Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Hope and Worry

I’ve been parenting for about 1,140 days. I am a babe in the woods. I have triumphed, and I have fallen down repeatedly.

Lately, I question everything I’ve learned these couple of years, and I’m scared.

I love my daughter, Hope. I have done my very best to help her heal, to help her grow, to help her catch up. I have tried to protect her from the world that has been brutal towards her. I’ve tried to protect her from herself when she has been unkind. I have prayed for and with her; I’ve wished for her. I’ve poured myself into her healing.

And for all the improvement we’ve made together, it’s still only 1,140 days, and I feel like we are in a bit of a free fall right now. It feels like I can never do enough. As a natural fixer, I am feeling woefully inadequate right now.

Something is wrong, very wrong. I know that Hope is struggling more than usual. I started paying close attention to moods, to behavioral patterns, to details that I had let go of a while ago. There are so many clues that something is wrong. I’ve seen them; I’ve started ramping all the support systems up again. I reached out to the therapists. I’ve scheduled appointments. I’ve been steeling myself to get back to the state of hypervigilance I used to maintain. But, I’m feeling my age now, remembering how exhausting the constant need for awareness can be. I’m wondering can I really maintain that level of being for an extended period of time, now. I’m also wondering what happens if I can’t.

I’m also wrestling with my own guilt. How and why did I get lax? Was I really lax? How come I didn’t know we had started spiraling? Why didn’t I just maintain everything? How did I let it get like this? Is this even something I can fix? How hard will this get before it gets better?

Is this free fall my fault?

I know intellectually that it’s not my fault but that fact really doesn’t matter, does it?

I see my daughter struggling. It seems she’s struggling with everything right now. School is hard. Social stuff is hard. Home is probably hard too. Emotions are thick; memories are vivid and on some kind of repeating loop. There are constant stomach aches and nausea and headaches and stress induced rashes. There are binges. There are hard core study times that swing to complete immersion into escapist fantasies. There is exhaustion, that’s really depression that swings from days of insomnia to sleeping for 18 hours.

I see it, but I can’t fix it. I gather those long arms and legs up and occasionally cradle Hope. I try to cook her yummy food. I try to be home as much as I can. I try to give her space, but I also try to smother her with attention. I try to give her lots of opportunities to thrive and to experience as much or as little as possible. I am strict but not inflexible. I’m compassionate. I try to meet her where she is, but I also walk away sometimes wondering if I did the right thing.

I want to heal her. I want her to be able to shrug off the effects of her trauma so that we can deal with the social challenges of blackness and womanhood. The reality is that we rarely get to wrestle with those because we are stuck in the quicksand of trauma. Her trauma suffocates us both. I fight with myself trying to just be ok with her life performance and trying not to worry that every bad grade will prevent her from a bright future.

I’m constantly forcing myself to abandon everything I conceptualized and believed about success. Our success is different. I know that, but it’s hard to believe that conventionalism is completely inappropriate in helping Hope navigate. So many of my firmly held, deeply etched values about life are constantly challenged and it is discomforting, disorienting, and dismaying. My prayers lately have been distilled to, “Lord just let us get through this day with no drama.”

And I still feel like we’re failing.

So, right now, Hope is struggling, and I’m worried. I’m not panicked by I’m really worried about the future, and by future, I mean next week and the week after.

I’m leaning back into my strengths: looking for possible solutions, marshalling resources and leveraging connections. I have no idea what happens next—long term is now just next month. I do think my daughter knows I’m trying; I don’t know what she really thinks about my efforts, but I know she thinks I’m trying to help her. I’m hopeful that she will continue to see me as helpful, reliable and safe. I’m hopeful I can continue to be that for her.

Hope and worry are sitting side by side for me these days.


My Triggers

This morning, Hope and I snapped.

LGFacts

Ok, that’s not true. I snapped.

The morning routine is driving me up the wall. Hope is always running late. She’s rarely ready on time. She misses the bus often. I pack breakfast to- go in order to make sure that she has a solid breakfast. She’s always frazzled before she gets out of the door.

This means that I’m quietly frazzled before she gets out of the door.

It also means that we have zero meaningful conversation in the mornings. Usually I see her for about 90 seconds while she’s shoving her lunch bag in her backpack, grabbing breakfast and a filled water bottle that I’ve prepped. I screech to remind her to take her meds because despite them being *right there* in front of her she manages not to see them. *RIGHT THERE*

My mornings don’t start off being so frazzled. I rise around 5am to exercise and walk Yappy. This morning we walked for 2 miles. I feed him and start prepping breakfasts, coffee, making lunches. I shower and dress, do hair and make-up and resume my work in the kitchen. My own anxiety doesn’t kick in until about 7am, when I start mentally wondering if Hope will make the bus or not for another day.

