Category Archives: The College Years

Stupid Games, Stupid Prizes

Earlier this week, I discovered a secret that Hope had been hiding for a couple of weeks. I’d all but told her that I knew the secret ahead of the confirmation.

I love my daughter, but the art of deception and concealment are not her strong suits. In fact, Hope has rarely lied to me; if anything she often shares a little too much with me. I chalk that up to her not having too many friends her age, and the closeness of our relationship.

Anyhoo, I knew or at least was strongly suspicious about  the thing she’d tried to conceal for a couple of weeks.

The actual thing she did was super stupid and a totally dumb, yet age appropriate thing. We’d already had a chat about it a few months ago, but here we are 3.5 months later revisiting the issue.

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What totally sent me over was the series of bold-faced lies that were told in a sad attempt to avoid detection.

Bless Hope’s heart. I have repeatedly told her that her mom is smarter than the average bear.

I do not do lies. I especially don’t do lies with bad liars.

And Hope is a horrible liar. It’s just not in her make up. I had point blank asked questions and had given her 3 opportunities to fess up, but instead she decided to lie.

Alright girl…whatevs.

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via Giphy

So, after I confirmed what I knew to be true, I left her a note for when she got home from work to let her know that she was busted. I told her that the stupid issue had been attended to and that she had really stepped in IT, primarily due to the lying. And then I went to bed and slept soundly.

The next morning, I get an apology via text. I read it, but didn’t respond. I was still angry, so I only spoke when necessary and waited until we were in the car headed to visit my parents to really get into the discussion.

Parents of adolescents know: the car is sacred space and prime for important chats with kids.

There we were, on 95S talking about the stupid thing, the lies and what the consequences of both things  should be. I put the task to figure out what an appropriate consequence should be on Hope.

She was baffled by this task.

Hell, I was baffled by this task, which is low key why I put it on her.  

And then I dropped it, because I didn’t want it to ruin the day.

We visited with Grammy and Grandpa, had a delicious lunch and headed downtown to join some BLM protesters who have taken over the grounds of a monument to Robert E. Lee. The statue is slated to come down sometime soon, as are other confederate statues across the city. In fact, one was removed less than 24 hours after our visit. #goodriddance

After we had returned from our trip, I raised the issue of consequences again. Hope did not come up with many ideas, so I tossed a few out. We agreed on a couple of scenarios and I dropped it. In all, the consequences were minor compared to what my parents did for less, but I think they will hit her where she feels the impact of her poor decisions.  I also told her that the next infraction would have stiffer penalties.

She swears she learned her lesson, but the reality is that there will be other stupid things. Hope is 19,a little immature, vulnerable to some bad influences, and eager to have connection with folks her own age—sometimes too eager.

And with stupid games, come stupid prizes. That is just a part of life, right?

Right.

We’re fine. Hope is fine, and we’ve endured another stupid first, and the stupid prizes that go with it.


I’m Proud of Her

As I mentioned in a previous post, Hope is working two jobs this summer. Once it became clear that summer school wasn’t going to happen, I made it clear that Hope had to get a job. I remember that she sat right down on the couch that morning and filled out nearly 10 applications.

She had a job within 48 hours, and within two weeks she had a second job.

Honestly, I was surprised. In previous years, Hope had applied for jobs and never had any luck. I would repeatedly ask her if she needed help filling out applications. She didn’t. I asked her to call to follow up. I told her she might have to really put forth more effort, be eager, be hungry for the job.

It never worked out, and honestly, I doubted her. Worse, I made sure that she knew I didn’t quite believe she put in all the effort she did.

I have since apologized to my daughter because I was so absurdly wrong and I made things hard for her. Her penchant for laying around in her pjs in a messy room reeked of laziness to me. I felt like she had a lack of drive. I rode her about her schoolwork, her grades, her room and her inability to find a job.

And I sit around and wonder why she struggles so much with depression.

Now, I do want Hope to work hard; I want her to have a strong work ethic. I want her to understand what it takes to make it in this world and to be able to support yourself and have nice things. In the last 4 months, Hope has had a front row seat at watching me work. Why my work isn’t physical, the number of zoom meetings I have a day can be exhausting, and I don’t get a lot of work actually “done” on those days. Occasionally she pops out of her room to join me for tea and coffee, to ask how many meetings I have for the day or to ask when I get to stop working. One night last week I was working until 9pm.

