Tag Archives: Adoption Difficulties

It’s Ok

The last couple of years have been an immense journey. I’ve learned so much; I’m sure knowledge is just spilling out of my ears. Each day, week, moment and month bring new lessons about myself, about Hope, about our life together, about parenting and well, about a bunch of other stuff.

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of befriending a number of other adoptive parents. We share our struggles. We cry together. We whisper on the phone while hiding from our kids and slurping wine on a stool in our showers with the curtain drawn. We’ve problem solved. We’ve pep talked. We’ve planned trips together.

I’m blessed to have these folks in my life.

I was thinking during a call this week about something I usually tell folks in the midst of crisis; it’s something that they tell me too.

It’s going to be ok.

We rarely know how it’s going to be ok, but we just know that somehow, hopefully, it will be ok.

And it usually ends up being ok.

Sometimes we all just need to know that our struggles are ok; they just are. So, this post is an open letter to parents of all stripes, but especially my fellow APs, foster parents and parents that are roughing it.

______________________________________________________

It’s ok to be mad.

It’s ok to not understand what the heck is going on in your house.

It’s ok, to have that glass of wine in the evening (unless there’s a medical/emotional reason not to).

It is ok to occasionally drink wine from a tumbler.

It’s ok to plan and practice self-care.

It’s ok to believe that eating tater tots and lucky charms with wine in your bedroom counts as self-care.

It’s ok to be tired, nay, exhausted.

It’s ok to be annoyed by all the activities.

It’s ok to foster the puppy’s affection for you because you need some unconditional love too.

It’s ok to go shopping alone so you don’t have to share.

It’s ok to feel like maybe you can’t do parenting.

It’s ok to feel ambivalent about parenting all together.

It’s ok to totally give up on parenting and then change your mind 15 minutes later.

It’s ok to cry.

It’s ok to cry daily.

It’s ok to ask your doctor if there’s something that might help you stop crying all the time.

It’s ok to call in sick after the kids have gone to school that you can have a mental health day.

It’s ok to think parenting books are full of it.

It’s ok for your foster care/adoption halo to be tarnished or missing because it fell of the pedestal you got put on.

It’s ok to feel sorry/not sorry about pulling away from friends and family who don’t understand why your family would be experiencing challenges.

It’s ok to find new friends who “get” what you’re experiencing.

It’s ok to mourn the loss of those previous relationships even if you think those people sometimes acted like buttheads.

It’s ok to cry for your child.

It’s ok to cry for everything they’ve loss.

It’s ok to cry for every reason why adoption ended up being their path.

It’s ok to cry for every reason why adoption ended up being your path.

It’s ok to cry because it comes with challenges that you feel ill equipped to manage.

It’s ok to go back to your doctor for a medication adjustment for all the crying.

It’s ok when you make unpopular decisions that are right for your family, even if they are hard for you.

It’s ok to momentarily admit that the challenges seem so insurmountable that you consider just turning back and giving up.

It’s ok to not celebrate the fact that you trudged on and worked through it because you simply don’t have time to get yourself a cupcake for doing what you were going to do anyway.

It’s ok to be mad at God for even allowing the need for you to be in this kid’s life like this.

It’s ok to be mad at God because it’s so hard.

It’s ok to recognize that anger masks sadness.

It’s ok to be mad when the people around you who are verbally supportive aren’t really supportive.

It’s ok to hate lip service and its best friend hypocrisy.

It’s ok to leave spaces that aren’t healthy or safe or supportive of and for your family, and this includes churches and other family members.

It’s ok to get help for secondary trauma.

It’s ok to get help for coping with everything.

It’s ok if you find one day that you go to therapy alone just to have a safe place to cry and vent and *then* you go to family therapy or trot your kids to their appointments.

It’s ok if your version of therapy is occasionally eating a double chocolate iced donut in your tub with the shower curtain pulled closed—alone.

It’s ok to wonder if you’ll get your life back.

