Tag Archives: Adoption and Resiliency

Emotional Confessions

Author’s Note:

I wrote this post at the start of the week after an emotionally taxing weekend. I wasn’t showing myself much grace; I wasn’t giving myself space to just breathe.

I’m on the upswing now with a lot of support and love from my village.

I sat on this post, changing the post schedule repeatedly. It was too raw; it was just too much.  I felt ashamed about my meltdown. I felt embarrassed about whining about how hard this journey is…a journey I chose. As I begin to feel better, I realized that I needed to just go ahead and put it out there, hoping that giving it air and light would validate the raw feelings of other folks who are struggling.

So…here it is. I hope my transparency makes someone who also feels these feelings know they aren’t alone.


As a parent, I would like to think that my good characteristics outweigh the bad. I hope so. I hope that one day, when I’m really and truly called to account for my many, many flaws, that the good stuff will get me through the pearly gates.

I have a terrible temper, seriously it’s awful. It makes me shake it’s so awful. I sometimes have a hard time controlling it. My preferred weapon is words. I will grind you right down; my anger makes me want to make you small with words.

I have the capacity to be really, really mean. I know this; I’m not proud of it, but I know this.

I’m passive aggressive, though through the years I’m managed to abandon a lot of those behaviors, but please know that they are still there.

I’m selfish, incredibly selfish. I like what I like and I don’t want to compromise or give it up or whatever. I often think about what I had to give up to be a parent, and I feel some kind of way about all of it.

My natural state is to be super blunt without care for feelings. I am a good Southern woman, though, appropriately brought up to mind my tongue most of the time. I try to mind my manners and demonstrate tactfulness, so the bluntness often appears dulled.

I am very comfortable with conflict. I don’t necessarily like it, but I am very comfortable with it and sometimes will trigger it just so I can use my word weapons and “win.” Why? Because winning makes me feel better about myself and sometimes I really just want to feel better about myself and sadly, winning a conflict, no matter how ridiculous, is the quickest way to achieve that.

At 44 as much as I try to continue to evolve, especially as I parent, I know that my personality is locked in. I am who I am. My dissertation was all about resistance to change; yeah, I am. I’m totally resistant to change. I hate change. I hate thinking about it. I hate the need to be flexible even though I promote it and have to practice it for everyone’s well-being. I don’t want to.

I liked the old me and I’m not so sure that I like the parenting me. Actually, I’m sure I don’t, which just makes me feel awful. I love my daughter, but I’m not a huge fan of this parenting thing.

As I think about these flaws, I wonder what the hell made me want to be a parent. Seriously, talk about the most-long term triggering activity one could sign up for. I mean…seriously, parenting…while it brings out the best in me; it also brings out the absolute worst in me. I spend countless hours biting my cheeks trying to hold my own dragons in check.

Hope knows that biting my cheek is my anger/anxiety tell. She learned that early on. She also knows I have a wicked temper. She’s been subjected to the brunt of it a couple of times. She knows that I have the capacity to destroy her. It’s the truth, and it’s a truth that shames me. emotionally.

Our mutual knowledge of this fact terrifies me. I try so hard to build her up knowing that a horrible bout of anger and frustration could bring it all crumbling down. Knowing that kills me; the guilt…is…crushing.

Daily, especially bad days like one I had recently, I wonder if I was the best home for Hope. I think she could have done better. I wonder was this route right for me? Could I have led a child-free, but happy and fulfilled life? There are days when I wonder if I’m just making things worse for her, in spite of the permanence she desperately needed—is this really what was best for her?. I wonder a lot of things.

It’s taken me years and a lot of therapy to face my own deep seated flaws and I had a “conventional, normal” upbringing. Will the glare of adoption ever dull and allow me to just be a regular old parent? My flaws, while still bad, don’t seem so drastically horrid, under the softer lighting of parenting with no adjectives.

I’m struggling with my own identity as me and not ABM or Hope’s mom. I’ve been so consumed with trying desperately for Hope to be successful that my own personal goals and successes have fallen by the wayside. I’ve had two major work publications come out in the last two months. I barely acknowledged them even though they are the culmination of years of work. I have withdrawn from friends because I’m “busy” making sure geometry homework is done, chemistry quizzes are taken and A Brave New World gets read. I spend an absurd amount of time monitoring the general comings and goings of online behavior because…distractions are bad and ADHD teen life is stupid.

I’m going through the motions just trying to keep my own dragons at bay while I tend to Hope’s dragons.

I’m tired, so very tired, and I suspect falling back into my old chilly friend, depression. I’m sure that my self-care game is weak right now, which allows the time and space for my flaws to step to the forefront.

Hope and I remain hopeful, but right now it doesn’t feel like hope bears out. She insists that the world is against her and finds the tiniest evidence that fits her world view and magnifies it into a universal conspiracy against her. I keep hoping that overnight her limitations will disappear leaving me with expectations that are routinely unmet making me frustrated, angry and disappointed in me, her and the world in general.

