Tag Archives: Adoptees

Ask Hope, vol 4

What was the scariest part about being adopted?
I think the scariest part about being adopted for me was just the fact that I would be moving to a new state with a person that I had just met. Leaving old friends and stuff behind wasn’t really that difficult since I didn’t really have many in the first place, though there were a few people that I wish I was able to keep in contact with post-move. Moving mostly scared me because I had always hated having to adjust to a new school because middle schoolers are rude. I did have thoughts that I might end up with a person that I wouldn’t like. I was uncertain about adjustment and how I would do with such a big change. I was also uncomfortable at first since I wasn’t used to people doing things for me and caring for me so I didn’t know what to do and I wouldn’t ask about things that I wanted to know.

What advice would you give to parents of adoptees who have lost a parent?
I am not sure about the kind of advice I would be able to give. It really depends on the kid, and how the situation came about.

I think that if the parent is someone with which the kid had grown up in good-decent circumstances that they should have quite a bit of attention paid to them. If the kid brings up the parent on their own or clearly shows how they feel about the deceased then that should be a big part of how you decide to handle this. I think that they should be able to mourn the parent and remember the parent openly. I feel like you should be open to talking about the parent with the child when they feel comfortable opening up.

ABM weighs in: Create a permanent space for acknowledgment, mourning and open discussion. We have very visible pictures of Hope’s parent in our home. We were able to have these pictures because of our open relationship with extended biological family. I never thought I would have pictures of Hope as a little or with her father. Open adoption gave us that gift. Hope’s father is very much a part of her life, even in death because of a commitment to just including his memory. 

How important is it to have connections to your biological family?
It really just depends on the kid and how their connection is and if they want to have that connection. I think that the age of the kid plays a big role in this as well. A younger kid, like below the age of ten, is not very like to know how to make that kind of decision. I would say that if the kid has had contact with their biological family throughout their time in the system, and they have been having positive experiences I think that it is a good idea to maintain that relationship. If they haven’t had any contact or if they have had contact and it was a bad experience for them, depending on how they feel would be the best way to go.

I think that regardless of the two situations you should wait until they have had a decent amount of adjustment time and start off by bringing up the subject of possibly wanting to meet family or ask if they have ever thought of doing so. I don’t recommend taking it upon oneself and making this decision for the child.

ABM follow up question: How’s your experience been? Is there anything I could have done, still do, to make this connection stronger/better/easier?

My experience has been pretty good. I mean every relationship has its ups and downs but I never had any huge problems that made me think differently. When I first moved in I had a bit of a hard time adjusting. A lot of problems emerged at different points during the adjustment period. My mom worked with me a lot, she also worked really hard to make sure that I was able to experience many things. A lot of the things that she did made a big difference in my life. I was able to see just how much I had gained, and I was able to see all that I had to be grateful for. I feel like opening up would have been better for the construction of our relationship, but we were both in a tough situation that required lots of work. Another thing that I think I could have done id that I should have tried to do things differently. I was so used to how I had always done things that I continued to live how I previously did even though my conditions made my defenses useless. I was in a safe place, and I didn’t need to continue to defend myself. There is probably so much more that could have been changed that would have helped our relationship. Even though somethings could have been changed our relationship is very good, and we have become very alike in many senses. Once the bond is made is just gets stronger every day afterward. 

[ABM cries real tears. I LOVE YOU HOPE.]

Do you ever see you getting into adoption advocacy? To help other adoptees?
I’m not really sure about that. I’m not sure how I would be able to help out another kid through their adoption. I think for a kid getting adopted, it is easier to maybe give the parents some insight as to what the kids might be thinking or feeling. It would definitely be nice to be able to help the other adoptees out, but I know from my own experience that many can and will be stubborn about a lot of things and aren’t going to be very likely to be looking for another person giving them suggestions or for another person to be telling them what to do.

I think that parents need to pay more attention to the signs that their child gives them. They should follow their behaviors and work up a comfortable relationship with them. From my experience, I was very defensive and kept everything closed inside and didn’t like sharing anything. I was used to keeping to myself, and I didn’t really engage with my childhood and was used to doing everything for myself.


Parenting a College Student

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, you know the age.

Y’all we are past it.

giphy

via Giphy

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

It’s really startling.