It’s ok to think about the need to forgive yourself for inviting unique challenges into your life.

It’s ok to recognize that your family’s triumphs look different.

It’s ok, more than ok, to celebrate all of your family’s triumphs whether anyone else believes they are noteworthy or not.

It’s ok to beg off the comparisons against “normal” families.

It’s ok to sigh and roll your eyes a lot in your head because people say dumb ish.

It’s ok to be pissed when you are subjected to foster care and adoption related microaggressions.

It’s ok to be happy with a C, when your child worked so hard and was below grade level when he came to live with you.

It’s ok to be frustrated about all sorts of foster/adoptive kid things like hoarding, executive function, night terrors, defiance, RAD and feel like you can’t breathe a word of it to your friends because they just wouldn’t understand.

It’s ok to lean into an online community of similarly situated parents who “get your struggle.”

It’s ok, despite what your tell your kids about online relationships, to know that *your* online folks are great cheerleaders and, over time, friends.

It’s ok to feel like it will take forever to find your parenting “tribe.”

It’s ok to mourn with like-minded folks, to celebrate with them, to ask for advice, to just shoot the breeze.

It’s ok to see the world differently once you become a parent, and to be both happy and disappointed.

It’s ok to look forward to work travel as an opportunity to peek back at your old life.

It’s ok to look forward to the end of a trip because you miss your family and can’t wait to get home to your personal brand of crazy.

It’s ok to feel disillusioned by all the boogeymen in the world that take the shapes of gun violence, police brutality, racism, sexism, homophobia…and the list goes on.

It’s ok to listen to adoptees, to hear their voices.

It’s ok to allow the adoptee voice to shape how you approach meeting your kids’ needs and how you decide to help them shape their life experiences.

It’s ok to believe that adoptees have something incredibly meaningful to contribute to foster care and adoption conversations.

It’s ok to believe that everyone’s feelings in the adoption triad are legit and not be threatened by that.

It’s ok to feel joy in parenting.

It’s ok to see how much everyone in your family evolves and changes.

It’s ok to celebrate every little and big achievement.

It’s ok.

It’s ok, really, to just try your best, to be…ok.


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.


Adoption and Microaggressions

So, in my professional life, I work in higher ed on diversity issues. This week I’ve been attending a conference related to this work. I’ve given a lot of thought to what I’ve learned about diversity through this adoption journey but I realized this week that I haven’t been using diversity and inclusion terminology to describe the things I’ve experienced along they way.

I’m not the only one.

For every “Please don’t say this to adoptive parents or adoptees” list that I or my fellow bloggers publish, we fail to articulate what we are really mean. What we are really saying is that we folks in the adoptive community experience many microagressions.

Microaggressions are like mini forms of discrimination and oppression. Wikipedia (hardly a “scholarly” source but suitable for these purposes) describes these incidents as usually unintentional, but insulting and dismissive. They are hurtful. They make us flinch.

Usually associated with race, gender or sexuality, microaggressions can be committed by all kinds of people against folks being marginalized. Not sure what they look like in action? Here are some examples.

“I know you have a doctorate, but I’m stunned by how articulate you are!”

“You’re not bitchy like most women bosses I know.”

“That is so gay!” Speaking louder when there is a language barrier—the person can actually hear you.

“When I see you, I don’t see color!”

“I can’t be a homophobe, my cousin is gay.”

“Why are you people always so angry?”

myface

Yeah, for the record, all of the above are whack. Totally, unambiguously whack.

So, as I was sitting in a session this week on microaggressions, I found myself thinking about adoption, and what’s it’s been like the last year.

“Yeah, but what do you know about Hope’s real parents.”

“That’s so great what you did, but you know, I want my own/real children.”

“She looks just like you; I mean it’s like you picked her out of a catalog or something.”

“Do you think you’ll be as close as you might’ve been with, you know, your own/real kids?”

“You didn’t want to try IVF or surrogacy?”