We are doing everything we are supposed to be doing. I am marshaling every external resource I can. On the outside, we are doing it, but behind these doors, we struggle. We struggle day in and day out. We struggle with our individual flaws, our individual limitations, our shared problems, and ranges of emotions that are just…overwhelming and exhausting. Some days, we struggle just to stay alive. And it’s rarely seen under the carefully worded and curated social media posts. It’s rarely shared because the glare of judgment is likely to just sear a hole through me.

And I’m afraid. As much as my own self-criticism and loathing bring me down and the fear of external judgment paralyzes me; I’m most afraid of Hope’s view of me. I am terrified of what she must think of me. I know she loves me, and I’m sure there’s a healthy amount of “I hate you!” because she’s a teen girl, but critically, I fear her perception of me as her adoptive mother.

I’m afraid as I listen to adoptees talk about what works and what doesn’t that Hope will one day tell the world about all of my shortcomings as her mother. Will Hope be hypercritical of me? Will she spend these latter years of adolescence thinking that I was a failure as her mother? Will she be on social media talking about me badly? Will she write lists enumerating all the things I should’ve, would’ve, could’ve done despite what feels like the sacrifice of the very core of my being and the need and desire to suppress everything I ever thought or thought I knew about parenting to parent her the best I could?

I’m mindful of the pain I caused my own mother as I often wrote about her in the beginning of this journey and my disappointment and anger towards her for how she “treated me” in the early months of my journey with Hope. It wasn’t pretty, and it should’ve been private, but it wasn’t.  Will Hope look back on these years with righteous anger about all I did wrong when I was trying desperately to hold on and do right by her? How will she see me? How will she see us? I already know that I live in the shadows and shoes of those who came before me and that there are romantic notions that I will never be who they were or could have been. I acknowledge that but I do wonder, five, ten years from now, will Hope know how hard I tried to give her the love and life that she deserved?

Parenting is so very hard and it magnifies all of your flaws. Parenting a kid from a hard place with a ton of her own baggage…it’s another level of crazy.

Ultimately, my confession is that I have no idea what the hell I’m doing and I’m desperate not to screw up. I feel like every personal flaw is on front street and out of control right now. I feel like I can’t get anything right and that I can’t motivate, coax, drag, pull, prod, cheer, nudge or pray Hope into the success she deserves. I’m back to wanting more for her than she wants for herself, and worse, I love her so much that I now own that failure, and I know somewhere, somehow that she and others probably think I own that self-hate too.

It’s just too much.


Pushing & Pulling

One of the toughest parts of adopting an adolescent kiddo is figuring out how to balance the need and desire to establish attachment by pulling the child close and the need to facilitate and foster the independence associated with being a teen and drop kicking kiddo out(ish). It’s a tough balance.

I’ve been spending a lot of time and effort really trying to do the attachment parenting thing, and I can say that it’s made life at Casa d’ABM better. Lots of time together, lots of patience, lots of deliberate effort to meet Hope right where she is. I’m really trying to pull her close, ensure her safety, and strengthen our relationship. I can see the fruits of this labor; less grumpiness, more willingness to be agreeable, less general upheaval in the house.

As I do this pulling, Hope’s friends are getting dropped off at the movies, at the mall, at the ice skating rink and anywhere else teens get dropped these days. Hope doesn’t get invited—like ever, but I try to make it happen with the few friends she has. It is normal for her to try to kick me to the curb sometimes. But she doesn’t; in fact she begs me to stay. Then I am on the spot to be present but invisible, but somehow cool all at the same time. I worry about when she will develop some independence and be on par developmentally with her peers. And when will I be able to just drop her off and come home and enjoy a glass of something until time to fetch her. (*Not so secretly hoping to regain control of my couch and remote on Friday nights…..)

I know it’s not a competition, but it’s hard not to compare Hope to other kids so that I can have a sense of what she might be doing if we had always been together, if she had been my biological daughter. I find it makes me sad that her life has been such that she’s stunted. I mean, what I’m dealing with here is a bit more than just “late bloomer” stuff. I find myself wishing her classmates would genuinely befriend her, that they would just invite her to hang out, that they would give her a chance to learn how to be a good friend. Watching Hope wrestle with this developmental hurdle has been hard; I know she’s lonely. I also know that she can occasionally wallow.

I also feel like there is a lot of feelings between both of us with me being both mom and proxy for a bestie. I mean, there have been seasons of my life when, without question, my mom was my bestie, but this is different. I always knew my mom and the privilege of having grown up with her allowed me the freedom to reclassify her as my friend as well as my mom. I know that Hope and I will hopefully get there one day, but for now, I am not sure how I feel about being both mom and best friend. I just want to be a space holder for a bestie, until she can develop the capacity to really nurture a friendship along such that evolves into a bestie situation.

Welcome to Crazy Town: I'm not your friend , I am your MOTHER!!!!