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

We have a ways to go yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ask Hope, vol.3

Do you talk about being adopted much with your friends? Do you notice that you gravitate towards peers that have been adopted?

I have only really talked about it to my friends if a question regarding where I’m from comes up.

I have a few friends that are adopted, but that’s something that I usually don’t find out about until we’ve already been friends for some time; so I would say, no, I don’t gravitate towards others who have been adopted. I’ve known the same little group of people since I’ve been here, and that is who I stay with unless I meet someone new that I click with.

Do you think you would have accepted being adopted if you were older, like 15/16?

I’m not really sure about that, it was never something that I have ever really thought about.

While I was in the system the one thought that came to me many times was that I would just age out and move into my own apartment with some support. I think that if I was an older teen and an opportunity for adoption came up, I think that I would definitely be ok with it, I’d actually be glad and probably happy about it. Although at that point, I may have become discouraged because of how long it took for me to be noticed, but I don’t think that I would ever turn down such an opportunity.

I think that the possibility of me declining would depend on a lot, such as how far the adopter is (location) or just how I feel about moving at that time. If I were to be adopted at that at age, I would be starting or in the middle of high school.

What do you think would make the foster care system better? What advice would you give to kids first coming into foster care and what would you say to the foster parents as well?

Well, in my opinion, the foster care system needs a lot of work. It’s not the best although I know that sometimes they are just working with what they are given. I think that the system needs to be more thoughtful when choosing who is eligible to foster because some people do it just because they can get some cash for housing the kid. Sometimes it’s not even the foster parents themselves [who are the problem], but their own biological children, if they have any. I know everyone has a different experience in the system, but I can say from my own experience that it wasn’t all that fantastic but not every home was bad.

Another thing that I think would be a great improvement for the foster system is that the social workers are checked as well because some of them don’t fulfill their duties and just skim through the process, even though they are supposed to be one person the child is able to look to for help.

As for advice, I don’t know if I really have much advice to give since there isn’t much on the child’s part to do once they are placed in a home. One thing I definitely would say is to not let the foster parents you are placed with treat you any kind of way, tell your social worker. Don’t run away from your foster home, that’ll probably make it more difficult for them to try and get you adopted, and it will put you in a bad spot. It would be easier to just ask the social worker to move houses if the situation is really not working or if they are just nasty people with a bad attitude.

For the foster parents, if you have biological children and are fostering as well, please treat them like you would your own children. They are probably already having a difficult time or have had a difficult time. The mistreatment can stick with them and affect them later on, which makes it hard to really trust or believe in any other adults.  Pay attention to them and don’t tell them every 5 seconds what they may or may not be doing wrong. Foster kids need encouragement and positivity to get through it all. Don’t assume you know what they are going through or know what they feel like, regardless of how long you have been fostering. You aren’t them, so just listen to them.

If she were able to chat with kids still waiting for their very own Adoptive Black Mom, how would she coach them up, i.e., help them understand what to expect and how to emotionally prepare for life with a Forever Family?

Well, for everyone it’s different and the environment that they go to will be different for everyone. One thing that I would tell them is that they should really be serious and think when they are asked about their parental preferences and the kind of environment that they want to live in. When they do finally meet the family for them, both parts [prospective parents and kids] have to work together in order for it work out. If you can, tell your parent about things that help you and about things that upset you. Letting them know some things can really help with them in helping you and understanding your actions/behaviors. Don’t expect something super perfect; parents are people just like you are and they go through things the same as you. If you are having a hard time, let them know.

What is the best response an adoptive parent could give to a kid who is saying something to the effect of, I hate you, you are the worst parents ever.

I don’t really know. I’m sure at some point all kids biological or adopted have said something like “I hate you, you are the worst parents ever.” That’s just how kids are and I’m sure at some point everyone has said or thought the same thing about their own kid or about their own parents. #itsnormal

In terms of what the response should be, I don’t really know, but I do know that an aggressive approach may not be the best choice. Everyone probably just needs time to cool down. I do think that as the parent you shouldn’t just let it go, but I also wouldn’t recommend making a humongous deal about it. Lastly, I think that this is more likely to happen during the adjustment period and is probably just a part of the cycle.

