Category Archives: Parenting

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.


Stargazing

Hope has been having body issues lately. As if we needed more drama…but at least teen girl body issues is ‘normal’ right?

Right.

I’ve been cooking more. I pack Hope’s lunch daily. Hope supplements everything with junk food. This is also apparently normal for a lot of teens, but we cross over into snack binging when Hope is stressed, which is like, all the time.

After a long chat with AbsurdlyHotTherapist, I decided to phase out most of the snacks in the house and replace them with healthier options. Happily, this means I’m getting closer to my pre-Hope dietary regimen. I never used to have this crap in the house. I grew up thinking Crispix was a sugar cereal! #IDigress The house will soon be stocked with more fruits and veggies. Sure we’ll keep the granola bars, the hummus and pretzels, but the fruit snacks that she binges on are out of here as are the chips.

Hope put on a few pounds last year. She’s tall and the extra pounds fill her out; she looks good. She more or less agrees that she likes her body, but she is concerned about gaining more weight.

The relationship between weight gain, food and exercise are all lost on her.

I exercise regularly, nearly daily. I often invite Hope to join me. It always seems like a good idea to her at first, until she actually has to physically get up to join me.

A couple of weeks ago, I dragged her on a 3 mile walk with me. She dragged her feet, but eventually stopped complaining. It was clear that she enjoyed spending time with me. That night she fell asleep early; she was knocked out.

So, yesterday, on my way home from the office, I called Hope to inform her we were going for a walk when I got home.

She groaned. I told her it was not a request; she was going to walk with me.

I got home, changed and told her, “Let’s go.”

She groaned and put on her jacket. We hit the street and asked about each other’s day.

She told me about a sick friend. We talked about how I was phasing out some of the household snacks. She asked about nutrition. We talked about her problems in geometry and chemistry. She told me that she actually does a lot of reading about Korean culture besides the K-pop scene. I learned her hands really don’t warm up with exercise like mine do. We talked about the weather and pondered why it was so chilly when it was so warm at the beginning of the week. We talked about our hair and nails, and how I keep buying nail polish with the hopes of having time to sit down and paint my nails but never getting around to it.

We talked about her band assessment this week. Her reed cracked during class this week, and she needed to make sure her new reeds were ready before the next performance. We talked about test anxiety and what that looks like and how we might have a little problem with it. We discussed going to the St. Patrick’s day parade this weekend and the need to pick up her glasses at Costco. I asked her if she had any special requests for dinner next week so that I could make the weekend shopping list.

As we were walking back, we talked about how the skyline looked. She pointed out what appeared to be the North Star. She asked about Halley’s Comet, and I told her about how I saw it when I was a young girl so she should see it in her lifetime, when she’s about 60. If I’m lucky, I might get to be around for it a second time too. We stopped walking to look at the sky so we could confirm if it was really the North Star.

It was dark, but just before 7pm. Rush hour was happening in the sky; planes were coming in for landing at the airport a few miles away. We perched on the side of the bridge we were on to count all the planes. I explained why some were low but flying in circles; they were waiting their turn to land. A few planes were taking off. A military helicopter flew by in the direction of the nearby base. We looked up and saw the planes that were maintaining their elevation; they were clearly headed north of the DC area.  We picked out the big and little dippers and a few other constellations. Hope clapped excitedly that she was able to pick out the constellations.  We noticed a few stars that appeared to be more yellow and a few that appeared more red.

Hope’s hands were very cold, her only complaint, so we started walking again. She asked if we could have cocoa, I said of course.

We walked and talked.

As we got close to the door of our building, I told her that I really enjoyed catching up and looking at the stars with her.

Hope replied, “Me too.”

We’ll be walking in the evenings more often.


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.


Sport Parenting

As a parent, I’ve learned a lot, but one of the many things with which I still struggle is the parent vs. parent struggle.

It’s the comparison game.