I never thought about how much effort goes into being a friend until I watched Hope navigate these waters. It is another thing that I’ve spent a lifetime taking for granted—I am very social and I make friends easily. Over the years, my job has had me on the road a lot, I went back to school and I became a mom. All of these things made me assess friendships and either work hard to maintain them or realize that the friend season was over with certain folks. But it was a luxury to just make those calls. I see my daughter so thirsty for genuine relationships. I try to teach Hope good skills so that she can be a good friend, but we are really behind the 8 ball—Hope’s emotional age is simply not the same as her peers and the capacity for the level of friend sophistication of high schoolers is pretty far above her head. It’s like watching a 4th grader hang out with some high schoolers. Cute for the first couple of minutes, painful for the remaining 58 minutes of an hour.

So for now, all I can do is pull her closer and try to help her feel safe enough and loved enough to let herself learn how to be appropriately social with her peers. I’m hopeful that we will work at this and succeed such that I don’t have to go to her senior prom with her.

Been there, done that…got the flamingo colored (I called it ‘coral’ back then) dress and dyed pumps to prove it. (You *know* you want to see that lovely one-shouldered confection with the drop waist…because 90s!)


Too Much

 

Sometimes this mothering thing is just too damn much.

There is a lot of shame around saying that. So many women are unable to have biological children and some hoops to clear for fostering and adopting can be tough. Saying that mothering can involve misery feels rather taboo.

I’m actually not supposed to say that, right? Because I wanted to be a mother. I’m not supposed to not love every effing minute of it, right?

And yet, this week I’m pretty miserable.

As the holidays approach, expectations seem to rise. My dear Hope seems to struggle as we get further in the school year, but her pride prevents any kind of help from cracking her protective casing. Yappy has developed separation anxiety. Work is…well, busy is an understatement.

The mental energy and gymnastics to parent a traumatized kiddo while being on top of things in the other areas of my life has driven me back to white knuckling it and popping anxiety meds reserved for….

breakglass

Well, this is that time.

I melted down this week. I hadn’t had one of my meltdowns in some time, and when I crumble it’s like…

falling-rocks1

The exhaustion and frustration and anger were and are just so real and too much. I hit my limit, my hard limit. And somewhere along the way I took all the things that Hope won’t/can’t do personally. No good can ever come from that, and yet it is a rabbit hole that I fall into ever so often. Hurts like hell to to fall into and climb to get out of.

I am struggling with parenting. It requires me to toss out 99% of everything I learned from my parents. If my parents gave me a list, I got that list done because they told me to do it and not doing the list would be considered disrespectful and disobedient.That combination didn’t go over well with them.

I give Hope a list and it will be balled up on the floor in minutes. And I can’t reconcile that with the narcissism that is simple teendom and the narcissism that is trauma teendom. My reserves are so low at the moment that it quite seriously causes me lots of anxiety as I attempt to keep my anger and frustration in check.

I’m singed

Last night I failed.

So, I lost my ish…royally.

I didn’t yell at her. I just yelled at the universe on the other side of the house. It was all just too much. The truth is that it’s always too much. Parenting my daughter is really is about how much I can I manage me; it’s clear I can only do so much in managing her. This control freak has nearly no control, and it’s driving me nuts.

After about 30 minutes, I went to talk to Hope, only to find her packing. The dresser drawers had been emptied, and she was working on the closet. She screamed at me that I could just put her back in the system so that I could get my life back and not be miserable anymore.

Oy, Great, now both of us feel like ish.

We talked after I quietly unpacked all her stuff. I reminded her that families fight, but no one is supposed to leave. I’m entitled to my feelings just like she is, and sometimes my feelings boil over and those feelingd aren’t fair to anyone around me either.

These last two years have been hard. Really hard. They’ve been traumatic in ways I never imagined. We’ve been through the ringer. But we’re still here, even when it feels like it’s all too much, and last night it really was too damn much.

I apologized for scaring her, but I didn’t apologize for my feelings. They are real. They are mine, and I’m entitled to feel some kind of way. I honor her feelings.

It’s hard have so few folks around for whom I can drop the veil, reveal my true feelings and have them honored as true and authentic.

So on top of everything else, I’m realizing that I’m lonely too.

Single parenting is both awesome and sucky at the same time.

This week, I’m just surfing until Friday because it really does feel like too much.

 


Perfect Parenting

There isn’t such a thing, right?

Right.

And yet, many parents aspire to be perfect, or at least good. Before I became a parent to Hope, I was a hopeless perfectionist. My control freakdom tendencies lead me down some dark paths at times, but I also attribute my personal success to a mix of blessings, dumb luck, and hard work characterized by a need to control as many variables as I could manage.

I can’t say I like problems, but I like and pride my ability to solve them. For much of my life, I’ve been pretty good at it. A lot of my identity has been tied up in the pride of figuring stuff out and making things happen.

And then I became a parent.

Holy ish.

Oh, and I became an adoptive parent to a kid who had endured many more of life’s hardships than I care to think about.

My earliest parenting moves were scrutinized by social workers. They were also scrutinized by numerous people in my life, and all of these people had the best of intentions. And all of these people had opinions, and many of these people didn’t mind sharing them.

