Tag Archives: Adoption and Trauma

The Sun is Shining

My last post was a lot. As Hope would say, a lot a lot. I learned that my description of my family crisis was really upsetting to some adoptees. I want to acknowledge that sometimes I write  things that may be triggering for some readers. I will write more about that sometime soon, but I want to acknowledge that reality. 

Today is a new day, and the crisis is over. There are just waves of relief. My daughter is safe.

These last few weeks have really been scary. There are always times when I worry about Hope; I worry about her in some form or fashion all the time. This was different. The stakes felt higher, the threat to our relationship seemed higher, and I was just scared, really, really scared for her. 

I know I feel lucky. Parenting is hard; it just is, and some days are just harder than others. And some days, for some parents turn into weeks, months and years. 

The thing I’m most grateful for is being so close to Hope.These last few weeks have been an emotional ringer for both of us. We kept talking. We spent quality time together. We ate together. We used good communication strategies. For most of the time we were really patient with each other, and when we were able to articulate why. I feel like we are even closer now. 

There are and will continue to be some reverberations from this episode. There’s some monitoring and support that needs to happen to make sure things stay safe. There will probably still be some tears (from both of us). There will be lifelong lessons to reflect on (for both of us). 

But this morning, I’m just happy that the sun is shining and that Hope is ok. 


Home Cooking

I’ve been on leave from work for the last week. I had hoped to see my family, mom and dad, sister, BIL and my adorable niece and nephews. Unfortunately, given all that’s going on around Casa d’ABM, Hope and I were deemed at a greater risk than originally thought. We were lovingly disinvited. 

I miss my family terribly. Heck I just invited my sister who lives more locally if she wanted to go to this axe throwing place…I’m desperate y’all. 

In the end, it’s probably better that we had some time at home. I’ve had more time to devote to Hope and trying to get us back to some sense of stability. What I consider a crisis is still a crisis, but at the moment, things are…in a holding pattern. 

I made a request nearly a week ago that has yet to be filled. Until it is, things are a bit frozen on my end.

With Hope now not working and starting classes and me taking a week off from work, I’ve focused on cooking. 

The Muppets Cooking GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
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During this pandemic, I’ve gone through cycles around cooking. I periodically need fresh bread, so I’ll make that every few days. I’ve been baking cakes, because well, I love cake and I tend to love them even more when I’m stressed. I’ve gone back to a few casserole dishes that are yummy. I’ve tried a few new dishes, though not many. Last week I upgraded my Instant Pot to a new 8qt Duo version with the air fryer. I wanted to make wings, and I did. 

So, since our crisis started, I’ve made wings twice, several loaves of bread, 2 cakes, a lot of homemade frosting, chicken salad, chili dog casserole, chili, and spaghetti and meatballs. The freezer is stocked with fixins for any number of dishes and I’m delighting in drawing Hope out of her room for quality time and important discussions with food. 

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Seeing her grab a bowl of chili, closing her eyes and smiling, commenting on the flavors brings me joy. It also makes for a nice entry point for talking about the current state of things. It makes it easier for me to listen when I’m savoring a meatball that’s been slow cooking in a marinara sauce that simmered for hours. 

Yesterday I made Hope breakfast, fried eggs on a buttered toasted kaiser roll, one of her favorites. 

Today, despite having a little chili left and the leftover spaghetti, I likely will make cabbage and sausage because it’s another household favorite. 

When I don’t cook, Hope tends to skip meals and snack shamelessly. She’s also taken to ordering food since she has her own cash. I’m not much on ordering or take out; it’s just never been something I’ve done a lot of, so the frequency of her orders seem like such a waste to me. Cooking delicious meals keeps money in her pocket, gets her to the table and keeps both of us engaged. 

Food will not solve our problems, but it will continue to bring us together and that’s my main goal right now. 

Any good recipes you think we’d like, drop links below or shoot them to me via email. We don’t do seafood, so that’s one limitation. We are also serious carnivores–so while we will do some meatless meals, we get down hard with meat. 

