Category Archives: The Year of the Try

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.


It is Still a Trip

I so remember fondly the days when I could throw some clothes in a bag, grab my passport and hit the airport for a vacation abroad that I threw together a couple of weeks before.

Those were the days.

Today, I grasp at shreds of vacation dreams.

Now I take trips instead of vacations, and I feel all kinds of ways about that.

On the one hand, I love the idea of vacationing with Hope, and even taking Yappy along. I dream about having the opportunity to have fun with her, to show her lots of amazing sites in the country and world.

On the other hand, I just miss the days of old.

This year, I rented a small condo on the beach in Virginia. Substantially less expensive and much closer to family than last year’s trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Oh and it was a fraction of the cost of our trip last year, which is good since the first payment on Hope’s braces is due next week.  And finally, Yappy was welcome to tag along on this journey to the beach, where he would see sand for the very first time.

Since I traded in the Mini Cooper last winter, we would be traveling a lot more comfortably and with nothing strapped to the roof of the car.

I went into the trip feeling guardedly optimistic about all the precautions I had taken to try to make sure that it would be fun time for us all.

And then we headed out.

We traveled nearly all the way to the house when I caught a flat tire. And when I say “all the way” I mean, we were 2.4 miles away from the rental.

When we finally get there, the landlord had not obtained a mini-box for the TV so the cable didn’t work. The landlord also didn’t respond to my 3 phone calls and 2 texts about the WiFi password. And that was day 1.

Day 2, I managed to get in some exercise before I headed out with Hope to go buy a new tire. Of course Wallyworld did not carry my tire size, so then we had to hit a service station where the only tire the right size was the most expensive tire that was about $200. #HappyVacation Hope complained about the wait, pissed off the service station staff because I couldn’t censor her anti-Trump tirade because her ability to self-censor at critical times, like in mixed company, is non-existent. It also underscores her inability to read social reactions. By the time we bought groceries and hit the Starbucks my nerves were shot. When the barista messed up my drink I started to cry. ETA: How do you mess up a venti iced coffee with sugarfree vanilla syrup???

While sobbing on the way back to the car, I began to wonder why I keep trying to take these vacation/trips at all.

I hit another coffee shop, got my fix, got some Yappy snuggles and hit the beach. Managed to burn my feet on the sand. They are still sore and red. Oh and as soon as we got the umbrellas up and I got settled, Hope announced she was hungry and wanted to go inside, but not by herself, to get something to eat.

I said no, as I was still wiping the sweat from my brow from dragging everything to the beach and getting us set up.

Sigh

Then there was the spider sighting at 9pm that spun night 2 out of control. We’ve been doing so much better with the bug thing so I was able to be a bit more patient and consoling about it.

I relaxed on the couch most of today with Yappy. It was just so hot, that there was little reason to go out. Hope pulled up a chair because I never located the spider, which meant the comfy furniture was contaminated.

After a few hours out and an about, we returned back where she quickly spotted a moth and the freakout started all over again. I killed it, but that hasn’t abated the evening meltdown.

Tomorrow afternoon we head home, and I’m left wondering will we ever have a truly, truly enjoyable time? Should I just plan staycations from now on?  Should I just rent a bug free, hermetic bubble? Is there a happy medium?

Sure there were moments of some contentment, but they were fleeting and the crush of anxiety, phobias, and PTSD always seems to outweigh those few moments of relaxation.

Yeah, this was definitely a trip. It’s always a reminder of the hard place my kiddo survived. It’s just hard to enjoy a good life. I hope that she continues to heal and is able to just enjoy the world around her.

Despite all of the drama of this trip, I am optimistic for her healing.  She is much more mature than she was last year. The ability to manage the bug phobia is improved. The drive and desire to heal is such much more than it used to be.

There is hope for Hope. I believe that.

But for now, vacations are still trips for us. Yappy seems to have had a blast though. He traveled well, killed bugs and has snoozed like I thought I would while on vacation. I am jealous.


Being an Oasis

I am still struggling with appropriate way of dealing with Hope’s various attitudes. Seriously, it is so dang hard to reconcile the way I was brought up with the way I’m raising Hope. I mean, I am still trying to inculcate the values and life lessons and such, but dealing with her attitudes and smart mouth remain a challenge for me.