It’s funny because I thought I had a hard time responding to stuff like, “How’s your daughter doing in school?  “Joe” was honor roll last quarter!”

I did, I mean, I do still have a hard time responding to this kind of inquiry.

But that’s not it. I feel like what I’m struggling with is at the other end of the continuum.

I feel like I’m competing against other parents who are parenting children who have experienced trauma.

The good news is that I’m losing, or winning, depending on how you measure things.

I checked in with a number of adoptive parent friends recently and other parents online who are parenting children like Hope.

They’re struggles seem so much worse than mine.

Hope doesn’t have the same kind of tantrums.

She doesn’t really rage.

She doesn’t really lie much.

She doesn’t sneak out.

She doesn’t act out physically.

She’s got emotional issues, but they don’t trigger some of the dramatic behaviors I’ve heard about.

Comparatively speaking, I come away from some of these interactions thinking, what exactly is it that’s hard about raising Hope? I mean, why do I get upset? Hope is not doing any of those things.

Maybe I’m making mountains out of molehills.

I find myself minimizing the things Hope and I do struggle with.

So many kids have ADHD!

All teenagers pushback and go through phases where they don’t do what they are told.

Some kids are just so immature for their ages.

I began to think that in the game of therapeutic parenting I’m totally disqualified because we haven’t got the same problems as other parents. How dare I think our problems are comparable to other parents who are struggling to parent kids with profound grief and trauma!

Gosh this is silly, right?

Of course, sometimes I torture myself by thinking I’m lucky that Hope doesn’t act out the way other kids do. How great is it that we haven’t had to go through some of that stuff! Then I feel guilty because it minimizes what I know goes on in Hope’s head and heart, and how that affects us each and every day of our lives together.

In sport parenting, I don’t win or lose, and frankly, I’m not sure which one is which. The other things I often find myself wondering is: Why the devil am I trying to compare our experiences to that of other families anyway?

We’ve all got our own drama, and we all tend to have a lot of it.  Why would it all look the same?

And apparently, how I feel about what Hope and I endure seems to be similar to that of other parents…people tell me so. There’s an emotional similarity there. Even if the drama appears different the emotional upheaval is the same.

So, why do I still pull out a yard stick to assess how we’re doing compared to other families? Is this even natural behavior? Is sport parenting really a thing?

Are we always assessing how we measure up in our own parenting fantasy?

I don’t know.

I do know that I’m going to try to quit sport parenting in 2017.


Thoughts on Acceptance

Christmas was lovely.  Good times with family and friends. There was lots of eating, minimal exercise, movie watching, more eating, lots of laughs and lots of catching up and dishing about life.

There was also a decision to just consciously accept some stuff that my typical hot headed self wouldn’t bother to accept.

In life, there are countless things that we must reconcile between our greatest desires and our greatest disappointments.

It isn’t easy. Some times, even after years and lots of work, we find ourselves so easily triggered. The flood of disappointment and sadness come crushing back over us like a tsunami wave. Sometimes it feels like we have to start the grieving process all over again just because of one little innocuous sentence.

For me, I know that two big triggers in the last 4 years are folks with commentary on raising a child with a trauma background and having a baby.

It’s amazing how many people have so much to say about these topics. The former I know is really because the issues are largely masked for folks outside of my and Hope’s home. They don’t know what I know or see and experience what I do. They make assumptions about my parenting, and draw conclusions about me and Hope.

The latter is more complicated because most folks don’t know that my journey towards Hope came after a pretty traumatic life event that left me unable to bear children or that my chances of having a biological child were iffy even before the event.

In the early days of this journey, I never anticipated that folks would have so much to say.  Well, they do. And, well, that sucks because it hurts.

It hurts a lot sometimes.

I’ve read a lot about other people’s journeys through parenting trauma and infertility; my story and my sensitivity around these issues aren’t unique. In fact, daily folks are posting about conversations and announcements that pierce their hearts and reduce them to tears.