 


Being Selfish is a Human Right

I just came across an article by Angela Tucker in which she responds to the question about whether adopted persons are selfish for searching for their birth family.

Such an absurd question, amirite?

Why on earth would it be considered selfish to wonder about your origins, your people, your place in the universe? I mean, entire industries have emerged to capitalize on the fundamental notion that we all want to know where we came from. You can seriously go to Target right now and pick up any number of tests for less than $100 to satiate your desire to find out more about your genetic information and its connection to others.

And that industry sprung up thanks to the increasing interest in genealogy by private hobbyists and professional searchers.

Most of us are just curious and, for fun, we can go out and satiate that curiosity.

A couple of years ago my sister bought my parents a couple of Ancestry DNA kits for their anniversary. It was a fun and interesting thing to do. My mom and a few extended family members have turned into genealogy hobbyists during their retirement years. Well, a few months later the DNA turned up some close relatives we suspected existed but never really knew about. We now have this amazing relationship with my cousins, who bore a striking resemblance to our family and shared interests that seemed unexplainable by anything other than genetics.

My mother, Grammy, is the only surviving member of her immediate, nuclear family, and finding these relatives has meant the world to her. It gave her a connection she never imagined she’d experience. For my cousins, it was a missing puzzle piece that was sought for more than 50 years.

That doesn’t mean that the revelation wasn’t without its complications. Not everyone in the concentric circles of our family was thrilled or accepting. Not everything has been easy. There’s a lot of emotion. There’s a lot of hurt. There’s a patient hope for future acceptance. There are times when it feels like time for full resolution is running out.

There are prayers.

There are occasional wails.

There are tears, both happy and sad.

It’s complicated.

But gosh knowing has been worth it.

I gave Hope the option last year of taking a test.  I thought she was old enough to understand the ramifications of sending your genetic information to a 3rd party that profits from having such sensitive information (something all of us should think more seriously about). We talked about the possibility of finding her surviving parent as well as connecting with half-siblings that I know exist and are in adoptive families as well. We talked about what that meant for her, how she felt about it.

My own curiosity led to my own search for her parent a few years ago. It was consuming for a while; then one day I found her. I told Hope about it since she had expressed an interest in searching. I have the information, and I update it regularly. Hope has never asked for the info or to reach out. I’ve promised to support her no matter her decision. I believe one day she will broach the issue again, with or without me. I could never deny her the information or my support in searching and wanting to see if a relationship was possible.

Yes, it might be complicated.

Yes, it might not go well.

Yes, it will be hella emotional.

Yes, it might be messy.

Yes, it could end horribly.

Yes, it could also be the beginning.

I’ve committed to be Hope’s ride or die. I’m good. I’m confident in my relationship with her. I believe there is plenty of good room for people who love Hope. I believe that she needs me to just hold her hand sometimes and listen.

I’m emotionally well enough to not think this has anything to do with me, but everything to do with Hope finding her missing pieces.  I am her ally, and allies have to know their place—supportive of promoting agency, recognition that it’s not about us, and advocating for full personhood for our peeps.

So, yeah, she can be selfish. In fact, I encourage Hope to be selfish—as if that’s inherently a bad thing, it’s not—in searching for her missing pieces. I shouldn’t be a consideration. I want her to bloom into pursuing her needs and dreams, and if that includes searching or choosing not to search—frankly that’s Hope’s business.

My business is working through my own ish so that she isn’t negatively affected by it. My business is supporting my girl.

I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with some aspects of selfishness. Selfishness can be healthy and self-preserving. I don’t believe that searching for the missing pieces of your identity is selfish. I think it is a human right to want to know. I think it’s a human right to pursue this knowledge. So if that’s selfish…that’s ok with me and I think it should be ok with you too.

So, yeah, be selfish. It’s all good.


Thoughts on Grief

Someone I dated years ago passed away recently, and I’m finding that it is deeply affecting me. I was already sliding into my seasonal emotional challenges (damn you Daylight Savings Time), and then I received word of the tragic death of someone who I planned to build a life with at some point. It’s left me feeling all kinds of things.  

My relationship with him wasn’t the healthiest, and there came a time when I saw that clearly and made moves to get out. It was during that season of my life when I really was thinking about my future, my desire to have children, my desire to adopt, my career, my life plan. When I realized that I didn’t want to have a family with him, I knew that my desire to be a mother was much greater than my affection for him. Going back to school to do a doctorate was a part of my plan, but then it became a part of my exit strategy for that relationship.  