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Do you use food to bring the family together? What else are folks doing? I need all the suggestions I can get. ❤


Faking Calm In the Midst

I am trying to maintain a relatively flat affect at the moment. It’s the only way I can try to present a sense of calm in the midst of the drama. 

And there is so much drama. 

I’m so overwhelmed that I can pretty much sit and look out into the void for minutes, maybe hours. It’s not that I can’t emote; I just don’t see a point. A fit of crying is not going to resolve anything or make me feel better. Rage will likely only make things worse and shockingly, things could get way worse. There is no joy, there is no happiness. There is love, a lot of it, but mostly there is fear.

There have been many times on this journey when I felt fear for Hope, but real talk we side-stepped a lot of major trauma drama on this journey, comparatively speaking anyway. Hope is a kid that rarely acts out. With the exception of her room, she’s pretty responsive to rules and structure. I would go to support groups and real talk, feel kind of lucky that some of the drama I heard about had not touched us. I didn’t think my parenting had much to do with it, but I was so grateful that our blues were different. 

Now, here we are, and I could tell a story very similar to my parenting pals. It is a stark reminder that no one gets out of this journey without scars. 

What makes things even more complicated? Hope is legally an adult and can legally make horrible decisions, potentially deadly decisions on her own. I can make rules for my household, but she can legit just walk away and there is nothing I can do to stop her. I feel there is little I can do to protect her. This has just made me feel despair and kinda helpless.

I had a emergency chat with our family therapist yesterday. I was hoping to get insight, to see a path forward. AbsurdlyHotTherapist basically told me stuff that ripped my heart out. It was the conversation that finally had me back in the bathroom sitting in my tub to cry, like I used to in the early days of parenting. It was everything I didn’t want to hear, and the tentative plan forward is nothing I want to be a part of, but my choices are limited. 

The irony of limited choices is not lost on me. I began teaching Hope right away that the more choices you can create, the more freedom you have to move through the world. 

I don’t have many choices, so in addition to the sadness and grief around this whirlwind, I’m feeling trapped. 

I have come up with a discussion strategy that we’ve been using since the weekend. We have a discussion for about 30 minutes or so, usually over food, and one person gets to do most of the talking to explain their side of things. Then we table the discussion for a 24 hour cooling off period. This has allowed us to avoid too many raised voices and space for each of us to speak with minimal interruption with processing time before re-engaging. 

I can’t lie and say that I”m finding it easy not to jump in and screech “WTF are you doing????”, but I am trying diligently to abide by the rules so that Hope feels safe to tell me her 19 year old thinking. 

And for the record, 19 year old thinking can be more stupid than a box of rocks. I’ve sat listening to my daughter do her best grown ass woman impersonation and say some of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard since I was 19 and doing my own baby adult stupid shit. 

Today is my day to talk; I’m trying to keep it simple, but I’m desperate to build a case that screams NO. But, I know that is not what this moment needs though. I’ve got to play the long game to help us find our way out of this maze. 

Talk about 2020 being a whole ass dumpster fire. I’m so over this year.


Trauma Whirlwinds

I am in the midst of a trauma related whirlwind the details of which are not mine to share.

This moment has clearly revealed Hope’s true vulnerabilities out in the world, and it’s requiring an enormous amount of emotional restraint from me.

I am a mess of sadness, heartbreak and unmitigated rage. That rage is not directed at Hope, but a third party who also has peeped my daughter’s vulnerabilities. It is taking everything in me not to round up my squad and take matters into my own hands. I also know that If I shared what is happening with Hope with some folks in my life, things would get very, very out of hand very, very, very fast.

And trust, I am so tempted to let that ish play out.

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But Hope needs me, and I am acutely aware of how much she needs me in this moment. She needs me as a mom. She needs me as a woman who has lived through some things. She needs me to just love her and reassure her that it’s going to be ok.

I am committed to keeping a 30K foot view of what is happening to my daughter. I can clearly see what is driving the behavior and what is driving the emotion and the need. I know that this mess is trying to fill a hole that has existed for a long, long time; I know this has everything to do with her life before me and the pieces of life that are still missing.