“You couldn’t find a donor? Pretty girl like you?”

[disappointed] “Oh, I thought you would’ve really helped a kid by adopting internationally, but you know, it’s good you did domestic.”

“But aren’t you afraid of an older child? You didn’t consider adopting a younger child so you could train her?”

“Was she a crack baby?”

“Is she like, you know, messed up?”

“Don’t you worry she’ll seek out her real parents one day?”

ETA: “How much did she cost?”

JoselineEyeRoll Sometimes I gently correct and educate, other times just I let it go. But it’s those times when I have corrected and educated, and it happens again when I realize that something about my experience is not clicking in this person’s head or heart. As a speaker said today, you get a pass the first time because you didn’t know that ish you said was whack; the second time you say dumb ish after you’ve been told it’s whack, you’ve made a choice to ignore the new information. You’ve made a choice to ignore me.

As the realization settled in this week at this conference, I nearly cried. For nearly two years since I went public with my adoption journey, I’ve struggled to name these little cuts I’ve felt at least once a week. I’ve been shocked by how deeply they hurt, how irritating they are, how they offer unspoken commentary about me, my life, my Hope, Hope’s life and our family. I realized how some of these things unintentionally sought to invalidate our family, to invalidate my role as a parent and Hope’s role as my daughter, to invalidate Hope’s humanity by likening her to a pet of sorts and her unworthiness of a family compared to “truly suffering” international kids. And these microaggressions are piled on to the ones I already experience as a Black woman. The cumulative impact is exhausting.

And I can only imagine what microaggressions look and feel like for transracial adoptive families, birth or first families or for adoptees. Heck, during the height of the #flipthescript hashtag last fall, we saw adoptees labeled as ungrateful, inappropriately angry, aggressive, and one of the most egregious name-calling from a fellow blogger—adoption warmongers. #gtfohwtbs All because adoptees claimed their agency and their voice to speak about their lived experiences. Over and over again, we saw people marginalize and/or dismiss the authenticity and integrity of the adoptee voice. It’s shameful.

And *that* happened within the adoptive community!

External to the adoption community, I’ve seen us reduced to a bunch of Jesus-freaks…among other stereotypes and tropes. It all makes me feel so….icky. It’s sad. It’s also bull-dookey. I mean, personally J-man is totally my homeboy, but there’s a LOT of diversity in this community, just like every other.

It’s sad to realize that somehow I tripped into being another kind of minority (because being a Black woman wasn’t cool but burdensome enough) experiencing marginalization with an intriguing side of hero-worship. Because, you know, we adoptive parents are special folks (a model minority) because we are saving children from fates worse than death.

And sure we are giving kids homes, but really, we just want to create and expand our families through a non-normative path.

Are we really that different? In the grand scheme of things, no. We may embrace this adoptive identity, but it doesn’t mean that the microaggressions don’t get to us, that they don’t frustrate us, that they don’t somehow invalidate us as parents or as kids. We want to be seen, we want to live, we want to raise our kids and we’d prefer to be in supportive, inclusive environments where people don’t say dumb ish about adoption or anything else, for that matter.

Really it’s that simple…I tell students, faculty and administrators this all the time, don’t say or do dumb ish that might hurt people and make you look like an arse.

Don’t do or say dumb ish.

So, I’m not sure if I’ll ever publish another list of dumb ish not to say to adoptive parents, but I might write some more about the intersectionality of adoption with our other identities, and how discrimination and oppression affects us, or rather me, especially, as a single woman of color parenting an older Black adoptive child, since that’s my own story and the one I’m best equipped to tell. In any case, let’s just try to be kind and sensitive to one another and the families we’ve created, any way we’ve created them.

Thank you.


The Absence of Men

I never planned to be a single mother, and for the record, this ish is hard.  Just the logistics alone are sometimes mindboggling.  I’m tired.  I often wondered before I entered motherhood how on earth folks managed.  Now I wonder how I manage–even when I have the bi-weekly housekeeper, daily dog walker, nannies.  It’s still just a lot.