What I’ve learned in these last few weeks of Hope’s employment is that Hope has a strong work ethic. She probably has always had a strong work ethic. She works differently from me; it doesn’t look the same and my own biases around what it should look like made me believe my daughter wasn’t trying.

Gosh, I have so many regrets.

Hope has taught me some valuable lessons about understanding her. I know she has always struggled with school, but I understand that she was working hard to keep up. I realize that despite her social anxiety she puts herself out there a lot to try to connect with people. I realize just how kind she is; her second week of working she was recognized for how many compliments from customers she received. I have begged her to use tools to help keep her ADHD in check; I see now that they didn’t click for her until she figured out the best tools for her.

Hope will be a sophomore in college in just 2 months, and I feel like I’m seeing her as a real young adult for the first time. I would like to think I taught her loads, but I am conscious of the ways in which I made things more difficult for her. That makes me incredibly sad and angry with myself.

I tell Hope I’m proud of her every day.

And every day she asks me why I keep telling her.

I tell her that I have always been proud of her, but she has shown me that she is so much more than I thought she was in this moment. She’s juggling jobs. She picks up groceries. She’s proud of her savings. She puts gas in the car, and she offers to run other errands. We talk about science and politics and history and trap music and she’s knows all the things. I’m actually starting to feel old around her.

She just needed this opportunity to prove herself to herself.  

These months at home, I see my daughter through new eyes. I know she will be ok.

Hope’s college is planning to resume in-person classes this fall. I never thought I’d say that I hope they change their mind so that she can stay a little longer. Of course, I’m worried about COVID-19; I worry that with such a tiny campus (700 students) that one case can easily create a major outbreak, especially with the dorms. Add to that the school is in a town with another university where the leadership believes that COVID-19 is a hoax, and you’ve got one worried mom.

But the real reason I wouldn’t mind a few more months with my daughter is because I know that I will miss her terribly when she goes back. When I think of her returning to school, I get those early empty nest feelings all over again. I also don’t want to lose watching her mature into this formidable young woman right before my eyes. I’m super conscious that when she returns to campus, the times I see her after that will make it seem like she’s really changing so much faster. I want to see it in real time and up close.

But I know that’s not how these things work. She might be here, she might not. She may keep working; she might not. It’s really all a crap shoot right now and I don’t have control over any of it. I’m just going to have to ride the wave and see what happens.

What I do know is that Hope is really blossoming into this really cool person—she was already cool, but this is different. I’m starting to see glimpses of her future. It’s not perfect, but it is good. I think I can worry less. I think I my parenting can really switch to coaching. I know I can believe her and really believe in her.

I’m so very proud of her, and I’m glad and appreciative of the grace Hope has shown me over the years. I’m realizing that I got a lot more grace that I ever realized.


Gainfully Employed

Hope is experiencing another first! She got her first job this week! 

I had hoped that she would work and maybe take a class or two at the local community college, Well, the bureaucracy at the community college made taking a class unable to happen, so we pivoted. Hope buckled down and put in applications at numerous places in our local area. She got a couple of quick ‘no’s’ and then poof, she had a few interviews lined up. 

I launched ABM’s Interview Boot Camp, where we practiced interviewing a dozen or so times. I’m always amazed at how poised she can be when she really sets her mind to it. It’s always so reassuring to me that she will be ok. 

Within 24 hours of filling out a bunch of applications, she had a job at a local fast food restaurant. In the current economic environment, I really didn’t think she would find a job, much less so quickly. I’ve chalked this up to the universe wanting Hope to really have this experience for now.

I helped her fill out the tax forms and other paperwork. I measured her for her uniform so she could get something that fit. I soothed her anxiety about another new experience. 

And then, she went off to start her first 8 hour shift.

I’m so proud of her. 

New experiences still cause a lot of anxiety for Hope. She catastrophizes a lot; not quite as much as she used to, but still quite a lot. She is improving though, and I see evidence of her developing coping skills. 