My parents simply didn’t tolerate any of this and I didn’t expect to either. I kept my attitudes to myself, and my smart mouth was silenced until I was in my room with the door closed mouthing what I *wished* I could have said to my parents in the heat of the moment. #wishfactor

While Hope and I aren’t doing too many coordinated Year of the Try activities right now, I am plugging away at trying to parent Hope better. There is so much room to improve, so I continue to research and figure out what I can actually do consistently that will help us become closer, help her feel confident and help reduce the caustic emotions in our home.

So, here it is, here’s my latest attempt at improved parenting…Ready?

Silence.

Yeah, shutting my pie hole and ignoring the countless numerous things that annoy me. I am limiting my nagging to the barest of essentials that will keep us bug and rodent free. I am desperately ignoring outbursts that aren’t specifically directed at me or about me.  Those more personally targeted outbursts are met with an absurdly polite, quietly spoken “Please adjust your tone. I am not yelling, nor have I yelled at you. Please do not raise your voice to me. Speak to me with respect and I will do the same.”

It’s become a mantra, so to speak.

If I were to boil down this approach I would describe it largely as pretending I don’t see the crazy and if I do, I speak with my quiet “You must be crazy” voice.

Whenever I do this, Hope looks at me like I am speaking a foreign language. Seriously, her confused face is awesomely hilarious, but I don’t laugh. She has typically tightened things right up or just pulled back.

All of this has allowed me to place greater focus on speaking to her about positive things. She needs a lot of positive reinforcement; I mean about EVERYTHING. School, hair, eyeliner, toenails, boy stalking…She just needs lots of positive language.

Hope always demurs when I say nice things about her to her; she is a devotee of deflection. I know it’s because she doesn’t yet believe the nice things I say about her, so I have to say even more.

Shutting up about so much of the stuff that pisses me off has created some head space for me to focus on building her up.  And that’s a really good thing.

Oh, don’t be fooled, I am still in a state where I just stay secretly annoyed. Seriously, kids do some dumb ish and frankly, I am still a person who is easily vexed. I know it was pass though because I gotta focus on the bigger picture and that is building my kid up and showering her with positive reinforcement. I’m realizing that she’s just starving for it; she’s so thirsty that it’s killing her. When I put it like that, it’s easy for me to try to be a better oasis. She needs an oasis more than she needs anything else in the world.


Serenity in Short Bursts

I’ve really, really, really been focused on maintaining calm in the household for the last week.  And you know, it works. I have let Hope’s stank attitudes about various things just roll off me like water. I’ve very calmly let her know when she has crossed certain lines and what certain expectations are. The energy I would usually expend being emotional with Hope, I’ve transferred into dedicated self-care.

I’ve exercised every day. I made it to bed one night at 9:30pm. I ate healthy. I enjoyed the sunshine taking Yappy to the dog park.

It’s been a peaceful week; well kinda.

Hope told a whopper this week (she even lies like a little kid); I busted her and punished her.

I also signed Hope up for a commercial tutoring program this week.  I did not spring this on her. I told her; we went to the initial assessment last weekend.  When I told her how this would affect her weekly schedule; she lost her ish. She was furious; I just let her be, but she gave off some nasty energy with her icy silent treatments.

Through it all, I remained serene. It was all good.

And then, this morning, the third morning in which Hope dragged arse in the morning. The thought of her missing the bus (again) and cutting into my workout (me) time made me hit my limit. I mean…I just couldn’t do the calm thing again. I lit right into her.

And she was ready with full on teen attitude.

She still had attitude later at the orthodontist. And I had no serene patience for her.

I’m realizing that I did pretty good for keeping it chill for a whole week. It gave me some perspective; I had time and energy to invest in myself. I felt better. I slept better.

Trying to keep things calm around here is a good goal; there are going to be flares and I have to accept that and know that it’s normal. I mean, really my blow up with still so much less intense than usual. My try for this month is really going to be to focus on parenting with calmness. I gotta believe that Hope will benefit from it, but honestly, I am doing it for me.

I need more serenity—and it’s not about knowing the difference about change vs. no change; it’s really about me having a sense of calmness and happiness. That’s my goal. I want to be happy. Parenting is hard. I told someone it’s the greatest bait and switch that ever existed.

You have the amazing drive to procreate and/or raise a child healthily and with your values and so much goodness. That drive is all about you, really. The reality is parenting is about constant sacrifice. It often is thankless and a lot of time, it’s chaotic.

For Hope and me, it’s always had a sense of chaos, and I’m tired of it. No mas. No mas.

I am seeking serenity and happiness in this life chapter, and that means that I need to step up, breathe and exhale into this like a complicated yoga pose that requires you to clear your mind and just open your heart.

