want to make it seem that all of the drama we have endured isn’t still there. I think that Hope and I have a bit more clarity about it and how it affects her and us. Hope is still well below her peers in overall maturity. She still is a vulnerable girl prone to being overwhelmed and succumbing to some specific kinds of peer pressure. She is not nearly as fragile as she once was, but she’s still somewhat fragile.

The patina of trauma that once was sooooo thick it just masked her is much thinner, but still very much a part of her. It covers her. I hear it in some of the pauses in our conversations about certain things. I feel it when she says she misses me. I see it when she is sad. I see it even in moments of joy. I see her conquering it slowly, but it is there.

There are many, many things we still talk about that my friends have already discussed with their 10-year-olds. Hope was in the system when she was 10. She moved a few times that year. She managed to progress to the next grade, but the lack of permanence was still there and would still be there for many months to come. And there were countless moments preceding her 10 years that led to predicament Hope found herself in at that tender age.

I hear all of that when I talk to Hope too. It’s still there. And I’m amazed to she her still pressing forward in spite of all of it. But, it’s still there, and it’s still hard for her and for me.

I’m so excited that she will be here for a few days next week. She hasn’t been home since she left in mid-August. I’m looking forward to fun chats, a happy dog, all around goofiness and to learn more about Hope in this new chapter of her life.

The more I learn about her, the more I learn about me.


Radical Self Care

I just returned from Puerto Rico, and I’m realizing I don’t do this kind of radical self-care often enough.

Every morning, I got up to walk. I love my daily walks with Yappy. It’s usually dark, and I’ve got to stop a half million times to allow him to sniff, try to reach the errant, tossed away chicken bone or pop a squat. I often go back out for a quick walk without him. These last few days I’ve walked close to 5 miles every morning, coming back to the hotel drenched in sweat, feeling alive and a little more tan.

I picked up some yogurt from the market, got cleaned up and headed to the beach. I enjoyed the sounds of the ocean, lulling me into a morning nap facilitated by early drinking and an edible or two. I read a trashy book, hit the ice cream shop for lunch and relocated to the pool in the afternoon.

beach2

I discovered a little carry out shop across the street from the hotel; they make the best calzone crust I’ve ever had. I also purchased a bottle of rum and have practically had Cuba Libres on tap the last several days.

beach

I lounged in my king sized bed, channel surfing in the evenings, briefly considering going out, or at least going down to the cigar bar to smoke and drink in the luxe lobby.

Lounging stayed winning during this brief reprieve.

I’ve experienced so few moments of irritation over the last few days that they seem almost a distant memory. Oh, I remember them though and Holy Homeboy, white folks are at the heart of each moment. Now, just remember that part of what precipitated my quick vacation scheduling is having been pushed to the brink by white folks during a meeting on diversity and inclusion, so this is a sensitive thing right now.

Practically empty beach, no please come stand in front my chair to take your selfies for 15 minutes.

Whiny group of 10 traveling together who asked if I would move chairs so they could also sit together at the pool. This chair? The one I’ve been sitting in for 90 minutes? No. I’m good. Cue their melodrama of moving to another row to sit together. #theaudacity

I had time to do a lot of thinking and reflecting on this trip, but honestly…I didn’t. I thought I might take some time to think about my next career moves, maybe spend some time thinking about some of the volunteering I’ve been doing. I thought I might think about finding my way around this dating thing. I thought I might think about a lot of things.

Instead, I gave my brain a much needed rest. I thought about very little. I rested.

beach

Why is it that I had to hit a wall to embrace just doing nothing for a few days? I mean, I know that the daily routine isn’t designed for just being without expectation, but wow, not doing anything for 3 days should not feel so radical or costly. And yet it does.

I’m glad to be home, waiting for the boarder to bring Yappy home. I’m looking forward to getting back into my routine for a few weeks. I’ve got a trip to Hawaii in a few weeks for work. I’m looking forward to freshening my tan and enjoying time with colleagues.

In the meantime, I’m going to find a few minutes every day to just be, to just breathe and to just rest.

Challenging all of you to do the same.