Over the course of 30 minutes I get more anxious and probably a bit irritable.

By the time Hope comes out, I’m in my own quiet, anxiety spiral.

And today it came out, but what I really wanted to say was left unsaid as we exchanged barbs that continued via text message after she left for the bus.

This morning routine is not what I want. It’s not what it used to be, which is what I grew up with and what I had tenderly fostered for the last couple of years with Hope.

I grew up having breakfast with my family. We watched the news together. We prayed together. We talked about our agendas for the day and what time we would be home. We talked about our after school activities and about upcoming games. We also gossiped about my classmates.

We spent time together.

Since I forced Hope to use her alarm clock and get herself together in the morning, she doesn’t sit down for breakfast with me.

I want her to sit down for breakfast with me. I actually kinda need it. But it’s still new to her, and it’s not something motivating enough for her to hustle to make time for in the busy morning routine.

For the last couple of months, my subconscious has read that as, “She does not find you important enough to spend 10 minutes having breakfast with you.”

That gets extrapolated to: “She does not appreciate how hard you work to make it all happen everyday.”

That gets blown up to: “She is selfish and lazy.”

That goes next level with: “She clearly doesn’t love me, and we might have attachment issues.”

Which climaxes with: “Fine!!!! I don’t like you either! You spoiled, ingrate!!”

LGAngry

And the anti-climax? “Why doesn’t she love me and want to have breakfast with me?”

Meanwhile Hope is like, “I can sleep until 6:30am and be ready 60-65% of the time, and I have a back up bus pass to catch the public bus. I’m good.”

giphy (4)

I now see that. I see the difference in our thinking. I now see that not having breakfast and having those moments to check in with Hope is a trigger for me. It’s not a trigger for her because she gets to prove that she is independent—something I’ve been encouraging for a long time.

Could it actually be that I miss her in the morning? Sigh.

I’m not sure why it’s hard for me to say, “Hey, having breakfast together is important to me. I want to have this time to check in with you in the morning. I’m feeling a little attention starved without a few quality minutes in the morning. I’m willing to limit my expectations to 2-3 days a week. Do you think you could do that for me?” But I know that I haven’t been able to do that. That is a new stretch goal.

Asking someone who seems to have little capacity for themselves to expend some capacity for you is hard. It’s so hard. But I know if I’m not honest with her then I’ll keep feeling this resentment that isn’t fair to my daughter or to me.

I have my own triggers, and those triggers have to do with wanting to spend time with my daughter.  Who knew, especially since she can be a special pill at the moment?

I just want us to have smooth, anxiety free mornings having breakfast with my daughter. Is that so hard to ask for?

Kind of.


Thoughts on Being Average

I hang out in a number of online spaces looking, listening and learning. I’ve tried to capture so much of what I’ve learned on my parenting journey in this space. I’ve tried to be transparent about the things I’ve done well and the things I’ve failed at miserably. Sometimes, I really sit and think about how naïve I was when I first started. I had read a few books and read a few blogs, but boy was I green.

I also remember people asking me was I ready to be a parent, as though choosing to adopt assumed greater preparation than having a biological child. I often responded, “Hell no, of course I have no idea what I’m getting into.” I mean, I took the PRIDE classes. I went to pre-adoptive support groups and listened to parents talk about their journeys. But, let’s be serious…are you ever really ready to be a parent?

I’ve learned a lot about therapeutic parenting and connected parenting and racially conscious parenting (the only one of which seemed intuitive to me). I’ve learned about adoptee voices. I’ve learned about other adoptive parents. I’ve sucked up a lot of info, and I’ve constructed a weird calculus to value each of the voices and info dependent on the situation.

And you know what? I’m still just an average bumbling parent. No better and no worse than any other average bumbling parent.

But it seems that the glare of observation and expectation seems so much brighter on adoptive parents. I don’t mean to pull out a mini-violin and whine or anything, but the parenting pedestals seem so much higher and the ravines we get dragged through seem so much lower. On one end of the spectrum, folks tell me I’m so awesome for *saving* Hope, insinuating that Hope should be grateful for our adoption. On the other end of the spectrum, the few vocal adoptees who mistake rudeness and toxicity with “reality” see and point out every parenting flaw I make and drive me into silence for fear of revealing just how average, or below average my parenting might be. There is no grace on either end.