Over the years, I learned to live with my deflector shields half way up. Having them all the way up creates too much of a barrier between me and the people I love. Besides, after a few years, my ability to react and respond has improved along with their level of sensitivity.

Well, I realized on this trip that my emotional shields were fully lowered, but it’s ok. It forced me to make a decision that I think will be healthier for me.

I mentioned that there is a new baby in the family. My sister gave birth to a baby boy recently. Our family is over the moon. He’s just perfect.

This triggered some comments about how folks thought me and my sisters would never have children or that it’s such a blessing that my parents are  finally now grandparents.

Oh, great, we’re two for two!

In the moment on Christmas day, I gave myself the gift of acceptance. I shared that gift and sprinkled it liberally all about.

The reality is these are people I love deeply. These are people who want the best for me. These are people who would never knowingly hurt me. These are people who may not always know what to say.

Some of these folks are a bit older and aren’t necessarily hip to all of the ways folks might be hurt or offended. Some of these folks have reached the age where even if they did, they don’t have to be uber-sensitive about much anymore because: old.

The long and short of it is, no one means to hurt me or stick their foot in their mouth, and even if they did, what does it cost me in that moment to just accept it and move on?

Oh it hurts. It does; there’s no denying that.

But accepting that there is no malice, that they may be caught up in the euphoria of having a much-desired baby around (which frankly I am as well), well, it doesn’t cost me much.

Sure, I could politely correct them. I could gently educate them. I could do all kinds of things. But frankly, that just exposes more of me and whatever emotions I’m wrestling with. It also makes me feel like I have to bring the dark cloud I keep on the shelf in my mind closet out and drag it with me everywhere I go.

I’m tired of living like that.

Just accepting folks and assuming and believing the best in them saves us both. In some of those moments, they are expressing their own joy about whatever. I don’t need to temper their joy just because they used poor phrasing or were insensitive or just didn’t remember my ouchy places.

So, I made a conscious decision to just accept the presence of commentary that occasionally dredges my wounds.

It’s life, man. It just life. I can’t have hazard cones all over the place all the time. It’s exhausting, and frankly, it’s exhausting being hurt and/or angry. It’s exhausting having the same conversations over and over. And frankly, it’s ridiculous for me to think that my life is so big that everyone should speak in whispered tones around me about babies and trauma related behaviors.

I’m a grown ass woman. This life has put me through harder paces than that.

I mean, I could write my own list of things not to say to an infertile woman or a parent raising a child with a trauma background, but guess what? It wouldn’t make that much of a difference because the folks who typically make those comments don’t run in the blogging circles I do—it’s not going to be read by them.

So, I’ve decided to practice some grace and accept these moments as they come. It’s ok.

I also know that Hope watches me, and while I teach her to advocate for herself, I want her to see when and how I choose to do it for myself. Not everything needs a response. Not everything needs a bark and a bite.

Acceptance is a good thing for me. It allows me to just put things in context. It allows me to focus on the good. It allows me to not ache. It doesn’t mean that things don’t hurt, but it makes it manageable.

I can’t change people. I only have the power to change my reaction to people.

In the end that is the power play.


A Night at the Theater

Every now and then Hope and I go through this absurd production written, starring and exclusively produced by Hope to get my attention.

These plays typically occur close to major holidays, schedule disruptions or anytime Hope apparently doesn’t think she’s getting enough attention.

[Cue Sophia Patrillo Voice]

no

Picture it: abdominal pain, usually cramps (which can legit be a problem).

Cramps worsen and ‘spread’ to the entire stomach.

Becomes accompanied by either constipation or diarrhea; initially faked.

She works herself into a frenzy, at which point the constipation or diarrhea become legit.

Pain worsens.

Cry  and moan, occasionally hyperventilating, like a bad actress in a bad horror movie.