I know that there is nothing that I can really do or say to fill that hole; it’s primal. I get it. It’s also breaking my heart.

During the last day, I have tried to reason with her. I listen to her without judgment. I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open. The only way to do that is to keep my own emotions in check.

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Last night I had to take a late evening walk just to call a friend to let out my own emotions. There I was out with goofy Yappy walking the neighborhood in the dark, in the rain with a headlamp letting it all out, so I could come back with my own emotional mask on to reengage.

I’m glad I had that chance because I walked back into a whole ‘nother bucket of bs.

There is a silver lining in this moment; this moment could be so worse. It could be so much more devastating, but Hope was already questioning her feelings about her choices. She wanted to talk to AbsurdlyHotTherapist about it but hasn’t been able to get an appointment. I’m encouraged that she was trying to figure out how to work through this mess on her own and in a healthy way. I’ve reached out to him to beg for an appointment and to give him a heads up on what’s happening. I need her to have that unbiased third party to help her.

Hope is a horrible liar; she also is horrible at keeping her own secrets, much less anyone else’s. She almost always tells me or AHT what’s up or creates a situation in which I find out (See stupid games from last month). She told me that her lies are more about wanting to avoid disappointing me than a fear of something like me putting her out.

On the one hand she trusts that I’m not going to threaten her physical wellbeing, but I do wonder if she thinks my expectations of her are too high? It’s got me wondering if expectations are too high for her? I need my own barometer check.

Ultimately, I know that we will get through this, but I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know what the collateral damage will be. I don’t know…what is around the corner.

I also know, that this could happen again and again.

Trauma stuff is hard.

Adoption stuff is hard.

There are very real wounds.

I know I am not capable of fully healing her; I can only support her, love her, be there for her in these moments. She is transitioning into adulthood, and I worry a bit about how much my protection can extend around her. Before it seemed like a nice little bubble, now it’s just this amorphous thing and I can’t control the environment for her. I know that is normal, that actually aspects of this is normal for kids her age. I also know that as a middle-aged woman, I’m still, *still* dealing with some bullshit from my own youth, and I didn’t any a fraction of the drama in my life that Hope’s had in hers. I worry about where that leaves her.

All I know is that I’m still her ride or die. I always will be, but whew…this phase of parenting is not easy.

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Thoughts on Mortality & Grief

I have reached the age where it is not terribly uncommon that my peers are having strokes, heart attacks, cancer, body part replacement, and major illnesses requiring longer recovery times. I’ve also reached the age where some of us don’t make it; we succumb to our ailments.

Realizing that you are in this phase of life and that it will never subside, nay that it will actually get worse as you age, is a bit disorienting. I still see my friends through the lens of our prime. I see us as young, wandering the streets of Adams Morgan in DC on the weekends, having Jacks and cokes with a giant slice of pizza after the clubs close and before we head home to sleep it off so we can do it again the next night.

I notice our gray hairs; I wave at our children and marvel at how much they’ve grown. We all aren’t as slim as we used to be, but we’re still young at heart and fly in spirit.

Our parents are aging, even if we are in denial about our own aging process. Some of our parents are dying and leaving us behind to ponder what to do without them.

I began thinking about my own mortality right around the age of 30 when a close friend died very suddenly due to a brain aneurysm. He had just moved into a custom built home with his girlfriend. He was dead about 4 days after moving in. I was devastated. We were young. We were finally getting serious about life. Friends were marrying, having kids. I had just bought my own home a couple of years before. The loss left a huge hole in our friend group that was so hard to recover from.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and I am still thinking about mortality. The only difference is that I also think about grief so much more now. I’ve had to learn a lot about grief since becoming Hope’s mother.