There hardly ever seems to be a middle ground, despite the reality that Hope and I are getting closer to whatever normal is every day.

I work very hard to be a good parent to Hope, and most days I feel like I am doing just ok. My end game has been if I am able to do more than simply keep her alive and as functional as she was when she came to me then that would be a version of success. Of course, I hope for so much more than that, but parenting is absurdly hard. If it would make parenting easier, I would probably do a few more dissertations, and that was no walk in the park either.

I recently read a blog by an adoptee who wrote a pretty extensive list of things she wished her adoptive parents had done before choosing adoption. I felt really convicted because there seemed to be so little on that list that I had done; I just didn’t know. I was ignorant. And while I often don’t cut folks slack for their ignorance, I’m not sure how I could’ve ever known then what I know now. Even if I did know all that I know now back then, I’m not sure I would have applied it in the way my daughter would have appreciated.

Parenting is an evolutionary activity. We grow through it. We learn; we try to get it right. We often fall short. But my God, we try.

I remember in my early 20s rambling off a lengthy list of my parents flaws and foibles. Oh, they were true, and they probably served as barriers to their parenting perfection, a perfection that was and is elusive on a good day. I know better now. I see them as not just my parents but as people who, remarkably, had lives outside of me and my siblings. They did their best, and that was more than ok. They were and are amazing parents. I know that without any doubt; I see it so clearly.

I try to emulate them with a therapeutic spin. I try my best, and I hope that it is more than ok.

On the outside, adoption is rainbows and sparkles. On the inside, it can be very dark and tumultuous. Folks rarely gets to see what happens behind closed doors where everyone is fighting for survival. I do my best to fight with my daughter instead of against her. I fight for her. I try to apply every lesson I learn. I replay every family squabble to assess how I could handle it better. I try to provide every possible resource that I can access and afford. I problem solve as much as I can. I try my very best to be a good parent to Hope.

And if I’m lucky, I’m average. That’s real, and that’s ok.

So, whatever kind of parents we are, I hope that we can practice more grace with one another. I hope that Hope sees me as I am one day. I imagine that she will find that my parenting fell far short of what was needed or desired, but I also hope that as she continues to grow and evolve that she will know that I did my best not make things harder than they already were for her. I hope that as she lists the things I missed or failed that she will also see the things that I manage to get some kinda close to right. I hope that she will see me through lenses blessed with a bit of rosy grace. That would be nice.

If she doesn’t see me that way, it’s ok. It really is.

Average isn’t so bad.


Things I Have Learned During the K-Pop Phase

We are heading into roughly the sixth month of Hope’s K-pop phase. This phase was preceded by the EDM phase. I thought that phase was challenging. It was electronic music all the time.

That phase didn’t feel that much removed from my interests though. I am a house music fan, so there was some overlap in our musical tastes. We occasionally shared songs; we rocked out at a EDM music festival.

I learned just how music affected Hope. I learned that she heard notes that I just couldn’t hear. I learned how she could thread beat influences through artists and songs like a seamstress. I really did marvel at how she interpreted the songs and how she put her playlists together.

In retrospect, the EDM phase was a good phase.

And then 10th grade started and kicked off the K-pop phase.

Hope fell hard for the boy bands. She didn’t particularly care for the girl groups.

I wasn’t as attuned to ADHD behaviors during the EDM phase, but now I see how easily she can go down a rabbit hole chasing new songs, information about the groups, e-stalking the group members. Some of this is typical teen behavior, but with Hope and the ADHD it’s always on overdrive. And because the K-pop scene has a whole culture thing to it—the group members live together, work together, get storylines on soap operas, spin off into solo careers—Hope’s propensity to get caught up in the minutia of it all is incredibly powerful.

Hope knows that I found this K-pop phase interesting for the first month. I was intrigued by the obvious American and Afro-Caribbean influences in the music. I thought her desire to learn Koren was really cool. Ok, we’re going to watch a K-drama? Cool.

The K-drama has 16 episodes and I just realized 10 minutes into the first episode that this is a Korean interpretation of Cyrano?

Record scratch—I’m out.

February is 7th month of this phase for Hope and I am trying to be supportive, but I was over this phase about 5 months ago. But this phase has shown me some things about myself.