During the interview boot camp, I found myself laying out her options–go to the interview, do well, get the job. Go to the interview, do well, but don’t get the job. Go to the interview, don’t do well, but somehow still get the job. Go to the interview, don’t do well, and don’t get the job. In none of the scenarios will you get hurt or your future fall apart. It’s just an interview. Just do your best. 

When she got ready for her first day, it was another pep talk. Go, learn a lot, embrace the training, you can do this. Watch and learn and remember that there’s a team of people, none of you want to fail, so you’ll work together. 

I find myself often making her stop and consider the “bad” first time experiences since we’ve been a family. Oh, there have absolutely been missteps and some failures, but they weren’t the end of the world. I remind her that if she has to think hard to come up with a list because the number is relatively low, then you’ve probably got a good ratio and that somehow things will be ok, even if they aren’t perfect. 

Today is day three of being gainfully employed, and she says she likes it. I think she also likes the idea of having a job and knowing that that will lead to greater independence. I’ve asked her what she thinks she’ll spend her income on; she said she will put most of it in savings. She still has 2 more interviews for jobs that pay more, but I think she will be content if those don’t work out.

I’m super proud of her. It’s really such a privilege to watch her come into adulthood and stretch. With each new thing, she faces her fears and realizes that she will be OK. She remembers that I’ll be there to support her. 

Hope is a really a cool human; I love being her mom.


Pandemic Chronicles, v. 4

So, Hope and I are back to our Pandemic Normal. I’m finally feeling fully recovered and Hope has finished her first year of college (amazeballs). Now we’re trying to chart out our summer.

Due to a variety of absurd reasons, Hope was unable to register for the first session of summer school (she’s nearly 19 but they still wanted a form from a legal guardian). So, we had to do a hard pivot—it is time for Hope to find a job. I told her that she needed to find creative ways of volunteering if she couldn’t find a paying job. I was ready for her to consider doing UberEats and/or do shopping for some of the older residents in our building. She spent yesterday morning hunting for and putting in applications at grocery stores and fast food places.

Honestly, given how trash the economy is, I didn’t think that she would really find a job. I realized on my morning walk this morning that the universe has other plans for Hope for the summer. In a single day she was able to set up a couple of interviews for this week, one of which has already sent her the onboarding information. Clearly, schoolwork isn’t what was supposed to happen this summer.

I’m excited for Hope and this new experience she’s going to have this summer.

Our relationship has changed so much these last two months, and honestly, the relationship we have now is kinda what I’ve been chasing all these years. We have our own inside jokes. We have deep philosophical conversations. With both of us at home, Hope is able to get a much better sense of how I hard I work, and I think she is much more understanding of why I get pissed when she’s particularly lazy or entitled. I get to see her habits and how she works; I can see better what coping mechanisms really work for her and what things she probably still needs to work on. I think we both have a lot more patience with one another; there’s just a lot more grace and a lot more understanding.

In many ways, I’m grateful for this time with her even if I did wish she would just spontaneously clean the kitchen without me asking her.

And me? Well, I’m learning to crochet. I’ve resumes my exercise efforts. I can’t handle a lot of intensity these days, so I make up for that with more workout time. I’m reminded that I have a gym membership for when the weather is bad, and cold isn’t bad weather. I still would rather bundle up and go walk a couple of miles. I bake bread a few days a week because it’s so yummy, and I enjoy cooking a real dinner for us a few days a week. (By the way since it’s become so hard to get bread flour at the store, I now get it from a local bakery and it’s AMAZING!) I have started a daily habit of trying to find beauty when I take my multiple walks throughout the day. I try to post the pictures on my private social media accounts.

I’ve zeroed in on my skin routine; during a recent video call with my sister, my brother in law even commented on my skin. I’m transition to more natural deodorants because this seems like as good a time as any to do that—when I’m around just 1 other person! LOL. I get enough sleep each night which has radically changed my outlook on a lot of things. It’s really amazing how tired we all are when the world is “open.” I’m increasingly convinced that we’re all just overstimulated. I luxuriate on the weekend because after I make the grocery run, I can chill. I bought a zero-gravity chair and Yappy and I hit the balcony when the weather is nice. It’s nice to be rested.