It kinda hurts so good.

This evening it is back to calmness and a focus on how long can I stay in that space.


February Tries

Hope actually groans every time I say, “Hey, we’re going to *try* something…”

It’s going to be a long year. That said, the fruits of this trying labor are totally paying off. I can’t say we tried as much this month—we’ll see when I make the list below, but what we did try, we did it with flair.

So, without further ado:

  • We both signed up for Duolingo. Hope is taking French (which she takes in school) and Spanish. I have finally (6 years later) resumed my Portuguese lessons with a side of French.
  • We try to write each other short emails in French.
  • We tried new vegetarian recipes.
  • We tried a couple of new restaurants.
  • We continued to try to find other adoptive families to hang out with periodically.
  • I took Hope roller skating.
  • Hope served as a teen service leader during the recent youth service at our church.
  • Hope also spent her first afternoon at a band friend’s house, which meant that I got to try some of the new found freedom that comes with Hope having something like a social life.
  • Hope went on an out of state band trip without me—again with FRIENDS! I got to try a new vineyard and go wine tasting with fellow blogger, Polly of KnitMeForALoop.
  • Hope tried to use her new debit card—I’d like to say “responsibly” but we’ll get there.
  • Hope does her own hair exclusively now, and as I wrote recently, she rocks her glorious fro on the regular.

It was a successful month. Our March tries will get under way soon; I’ve got a bit work thing going on and I need to plan somethings for us. But, so far, so good! Trying things has been fun and has broadened both of our horizons in meaningful ways.

Stay tuned!

 


The Year of The Try

Hope and I have had a lovely holiday break. I have really, really worked hard to use this time to focus on attachment, since it is something we’ve struggled with so much this fall. We did fun things, we watched movies, we went to the gym together. We made sure that we did our little family’s made up traditions (and now that we’ve done them 2 years in a row, they are *officially* traditions!). For New Years we had a 3 hour dance party using YouTube videos from songs we like.

I managed to keep my cool except for two times. It’s been a good two weeks.

Like a lot of people, I am really reflective during this time of the year. I work on my vision board, set goals (not really resolutions), and figure out what to keep and what to keep.

At the risk of sounding hard on myself, I really, really, have a lot of room for improvement on this parenting thing. I’m a bit of a hot head. I also neglected myself a bit this year on the self-care tip. What can I say, it’s easy to get sucked into the daily routine of life. When I’m run down, I’m tired, I get sad, then resentful, then suspicious and it’s all downhill from there.

Last night at our fancy NYE dinner, I asked Hope to list all the good things that happened in 2015; her initial response was that more bad things happened than good things. Hope always defaults to the negative, so I insisted that we spend some time reflecting on our happy times. The list ended up being pretty long, and it was a fun exercise.

Then I asked her about those negative things. When she rattled off her list, I quickly realized that most of the negative things were about our relationship and our struggles. It was tough to hear, and it was heartbreaking to know how much I contributed to her struggles. Some of it is just regular teen stuff, but other stuff…well it’s trauma stuff, it’s attachment stuff, it’s love stuff.

And it’s hard to overcome barriers to success with Hope because she sees the world through a One and Done kind of lens. If she tries and fails, she concludes that it can’t be done. Failure is terrifying, and when failure is scary, just trying becomes a set up to fail. So, I have to drag her kicking and screaming to try anything new, even things that will make life for us better. Risk for Hope never seems to mean possible reward.

We talked about what we wanted to be different in 2016. She didn’t want to list anything because, well, in her mind it wouldn’t make a difference.  Weren’t we already trying? Hadn’t we already failed? Couldn’t we just resign ourselves that our current state was our permanent state? According to her calculus, this less than desirable state is better than previous states, so while it’s not great, it’s too risky to attempt to make it better.

The Year of the Try

But we will improve. This is a journey. There is a lot of building that has to happen here; a lot that can and will happen here. At this point, I just want to prove her wrong; I want to show her that our life together can and will continue to improve. I just have to help her continue to stretch her ability to trust that the world won’t end after a few setbacks.

And so we begin 2016 with a new mission: continuous improvement. We will just keep pushing forward. She will learn to do her own hair and to do a proper smokey eye. I will practice better self-care and work on decluttering the house. We will focus on attachment and loving one another. We will learn to trust each other. We will learn to try without fear. We will stumble, and sometimes we will fail, but we will learn to always just try to push towards personal and family improvement.

2016 will be our Year of The Try. 


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