I’ve learned that I have a reservoir of patience that I didn’t use to have.  I knew that I was more patient because: parenting. But I really had no idea how patient I have become. After 7 months the only good things I can say here is that Hope is learning a new language on her own and thinks that a career as an interpreter could be on the horizon—in Korea.  For a kid that thought she had limited options 3 years ago, I’m down with this line of thinking.  I loathe K-pop, K-dramas.

I’ve learned that living by the adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is one way of coasting through conversations about ish I can’t stand.  93% of our conversations are about K-something. It really is just about all she can talk about. When the conversation starts, I take a deep breath, a slow blink and just keep my mouth shut. You want to know why?

Because I don’t want to do anything to make her stop talking to me.

I might loathe K-pop, but I love Hope, so I just keep quiet, let her talk. I typically zone out a bit and drop back into the conversation every 30 seconds or so. She will regale me with the entire synopsis of a K-drama; she knows I hate it, but she wants to talk to me and she knows I’ll listen (kinda).

I’ve learned that Hope still has a lot to learn about money and responsibility. It’s February 6th and all the Christmas money is gone. She’s $20 in the hole to me and she hasn’t paid her phone bill which means she’s really $40 in the hole to me. Why? Because she had to buy K-stuff. This is also normal behavior for a kid her age, but something she definitely needs more time to learn about.

I’ve learned that K-pop may have made her more isolated. Hope can spend hours watching music videos and soap operas online. HOURS. She has access to the Chromebook to do homework and then after homework is done she can spend an hour or two as she likes. She has dove into this world, and while she has a couple of friends who also enjoy it, her obsession has actually resulted in less external communication than more. I believe that she dives into these phases initially allying herself with the people in her real life, but she just takes it so far that they get left behind. I blocked her online access for two days this weekend and made her emerge from the depths. I’m going to have to do this more often.

I’ve learned that as much as I can stretch and learn new things, I’m getting to the stage in life where I want my own box. I’m good and grown. I know who I am. I’ve accomplished some stuff, done some stuff, been some stuff. Hope has brought something amazing to my life: new stuff. I like a lot of the new stuff, but if I’m honest and keeping it all the way real, I like my stuff better. I just want my stuff. I want to curl up on my couch with my stuff and just be. Like if I could get one cable channel that just played Law and Order episodes (from all of the different kinds of L&O) all day, life would be 15 steps closer to my version of perfect. That’s my kind of stuff.  K-pop is not my kind of stuff. All that dancing and bopping around and reading subtitles on a soap opera? Not my stuff.  I mean if it was a Korean movie where I was making a 90-minute commitment, I’m in but a 16 episode show at this time in my life is just the most. I am a middle-aged woman and the cement around being set in my ways is quickly hardening. In short: I don’t wanna do new teenagy stuff; I need her to get some friends so I can get back to my Law and Order with my blankie and my dog.

I’ve learned that I’m super curious what Hope was like as a little girl. Seeing her now, as she develops these hopes and dreams about her future, I find myself pondering what did she dream about when she was little. Were the dreams temporally focused? Did she dream about life changing for her and her family right then? Did she dream about a future and what did that look like? I see how different things are from just three years ago; I wonder if there was ever a kernel of big dreams like being an interpreter in there long ago. There’s so much that I don’t know. I haven’t yet mustered the courage to ask Hope what she dreamed about when she was little; I don’t know what such a question might trigger.

I’m trying to see the stages as opportunities to learn about myself. Why do I react the way that I do? How do my reactions change from phase to phase? I’m hopeful that my stamina and patience continues to grow. Despite the annoyances, I am hopeful that it’s helping me be a better mom.

 


Alarm Clocks & Drivers Ed

So, I decided that 2017 would really be about fostering improved executive function. Hope told me she wants to be more independent; I told her that she had to take on some basic responsibilities to that end.

One of the things I resolved is that I would stop waking her up for school in the morning. I like to go to work out in the morning and having to wake her up in the am kind of cramps my workout routine since I have to be back to wake her up. I figured if she could get herself up, then I could do my full workout. We would both be #winning.

Now I know that most parents seem to have to wake their teenagers up for school. I get that apparently is a thing. I hear that it’s “normal.” But, I also realize that this is one way that Hope can practice self-care when a backup is around. If she’s not up by a certain time, I’ll wake her up, but this is one way for her to plan and execute in a safe space.

So anyway, I bought a really cool alarm clock for Hope for Christmas. She was jazzed. I was jazzed.

LET’S DO THIS!!!!