As I sit here pondering this loss, I am struck by the direct line from him to Hope. That relationship set me on a course that brought us together. Sure, everything before that probably did as well, but that season is when I started being really deliberate about moving in ways that brought me to mothering Hope.  

And even though the relationship ended many years ago, the connection, that line, is still there, and I grieve his death. I didn’t keep in touch; I occasionally stalked him on social media to see how life was treating him. I saw his triumphs and struggles. I wanted no contact, but I hoped for a good, long, healthy life for him.  

Unfortunately, It wasn’t meant to be for him, and that saddens me greatly. 

I’m also surprised how lonely this grief feels. It’s not like I’m going to go around telling a bunch of folks (besides, ironically, my blog readers) that I’m so sad over the death of an ex-boyfriend who was emotionally toxic and who I split from nearly 10 years ago. I mean, life continued and worked out great for me, right? Sure his death is sad, but why am I sad? I’m sad because we shared a connection and there were good memories too, and although I couldn’t be with him, I genuinely wished him well.  

I imagine this kind of grief is similar to what my daughter and other adoptees may feel, not quite but a few parallels at least. It seems almost impolite to talk about it. I mean, sure you lost people, relationships, but adoption should’ve cured all those emotions and isn’t that great? Why are you still grieving?  I don’t mean to compare the loss of an ex-boyfriend to the loss of a parent and extended family, but the inability to express grief without folks questioning your grief at all—that, that somehow feels like there may be some parallels there.  

There is a longing for what could’ve been. There’s a longing for the change you hoped would happen but never did. There’s the sadness of the separation and the disappointment that reunion didn’t or couldn’t happen. Then there’s just the heaviness that it will never happen because they are just gone, forever gone. It’s painful, and yes, it’s lonely.  

Grief sucks. It sucks so badly.  

So, as I sit with these emotions and I ponder the connection between that man and the life I enjoy today, I am grateful for that experience and for his insertion in my life. I’m hopeful that he has found peace on the other side.  

To adoptees and others experiencing grief, however it comes to you, it’s ok to feel what you feel. You are not alone, and I hope that you are surrounded by people who get it, who get you, and who understand your pain and facilitate your healing.


#NAAM2018

I’m resting this month, recovering from weeks of travel and gearing up for the holidays. I’m exhausted mentally and physically so I’m taking a bit of time for some self-care. I’m also beginning to work through some big feelings I have about my and Hope’s attachment. No worries, we’re good and my recent post on this topic remains true, I’m just realizing that I have big feelings about our long game and what that looks like and what I should be doing to not muck it up. I’m taking some time to just roll that around in my mind.

I didn’t want the month to pass without acknowledging that it is National Adoption Awareness Month in the US. Five years ago this month I announced to my larger circle of friends and family that I was adopting and that I had already matched and met my daughter Hope. I was delighted and terrified, and I’m sure Hope was really emotional as well.

Since then I’ve learned to spend a bit more time during this month listening to adoptees and what they have to say about their experiences. Certainly, this is something I choose to do all the time, but I try to be really, really intentional about it this time of year.

So to that end, I’m just going to share an old podcast that Hope and I recorded for Add Water and Stir. It’s lovely to hear her voice and to have captured this chat with her. I am just so honored to have the opportunity to parent this amazing young woman. I’m proud of her and the woman she is becoming. She’s a really cool kid.

I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, listen to Hope and share her words—she still wants to be famous. 😊

Hope Shares Her Script

 

flipthescript


Empty Nesting

I just got home from the office and I’m posted up on the couch with Yappy. It’s just the two of us.

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Me, Yappy & his impressive side eye.

I’m trying to decide what I’m going to have for dinner, especially since it’s just me.

I’m a little anxious because it feels like I *should* be doing something.

Oh right, Hope is away at school, so…

There’s no one else to say hi to when I get home.

There’s no one to cook dinner for in the evenings.

There’s no homework for me to check in on.

There’s no monitoring of internet usage while studying to do.

There’s no planning for the football game and band parenting to do.

It’s just me and Yappy, and I have feelings that I’m still sorting through.