Other side show ailments begin to emerge, including but not limited to short term amnesia, ear infections, inability to swallow, inability to talk at all, and something akin to what looks like a druggie nod.

Crying and gnashing of teeth; sometimes yelling.

[End Act I]

We’re regulars at the local Patient First; always the same diagnosis. Nothing wrong, maybe a little dehydrated. Go home, drink some water, eat some fruits and veggies.

Anyhoo, after our girl-fest weekend, I thought I’d fed the attention beast enough to sidestep her need to put on this play of Two Acts., but no, she managed to orchestrate her drama today with minimal warning.

The only warning I had was when I called to check on her this afternoon and she indicated that she didn’t know where I was; I didn’t tell her I was going to work (I did) and she wondered when I would be home.

Well, I missed my cue, because while I was at the grocery store she called in full on hysterics, yelling into the phone, moaning, screeching and vocalizing in an incoherent manner so loudly that other line-mates looked on with concern.

dancing

I tried reasoning with her, and she just couldn’t finish a sentence—she was clearly dying a quick and horrible death.

She could not get it together—not at all, so I eventually hung up.

dancing

We’ve been here before.

I set my basket down, picked up Yappy from daycare and headed home. On my way, I try to figure out why she got triggered. I also tried to control my own rage at having to “Play” this thing out with her tonight. It’s exhausting, expensive and while I intellectually get it, I find it to be over the top manipulation.

I get home to find a child who is now calm.

[Cue my simmering anger]

“Come on, let’s go to the urgent care.”

“Oh, I don’t need to go to the urgent care, I just wanted to know when you were coming home.”

giphy1

“Bull sh!t, you know the drill; put your shoes on and let’s go play this out.”

Off to the urgent care we went. Somehow on the way she developed amnesia and a busted knee which brought about an exaggerated limp—gotta make the most out of this urgent care visit.

In triage, I made her tell the nurse what was wrong with her because well, this was her drama. I’m just here to pay for the front row tickets.

Lots of concern.

Blood pressure and oxygenation: Perfect:

Fever? No.

Flu test: Negative.

Blood work: Great, if not sludgy because of dehydration.

Urine: Clear.

Abdominal palpation: She flinched a tiny bit, triggering the newbie nurse practitioner to ponder appendicitis.

Meanwhile, Hope is giggling, chatty. It’s like giving a dry flower water.

No, she does not have appendicitis.

Will I bring her back to check in tomorrow?

Hell naw, this play is over.

They gave her some Tylenol (that no doubt cost $50), and handed me a discharge slip.

Something different happened this time around though. Typically this drama is so predictable…I know my lines, she knows hers. But she added some this time.

While waiting for the urinalysis she said, ”I’m sorry.”

giphy1

“I’m sorry for what?”

“I’m sorry I yelled at you on the phone. I just wanted to know when you were coming home.”

I did not know what my lines were supposed to be, so I had to improvise.

“Um, I told you I had a couple of errands and I had to pick up Yappy. All of the drama was not necessary. I would’ve been home soon. All of this drama is ridiculous and you know that. You could have just called me to see if I was on my way.”

“I know.”

On our way home, she apologized again.

“I know I do this over and over again, so you probably don’t think I’m really sorry, but I am.”

“I know. What will you do next time?”

-silence-

“You can just call me without the drama. This girl who cried wolf has gotten old. How will I be able to tell if something is really wrong?”

“I know.”

[End Scene]

I know she is sorry. I don’t know if she has the skills to do something different and better next time. I expect that there will be more visits to the urgent care.

What’s frustrating is that I know she can’t help it. She knows I’ll take care of her. She knows I’ll drop everything to see about her.

But her trauma brain still doesn’t know that. This is how she survived; she is how she got her needs met. I know that even though she knows on some conscious level that she doesn’t have to do this, that that primitive brain of hers will continue to put on this kind of drama every few months.

And we’ll go through the motions again and again until that hurt brain realizes I’m not going anywhere.