I’ve learned that I think about death a lot and what it feels like to lose people you love. I’ve had wrap my head around what Hope’s grief must feel like. I still have my parents, and I think about losing them and how hard that will be. I learned that grief is hella messy. It’s like this Gordian knot of a bunch of different emotions that is so hard to untangle that it’s easier to give up and just wallow in the mess. I’ve read a lot, and I’ve talked to a lot of people as I try to understand how to work through and around grief.

I’ve learned it’s so hard.

I’ve briefly mentioned in other posts that one of my exes died last year. His death was incredibly sad for me, but it wasn’t entirely shocking. His history suggested that without intervention and a major life turn around that he would probably die young, and he did. I still struggle with his death. I harbor feelings about what might have happened if I hadn’t left him a decade ago. Could I have saved him?

I know I couldn’t have, but I still think about it. And I’m still working through it. I’m always a work in progress.

My messy feelings about that loss were compounded this weekend when I learned that Elihu, my more recent ex and love that appeared sporadically in this space, passed way this weekend. I feel like I’ve been in shock for days now. I haven’t dropped a tear; I haven’t heaved. I wish I could cry; I feel like it would help me get through this, but it’s not happened yet.

Instead I feel white hot anger.

And profound sadness.

And confusion.

And more anger.

And more sadness.

And despair.

And guilt.

And I’ve questioned whether he’s really gone.

I’ve run scenarios in my head.

I’ve tried to make sense of it.

I can’t. None of it makes sense.

I know that it is true. I know that it is real. And my heart hurts; my head hurts.

It just hurts so badly.

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I replay the best, most glorious times in my head. I remember the pain of our separation. I remember settling into a distant friendship that I never let bloom into a full friendship because I knew reconciliation might come up and I didn’t want that. I feel regret for that distance even though I know it was probably for the best.

I replay his laugh and his deep baritone voice that spoke beautifully accented English.

And I’m just so sad and mad and a bunch of other feelings that I just can’t even name.

The grief is overwhelming.

I’m reminded of all the friends and acquaintances who have passed away in the last 5 years. The number is impressive for all the wrong reasons, and the number continues to grow. Still being here, still living this life… It makes me so grateful that I’m healthy, but it’s terrifies me that at anytime I could fall victim to my own demise. I am increasingly preoccupied by death.

I would rather be focused on living.

So, I’m trying to get myself together this week. I’ll continue to be kind to myself. I’ve contacted an attorney to update all my estate plans, and I had the morbid conversation with Hope about my final wishes. Doing these things eases the intensity of the feelings. They give me a sense of control when everything seems a little out of control.

The intensity of these feelings will pass. I will continue to experience this phenomenon though…the notification that someone else I know has left this life. I’ll go through this again. I don’t like the notion of getting used to it, but I know that there will be some level of acceptance that comes. Acceptance allows the feelings to wash over me without drowning me. I see that with my parents, and I saw it with my grandparents.

I didn’t anticipate contemplating acceptance of mortality without fear at this point in my life, but here we are.

I’m grateful to my daughter for being so kind to me the last few days. Hope is incredibly empathetic on most days, but I know of all the people in my life that she gets this. She sees my grief. She reminds me that life goes on. She says the things I’ve said to her over the last 6 years. It’s a great comfort to me. It also is confirmation that maybe, just maybe I helped her with her grief.

I’m hopeful that like her, I can somehow integrate this grief in ways that allow me to keep moving forward.

Time will tell.


Damsel in Distress

I’m in a hotel room in New York. I didn’t go to the parade Hope was marching in today. It was chilly, crowded and Grammy desperately wanted to see the Fearless Girl down in the Financial District. I have bronchitis, and it’s gotten worse in the last 24 hours. So, I took mom to Wall Street to get her picture of Fearless Girl, and then we came back to the hotel where I watched the parade on tv and on YouTube. Then I slept most of the afternoon.

Hope is on her way back to campus. Her band marched, and then practically marched right back to the bus and rolled out. But not before Hope could attempt to set off a bit of drama.

It’s become clear that school trips are triggering for my daughter.