Hope and I are sliding into nearly 15 months together now, and I’m starting to think about the relative importance of having a male figure in her life.  Originally, I had this fantastic goal of having this council of dads who would help out and weigh in, but yeah, the first year of our life together has been so mired in trying to make crooked lines somewhat straight that I haven’t been able to give the whole concept much thought.  Hope was so adamant about even forbidding me to date, much less eventually marry, that I just abandoned the notion of introducing her to any male friends in hopes that some meaningfulness would spring forth through knowing some wonderful men.

Jeesch, Hope also hasn’t met many of my girlfriends–some of whom can be pissy about that–so there’s that.

But it’s a year later, Hope’s a lot more sturdy now.  We are going through the middle school relationship gauntlet, and not only does she know I’m dating; she seems to understand it’s serious.

And it’s a year later and I see her going through the trials and tribulations of early adolescence, and I want to slay some of these bama dudes that make her cry. I see her struggling with trying to figure out how to navigate platonic and romantic relationships; I also see how the impact of seeing unhealthy relationships is shaping her burgeoning views on romance.  It all makes me sad.

Nearly two years ago, it was so important to the match that men weren’t involved in parenting Hope; there were lots of reasons for this.  Now that this time has passed, I wonder how not having really any men in her life is affecting her. I wonder if I can really coach her through some really important stuff.  I value the male perspectives in my life immensely.  I know that she would benefit from hearing how men think from a man.  Like a lot of single parents out there, I wonder if and how I can compensate for not providing that other perspective.

But I also know that maybe she’s still not ready for having a guy around.  She’s increasingly curious about Elihou, but I can tell it’s more from a perspective of ” Ohhhm mom’s dating” as opposed to thinking, “this guy might actually be my stepdad one day.”

I thought about this stuff before I started parenting, but it seems so much more important to consider now.  I guess lots of folks do this single parent thing, so we’ll be fine.  But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit wishing life was a bit different.


Fifty’s Narrative

Ok, so here’s the thing, I never, ever intended to write about Fifty Shades of Grey.  Oh the reasons for not writing about it are endless.

I’m a literature snob.  I do love a good trashy, low rent beach read from time to time, but my reading tastes lean to works that are more, shall we say artful?

Think pieces are not really my thing either.

Also, I’m not a prude; the sex in the book generally doesn’t bother me, and I’m intrigued by the zillions of interpretive dance think pieces on freaky sex, control based sex, sex abuse, sex assault, feminism, patriarchy, religion, etc that have been launched by the book. My commentary on the sex is simple: as a literary vehicle, the sex in the book is gratuitous, even if it is consensual.

The reviews and promotion of the books and the movie have been pervasive; I mean what could I say that hasn’t already been said? Really?

So much writing over a book that is as close to real literature as a frosted poptart from a box is to a slice of cake from the best cakery you can name? Chile, please.

The truth is that I’m trying to get back into pleasure reading post-dissertation, and my recent trip to St. Kitts [for work!] afforded me a few languid hours of beach time.  I left a new book at home by accident and didn’t find anything in the airport worth reading. So in scrolling through my trove of e-books the Fifty series came up.  Meh, it’s an easy, mind numbing read.  So I reread the first two books previously read while laying on a beach a few islands over a couple of years ago.

And I got to thinking… about Christian and his sexy shenanigans.

Spoiler alert for anyone living under a rock and doesn’t know much about the books: Christian Grey was adopted.

In fact, the whole premise for Christian Grey’s fifty shades of effed up is the neglect and abuse he experienced as a very young child.  And although he was adopted by an affluent, loving family, he went on to be a vulnerable teen who was further sexually abused by a family friend.  He became a successful entrepreneur who experiences wild mood swings, seeks to control every aspect of his environment, experiences night terrors related to childhood trauma and engages in sexual behavior that some may find deviant, but it allows him to control what happens to him and his body.