Yappy is also doing well. He gets way too many treats and is gaining weight. I worry about how anxious he will be when I finally return to the office, but for now, he seems incredibly content to have his pack all in one place. He seems to be at his happiest when we take a walk as a family in the evenings. It’s a delight to watch him, and it’s comforting to cuddle with him.

Yappy & I enjoying the morning sun on the patio! And yes, that is a side eye.

In all, Hope and I are doing better than ok these days. We are still wary of the world opening back up, fully aware of the dangers that await but also relishing in this special time together. I’m realizing that if Hope doesn’t boomerang home, this might actually be the last substantial period of time when we live together. I think of that often, and I let it guide my engagements with her. It’s not that I want her to boomerang home; I hope she is able to take flight. But if she does come back I want to be sure that we have a new baseline of what our life can be like with a mother and her adult daughter living together.

Of course, that’s in the middle of a pandemic, but I still hope it will create a reference point for whatever might be necessary in the future.

But for now, Hope and I are enjoying each other and getting a window into each other’s lives in ways we didn’t pre-pandemic.


Early Adulting

Way, way, way back in the day, I told my parents that I wanted to go party at another university for the weekend. I didn’t ask; I informed them.

They said no, I couldn’t go.

Nonplussed, I hopped in someone’s car and off my friends and I went to a university two hours away where I had all the fun to be had.

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Back then “daisy dukes” (short shorts) were really in and I found a pair that “fit.” I was really proud of these shorts because I have some lovely thighs that usually made such shorts a no go for me. I recall sporting these shorts around my parents house one weekend when I was home from college. My dad, who is quite proper, commented on the shorts and asked me not to wear them anymore because he thought they were inappropriate.

I replied that I wouldn’t wear them in his home anymore.

He narrowed his eyes at me a bit, but said nothing.

I was in that gray area of life where I was still dependent, but I was also an adult and flexing about making some adult decisions like where I would party and what I would wear. I don’t recall asking for permission much during those days. I remember feeling so good about the increasing freedom I had to do what I wanted.

Fast forward many years and now I have a daughter of my own in college. I assumed that she would flex a bit.

For the most part, she hasn’t. In fact, she discloses WAY too much about what shenanigans she been up to. And before you say, oh she’s not telling you everything….even if that were true, she still has shared too much.

via Giphy

She also asks for permission.

Recently her favorite band announced that there would be a concert in the area this summer. She rang me up to ask if she could go if she saved the money.

My internal monologue was like, “If you plan to save up for the ticket, why are you even asking????” Out loud, I simply said, “Sure, save up your dollars and have fun.”

It’s in these moments that I’m reminded of the challenges Hope has endured.

When Hope’s social worker flew with her to visit me the first time, she shared that Hope was emotionally only about 5, despite a chronological age of 12. She’s grown so much in the years since then, but as for maturity….well, Hope has certainly matured, but is she emotionally 18?

Probably not.

Definitely not.

Hope is able to mimic maturity for short bursts, but eventually it all comes out. If I had to guess, I would estimate an emotional age of 14 or so. This would explain why she gets along so well with my 11 year old nephew and also has a whole lot of difficulty navigating socially with her own peer group.

This is also why my beautiful daughter called me from her college dorm to ask me if she could spend her own money on a concert ticket and actually go to said concert.

At her age, if I did ask, I didn’t have any difficulty openly defying my folks because I reasoned that I…was…

GROWN.

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Hope is still very much my little girl. Which is kind of crazy to me. When I adopted a 12 year old, I never thought I would be tucking her in at night, reading her stories, buying her *white* tights to wear (she picked them while I screamed on the inside) or numerous other things that I thought were completely fixed to children much younger than 12. There were many moments that I treasure the connection forged in those moments while hating that Hope needed it because she was so deeply hurt.

It scares me, though. If Hope is really 14 and away at college…

*pauses to reflect more on my own collegiate shenanigans*

This could be a hot mess.

I know she is more vulnerable. She is so eager to make friends that she is at risk for manipulation. She’s often so lonely which only drives the risk and vulnerability up higher.

In the midst of my persistent amusement at Hope’s attempts to begin adulting, I’m saddened that once again her trauma puts her in such a predicament. I’m angry about it. I’m frustrated for her.

I’m hopeful that 2020 will bring advancements in her healing that will bring her closer to her chronological age and all the joys that come with it.


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