Kids get excited about school trips. They pick hotel roommates, seatmates for the bus, who to eat with and all the things that kids do on trips. Hope has a hard time navigating social relationships, and there’s a lot of socializing on school trips. Hope also is always desperate for attention, and if kids won’t give it to her, she will go to her old standby, illness, which brings the sympathetic adults running.

There is always a stomach ache, and thanks to raging anxiety, there is no doubt that it really hurts. Sometimes there’s headaches, other times there maybe other various ailments. But trust, it’s always something. One time I was traveling and I had to dispatch that Grands to go fetch her from a trip to spend a recovery day with them and then rejoin the trip the next day.

Hope texted me last night to tell me she didn’t feel well. Then today she nearly demanded that I come gather her up and take her home (our home). Um, ma’am? I reminded her that I wasn’t leaving New York for another day, and that I didn’t drive here and would need to buy a ticket to take her back to the DC area. Soooo, no love, she was going to need to get on the bus to go back to school.

Her response?

Why did I even bother coming to New York?

Sigh…

Then she just was mad.

I get it. I am supposed to rescue her. She is a damsel in nearly perpetual distress, and I’m the damsel’s mom—the prince stand-in.

Sometimes it is so hard to remember that she is still very much a scared little girl inside a young woman’s body. Sometimes she stuns me with how well she can hold it all together, while other times I swear it feels like parenting a bunch of scattered marbles.

It’s also sometimes hard to reconcile just how little progress has been made in the face of progress that is like moving light years. It’s like always feeling like, “Oh, I thought we were past this.” No, we may never be past this.

And sometimes Hope and I lament how we may never be past it. There are moments when she is self-aware enough to recognize the behaviors and wish she could be/do different. Those moments are almost as hard because I can see her own internal struggle to heal rise to the surface, recognizing that she is engaging in behaviors that aren’t great but essentially enslaved to them for basic survival.

I try to comfort her, but sometimes I have to say no or to force her to finish what started or to face her fears. All in love, but sometimes also for my own self-preservation.

I know that my damsel has the potential to suck us both into a dark place. One of us has to keep it together and well, that has to be me.

So, tomorrow I’ll head home for more rest after what’s turned out to be a lazy trip to New York.  Hope will be back on campus soon, and I’ll make plans to see Hope this week and try to meet her need for attention.

Parenting just doesn’t get easier.


Doing Right by Hope

I listen to a podcast called, Terrible, Thanks for Asking. A recent episode explored the feelings of a father and daughter who lost their wife and mother to cancer when the daughter was just a toddler. The father remarried and never really discussed his late wife, so his daughter was never sure whether it was ok to talk about her.

As I was listening to the show, I started wondering am I doing enough to make Hope feel comfortable talking about her birth family. We have a relationship with a portion of her birth family, and that has been a little hit or miss just based on Hope’s desire. I made sure that I got numerous pictures of one of her parents and they are hung prominently in our home. I have made it clear that whenever she is ready to visit her family, I’m down to make it happen. She expressed an interest in her birth mother, I looked for her and found her. When she said she was satisfied just knowing where she was but didn’t want contact, I put the info away and told her she can have it whenever she wants.

I’ve told her numerous times that if she wants to talk, I’m here. Anytime, anywhere.

And yet, I do wonder if I’ve created the right environment for Hope to feel like she can tell me what she needs around accessing her birth family.

I have learned that my daughter’s feelings about her family are complicated. There is a lot of loss, feelings of rejection, anger, but also love and affection. I know that my daughter can sign a birthday card and say that she hopes to see them soon, but when I ask to schedule a visit she says no, what she wrote was really just a pleasantry.

Early on, I fretted that her birth family would be upset that I was keeping her away from them. We are a four hours’ drive away but are connected by phone, email and social media. We’ve visited several times; of course, they would like us to visit more often. I don’t want to put up roadblocks to reunion if that’s what everyone wants. The reality is that my daughter’s idea of reunion and theirs don’t jive at this point. I’ve learned to be really honest with them about what she’s going through and how much contact she wants. Those are hard conversations to have with a family that also feels like Hope is the prodigal kid, who was lost and now found. I try to make sure that cards get sent, pictures and band concert programs are mailed so that they can see she’s doing well, but truth be told, there’s not much contact between Hope and her family.