So, um, yeah.

Any adoptive parents out there see what I see here once you strip away all the sexy time distractions?

#ifyouveseenitandyouknowitclapyourhands

#clapclap

Hey, I don’t know what’s going on in your house, but as I reread the first book I thought, on a much smaller scale, I see some of these behaviors with Hope.  Yeah, I compared Hope to Christian Grey, don’t get your drawers in a bunch! #followmenow

Mood swings? Check.

Fear for safety? Check, but less so now.

Night terrors? Check, still have them occasionally.

Socially vulnerable? Check.

Full of shame? Check.

Control freak? Check.

Presence of some really hard limits? Oh yeah, triple check.

In fact over the last week I’ve been using a hard/soft limit/safe word framework for sorting through what Hope and I work through. We have hard limits–sooo hard they feel like emotional granite.  I’ve told the therapist what they are; I’ve encouraged Hope to discuss them, but nope.  Not going to happen.  She ain’t budging anytime soon.

I know when to push the soft limits now, and I know the safe words to soothe her and to make her relax a bit.

Troubled first families, adoption, childhood trauma and its lingering effects are major explanatory drivers for Christian’s behavior in this series, and I haven’t really seen anyone talk about it.  Really…are we so hopped up about the sex in the book that folks missed these elements?  I mean, It’s not until the later books in the series that Christian’s adoption narrative gets a bit more attention and his early abuse is really cast as the reason for his behavior, but the groundwork for this narrative is firmly laid in the first book.

As I had this epiphany about the storyline, I found myself questioning E.L. James’ use of adoption as this narrative thread through the books.  Why don’t interviewers ask her about it? Why aren’t there think pieces about adoption narratives as literary tools?  I wonder if James thinks that adopting an older child just leads to this kinda thing?  I mean…might this inadvertently reinforce that older adoptees are some how broken?  Or does it make folks think that this isn’t the picture of dealing with the drama of childhood trauma? Did she make Christian a poster kid for vulnerable, traumatized kids only to then paint him as somehow exceptional because this just doesn’t really happen with “truly committed” adoptive families?

So, I saw Fifty Shades through a lens that I didn’t have about 3 years ago.  I see Christian for what he is, someone still fighting the struggle to heal from the fifty effed up things that happened to him. I wonder how adoptees feel about this storyline?  I wonder how other adoptive parents feel about it?  It gives me fifty shades of feelings that are hard to parse out and describe.  It’s uncomfortable because purely focusing on some of Christian’s emotional capacity issues makes the book story plausible.

My daughter came to me emotionally much younger than her chronological years.  Hope struggles with the long term effects of childhood trauma.  She didn’t want to be touched at all when she first came home.  Some soothing behaviors were socially awkward at best, offensive at worst.  She works hard at healing.  We work hard at healing.

It’s hard seeing some of your story in the backstory of a book like Fifty. It’s also hard knowing how hard the child and parents are working to get to some sort of normal, because it doesn’t happen automatically at placement or finalization.  It’s hard seeing a characterization that all of the work might still lead to adult behaviors that give people the willies and make them write think pieces about your sexual proclivities.

I find myself wanting to sit down and have a drink with Christian and his adoptive parents.  Hey what therapies did you try?  What behaviors were the most challenging?  Mom, how did you not know your bestie was getting it in with your son?  How did you manage?  What would you do differently? You had resources for all kinds of stuff, but did you have the emotional support you needed?

I have so many questions about Christian’s life and healing.  99 questions and not one about sex.


Looking Forward, Looking Back

Last week Hope and I celebrated her placement with me one year ago.  I read other blogs in which I was cautioned to not expect her to want to celebrate what was a rough transition for us.  I started to let it ride, but then thought better of it.  I mentioned it.  She smiled.  Hope was surprised a year had passed already.