When Magic Ain’t Enough

First things first: Hope is doing marvelously. She has friends; she is social. She is trying to stay on top of her schoolwork. She joined a club last week. She’s doing great. She’s also still open to questions for her column, so…Ask Hope by sending an email to adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com.

Me?

I’m not doing so hot.

It’s not an empty nest thing, though some of it is probably a change thing. No, it’s really about work and personal life. I hit an emotional wall a week ago that was just incredibly damaging, and while I grinned and bore it; I’m not ok. And this week I feel like it shows across every aspect of my life.

I recently celebrated 15 years in my job as a diversity and inclusion professional. I love my work; I know I’m making a difference. There is so much work to do, but I can look at several generations of students and see the impact that my work along with the work of so many others.

I’ve got research projects and consultations and student organizations. I give lectures, conduct workshops and create assessment tools. I’ve written policies, standards, papers and books.

I’m not bragging. I’ve just worked hard.

Along the way I went back to school, did a couple of degrees and half raised an amazing daughter.

I feel like if I totally checked out right this moment, I will have left a mark, and that’s immensely satisfying even when I see so much more that can and should be done.

But it has all has come at a cost.

I’ve been one of few people of color broadly and very few black people and even fewer black women, in countless spaces over the last 15 years. I’m used to it. I can hold my own in such spaces, but these spaces aren’t always inclusive or hospitable. I’ve been called names. I’ve heard racist jokes. I’ve been harassed. When I went natural and chopped my hair off the first time, a white male colleague said I looked exotic. I have given lectures that were rated poorly because I didn’t have any effs to give about white fragility.

I’ve coached, coddled, chastised and championed.

I love this work, but it is emotionally exhausting creating content to reach, teach, and move people in ways that keeps them engaged and not triggered by their own fragility. It comes at a high cost that I’m willing to pay if it means that I can make this profession better. My commitment to this work is also why I continue writing about my life and parenting experience in this space, why Mimi and I hosted Add Water and Stir and why I’m now trying to move into doing some consulting with adoption agencies interested in exploring these issues.

I recently participated in a work-related meeting that demonstrated clearly to me that there is still so much more work to be done. It was in a space that positioned me as an outsider, that felt very silencing and was wholly oblivious to how problematic it all felt for those of us who were outsiders—either by professional discipline or race.

No one was mean. No one said anything inappropriate. No one was overtly racist. But it was very superficial and wildly damaging to me emotionally.

It’s been a week, and I haven’t recovered. I’m still working, still producing, still rolling, but feeling like the walking wounded. That space wrung what little Black Girl Magic I had left. It’s gone. It’s like the experience just zapped it. I am broken.

Couple that with a continued barrage of trash on the dating scene and I’m on the ropes. I’m just done. Last week, I pulled my profile down and shuttered myself like I was preparing for a hurricane. It was like a one-two punch and the ref is just hovering over me counting….1. 2. 3. 4. 5…..

I can’t get up.

I’m emotionally empty.

depressed

People can see it. People can feel the icky energy rolling off of me. My therapist knew as soon as I walked into her office yesterday that I was not ok. She remarked that my energy was similar to when I started going to her shortly after Hope’s arrival when I was deep in the depths of post-adoption depression.

And she’s right. I sobbed in her office. I finally said how unseen I felt at the meeting; how so much of my work seems in vain, how the dating scene is trash, but I would love to have a life companion and that I’m hella glad Hope is away at school while I’m seriously falling apart.

My empty nest fall was *not* supposed to be like this. The work I love is not supposed to make me so miserable. Dating should not make me wonder if the next dude is going to be awful to me too.

I’m not going to stay in this dark place though. I’ve booked a 5 star get-a-way for two weeks from now on a whim. I thought as the bill was rising higher and higher as I as I was upgrading this and that, this is getting pricey. Then I asked what would I be like in two weeks if I don’t do this or something like it? What if I didn’t invest in myself? And what would Hope do/say/feel if she saw me like this?  I might be ok, but the people around me will surely suffer—actually I will suffer most of all.