The first week Hope was away was similar to when she went away to school this summer. I was exhausted. I know parents are exhausted; the constant vigilance that parenting requires is kind of draining. This summer I could barely get off of the couch the first week she was away. This time I was recovering from our vacation and had a bit of jetlag so I was exhausted, but it wasn’t quite as bad as the first time she went away to school.

Last week, week two, I spent the extra time working. I worked late and brought a bit of work home to do in the evenings since I could and I needed to catch up on some things that languished while I was in Europe.

This week, I’m getting my bearings a bit. I am thinking about rallying and going to the gym this evening. I’ve got a happy hour night and a date night planned this week. I’m thinking about my plans for the weekend as well. And if those plans fall through, I will pivot in my freedom and do something spontaneous or nothing at all.

I like the freedom. It’s kind of nice.

But I really do miss Hope.

We’re getting into a rhythm where I text her in the morning, maybe sending a picture of Yappy or a goofy selfie. She responds when she gets out of class with an update about her day. We trade a few messages before she heads off to an activity. I’ll get an itemized receipt for something she bought at the bookstore. I’ll get a little annoyed about how she spent $4 on a pack of gum at the overpriced bookstore and I’ll go on Amazon to ship her a multipak for the same price.

I might spend some time on YouTube looking at funny videos to send her. I might find some hairdo on Pinterest that we might try on her when she comes home. I’ll make a list of the appointments that need to be crammed into her next visit home–therapist, dentist, hairdresser.

She came home this past weekend, and I ended up being pretty quiet for a good chunk of the weekend. Hope had so much to share. I didn’t want to interrupt her because I relished hearing her voice. I also found myself in awe of her.

She rattled off the homework that needed to get done over the weekend. I told her it sounded like a lot; she replied it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. She showed me her graphic arts assignments, and I quietly marveled at how creative she was. She told me about how one of her teachers was encouraged to achieve a certain rank in the next few weeks and what that meant for her. I smiled. She shared how she and her roommate were getting on, and how a momentary issue that might’ve resulted in her switching roommates was easily resolved because she and her roommate wanted to stay together. They were eager to continue practicing English and Chinese together. I chuckled to myself about her early fears that her roommate might ignore her because of the language barrier and culture concerns. She smiled and shook her head when I showed up on campus to sign her out for the weekend with my “Not Today Colonizer” t-shirt on, because I’m nothing if not an agitator. I happily watched all the “woke” videos about social justice that she watched and saved on FB  just to share with me when she had a chance. We talked about politics and the latest with the Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination; she has thoughts, y’all.

She told me about her upcoming SAT and ACT tests that she was not eager to take a few short months ago. She told me how she learned how to do stage lighting as she works backstage on the school play and announces that she might audition for a part in the next one; I hold my breath because I seriously don’t know who this kid is. I still didn’t have a picture of Hope in her duty uniform, and I didn’t want to bother her with it for fear that she’d huff and puff and blow my house down. I just asked her to take a selfie in her uniform when she had a chance. I nearly cried when she insisted that I wait while she changed into her uniform so I could take all the pictures I wanted when I took her back to school; she was proud to show me what she looked like in uniform. I saw how neat her room was (thank you daily room inspection) and smiled that someone managed to bring order to her life.

Hope is happy. Nearly every moment of her day is dictated for her, and she’s just thriving. I’m so happy for her.

And then I turn a bit sad because I could not do this for her at home. I could not create or provide enough structure to help her be this kind of successful. I had to find a place to do that because I couldn’t. There’s a bit of all of this that feels like a failure. I know it’s not, but a tiny bit of it pinches my heart because I couldn’t do this at home.

I know that she would have revolted if I tried to do this at home. This military school has given her purpose. I know that my role was to get her to a place where she could go there and thrive. I know that it’s not failure; this is a raging success. All that I poured into this kid got her to this place, and I was fortunate enough to be able to give her a chance at conventional success at this school. That is a salve to my soul.

But it still stings a bit. There’s something that feels kind of wrong after 4 years to send her away for her final year of high school. I mean, I didn’t send her away, Hope made this choice and it really was her choice. Hope and I thought that she would be a late bloomer, maybe staying home for a few years. She may still home, but I also see and know that she will be fine going away to school next year, so…we’re starting to look at small schools that can give her what she needs. The landscape has totally changed.