So, we did dinner at the fancy burger place nearby and settled in watching tv.  Nice low key and easy.  Maybe we’ll do something special to observe our finalization date, maybe, maybe not.

Adoption is tough.  Adoption of older kids who have lived a lifetime before meeting you is rough, tough and awesome.  It’s all awesome, really, somewhere in there, but make no mistake, it’s rough and it’s tough too.

Since the new year, I’ve been working on getting some of my parenting swagger back.  I’ve learned a lot this last year, but I have so much more to learn.  Parenting Hope is…sigh…well, I suppose it depends on the day.

We have come so far, but the tentacles of that previous life are always threatening to pull her back in and drag me with it.

I see the impact of neglect in how she engages me sometimes.  I see her easing in to this life with me evidenced by her low desire to care for herself in some ways; she wants me to take care of her, almost baby-like at times.  I see her joy in having a mom to talk girly stuff with.  I see the social struggles that come with a lower emotional age and her Saraha-like thirst for attention, accepting negative attention in lieu of positive reinforcement of more mature behaviors. I listen to her abuse disclosures, stuff that never made it into the files or were so epically understated that they could be characterized as nearly lies. I see developmental delays revealing themselves as her hard shell softens, and I try to figure out how to balance them with my own academic expectations. I work with her through lingering legal issues from her life before me; decisions that make me question all kinds of things I’ve said believed about the criminal justice system for all of my adult life.  I sometimes feel the effects of all the trauma just rolling off of her likes waves in an ocean.

Yeah, my therapist says it’s secondary trauma.  Nice…not really.  It sucks.

Sometimes all of the messy is so clear and evident; other times I’m just hanging on for dear life moving from one crisis to another.

I don’t cry so much now, but I do cry.  I fell out of praying for a few weeks not long ago; I just was tired, I was (am) still pissed about how my church treated us..  Didn’t really lose my way, but just really couldn’t say anything to the Holy Homeboy without being furious that the space I felt safe in was no longer safe.

As we mark a year together, it’s a strange time, trying to figure out what the future looks like.  Older child adoption is special; there’s something really, really different about showing up with a teenager who is taller than you when just last week you didn’t have one.  To some degree we are open about our story; sometimes less so.  Hope and I appreciate the ability and choice to just blend in and be mistaken for biological family.  We like to give each other knowing looks when it happens.

We’re considered a success story.  I’m not sure I know what that means or how I feel about it.  We constantly get requests to use our image on adoption awareness and promotional items.  On the one hand, it’s flattering, on the other hand, it makes me wonder if we will be able to maintain our ability to hide in plain sight.  We’re comfortable with disclosure now, but what about 6 months or more from now?

Aside from that, I don’t feel like a poster family.  We have struggled this year.  We’re still standing and we love one another, but success?  I guess.  We finalized…so there’s that.  We haven’t killed each other…so there’s that.  My vocal cords from the epic NY’s day meltdown seem to not have sustained permanent damage…so there’s that.

The parenting counselor from my agency told me recently that now that we’ve been together a year, ish is about to get really, real.  Dear Holy Homeboy help me.

I worry about my own attachment with my daughter.  I wonder (full of guilt just thinking it) if I made the right choices.  I ponder what my life would be like, now, 2 years in to this adoption journey if I had made different choices.  I wonder what new trauma will surface next week, and whether my mouth guard will survive the pressure when I am grinding my teeth trying to maintain my composure.

It’s crazy that it’s been a year already. I look forward to many more years, but that anticipation is mixed with some fear and anxiety probably from both of us.  This ain’t easy, but she is worth it.  We’re worth it.


Radio Silence

silence

It’s been more than three weeks since I last heard a peep from my church on my request to publicly dedicate Hope. I mean nothing. Not a quick email, phone call, nothing.

The last email I got thanked me for letting them know that National Adoption Awareness Month was coming up and they are praying for me and Hope.