By Any Other Name

I had chosen names for the children I would never give birth to. I only chose what would be first or middle names so that they could be adapted to names desired by my would be husband/life partner.

Those names were so important to me; each had special meaning. Each were strong names on which my children could scaffold their identities.

And then, one day, the realization set in that I would not get to use any of those names for biological children.

Even now, writing this, the sting of quiet tears fill my eyes.

And then Hope came along.

Hope got her pseudonym from being my “Hope Kid.” When I started the blog, I had just received her profile. I remember sitting in my office, opening the email, reading the little bit of information attached and then opening the attachment to see her picture.

I immediately fell in love with her.

In my heart I felt like she was my daughter. I just knew, which was ridiculous because she was the first profile I received having just started the national search with my agency the week before.

I also knew that there were many steps to be made before she and I might be matched. I dubbed her my “Hope Kid.”

After we were matched, I started just calling her Hope in this space.

It’s turned out to be a good strong pseudonym for her. She and I are both so hopeful.

At 12, I never once thought about changing her name. Her in real life (IRL) name is unusual and lovely.

A few folks asked if I considered changing her first name.

dancing

No. I mean, she was 12 and It. Is. Her. Name. And well, Hope had lost everything else, everything, why on earth would I take her name from her too?

And she’s feisty, why on earth would I want to start our life with a fight about changing her name?

As we neared the date of our finalization, I did have to make a decision about her last name.

Sounds like a no brainer, right?

I mean, she would just drop her given name and take my name.

No.

It was her given name. It was hers. It was given to her by her parents, who loved her even if they didn’t always love themselves.

I thought about all those adoptees who talked about their birth names and the surnames of their birth family.  How hard it was to find people when names changed. How challenging taking on a new identity could be.

Because Hope is an older adoptee, I had the luxury of having a real conversation with her about her name. I’d like to think that even if she had been younger, I might have come to the same conclusion because it works for us.

Hope had just assumed that I would make her change her name. She understood why I might do that. She has resolved that it was just the way of the world, or rather the way of her world. In Hope’s world, she rarely got to make decisions, she lost lots of things and well, she supposed she was just happy to be getting a forever family.

I asked her what she thought about a third option.

I asked her what she thought about just adding my last name to her existing name.

The first thing she did was write it all out and count the letters.

There were a total of 29 letters in this proposed name. Four names, two of them last names, no hyphens and 29 letters.

She asked if the name would fit on forms.

So, I cruised the internet and found a few forms that we would have to eventually fill out and printed them and let her practice filling them out.

It worked.

I asked her if taking my name would be hard for her; she said maybe. I told her that she could drop it she wanted, and just sign things with her birth name. The four-name thing would just be her “government name.” I explained the times when she would need to use it.

I asked her to think about it.

When I told folks that this third option was on the table…well, there were so many questions. So many.

Why couldn’t I just change it? Why didn’t I want her to be fully a part of the family? Wouldn’t this be confusing for her? How would this help her move on?

There was a lot of criticism.

I stayed focused on me and Hope during the whirlwind.

In the end, extending her name was our choice.

During our Facetime finalization, Hope exclaimed to the judge that her new name was 29 letters.

She continued to use her birth name for a while, and then one day, she didn’t.

I’m not sure exactly when she started using both last names, but I know that now she wouldn’t dare sign her name without both.

When her birth family found us, they were surprised that I didn’t drop their name. I think it brokered some trust with them; I had no intention of erasing her identity.

Again, I have the luxury of having an older child who is capable of telling me her feelings. I know that even during the worst of times she endured, she would leave me in a flash if she had the chance to be parented by her birth parents again.

I’m hardly a saint and I’m judgmental as hell, but I’ve also had the luxury of having my birth family my whole life. I get it and I don’t blame her at all. If I had known them before, and known what I know now, I would’ve been rooting for them.

But our paths were different, and all I can do now is honor her family by supporting her in keeping the names she was given.