I know I can take credit for this…that *we* can take credit for this, but I still miss her. I kinda miss the exhaustion of worrying about whether she’s studying or staying up sneaking the laptop while eating candy all night. I don’t miss the dysfunctional trust issues we still work through, but I miss the some of the absurd routine behaviors that accompanied them.

Sometimes I feel silly and will email the dorm counselor to check in and see if Hope is really thriving as she appears to be. I check on her grades, bracing myself for the disaster I had become used to seeing when I checked grades. Dorm counselor emails back with glorious things to say and pictures of Hope’s room at last inspection. Grades come back with A’s and not the kinds of grades I used to see that made both of us feel like shyt. Hope calmly texted me that about my reaching out to the counselor last week. I read it as though she were mad and lashed out. #truthtelling She just explained the situation as she saw it and provided some additional information and context that the dorm counselor didn’t share. #contextiseverything I felt silly, having spun out into some of the dysfunction we endure at home. I apologized, and I resolved to talk to my own therapist about avoiding that in the future.

It really is a new day at Casa d’ABM. I have no idea what’s next for me and Hope. I’m excited and emotional and…proud. I feel like we made it, or at least I have survived. I can’ speak for her.

I try to be very sensitive about listening to adoptee voices. I’m not sure how Hope would characterize our life together. I hope she shows me a little grace as she reflects on it. I don’t expect her to be a “happy” adoptee; I know there is so much that shapes this experience. I know and have walked the path of depression and anxiety with her these last few years. I know she isn’t fully healed. I know that she will have some kind of hurt and pain probably forever. I’m a realist. I just hope she knows that I adore her. That I accept her as she is, imperfectly at times but I do, and I will support her lifelong journey to healing. I hope she knows I believe in her, purely and wholly.

I’m an empty nester looking at the next chapter for me and Hope, and it’s so dang emotional.


Thoughts on Momming an Adoptee

It’s National Adoption Awareness Month, and as I always do, I spend some time scanning Twitter reading adoptee tweets and reading adoptee blogs and articles. I do that all year, of course, but I take a special interest the adoptee voice during NAAM. I think a lot about what they are saying and what Hope might be thinking about her experience as an adoptee.

I mean, whether she knows it or not yet, these are her people, and they are giving voice to some of the stuff that is probably floating around in her head. Stuff she is unable or not ready to articulate.

So, I listen. I try to talk a little less and listen a bit more.

I write about my experiences as an Adoptive Black Mom, but I’m mothering an adoptee, Hope.

Part of my job as Hope’s mom is helping her find her voice. I don’t know what my daughter’s future holds for her. It would surprise me if she evolved into an adoptee advocate/activist; Hope is becoming a conscious kid, but it remains to be seen whether that will blossom into something. Who knows though, right?

Part of momming Hope is helping her figure out how she wants adoption to fit into her story. She gets help dealing with the stuff that led to her being in a position to be adopted. She talks to me about what she’s ok with being disclosed. Hope decides how much contact she wants with her extended biological family. Hope gets to decide how how/whether she wants to use her name, since we just added my name to her existing name. Hope gets to make a lot of decisions; my job is making sure that her surrounding environment is open and safe for her to make decisions and for her to have as many options as possible. My job is to be a facilitator. I get to help make this stuff happen. My other job is to check my ego as a adoptive mom.

Adoptive parents are often held up as these amazing saviors. Certainly, children need homes and people want families and adoption is often a bridge between those two facts. The truth is that I wanted to be a mom. My decision to adopt was selfish. Even the so-called noble choice to adopt an older child was rooted in my desire to maintain some aspects of my lifestyle—I didn’t want to have to deal with full time day care or feedings or potty training or any of that. I wanted to be able to still travel without taking a small house of baby stuff with me. An older child would be beyond that stage, would even as I parent offer some kind of engaging companionship, would be able to pack their own overnight bag for a trip anywhere. How I got to the mom I am now started in a pretty selfish place, and I’m ok with that.

I’m still far from perfect; and sometimes I fail miserably, but I hope my efforts count for something.