On the daily, we don’t talk about her family of origin much either. Occasionally something will remind her of an episode from before my time and she’ll share it with me, usually something funny, sometimes something dark. The dark stuff is always very sad, and honestly, those are the stories that more often get repeated…verbatim. Therapy has helped her write some new scripts, but old habits and trauma die hard. Occasionally, I’ll ask about a parent and she’ll share a little story or shut down the conversation, depending on her mood. This is how we roll; I don’t have much to compare it to, so I guess this is normal. I listen to adult adoptees and know that it can be super complicated. I know that Hope will come into her own and decide if, how and when she wants more of a connection to her birth family. I just don’t ever want her to feel like she doesn’t have my support or that she can’t bring it up in our home. I try to follow her lead on creating and sustaining chosen connections.

On the whole, I feel like I’ve tried to create a space that supports her, values her family yet consistently prioritizes her emotional needs. It’s hard though; it’s complicated. I find myself wondering if I’m doing enough or too much sometimes. Hope is getting older; emotionally she’s still pretty young despite her gains over the last few years. I see her turning into a young adult; I see her questioning a lot of things about the world and about herself and about her personal history as she lived it and interprets it. I know in the coming years I’ll be transitioning from active parenting to a parent-guide of sorts as she comes into herself and launches into the world. I have no idea whether what I’m doing on the birth family stuff will bear fruit—or even what that means, honestly. I just know I want her to be happy and healthy, and I want her to know I’ll always ride hard for her.

I hope I’m doing right by Hope.


Connected and Ish…

We’re a little over a week into the year, and I already feel like I have hell in a hand-basket in my home. Trying to get routines back in place is hella hard when there was a two week break, followed by two days of school, followed by three snow/cold days. The bull-ish has set in for real around here, and Hope has fallen back into her typical routine of whatever it is that she does.

I understand. I get it. There’s the trauma stuff. There’s the anxiety and depression stuff. There’s the ADHD stuff. There’s so much stuff. Tons of stuff, binders of stuff, lots of stuff.

And then there’s me on repeat about rules, expectations and routine. All of that ish is busted. It just seems to go into the ether and float away, and I’m peeved as hell.

I mean, if you live an illogical life, and there’s someone there to simply tell you what to do to carry on, then well, just follow the dang directions. It ain’t hard.

But alas, that would be logical and our greatest attribute is being illogical, so it’s not just hard, it’s like mythologically hard. Like Sisyphus hard.

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And I’m supposed to practice “connected parenting.”

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This parenting style requires that I move beyond and over the illogical parts to reframe and try again to connect to my daughter, building new healthier neuropathways…blah, blah, blah.Yeah, ok. I am all in on the connecting and moving forward, but errrr…uh….I find that what they don’t address in those books, on those videos and in those workshops is that parents have feelings too. We’re people, living and breathing imperfect creatures who also do dumb ish. They don’t mention that our hearts hurt from also feeling rejected and stepped on by our kids and isolated by families and friends who don’t have a clue what we’re going through. That even as we *know* intellectually what’s going on with our kids and develop/have the skill set to deal with it, this trauma parenting mess is some epic, next level bull-ish, and it makes ERRBODY feel some kind of way almost all the damn time. #webothmiserable #alot

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In all that soft spoken, “the child’s reptilian brain, blah, blah, blah” there is a failure to acknowledge we have our own primitive brains too, no matter how well adjusted or how much work we’ve done on ourselves. (I know that there are many folks out there who think that adoptive parents should go through more intense screenings and training, but trust: We are still emotional creatures, you can’t screen/train that out of us unless we are just going to have Sheldon Cooper as the archetype AP).

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There is never a discussion about how there are parenting moments—some trauma, some SPED, some just regular old run of the mill day-to-day stuff—that is just real bull-ish. Yeah, parenting is effing hard.