So, I booked exactly what I wanted and needed for 5 days away in a location that’s warm, sunny, beachy, with lots of rum, good food and lots of brown people—majority brown people. I need to be in a space where black and brown folks are the dominant culture for a few days. I need to feel emotionally safe; I need to not be directly under the searing gaze of white folks for a few days. #yeahIsaidit #lovebutyallareexhausting

And tomorrow, I’ll be calling up the doc and getting some new meds. A vacation time-out will help a lot, but I know it is not a panacea for what ails me. I know that it will not bring my magic back. Chemistry will help bring my magic back. So will eating right and continuing to make plans that focus on my restoration

Parents weekend is next week, so I will get to see my beautiful Hope then. I’m so excited about seeing her and getting a glimpse into the life she is creating for herself. I’m so proud of her. With my restoration plan coming into focus; I feel better about the ABM she will see next weekend. The vacation will jump start a new chapter for me; I’m committed to that.

I do not like the dark space. I do not like feeling like I’m wandering or wondering. I want to come back from this. I want to keep going; I want to be strong and magical. I also want to be better at preventing this kind of emotional spiral.

Practice makes perfect right?


Dating and Parenting

Shortly after Hope agreed to become my daughter, I met a wonderful man, E. E and I were together for about 3 years. When we parted, it was sad, but there were no burned bridges. We keep in touch.

I didn’t attempt to date anyone again for nearly 2 years.

When Hope went off to boarding school last year, I decided to get on an app and try to date. I met someone who I had great fun with but when it ended a few months ago, it did so in an absurd dumpster fire. It’s ok, I’m fine. I walked away easy peasy.

brush2

via Giphy

And so shortly before I dropped Hope off a month ago, I said, ok, let’s try this again. I signed up for 2 months on an app. I carefully curated my pictures; I wrote my profile, and I posted it all.

I’ve been on one pseudo-date. I say pseudo because we met up, went for a short walk and sat on a bench to talk.

I have received numerous inappropriate messages.

I’ve found that men generally think very highly of themselves and their manners.

I’ve found that some men take rejection horribly, resulting in lash out behavior.

I’ve found that some men want to school me on my standards being too high.

I’ve found that despite loving me some men, a lot of men are just really deeply troubled (this is me trying not to call them all trash). #toxicmasculinity

I just about tapped out last week after I rejected a man’s interest, he lashed out in really ugly mean ways that were just completely over the top when compared to my standard, “Hey I don’t think we are a match, good luck in your search” message. Really, I was like, “Dassit, I’m going to get me a few more auntie robes, maybe another small dog, a better bonnet and shut this dating situation down forever.”

But I’m still here.

Now what does this have to do with parenting? A lot actually.

Aside from this process clarifying what my own emotional wants and needs are in a potential partner; I center Hope in thinking about what is best for us. Now, I don’t know who Hope may bring home one day, but I can’t in good conscious make moves that don’t model a healthy dating life and hopefully a healthy relationship. My girl had too many years when she didn’t see these things, so I want to be sure that if she’s looking to me to show the way, I had better make good decisions.

I think even more critically about the types of people I want in my life. I think about what kinds of people, I definitely don’t want in my life. I think about how people talk to and with me; how they present themselves, how they talk about the children they have and the other parents of those children. I think about what they will say about Hope and our story if they ever get to hear it, and how much education on adoption I will have to do. I think about how they talk about women—not females which can be any species and is a term that annoys the heck out of me—but women. I think about how they talk about all kinds of women. I think about a lot of these things.

Most of the things I have considered show up in my profile as some non-negotiables.

And it’s amazing how pissy men who don’t meet any of the criteria are about me articulating my standards.

And I think about that as well. When I see a message, if I respond, I try to meet it with kindness. If I were to kick it and Hope opened my app and saw my responses, I would want her to know that I try to be kind and authentic. I want her to know that about me so that hopefully she will embrace that for herself.

Hope really wrestles with social anxiety; she can be delightfully awkward, but I know she is always looking for behavioral models. She’s trying. I want to always be that model for her.