In pursuing older child adoption, I’ve also learned that there are a few more privileges that some other adoptive parents might not have. I don’t have to worry about figuring out how or whether to tell my daughter that she’s adopted. My daughter knows more about her story than I ever will, and she is more than capable of telling me what she wants me to know.

Like some other adoptive parents, I had to figure out early on how to incorporate biological family into our familial universe. I had to learn to lean into my own lessons on graciousness and the expansiveness of love. There can’t be a lot of jealousy or threatening feelings when you focus on welcoming people into a family. Your kid doesn’t have to figure out whose team they are on when parents conceptualize only one big team.

My daughter’s story is not normal, but I’ve worked hard to normalize our family and our life. I never want Hope to question my love and support for her. I never want her to think that I thought adoption cut her off from her biological and genetic connections. It’s easy to say those things don’t count when you have access to your biological/genetic connections.  I never want her to feel like she can’t talk about her birth parents in our home. I never want her to feel like she has to make a choice in defining her family holistically. When she has asked me to find someone in her family; I have. When she has then said she didn’t want to make contact, I put the information away until she changes her mind. When she asked to do something special for her family members who have crossed over, we have said prayers, celebrated birthdays with cakes and released balloons (sorry environment). What Hope needs to help her navigate her adoptive life, I do what I can to make it happen.

I have tried to create an inclusive family for us, and you know what? It hasn’t been difficult. It has occasionally been a little challenging, but it hasn’t been hard. Being Hope’s mom has called me to step my game way up. I’m better for it. I hope that Hope is better for it.

So, I hope this year, this month, National Adoption Awareness Month, that APs will create space for their kids to broadly love and be broadly loved. I hope that we can learn that more is better. I hope that we can support our kids in the ways they need, not just the ways we need. I hope that we can listen to adoptees more and heed their advice and guidance. I hope we can all just love more.


It’s Awkward

I read a lot of adoptee blogs and tweets. I also listen to several adoptee podcasts, especially Adoptees On. I know that being in reunion with one’s family of birth can be complicated. There are lots of emotions. Sometimes there are secrets. Sometimes you want desperately what you simply can’t have.

Sometimes it’s easy; it’s almost seamless.

Being in reunion can be amazing; it can also be really hard.

Hope is in reunion with her extended family. It’s always been complicated. I thought it was really me; that I complicated things. Now, I’m not so sure. I have tried to provide numerous opportunities for my daughter to see and connect to her biological family. I’ve driven many miles for visits, arranged for phone calls and gifts, and just tried to keep the lines of communication open. This year, I made spring break about our whole family—hers, mine and ours.

It was hard; it was emotionally draining. There were so many big emotions on both sides, but it seemed that no one had the words to adequately verbally communicate what they were feeling and what they wanted from the other. There were tears, lots of them. I stood by with handkerchiefs and hugs.

I found myself still trying to be the bridge trying to span the distance within this family of people who love one another so very much. At moments, I felt stretched beyond my own capacity, but I tried.

Since our big trip six months ago, I’ve still tried to help this family stay connected. Calls, flowers, cards. I’ve nudged Hope to stay connected.

One day recently she just blurted out that it was all so awkward, that it was too awkward and that she kind of just didn’t want to right now.

I tiptoed through a conversation about why it was awkward and what she wanted to happen next. It’s still unclear what the outcome should be in terms of my daughter’s family reunion. I know what I want for her, but it’s not about me. It’s about what she wants and what is best for her, and only she can figure that out.

I see Hope with our family after nearly 4 years. I watch her with her aunts. I watch her with her cousins and how those relationships have evolved during the last few years. I’m so excited about that, but my joy is tempered by my own comparisons across our extended family. I was hopeful that over time things would smooth out, that we really would be this big happy family on all sides. That simply hasn’t happened yet.

I’m still hopeful that awkwardness in these relationships will fade away. I’m eager to figure out what I can do, but my sense is that they will have to figure this out themselves.

The selfish part of me worries that Hope’s family will come to believe I kept her from them, that I somehow soured Hope against her biological family. I worry that I will be perceived as threatened by them. There was a time when I did kind of feel threatened, but it was brief and unwarranted. Families are big and complicated; I decided early on to make it work.

I feel like I failed in that endeavor. I really have tried to make a big tent. I feel like I did all the things I was supposed to do to help my daughter have a positive reunion. But, right now at least, it isn’t the happy reunion we had all prayed for, and there’s really nothing I can do about it.