Week 1: My girl was on IT! We both marveled and how ‘easy’ it was. It was so easy. She felt so great about herself. I gave lots of positive reinforcement, high fives and extra goodies in her lunch.

Week 2: Like most new year’s resolutions by week 2, we hit some snags. In the evenings I prompted my daughter to check her alarm clock to create the habit of making sure that it was ready to do its job in the morning. I mean, the clock has ONE dang job! Let’s make sure we set the clock up for success, especially since Hope’s success was tied to the clock’s success, right?

Yeah, the suggestion did not go over well with my wanna-be independent daughter.

I backed off.

Oh, did I mention that if Hope missed the bus this year, she has to take the public bus to school?

Please note that temps here earlier this week were in the teens with wind chills dipping into the single digits.

Oh, and that being late to school is an unexcused tardy, and you don’t get to make up any missed work?

Yeah, that.

So, Monday she had to take the public bus to school—she managed to get to school 3 hours late—I don’t even know and I didn’t even ask.

It is my circus, but that wasn’t my part of the show.

Yesterday we overcorrected such that we got the rare opportunity to have breakfast together. It was actually delightful.

Today, I finally woke her up a half hour before the bus came and reminded her that the alternative to missing the bus is the public bus.

I discovered my daughter has superhero powers that allow her to get ready in 30 minutes.

She made it.

I marveled. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her move that fast.

The public bus is great unless you are used to riding in a nice car with heated seats.

We’ll get there.

This is all about building up for eventually driving said car with butt warmers.

Ok, so the idea of Hope driving creates all kinds of mixed emotions for me. To be honest, it’s exciting to see her preparing to take drivers education, and I know that it will be a huge accomplishment for her. It will be an age appropriate hoop to jump through, and it’s so exciting.

But then, I think about our challenges…Oy. I don’t think I trust her behind the wheel of my car. I fret about her level of maturity, her decision-making skills. I think about some of the basic executive function skills that we’re trying to develop and how that ties to driving. There’s a lot going on here.

Hope and I recently attended the mandatory parent/student safe driving program. Hope and I had a good chat afterward. I asked her how she felt about driving, what did she look forward to, what scared or worried her about driving. I shared my concerns about maturity and responsibility. We talked timelines and negotiated a timeline for earning her license that worked for us.

This is such an important time in her life. These teen years can be brutal and in a number of ways Hope is just a little girl in a teenager’s body. It’s like she’s always trying to catch up, much less keep up. I wish I could make it easier for her, but we’ll just have to muddle through.

I’d like to think that six months from now the alarm clock shenanigans will be a thing of the past and I’ll be taking Hope to the biggest empty vacant abandoned parking lot I can find in the local area to practice driving.

We’ll see.

I’m hopeful. I’ve seen so much growth in her when I really sit down to think about it. It will be fine.

I’m still worried about my car.

I mean like seriously worried about my car.


We are Successful

When Hope’s English grade bottomed out a few weeks ago, I found myself having to really make some hard decisions about what my next chess move would be.

For the last year, I’ve been just focused on giving everything I could to help Hope with her school struggles.

Testing.

Tutoring.

Accommodations.

Constant contact with teachers.

Meetings with social workers and counselors.

Observing classes.

Medication management.

If I could think of it and afford it I threw it at the wall and assessed whether it could and would stick. I tried just about everything.

The day I got her progress report I nearly cried because none of it seemed to help. I felt like I failed; she felt like she failed. We both felt like isht.

So, here’s what I chose to do:

I laid down my king on this chess board.

I dumped the tutor for the rest of this semester. I backed off talking about it. I vowed to myself to stop emailing the teachers and counselors for the next few weeks.

I chilled out, and focused on just loving Hope.

And, she loved me back.

It’s funny, whenever I focus on attachment above everything else, Hope thrives. You’d think I’d simply maintain that focus. The reality is that with so many issues to juggle, sometimes I end up just going through the motions with the attachment thing.

I feed her, tidy up, make sure the laundry is done, make sure all basic needs are met. I go to the multiple band events, the multiple medical and dental appointments. I’m meeting with the teachers and the music coaches. And that’s just Hope’s stuff.

Sure we are affectionate. I tell her I love her every day. I try to hug her every day.

But it just is hard to focus on attachment in the middle of the whirlwind that never seems to end..