This week I have been on slow burn. Hope did some dumb stuff; some of it emotionally driven and some executive function influenced. Oh, I get how it happened. I get how the levers and buttons of her brain got us here. I get it. But I’m still simmering because it’s so ridiculously stupid. It just shouldn’t happen.

I’ve fought the desire to be confrontational. I’ve fought the desire to drop hammers. I’ve wrestled with natural consequences vs what I really want to do (rage if that wasn’t clear). I’ve just sat with it. I’ve emailed and texted my daughter when I knew that physically allowing audible words to come out of my mouth anywhere near her would be a really, really, bad idea. I have resisted doing everything that is in my naturally occurring combative nature to do this week. #winning

This week has been about restraint.

I am a wild Chincoteague pony pawing to get out and trample everything in my path. There is a bit in my mouth, and a saddle and reigns on me to just try to keep control of myself. Inside I’m an effing hot mess.

Yeah, they don’t tell you this ish in PRIDE, or those other parenting classes or any of those stupid parenting books for any kind of kid. Well, I’m here to tell you parenting ish ain’t academic.

I’m just trying to get through each day with some kind of peace of mind that I will not throttle my kid because she did some dumb ish that sometimes she literally can’t help doing. I exercise, eat right, have a cocktail, and try to get in bed early to just get some rest. I sing spirituals…because yeah, just because.

Most of all I try to keep my pie hole closed.

I’m not not speaking to my daughter. I just can’t handle but so much interaction right now; it just ain’t safe. Breakfasts are made, dinners are had and some workouts are done together. But I’m chasing solitude and peace to calm my frazzled emotions.

Someone asked me just today if I ever imagine what my life would be like if Hope hadn’t become my daughter. I can’t even imagine that; I have no idea. It was such a fit. I adore her, more than I ever thought I was capable of loving anything, I love her. It’s an expansive thing. Life has taught me that the thing that brings you that kind of love will try you to extreme.

Yeah, we’re there. Right now. Right here. We are so there, and I’m trying my best to parent the hell outta Hope.

All connected and ish.


More Than Love?

An interesting article was posted yesterday to the Today show’s website: Life After Adoption: Is Love Enough?

The essay is an autobiographical account of an adoptive mom who struggled to raise her son who was deeply affected by a traumatic past. Her essay posited that love simply is not enough when you are trying to help a child heal from their past.

Micah Johnson, host of the radio show, Unscripted, tweeted me, and others, this morning to ask if “is love enough” in adoption?

I started to tweet back and realized that I would be responding in like 100 tweets, so I figured I’d just turn it into a post on my own blog.

Is love enough in adoption?

Well, it depends on how we’re talking about love and how it’s expressed.

My short answer is no, it’s not enough. Managing my life with Hope at times is a second job filling the role of caseworker. There are appointments to be made, emails to write and follow up with, doctors to consult with, therapists to consult with, new therapeutic approaches to research, school social workers to touch base with and teachers to get together because they don’t understand what’s going on with my daughter.

It’s another job, and not an easy one. Right now, I’m finally breaking down and considering horse therapy for Hope—forget about the expense—I’m trying to figure out therapeutic goals, timing, and logistics to just get my daughter to an appointment once or twice a week at a facility that’s 40 miles away. But I think it will make a difference, so I gotta figure it out.

I think of it all like a project management situation. At times I have to be very clinical about the whole thing because if I let myself feel too much of the emotion of why Hope needs whatever it is that she needs or the secondary trauma that sometimes I catch because of the drama, I can’t make it all happen. I have to compartmentalize the ugly, heavy emotional stuff so I can get her therapeutic needs met.

It’s easy to compartmentalize all of the project/case management as separate from love for my daughter, but I make it happen because I love her.

It’s not more than love, it’s part of the way I express my love for her. Is it different than me packing her lunch, which I do every day? Well, not really. Is it different that typical parenting stuff like picking her up from band practice? Meh. The truth is: all this stuff is the kind of parenting my daughter needs and I do it because I love her and want her to have the opportunity to grow into her best self.