My natural role in life is to be a fixer, but I can’t fix this. That’s a hard reality check for me. Not only can’t I fix it, it’s not my role to beyond what I’ve done to this point. My role was to facilitate that ability for these folks to work it out. I did that, but I guess I have to take a step back and really hope that they do, that Hope wants to figure it all out. Really, I hope she does whatever she needs to in order to be as close to whole as she can.

I feel like I should still reach out, just as me, but I don’t know if that’s appropriate. Hope is 16, and I’m loathe to get on her bad side in a perceived family *thing.* Despite my own efforts to blend the families, I’m not sure that is what Hope wants, at least right now. I try to follow her lead on adoption related stuff, but this…I’m not sure how to read this; is the lead to just let it alone and let it breathe for a while?

I’m guessing I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing—cards, pictures, letters and flowers on holidays—and get out of the way for them to figure it out.


The Elements

I grew up listening to Earth, Wind and Fire. My parents love music and exposed my siblings and me to some of the best disco, funk, and R&B out there as we grew up. Earth, Wind and Fire were special though with positive vibes, love songs and the sheer volume of hits they created. I loved them and continue to love them.

I went to my first EWF concert when I was a freshman in college. I took my mom. Maurice White was no longer touring with the group, though he occasionally would make a drop-in appearance. I remember rocking out with my mom and seeing the lights on her face from the show. I remember mom saying she hoped Maurice would drop into this show; it was like she was a young woman swooning over a famous crush. I remember it being such a fun time for us.

My daughter also loves EWF; her father loved the band and played their music often. Hearing an EWF song triggers happy memories of her time with her dad. When I heard the group was on tour with Nile Rodgers and Chic, and that they were coming to DC, I thought I’d invest in some floor seats and take Hope. It would be a good time for sure and also give us the good feel memories in the process.

So last night, my daughter and I met up for a yummy pre-concert dinner at a favorite restaurant of mine and headed out to boogie the night away.

If you are a fan of Earth, Wind and Fire and they are coming to your town on this tour—get your fanny to that arena and get your swerve on. Seriously, it was an amazing concert. The spectrum of people present was amazing. There was glitter, drunk folks, dandies, 70’s style headbands, whistles, ponchos—the people watching alone was worth the price of admission.

But the music…oh the music was EVERYTHING.

Hope and I rocked out. We screamed! We sang along. We smiled! We shimmied. We had an amazing time.

Hope was fast asleep before we could get out of the parking garage and in the bed before I could get back from walking the dog after we got home.

We boogied until we couldn’t boogie anymore.

Towards the end of the show the band did a lovely tribute to the late Maurice White. familyreunion

And the light hit Hope’s face the way it did with my mom 20+ years ago.

familyreunion

And…I got to thinking about my parents and Hope and her dad.

I reveled in my memories with my parents, dancing in the family room, turning the volume up in the car, looking at my dad’s army pictures when he was clearly grooving to good music. I found myself just oozing gratitude about having had them my whole life, how we shared these memories together, how The Elements were one of many parts of the soundtrack of our lives together.

I looked over at Hope who was swaying and singing. She smiled at me. I smiled back and thought about how much I wished she had had a longer time to build memories with her biological parents, how a whole series of episodes separated them, how at least she has these good memories that clearly bring her joy. I thought about how it just isn’t fair that my sisters and I have enjoyed our biological family having never known anything else, having never known the kind of upheaval Hope has, having taken for granted how easily things could have been different.

Life isn’t fair, and yet somehow Hope and I have been put together with a thread of music that helps us find common ground. We both get a chance to create these important memories. It doesn’t make up for the losses that Hope has experienced, but it does allow us to build from where we find ourselves.

“Ohhhh, this is one of my dad’s favorite songs.”

I smile and tell her it’s one of my dad’s favorites too.

There are only 3 original members still touring these days; they are all pushing 70 so I don’t know how many more tours there will be. I’m glad I took my daughter to see this one. I know that she will tell her friends and she will create legends about last night. I’ll look forward to reminiscing about last night with her 20 years from now as she tells her kids about last night. I hope we’ll both talk about our parents and what they loved about the music too.

That’s the way of the world.

 


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