It was a lot to hear and a lot to absorb.

More than a few parents shared their thoughts, even though there was little experience about parenting a kid who had experienced the kinds of things my new daughter had. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to manage my own emotional response to what I perceived as folks “not getting it” and feeling strangely tiny. I felt small because all these experienced parents around me giving me advice seemed to have figured things out and yet I felt like no solutions worked for me. The lack of ability to problem solve and/or control anything was devastating.

Add in the wicked adjustment period for Hope that included some really tough behaviors, and I swear I wonder how either of us survived.

I wrote a lot during those early days and months. Some of the frustrations I expressed in my blog, well, I probably wouldn’t do the same way in retrospect, but it is what it is.  I own it in all its truth.

In those days, the parenting problems were endless, new, overwhelming, devastating…and I had no control over what had been a pretty carefully constructed life and well, persona.

The feelings were new, raw, scary, terrifying actually.  Not only did I feel like crap, I felt like I was actually crap, identity-wise.

I found that my problem solving skills worked, but instead of being able to create a way out, I had to choose from a set of options, none of which seemed appealing, and pray that something brought some kind—any kind—of peace.

It rarely seemed to bring peace.

I quickly learned in those days that perfection would forever be elusive. I would have to learn to just shoot for great, then it slid to good, then it flirted with just good enough and then there were some days that the goal was to just keep Hope alive (ha! Jesse Jackson pun unintended but apropos).

I did and said things that still offer consequential ripples across my life. Some moments I actually spend a lot of time pondering some of the challenges—real, imagined, and emotional—that dominated the first six months of my life with Hope. I have a few regrets, just a few things that I could’ve and should’ve handled differently, but I look at the foundation that I created for me and Hope and I can say that I got it right.  There isn’t much, given so many challenges, that I would’ve done differently.

Fast forward 18 months and I fear I criticize or second guess myself so much more than I did at the very beginning. I mean, I know I didn’t know what I was doing then; now it seems like I should have more of a clue.

I don’t.

Most days I feel like I’m failing more than usual. Not a day goes by when I go, “Well that didn’t go like I thought” or “Could I have done something different? Better” or “FML—that was the best I could come up with?’ I replay the days’ interactions like they are on a DVR. I rarely pat myself on the back. I rarely think I deserve it.

It’s super hard. I constantly have to remember that perfection is impossible. Like everyone else, I’m just trying to do the best I can.

I hope one day to be known for my many accomplishments. I know that Hope will be one of those; hopefully, not because I adopted her, but rather because I raised a triumphant, young warrior who was able to overcome her history and step into a healthy life.  If I can do that or even get really, really close to that, it will be my single greatest achievement.

And I hardly ever feel like it’s possible. It feels like a heavy lift that is often too much to bear.  It’s hard. It’s heavy. It’s lonely. It’s traumatic.

It’s…so very hard some days.

But I guess it doesn’t require perfection. It can’t, because perfection simply doesn’t exist, right?

Even though I intellectually know this, I, like so many other parents, will continue to chase it and fail to find it.

I think if I can truly learn to accept that, it will be my second greatest achievement.


The Wins

Each week has ups and downs, but this week I’m choosing to focus on the ups, the wins. We had a few that I can celebrate and that I can acknowledge taught me somethings.

The plastic snack container and lidded trash can resulted in no stolen/hoarded food and no wrappers in Yappy’s lair. Thank you to commenters on last week’s post for that recommendation! Of course, Hope crushed, like, $30 worth of snacks in like 3 days. I will refill it today for the week, but oy, I’m hopeful that this will help us move past issues with her and food and the issue with Yappy.

Hope is majorly crushing on a boy I think might be actually worth the crush, and she is working really hard to break her pattern of chasing her crush down like a lion/gazelle interaction on the Serengeti. I’m proud of her restraint, especially since she’s really down on herself and what she thinks not having a boyfriend says about her. You really could *not* pay me to be a teenager again; it totally seems to suck arse.

Hope is starting to be able to better distinguish between friends and associates (aka—people you know and occasionally hang with who aren’t really friends). It’s a hard lesson, really painful, but she seems to be trying to develop an inner circle of real friends. Band is helping with this a lot. I pray that it sticks. The sooner she develops that inner circle and has a robust group of close friends, the sooner I can reconnect with some of my own friends. Some relationships have really began neglected.

And speaking of band, Hope’s fine band director (aka Band Bae) told me to call him by his first name. Yowza.v#HeyBooHey But, no worries, Elihu is still my bottom bae. I love he and believe him to be the yin to my yang! (But Band Bae makes this whole band lifestyle more….entertaining to watch at least.)

After complaining for nearly 4 weeks I finally took Hope to see about her bummed hip. A suspected stress fracture turned out to be just an absurdly overworked group of muscles.

The family physician and physician assistant both lectured Hope on the importance of exercise and the need to work on her flexibility. I humble bragged that I can put my hands flat on the floor without bending my knees because I’m petty and wanted to rub in my workout prowess. Truth is, that I look forward to working out with Hope when the muscles heal up.