But the last two or three weeks, I did. I focused on doing things that mommies do: I fixed her hot breakfasts (that were portable); I packed her yummy lunches. I meal planned and made sure we ate dinner together every night. I asked about life. I hugged her. I teased her with my secret pet name for her that she loves but pretends to hate. I watched Korean dramas and music videos. I listened to her teen girl problems. I offered no criticism; just positive direction and reinforcement.

Did it work?

Well, yesterday, we went shopping, and it was everything I thought it would be. We were a mother-daughter duo who had fun, giggled, went way over budget and went for a diet busting bite before the long drive home. She randomly hugged me. When a booth vendor accused Hope of scratching a patent leather purse I mama-bear growled at him ferociously to my daughter’s quiet delight.

We felt loved, both of us. Yesterday will be one of my great mommy memories.

We talked about school. I learned to keep my pie-hole shut. I know she wants to be successful, and that she wants do see if she can do it her way. I want to give her the space to try.

And if backing off means I might get more days like yesterday, well, heck, I might never call the school again.

Hahahahah.

Of course, I’m going to call the school again, but more judiciously. I want her to be successful, and if her way works, then how wonderful would that be.

That English grade hasn’t gone up one point yet. But all the other grades have gone up; so there’s that.

I love this kid so madly, sometimes my heart hurts.

I will continue to focus on attachment. I will also focus on redefining success…and acknowledging that most days, we actually are successful.


Prioritizing Attachment

School sucks.

I was briefly so excited about the start of school.  School keeps us regulated. It provides Hope with some social engagement. It makes us (me) feel productive.

But the reality is that it all just sucks.

School is hard for Hope. Like really hard. Like really, really hard.

She’s smart, but she’s got some limitations and despite wishing really, really hard, she’s not going to be a valedictorian. She’s an average kid.

I don’t do average. My issue, not hers.

I’m an overachiever. My sisters and I pride ourselves in doing and being better than 100%.

This overachiever/perfectionist thing is a problem, but that’s a whole other issue.

So, realizing that getting Hope on honor is like me scaling Mt. Rushmore has been hard to accept for me. Heck getting her to do reasonably well in each of her classes consistently is like me roller blading in spandex pants with just a bra top on the beach. I mean, it can happen, but it won’t be pretty and I’d probably end up with a couple of broken bones.

I’ve hired tutors and sent Hope to a commercial learning center.  I regularly visit the school counselors. I check in with her teachers. I schedule visits with her docs to make sure that medications are managed. I pay for private testing so that we don’t have to wait months and months for data that will inform educational decisions. I have nagged, I have begged and pleaded to get homework done. Hell, I’ve even written a 9th grade essay just to get us across a finish line (this is particularly painful as I was my university’s honor code chair in undergrad. Look what parenting does to you!!!) #hangsheadinshame

I have done everything I can think of, and I’m exhausted. And so is Hope.

And you know what?

Hope’s grades haven’t budged upward.

Not at all, not even a little.

If anything, things are harder than ever.

And I’ve fallen into a really negative rut as I try to pull her through assignment to assignment, quarter to quarter, semester to semester.

About two weeks ago, I found myself pondering what must she feel like in the midst of all my interventions.

I see and feel the resistance and the resentment.

I wonder if Hope thinks she’s disappointed me. I wonder if all this effort to ‘help’ her has hurt her. I wonder if I’ve undermined my efforts to build her up. I wonder if I’m just another parent in a long line of parents who have tried to ‘fix” her.

I then starting running over the last few months and really evaluating the state of our mother daughter bond.

It’s ok; I mean, there’s always room for improvement.

Thank I wondered how all my academic efforts might have hindered our attachment. I mean, if I was Hope I might pull back from all the criticism and all the effort to make me perform something that is so hard for me for any number of reasons.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve made a decision.

After the next holiday break; I’m stopping the tutoring and learning centers. I’m going to still touch base with the counselors and teachers. I’m going to encourage her to breathe and know that she’s not defined by this academic thing. If she needs more time, then she’ll get more time. If she needs more coaching then she will absolutely have it.

I’m going back to prioritizing our relationship over her academic performance. It’s simply more important. She can take more time academically; but we can’t get this time back.

It’s just more important.

I love her, and while I want the best for her and I want her to benefit from all of the things I can give her, I think she really needs love, attention and encouragement.

We’ll come back to the schooling thing in time, but for now, she needs to know I love her just as she is.

She’s perfect.


Lessons Learned-Week 46 of 2016

I did things differently this week and learned some things.