The silence is actually deafening. It hurts my ears and my heart.  I wish the Holy Homeboy had built me for patience, but I discovered many years ago that he simply did not wire me that way.

Sigh.

I finally sent an email withdrawing my request. I’m sure that somewhere the Holy Homeboy is disappointed in all of us, but I couldn’t take anymore, so I just pulled back. I’m strong, but this was the place where I drew strength. and it all dried up.

You can’t be strong if you’re thirsty. #ABMism

Each day the silence and the rejection it implied became more painful; each day it revealed to me how we were viewed by our church—as some kind of anomaly. Each day it told me that we don’t fit, even if on the surface it looks like we do. Each day it affirmed to me about how our church’s mission maybe didn’t really mean me and Hope should be there. Each day it just took something from me…it actually stole a part of my heart from me, right after it stomped on it.

Or in this case it's better than no response at all.

Or in this case it’s better than no response at all.

I am protective of Hope. I know I will have to tell her that this isn’t happening. I think I’ll wait until she asks though. She will, and I will deal with it then. I don’t think she needs to know the truth. She’s lost so much already. I can’t bear the thought of losing a church too. We’ll probably still worship there for a while; she enjoys it so very much. But I don’t see myself there anymore. The thought of going just feels…empty.

I hope that I will forgive as the Holy Homeboy does. And that I will find some grace to cope; adoption requires so grace and some days I don’t feel built for that either.


Being Gracious

This has been an absurdly painful week for me. I hate that. I don’t hate it just because I’m miserable or because I failed to avoid the discomfort. I hate it because my occasional sixth spidey sense warned me that I would be disappointed, and then I was still crushed even when I anticipated it.

On top of it I’m traveling and away from my Hope kid. I miss her. I can tell she misses me too. We google hangout everyday. It helps, but it’s not the same. I miss her.

googelehangout

This thing with my church is just icky. And I’m forcing myself to stay with the icky because there is a deeper something apparently meant by all of this emotional upheaval. So I’m fighting the urge to just drop out of the scene for a while; I have to think about Hope’s stability and how she has come to like it there. She’s finally starting to express an interest in going to some of the targeted programming; she’s beginning to feel safe there. I don’t want to have to find all of this somewhere else, so I have to grind this out even if I wear my teeth down.

This week, Emily H tweeted me a link to an NPR article about an adoption related ceremony at a local church. It was a short article, but gave just enough to say—look these families want and need support and acknowledgment within their church family. Ironically, I used to attend the church featured in the article years ago. I got up the gumption this Sunday morning to send the link to the pastor tasked with communicating with me. I also suggested that Adoption Awareness Month was coming up, as was Adoption Day, and mayhaps this was a time when they might consider doing something for adoptive families in the church who want some kind of ceremony. We’ve got thousands of people at our church, I’m guessing we’re not the only adoptive family.

We’ll see. I wish I could be more optimistic. I don’t like feeling like this. Hopefully it will pass soon, and we’ll be on to the next thing. In the meantime I’ll try to just focus on being gracious and brushing it off.

brush2


First Adoption Crisis In Progress

This past week has been nothing short of exhausting.  I’m grateful for my friends and some family and many fellow bloggers who have offered support.  I am not alone.  It makes me sad that so many families slug through these trauma-induced swamplands, but it is helpful to the spirit to know that I’m not alone.

So, here’s what I’ve come to know this week:

This “Sandwich Generation” mess is a bitch.   So sandwich generations are the folks who are sons and daughters of living parents and who are parents themselves.  In this midst of this mind-blowing crisis with Hope, Grammy has been absent.   Honestly, I want my mommy, and she’s not out there.  She did share that she had a passion for kids like Hope, but she didn’t say she had a passion for me.  She did say that she didn’t agree with my decisions regarding Hope.  She raised questions about my ability to raise Hope as a single parent.  While I sit at the bedside of a kid who is presently telling me she hates me 100 times a day, I also sit and wonder what I did to deserve this Grammy freeze out.  I feel like I’m catching it from all sides.  My life is filled with gray at the moment when I prefer the definitiveness of black and white, so I’m inclined to just tell Grammy to kick rocks and go play in traffic.  Sigh, but that probably doesn’t meet the WWJD standard now does it?