So, even on a dating app that I hope she never has to deal with, I try to be authentic and think about What Hope Would Say or Do? #WWHSD

Centering her and the model I want to set for her, even with her away from college, has kept my terrible frog kissing to a minimum since I’m really trying to screen hard for the worthy prince.

the princess and the frog GIF

Via Giphy


Beyond the Mug Cakes

So, this is where we are with me at home and Hope off at college:

Yeah, so, I do in fact miss Hope, but not like when she went away to boarding school last year. I really was so sad after she left for the year. I fell into a bit of a depression and felt a little rudderless during the first couple of weeks.

I do not feel rudderless this go ‘round. I feel…different. Not sure I have a word for it yet. I miss Hope. We text every other day or so and talk on Sundays. She sounds happy, if a little anxious. She seems to be thriving socially. I do miss her, but, no I’m not crying over her departure. When folks ask me how I’m doing with my empty nest, and I reply “FINE!” they seem to be disappointed that I’m not falling to pieces.

One thing is the same as when I experienced my first empty nest last year: the fatigue. Active daily parenting is frigging exhausting and when your regular parenting involves a lot of anxiety and a major life change on the immediate horizon, it’s a wonder you can get up in the morning.

This past weekend I enjoyed the ridiculous luxury of taking 2-3 hour naps Saturday and Sunday. It was decadent, and with the break in the weather serving the smallest whiff of fall, this was prime napping weather. I was couch-drunk most of the weekend.

So, yeah, there’s that.

Now what?

Well, I’m back in the dating hunt, which is….challenging. Dating when you’re older feels different. Your priorities are different. You are forced to even see yourself differently. The rose-colored glasses come off pretty quickly. Trying to be intentional about getting out, meeting people and dating raises my insecurities about all kinds of things.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m a catch. I know I am, but for whom? Some standards have gone way up like I really want to be with someone with same or similar educational attainment and a solid career. But as we slide into the late forties, how I think about myself and others is morphing. I still see myself through youthful glasses, and then I see the pool of men and I think, “Oh, we are aging. I mean, we still look good (some more than others), but that glossy veneer has worn away.” It’s a sobering gut check.

But I’m still out here trying to foster a healthy and robust social life.

And then there’s my role in the adoption community. I mean, it hasn’t changed, but it kind of feels like it has. I’m pondering what things I will write about, how will express the feelings of watching Hope navigate this next chapter. I’m taking on some volunteer consulting around diversity and adoption agencies. I’m looking forward to that and hoping it might turn into some other opportunities since how people of color show up and engage in and around the adoption community is important to me.

I’m diving into work and feeling like there are new challenges and opportunities ahead with my career. I see a shift in my work on the horizon. I’ll be getting a new colleague soon, launching new studies, debuting some new research. I’m passionate about my career, so I’m excited, but I’m also…already thinking about my exit strategy. I’m thinking about what my next chapter will be, when will I be able to retire and what will I need to do to make that happen. Even then, I’m eager to plan my retirement. I’m curious what and who I will be then. There have been a few evenings since Hope has been gone, when I just sat on the patio and dreamed about what that chapter might look like. With Hope in college, it seems like I can think about it for the first time in a long time.

And Hope…I do worry, maybe worry isn’t quite the right word. I’m concerned. It’s not eating at me yet, but it’s rambling around in the back of my head.

Is she overwhelmed?

Does she feel ready?

Is she ready?

A recent chat with AbsurdlyHotTherapist suggests that she’s really internalized the anxiety about being in college. She’s saying she’s fine to me, but being a bit of a pill in therapy.

How long is that sustainable?

And what plans should I put in place to guard against a meltdown or pick her up after one?

What would life be like if she isn’t successful on that path? As resilient as she is, would she recover from that?

Would I?

So, yeah, I’m concerned now that classes will officially start in 4 days. I’m going deep into the prayer closet this weekend.

I’m holding it all together and trying to map my next moves with and without Hope. I’m trying to be judicious with the mug cakes and get more exercise to compensate for this evening delight I’m currently digging.

But all in all, I’m good.


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