After an early week conversation about getting frozen and just letting things go, I manage to keep my pie hole shut about school work…even when I got Hope’s report card and her grades from the last week.

I managed not to go mad with both Hope and Elihu were late to Hope’s band banquet.

I am capable of going to the gym 5 days out of 7 for a 30-minute workout.

I am capable of hitting my Fitbit goals consistently.

I am capable of meal planning and not eating out all week, and I’m capable of finding recipes that Hope says are the “greatest.” She went so far as to say that she remembered at one foster home where she ate the same thing every week and that she was happy she now had such good food to eat.

I am capable of separating my own issues with food in order to try and create meals that we both love with no guilt.

Those cake in a cup recipes are friggin’ awesome and now knowing that I can have something decadent and yummy in 5 minutes or less reduces my need to have something frequently. #nodeprivation

Turning off screens an hour before bed does really help your quality of sleep.

Listening to a short, guided sleep meditation before going to bed also helps you fall asleep more quickly.

The electronic pressure cooker is the best modern invention ever. I knew this before this week, but seriously, it bears repeating.

Maybe I’m turning a corner just in time for the holidays.


The Height of Frustration

I procrastinate.

In fact, I am procrastinating right now.

There are meal plans to execute, and I am sitting on the couch. I would rather write and emotionally work through my latest kerfuffle with Hope (which happens to be ongoing on text at the moment), than fix the marinate for those chicken thighs that have been defrosting this afternoon.

I procrastinate.

Hope? Hope does not procrastinate.

After some google searches ala “why does my child take 5 hours to accomplish three tasks that should take no more than 3 hours max?” I turned up on the term time blindness.

Apparently time blindness is when you think you can manage time, but you totally, totally can’t. Not only can you not manage time, it’s almost like clocks don’t work for you at all. You need stimuli to remind you want you need to do next.

You think you’re just going to spend 15 minutes on this task, but somehow 2 hours have gone by while you went down a KPop YouTube rabbit hole.

Just going to run in an change clothes really quick? And 4 hours later…

It’s not that it happens once in a blue moon; it’s that it happens all the time. It’s persistent.

IT’S ALSO DRIVING ME BATTY.

It is beyond frustrating. It is hard to get anything done in this house when it takes Hope 30 minutes to make her bed.

I’m constantly working with her to actually care about time. I am also feeling backed into a corner with being really restrictive and limiting stimuli to help her stay focused.

Naturally restrictions don’t go over well; and with a side of melodrama you would think I don’t let her do anything.

This leaves me feeling icky. I know she’s got a lot going on in that brain of hers. There are big emotions, dark thoughts, and tangled neurons.

I also know that all of that puts her at greater risk for so many things that could further devastate her.

I often wonder if I’m just piling on to the myriad of drama we experience.

I am constantly researching interventions. I’ve got a couple that are core to my being able to survive this. Hope buys into none of the interventions. And it’s beginning to dawn on me that the consequences don’t mean much to her. I mean, yes she will suffer, but when her depression and anxiety are already high and her self-esteem is already low, then what really does she have to lose but to actually embody all of the bad things she thinks about herself?

So what exactly am I doing and is there a way out of this?

I’ve come to accept that straight A’s aren’t in our future and that my beloved daughter needs some additional support. The goal is getting her to a place where she can launch into a future life that will be good for her and to her…a life where she can be self-sufficient and live the life she wants to live.

I want that for her.

But if I’m being totally honest, I want that for me.

There is a lot of emotion for me around whether and when Hope will launch into a self-sufficient adult.  I know it won’t be after high school. I know that it may or may not be right after college…if she goes to college. With every life skill that is missing or developing or is behind in develop, my own anxiety ratchets up.

I’m ashamed that this sounds like I just can’t wait for her to be off into the world. It’s so much more complicated than that. I know that I still want more for my daughter than she wants for herself and after these years together, I still have trouble wrapping my head around that. The regressions are exhausting and I wish they would end, but I know they won’t anytime soon.

I also worry about how all of my worry and fretfulness affects our relationship. I can’t say I feel like we’re in the best place right now. I can’t say that she feels like I’m the safest person in her life right now. I mean, she knows I’m ride or die on the “big stuff” but this is really just daily life stuff. I can’t say I’m the most patient or empathetic. I can’t say I’m doing any of this right to meet her most urgent needs.

I’m also starting to realize that her most urgent need is simply to lay off and just be with her…to just catch her when she stumbles instead of trying so desperately to remove all of the barriers. I think she just wants me to love her, and this feels like conditional love, like all I’m trying to do is fix a broken daughter. And that breaks my heart.