It’s extra, and it looks like more than just the hug and kiss that I get from her before school in the morning, but this is our version of a ‘normal’ loving home.

My love requires some extra stuff, and my love has required me to learn about stuff I never anticipated needing to know. This love has demanded different kinds of activities of me in supporting her. The needs were different, so the responses were different. This love can break my heart repeatedly as I try to help Hope. The love hurts sometimes. It sometimes even appears counterproductive. But in the end, it’s all love.

No, it doesn’t mean I love her more than other people love their kids or that I get extra heaven points (they would be nice tho!); it just means that loving Hope looks and feels different than loving a kid who wasn’t exposed to trauma and loss, among other things.

So, the answer to the question for me is, yes, love is enough but it just looks different, its demands are different and sometimes how it even makes me feel is very different.

And that’s ok.


We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties,

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile,
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

~~~Paul Laurence Dunbar

I used to have this poem hanging in my office as a reminder to visitors that sometimes we hide our feelings to just get through. As a diversity professional, I am constantly, intentionally exposing myself to emotional ish in order to help people move to the next level of inclusion. Consequently, I wear a mask.

A lot.

This poem kept me up really late one night this week. I couldn’t get it off my mind because of something Hope said to me. Essentially, my daughter wears a mask.

She wears a mask to get through every day, and it exhausts her.

Hope is an amazing young woman, and there are days when I simply marvel at her. There are other days when I see the turmoil on her face, but the reality is that on most days, she’s really, really good at hiding it.

Having been a long-time depression sufferer, my own mask is worn as much as to protect me as it is to motivate me. My own intrinsic motivation wills me to get through things and wills me to just fake it and it will get better.

I recognize that most people wear their masks for everyone else’s benefit. Who wants to be around a person who is wearing their suffering? The self-protection mechanism is such that if you desperately want to be around people, you just try to keep it together and conform so that they won’t be put off by you. You drag out your mask and hide all the ish behind it.

I feel like Hope and I are in a battle for her life right now. I see her; I see her working so hard to keep it together. I see her fighting so hard to get to a place that doesn’t hurt so much. She does take her mask off with me; sometimes not all the way, but enough for me to know what’s lurking underneath.

On the one hand, I’m so relieved that Hope trusts me enough to lower her defenses, her shields, but on the real…I feel helpless. I feel like I’m doing everything I can, everything I can think of to help shepherd her to a healthier place, but it isn’t helping the way we need it to.

That helplessness has got me feeling like I must wear a mask too. I mean, who goes around sharing that their kid is just struggling to keep it together, which means that you’re struggling to keep it together too. Who wants to see your eyes after you’ve sat in the bathroom sobbing and urgently praying for 10 minutes because you know the path this could all go down? Who do you trust, besides other parents walking in these shoes, with this kinda thing because most folks Just. Don’t. Get. It.

So, you both put on your oxygen masks in the morning and try to make it through another day.

I try to model authenticity for Hope. I try to use ‘good’ communication skills; I try to ask for what I need. I coach her to take care of herself. I encourage her to emote, to build solid friendships so that she has some peer support. I email the health professionals and the guidance counselors, even after Hope and I have decided on a course of action. I need allies to step into the gap to help her help herself.

This week has been a huge turning point for me. I have fought the good fight on trying to make sure that the homework has been done and that school stuff was a priority. School is such a core value for me; it’s social currency, especially for black folks. But, I’m done. It’s just not worth it. Hope doesn’t need the extra pressure, and neither do I. I’m fighting for my kid’s survival. School, while still important, can’t be central to that paradigm. Healing must be the sole focus. It has to be; our future depends on it.

And so, we’ll start this week differently. We’ll go back to basics. I’ll prioritize quality time. I’ll focus on more family care, not just self-care. I’ll ask about school, but not about the work. I’ll find another doctor who can help me chase down the right pharma-combo for her. I’ll lower my mask so I can always have a clear view of Hope and her mask.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of the end for Hope’s mask.


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