Our family is stronger for it.

And what have I really learned from this part of our journey?

I learned that I’m glad that we didn’t have to make a choice based on her safety and a desire not to be found. I think this would have been so much more difficult for her if that was necessary. For her to have to change her name, her identity, to remain safe, is a whole other level of trauma. We are fortunate that we were not faced with that situation.

I learned that even though I have replaced Hope’s birth parents in parenting her, I am additive in her life. For Hope, I didn’t just replace them. I am her mother, without question, but I am her second mother. I can never replace Hope’s birth parents; I can’t erase them. Even with a name change, that history, however brief, is still a real part of her life.

I learned that Hope’s name is her name. I am honored that my name has become a part of her name and a part of her story, but her story didn’t start with me. It won’t end with me either.

I imagine that her name will change again sometime in this lifetime.

And again, it will be Hope’s choice to shape her identity.

I learned that there are various ways to integrate a child into your family.

I learned that a last name can be more than enough of a connection to a new family.

I realized just how much power adoptive parents have…to change a child’s whole name…or just to get to name a child…it is a privilege that should be acknowledged as such.

I learned that the sting of not being able to have biological children rears its head more often than I care to admit. A discussion about changing a child’s name precipitates asking what might you change it to? And then your list of dream names springs to mind…and it drags that little bee sting with it.

I learned to treasure my own name even more. I love thinking about the origins of my name and the story my parents tell me about naming me.

I don’t know that at this point in my life I will change my name even if I get married. I’ve been with this name a mighty long time.

I do know that I’ll still be ABM whatever name I chose, and that Hope will always be my Hope and joy, no matter what her name evolves into during the course of her life.

 


Empty Wrappers

I have a checkered history with food. It didn’t really start until I got into college. It was a way for me to have control when I felt I had little. I went on a pretty restrictive diet, dropped 40lbs and was rewarded with positive attention, a boyfriend, and cute clothes. Of course I gained it back, but the damaging behaviors that led to all the great attention had taken hold.

I’ve struggled with food periodically ever since, well, maybe except recently.

Parenting Hope leaves limited time for my own problems.

Or rather, Hope’s problems are my problems.

Well, Hope continues to struggle with food.

So, now we’re struggling with food.

I remember years ago, when she came to visit me for the first time, she asked me to buy some gummy vitamins.

She ate them in one day. All of them.

We’ve since moved on to fruit snacks, PB crackers, granola bars, cereal bars…just about anything that you can get individually wrapped at Costco.  Oh, and anything that you can put in a snack size bag.

What’s both intriguing and frustrating is how she’ll leave an empty box, but hide the wrappers in her room.

It’s irrational, like I don’t see the empty boxes, can’t see how 80 snacks are gone in a few days, or how I don’t know to just look in her desk drawers for 80 fruit snack wrappers.

I tried limiting access, but I knew that wasn’t right. I mean, this stuff is primal. It’s compulsive. It’s not just emotional eating; it’s emotional ish that’s left skid marks everywhere in her life.

So, I buy more snacks. I throw away the empty boxes. I wait until she goes to goes to school and then I go and clean the wrappers out of her desk.

wrappers

I’ve tried to confront her. It’s difficult because Hope avoids conflict with me like the plague. I try to be gentle.

Can we start with just properly throwing away the wrappers?

Would you like for me to prep snacks for you so that you can pace yourself and not binge?

What are you feeling when you eat a lot of snacks?

How do you feel when you finish?

What else could we do to satiate your need to eat all the snacks?

Silence. There’s only ever silence.

The whole exchange, if you can call it that, is less than 5 minutes.

I’m not really sure how bring some resolution to this issue. I know it’s a deep seated one. I see the pattern associated with it. I understand the stressors. And yet, figuring out the puzzle piece that will redirect the behavior remains a mystery.

So, I let it go…and go back to Costco.


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.


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