I want her to be successful, but I haven’t given a lot of thought about what Hope’s definition of success is. Maybe for now…this is it. Just getting up everyday, going to school, trying, coming home, having dinner, petting the dog and mustering the energy to do it tomorrow.

If this is true, then a lot of my frustration is of my own making. I mean, don’t get me wrong, that 5 hours ish is still frustrating as hell, but it’s just symptomatic of much larger emotional sludge we’re covered in. So maybe the appropriate response is to just love on her and step away from the interventions and just let nature happen, whatever happens, just let her be loved. Our respective levels of frustrations need a break—surely my cortisol levels have made me have more than one food baby.

Maybe I’ll just go back to love as being the only intervention. I mean, things can get worse, but maybe this way we can at least be more secure as a mom/daughter unit if things do get worse. I’m tired of being frustrated. I’m ready to take a break.


Coping to Survive

We’ve had to make some drastic changes around Casa d’ABM recently in hopes of getting Hope back on track with a few things. It’s tough and painful, and it feels like all I do is pick on her and focus on the bad stuff.

But it’s not all bad stuff. I’m focusing on breaking bad habits and building skills that she desperately needs.

But I’m sure that for her, it feels like I’m picking on her.

Sigh…so in some ways, it’s kind of a short-term, no-win situation.

Damned if I help; damned if I don’t.

So…I’m back to throwing a bunch of interventions up in the air and trying to figure out which one fits, makes sense for us, and has the best chance at effectiveness.

Hope’s general outward response?

giphy1

My response to her response?

giphy1

Our joint response feels like it’s playing out like this:

dancing

Yeah, it’s like that.

We recently had an interesting chat. Hope was sharing her frustrations about coping with a bunch of stuff.

I asked her to give me some examples.

She did.

I made some suggestions.

She rebuffed them and doubled down on how her approaches were foolproof.

I noted that clearly they weren’t, otherwise this would be a moot conversation.

“Oh yeah, right.”

So, I probed how and when she developed her ways of coping. I asked her to explain to me why they had historically worked for her.

My heart hurt. Most of her coping strategies involved swallowing her emotions, withdrawing, learning to be ok just being sad because that was apparently her lot in life. I interpreted so much of the coping to be a sad acceptance of tragedy, the desire to limit her emotional trauma by just not being emotionally involved at all, and straight up denial.

How does that work for anyone??? How can you live like that?

And then it dawned on me.

These coping strategies are right on target if your goal is to survive your situation. If your goal is to just get to the next day relatively unscathed, without much physical or emotional hurt, then if you just fold into yourself, you can survive.

But what if your life doesn’t call for those specific skills anymore? Are those skills transferable in a more stable life? If all of your basic Maslow’s needs are met, and theoretically you can focus on some of those more abstract life goals, do those survival skills still serve you well?

Spoiler alert: They don’t work. You need a different set of life skills if you are moving from dysfunction to function.

I began to understand my daughter’s frustrations. She was using the tools she had developed and refined for years to survive in an environment where they didn’t really help her.

Just imagine that you are a whiz with a power drill; I mean, amazing! And then you are asked to go do a car repair…with just your drill. Let me know how that works for you.

Without being critical, I began to try to explain to Hope that she was going to have to try something new, and that I knew that was weird and scary, but her old bag of tricks wasn’t going to serve her optimally in this chapter of her life. In fact, her survival skills were becoming a hindrance.

She didn’t buy it. It’s ok, it will take some time.

Our kids, they are brilliant in their resilience, but their transition to normalcy is so hard for them to wrap their brains around. It requires them to trust, and that’s something they don’t really do. Hope tells me that she trusts herself, and that’s about it.

She does trust me, but there are some hard limits, and I know where those limits are and I try to earn my way beyond them.

It’s not easy though. I’m fighting years and years of her expertise in living her life in a way that she gets to see tomorrow. In nearly 44 years; I’ve never had to work that hard. Not on my worst day have I had to work that hard to survive. I can’t imagine that much change in her world view after only 3 years; that expectation is not appropriate.

She’s changed some. Her expectations of me increase, and with them her belief that I’ll deliver and ability to meet those expectations increases. But it is very slow, very incremental change.

As our Year of the Try comes to a close, I’m pondering next year’s family theme. I’m thinking the development of life skills is probably something we might give some focus in 2017.


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