My commitment to keeping my fitbit numbers up and trying to stay limber has resulted in my now fitting into a jumpsuit that was unzippable and, um, camel-toed (apologies for the imagery, but this is #realtalk), this spring. Just the motivation I needed to keep working out. I still eat and drink what I want, but the more I work out the better I tend to eat—don’t want to really undo all that work, right?? I’m about that self-care life. I also treated myself to a new Nalgene 32ox bottle and have been chugging water; now I’ve got skin on fleek, as the kiddos say.

After realizing that my afro was beginning to look a bit too much like Cornel West’s and that my barber had relocated, I hit YouTube and an hour later had a nice tidy shape up that made me proud. #Igotskillz

I love teachers, I do, but Hope’s teachers didn’t post info about their supply list before school, but have like $100 worth of stuff that they specifically want for their classes after school has started. This means that the notebook that was .75 last weekend is $3.99 this weekend. And why does the math teacher need a pack of AAA batteries??? And a new fancy ruler??? Really? Ohhh, and don’t forget the $160 graphing calculator!

I think I have found an English tutor for Hope! She missed so much school while moving around in foster care that she missed really foundational grammar and sentence structure stuff. I’ve been concerned that these gaps won’t be masked anymore while in 9th grade honors English. Now, just trying to convince Hope that this is designed to help and is not a commentary on her intelligence. The former foster kid ego is so very fragile. Getting help for her can be such a challenge because she takes it so very personally. Sigh.

Participating in marching band makes Hope tired. I mean like exhausted. For the second week in a row, on a Friday night, she is ready to go to bed earlier than any other night all week. She is kissing me good night at 10pm or so. It’s shocking. It’s also blessedly merciful.

So, it was a good week for the first week back to school. I think that things will smooth over as time goes on. I’m hopeful for more wins.


Seven

The number 7 is a special number.

Seven is a prime number, and prime numbers are just cool.

There are 7 deadly sins, 7 days of the week, 7 hills in Rome, 7 colors of the rainbow, and 7 major oceans.

There’s 7-11, where I get my Slurpees nearly every day of the summer

There were 7 loaves used by the Holy Homeboy to feed the multitudes; the Holy Homeboy is said to have said 7 things while on the cross.

In Judaism there are 7 days of morning. In Islam there are 7 heavens. In Egyptology 7 is symbolic for eternity.

Seven is considered a number of completion. Seven is a perfect number, a symbol of divine abundance, a symbol of totality.

The number 7 is a special number.

It is also Hope’s emotional age. And as a reminder, Hope’s chronological age is now 14.

I often have to remind myself that 7 is a cool number with so much symbolism. I sometimes find the symbolism in stark contrast to my reality.

The distance between Hope’s emotional age and her chronological age frustrates me. I willfully forget it exists sometimes despite the constant reminders. I have expectations of Hope’s behavior and emotional abilities sometimes that aren’t fair to her emotional age. I struggle with museum visits that take all day because she is catching up on experiences she should have been having 7-10 years ago, but didn’t. I lose patience with her inability to “act” 14 consistently.

Then there are times when I remember that I originally thought I would adopt a child much younger than Hope, a child who might be between the ages of 7 and 10, perhaps. The irony that I get the experience of parenting a child who’s emotional age is in that range is not lost on me. I’ve read stories to Hope at night. We’ve been to a petting zoo, to children museums, to touch ponds…all experiences I know she missed when she was that age. I know that I’m trying to create those experiences for her because she is entitled to them, and she actually needs them, even if her body is much older than her mind.

I have to force myself to remember that seven is a special age. One of my sisters thought she would marry Luke Skywalker when she turned 7; she also thought that she would get her driver’s license at 7. At 7, I remember having one of my very first crushes but when the boy congratulated me on the birth of my youngest sister with a kiss on the cheek, I hauled off and hit him. I was totally in love. My little cousin is currently 7 and she is a delight; the things she says and does are so funny. Seven is such a precious age.

But it doesn’t seem as precious when 7 is housed within 14. At times it actually feels like it is: numerically half the fun. How’s this for fun…I’m 42. I am 6 times Hope’s emotional age…instead of just 3 times Hope’s chronological age.

Yeah, Hope and I are just factors of 7.

I remember reading somewhere that because 7 is the number of completion, the number 8 represents new beginnings and renewal.

I need us to get to number 8. That is my new goal, to get to 8. I can’t even say I remember the substantive differences between 7 and 8, but I know it will be closer to 14. That’s important to me right now.

I know that one day, Hope will catch up. It takes time, which is the one thing I don’t feel like I have sometimes. But time is the one thing she needs to make it happen.

I need that new beginning for her. I need the renewal for me.

I am so over 7.


Leaning In

I just spent a couple of days being wined and dined. It’s nice to be recruited. It’s absurdly flattering. It’s also confidence building to know that my work speaks for me. It was a great trip.

I can honestly say that I could see myself living in that area and doing the work.

I can also say that I immensely enjoy what I’m doing in my current job.

I learned a lot about other people’s vision for me, what I would be doing, and how I would be doing it. I found myself thinking, ”Well, some of these are interesting challenges; I could do some cool things here with this team.”

Someone talked to me about an ultimate career goals, and I realized that although I previously thought the trajectory she described was where I wanted to end up, maybe I really didn’t want to do that after all.

That realization, alone, made the trip worth it.

During the last few months of this professional flirtation, I never once doubted my ability to do the work or to be successful in the role being offered to me. My biggest professional questions were always did I want to do it, and would it position me to do things I wanted to do later in my career.

Some months ago, Mimi and I mentioned the book, Lean In, on Add Water and Stir. I grimaced when she mentioned it, and I recall Mimi asking why. We didn’t really go into it on the show, but I remember thinking that I have always felt like I was leaning in. I pushed boundaries; I created stuff; I might lack confidence, but you’d never know it (#neverletthemseeyousweat); I had goals and I would meet them if it killed me. I didn’t think that book was written for me.  #nope #notforme

Personally, adopting Hope was the epic lean in for me. It’s totally changed my life, of course. It has made me behave differently professionally, recognizing my need and desire to slow down a bit as a mom and especially as a single mom. My priorities shifted. And while I’ve still been really productive and taken on new challenges, I simply haven’t revolved my life around my job like I used to. And I’m good with that. I’ve taken some time to lean in on parenting Hope and shepherding her into adulthood.

So, now, here is an opportunity to take on a new challenge: uprooting my kiddo and moving her…again.

The challenge isn’t the job, I can do that job in my sleep. The challenge is the life logistics of what’s best for Hope.

To my professional flirt’s credit, they appreciate my concerns, but they also don’t truly get it. I got school tours, meetings with the principal of the “preferred” school in the district (I could and should write a whole blog about that “preferred school” thing). We talked about how fabulous the music programs were at the school and throughout the state, and how Hope might musically thrive in that environment. Folks had been briefed about our situation and genuinely offered suggestions on how to make it work.

In all though, only one person really appreciated the fact that I would need a ton of referrals to create a new medical support network for my daughter and, the referral of the great team notwithstanding; I wouldn’t have any additional support in the area. Even this one person simply said, “Oh Hope will adapt, the start of high school is a great time to pick up and move.”

Sure I think she would adapt, but Hope’s had to do so much adapting because of the adults in her life during her 14 years. Maybe for once, someone should make a decision that doesn’t involve her having to be the one to adapt.

That seems reasonable right?

In the end, I don’t see this opportunity as attractive enough to put my career above leaning in on Hope’s needs. I mean, I guess for a crazy amount of money perhaps, but crazy money isn’t in play here (though the offer is generous). Hope needs me; she needs stability, she needs the opportunity to fulfill some goals she has at her new school here. Hope has hope, right now, that we are home, that she can count on our routine, that she can continue to work on the social relationships she has here, that she can have access to her entire family—adoptive and birth—within a few hours drive. She needs roots. And we’re growing them.

And while I know that there have been a lot of people who’ve cared for her along the way, my sweet girl has been shuttled about nearly all of her life. For once can she just breathe easy that she doesn’t have to go anywhere for a while longer. #canHopelive?

My career is going fine. It’s nice to know I’m a prize. I am so very fortunate to be so happy doing what I’m doing, where I’m doing it. But I am making a choice to continue leaning in on mommyhood for a while longer. Hope needs to be able to lean on me.


Fighting Depression

I’ve really struggled the last few months. It’s easy to look for external triggers for the struggle.

Spring blossomed and things that fly…well they started flying again, triggering Hope’s bug phobia. The schedule was crazy. We initiated a medication change for her that we were getting used to. Her anxiety was running high because of a general fear about high school. We’ve been dealing with a lengthy resolution to a criminal case in which Hope was a victim. Work has been insane, and I’m being heavily pursued for a new gig in another state. Yappy had puppy school every week at 8pm.

All the external stuff was really, really extra, and I spent a lot of time focused on it all because it all demanded my attention.

Oh and then I was just generally upset by the constant issues and images of Black folk trying to live and being impeded from doing so.

On a Monday a few weeks ago, I found myself crying and I couldn’t stop. I mean I just could not stop crying.

I was sad.

I was in a state of despair.

I wanted to just lay in the bed; getting up felt like it took all of the energy I had.

I found joy in nothing.

I was always irritable and snappy, and Hope was increasingly reacting to my bad moods which just made our relationship that much more strained.

I felt like a dark cloud was just hanging over me.

I finally made an appointment with my internist, who sat back in his chair and let me cry and sob for 15 minutes. Then, he handed me his handkerchief and started talking about the need for medication to help me get myself together.

I was anxious and depressed—not just sad, but clinically sad. Somewhere along the way I fell off a cliff and was just free falling, and I didn’t realize it.

base jumping wallpapers base jumping wallpapers base jumping ...

Depression is an effed up thing. I have struggled with it off and on for years. Usually I can see it coming, this time I didn’t. It makes me sad because it’s another sign that I haven’t done my best at self-care, but more concerning is that my depression had a chilling effect on Hope. I regret that. Not in a way that I’m beating myself up over, but I still regret it because it’s another little thing I need to bounce back from.

Resiliency is still an issue for me.

Parenting is a tough business. Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is…especially tough. Sometimes it feels like you’re just looking for puzzle pieces in the dark. You need the pieces to help put the kid back together, but you’re looking for them with no flashlight.

It’s kind of easy for the dark to consume you when you don’t even have a flashlight.

Beating back the darkness is actually the most important thing right now; actually it is more important than getting the parenting thing just right. Fighting the darkness is essential to both my and Hope’s survival.

It’s been a few weeks since I hit that low spot. I’m feeling much better now. I’m on the mend, on the upswing, if you will. Pharmaceutical help is a beautiful thing. It’s unfortunate that dealing with mental and emotional issues is a taboo thing in communities of color. If you need help, get it. I could sit around and do that “strong Black woman” thing, but Hope and I would both continue to suffer. I think getting help is a better demonstration of strength.

So that’s what’s up. I tripped and fell into a bit of a hole. I am fighting depression. But I’m climbing out and stepping back into the sunlight. And it feels good.


The First Year

The last month or so has been really challenging for me. Certainly I was struggling with self-care, but it’s more than that. I realized over the last month that Hope and I were entering a new phase, and I am having trouble adjusting to our realities.

I remember reading, what seems like an eternity ago, how you go through the honeymoon phase, the rough phase, a smoothing out phase and then, potentially rougher phases.

I think we’ve hit a rougher phase. And I think we’re both just roughing it.

I am realizing that so much of Hope’s challenges are largely invisible. Sure, she has some physical scars, but the emotional, psycho-socio scars…they are so hard to tease out sometimes. It’s easy to forget they are there sometimes until denying their existence is simply impossible.

Nearly 18 months of love, therapy, medical help, stability, routine, hard fighting, and it’s finally safe enough for Hope’s deeper issues to show themselves.

That’s a huge win to celebrate on the anniversary of our finalization, even if it doesn’t feel celebration worthy.

It’s kind of like opening the closet and finding one of the lighter Stephen King stories.

And interestingly, I feel more alone than ever in my on ground life, save for my most amazing couple of lifelines. You see a year after finalization and nearly 18 months after placement we couldn’t possibly have problems, right? Nope, no problems here.

I just lie and say we’re doing great, perpetuating the myth that post-adoptive families don’t struggle.

I was doing some reading this week about parental expectations, ahead of the recent episode of Add Water and Stir; the articles I covered explored adoptive parents’ emotional health. General findings were that APs with misaligned parenting expectations were at greater risk for depression, lower resilience, more challenges in bonding, and an extensive list of other depressing ailments, which all in turn trigger more challenging behaviors from adoptees. And the cycle continues.

Just awesome.

Oh and did I mention that most of these studies were done two years post placement and/or finalization? Hope and I are only 1 year out and these last two months have me feeling like I’m clawing my way through life.

Sigh.

Now I know those studies don’t *have* to apply to me and Hope, but I am increasingly aware that my expectations of parenting and of Hope are just…just off.

I thought they’d be more realistic after our first year together.

They are better than they were, but I’m thinking they aren’t as low as they should be.

Yesterday was my and Hope’s “gotcha” anniversary. It’s beautiful, but it’s also bittersweet. We kept things fairly low key with manis, pedis and brow taming, dinner and dessert on Friday and dress shopping today for the 8th grade dance yesterday.

Shopping for the dress was such a nightmare that she asked to stop shopping, and I silently cried on the way home. Oh and we left the mall with no dress and Hope debating whether she should even go to the dance because she is ugly with no friends and no style and it will probably be awful anyway. No one wins.

Lately I’m crying almost as much as I was right after the initial placement. I’m feeling not very attached. I’m not even wanting to hang with her as much. I’m just having trouble dealing to our normal right now.

Yeah, this is our normal, and it kinda sucks. My kid doesn’t have many friends; she runs them away. She doesn’t get invited to anything; she differentiates the group she hangs with from school as just being that rather than true friends. But the kids at the new church? One couple hour block of hang time, and they are friends. I hope they become friends, but it concerns me that she thinks they are already friends.

I had and have so many hopes and dreams for us, together and separately, but I think they may just be too much. I’m trying to let go some of those hopes and dreams because I am not sure Hope will course correct, whether I can get her there (wherever there actually is), that I can be emotionally ok with not meeting milestones when they are supposed to be met, that I’m terrified about what the future holds.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so pessimistic about the future, even if I do believe we will make progress. It all makes me so very sad. Really it’s grief.

I’m disappointed that commemorating our first finalization anniversary turned into something that brought in the gray clouds. I’m hopeful that the coming weeks will bring more sunshine. I’m hopeful that the coming year brings more progress.


Recognizing Progress

So, this past weekend I hit the wall. Hard. A dirty food container sent me careening off the cliff of parental crazy.

Totally lost my ish. Parenting swagger went right out the window. It was terrible. And I kinda felt bad about it; note that I only said “kinda.” I did not totally feel bad about it.

I have been incredibly patient with a bunch of crazy ish that Hope and I have endured lately. I kinda knew there was risk of me totally going off. It was epic, kinda like the New Year’s meltdown during which I damaged my vocal cords so badly I could hardly talk for a week.

At one point Hope threw her reliable taunt, her trump card: “I wish I never moved here,” Girl, whatever. I replied “I love you but some days I wish that too.” #boom #didIsaythatoutloud #notmyinsidevoice

Credit: giphy.com

Credit: giphy.com

Yeah, that’s how we got down on Saturday. Ugh. I did yell this time, not as much though. #improvement And I took 2 hours to cool off before going to talk to her calmly about the issues. Then I left the house for another two hours to go do some shopping and run errands.

This was not how I planned to spend my weekend. I’m pretty sure it is not how Hope intended to spend her weekend either. I prepped dinner and well, what’s the rule? Don’t go to bed angry? #thatscute

Yeah, eff that. Saturday I realized I gave all I had to give; there was nothing left in the tank but reptilian brain functionality. In other words I was only capable of being pissed. Instead of yelling I just went into Elsa mode.

Um, yeah, she had to be

Um, yeah, she had to be “color corrected.”
Credit is embedded.

Minimal speaking and the provision of basic necessities. I signed progress reports, prepared meals, visited a new church (including acting like Hope actually belonged to me, which was a serious effort in grace and charity, since I *literally* wanted to drop her off at the local Goodwill).

Sunday was still frigid.

Monday, I was still frosty, and Hope was running so late that she didn’t have time for breakfast so she picked up the lunch I prepped for her and we said nothing more than good bye, have a good day. I cooked burgers for dinner and hid my nose in the latest US Weekly while poor Hope tried several times to initiate conversation.

“Would you like to see my new band T-shirt?” Nope. “Sure.” Looks at shirt, nods.

“Ms. D says I’m distracted in math because I and sitting next to [her crush du jour].” “So change seats if you know this is a problem.”

“(Very dramatically) I’m sooooooo tired. I mean, I’m exhausted. I think my head feels hot.” “You should go to bed early; SOL testing starts tomorrow.”

And she did. In bed at 8pm. Not sure if she cried, but I know she was sad and the slightly recovering parts of my scattered mind thought to console her and warm my heart. But my reptilian brain convinced me I was fine and she was fine. I made sure her alarm was set, and I fetched myself a glass of pinot and the remote to watch Love and Hip Hop: ATL.

I ain’t checking for Hope.

And as other brain functions return, I know I should feel some kind of way about that, but don’t bother guilting me about icing my daughter out. As I sit here 4 days later, I still am having a difficult time turning on the functional systems necessary to be warmer. I simply do not have the capacity for more than minimal interaction or base level care-taking.

I am empty.

I remind myself a lot of Hope when she first moved in and was so overwhelmed. I simply cannot tolerate more. The thought of attempting a meaningful conversation has me reaching for the Ativan to stave off a panic attack.

I begged the sitter service for a sitter for this weekend. They found me one. So I’m booking me a hotel, and I’m flying the coop for two nights. I did not even invite Elihu because I don’t want to consider another human being’s needs for these two nights.

So, while I’m down for the count, I get a call from a new parent with my agency. She’s a little more than 3 weeks in. She’s still at the stage where you’re counting the days, minutes, seconds. She’s still at the stage (for us singles at least) where you take your calls in the furthest bathroom in the house, in the shower, kind of whispering because you are convinced that your new child has super power hearing and the punishment of finding out that you are talking about her is too great to even consider.

She’s sleep deprived, teary and just deep, deep in the throes of a new child figuring out how to function in her new surroundings with the rudimentary skills she has.

We talked for an hour, about all kinds of stuff. I pulled out my best parenting swagger guidance. I pep rallied. I encouraged her to adopt my devious/creative parenting philosophies. #getgullywithit

I admitted that nearly 18 months after placement I wasn’t white knuckling it this week. I had actually dropped off the face of the cliff.

Admitting it was liberating for me, even if it is an uneasy admission that all’s not well in the kingdom. Time heals; it really does. But this ish is really hard. Teen issues are hard. Adoption issues are hard. These jokers together, overlapped and conflating is sheer madness.

But, I’m not hiding in my shower anymore. #PraisetheHolyHomeboy #wonthedoit And I know that there is life over the edge. I’ll be ok. Hope will be ok. We’ve actually survived way worse. Hell, we’ve survived nearly 18 months. Sometimes the Holy Homeboy sends you someone who mirrors your previous struggle just to remind you of how far you’ve progressed in that struggle.

This hiccup will pass. Of course it will pass with me in a hotel with luxurious bedding and room service while binge watching Vikings this weekend. I love Hope but I still need to get away from her for a few days. I think I’ll also treat myself to some new jammies, luxe of course!


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