I am resentful about the need to be the bigger person.  I’m pissed about feeling like I need to act like an adult.  I’m annoyed as all get out that Grammy has failed to be the person I’ve built her up to be.  At church this morning I went to the altar to ask for special prayer for me and Hope.  The sermon had been about relationships that provide refuge in times of trouble. #messagefromGod The parishioner who prayed with me this morning asked, among other things, that all members of the family strive to act appropriately, as Jesus would, during this crisis.

Well, dang. So convicted…

Fall down 7 times, and keep getting up.

So, I will continue to pray that the relationship with Grammy be restored and that we both act as one another’s refuge.  In order to do this, I’ve got to let this pissed-off’dness go.  #notreallyready

Yeah, I’m going to have to ask to be delivered from this anger and hurt and ushered into a space of forgiveness.

Something tells me I’m going to have to pray *that* prayer repeatedly. #lowSouthernBaptisthum #shadysideeye

Anger and hurt deliverance prayers for everyone!!  In dissecting this mess with Grammy, it’s not lost on me that Hope and I share a lot of parallels.  Like Hope, I’m struggling with all the new expectations, the new roles, the fear, the anger when expectations are not met; only I’m feeling this mess towards my own mother.  So prayers are going up that my Hope also be delivered from the anger and hurt she feels after so many years of disappointment.

Friends are everything.  Old ones and new ones…You learn who your friends are on this journey.  Your closest circle knows the most or as much as you are willing to share; they peep through the window and then they extend their hand, a handkerchief, a hug.  They are compassionate.  Even when they don’t know what to say, the empathy that rolls off of them gives you something to hold on to.   I was telling a new friend this week about my love of the book of Job; I find it to be a fascinating expose on man’s relationship with God.  My friend, who was trying to convince me to just allow some folks to care for me this week, chastised me by saying, “Well you know, Job’s friends weren’t really schnitt, but they showed up.  Let me show up for you.”

That was too deep, and my sassy “I got this” façade came crumbling down.  And I’m better for it.

I’m also delighted that my Holy Homeboy has seen fit to begin a new season with an old friend who was my bestest bestie until a stupid falling out nearly a decade ago.  A week before this crisis started, we ran into each other at the local Costco.  I’ve missed her so much that we later both admitting to crying after the interaction as we continued to shop in Costco.  Her reintroduction into my life has been a special blessing.

Adoption drama needs its own version of Google Translate.  It’s incredibly hard to spend time with someone who just says they hate you over and over again.  Absurdly Gorgeous Therapist (AGT) called me to check in and reiterated that new adoptive parents must bear the brunt of all the anger of trauma and lost these kids feel.  Yeah, dude, I know.  But that ish is whack.  Yeah, there, I said it.  It totally sucks arse to sit and just be the whipping post.  Oh, and let me not to forget to mention her boundary pushing efforts to be just generally rude and obnoxious. I think we should have a google translate app for every crappy moment.

Kid says: “I hate you!  I wish I’d never come here!  I wish you would just go away and die.”

Google Translation: “I’m not sure how to love or be happy, but you’re nice and kind and I have no frigging idea how to take that.   Please don’t stop being kind to me and for God’s sake, don’t leave me!”

Yeah…adoptive parents need that app and we need it yesterday.

Encouraging Turnarounds Lurk about.  Yesterday Hope said she would stop speaking to me forever.  I calmly replied that that might be kind of hard living in the house together, especially since she needs me for stuff.  Why not think about the things she might need to talk to me about…she started making a list and inside I smiled because it was one effing long list.  She needs me.  When she was done I said, sounds like we might have to talk a lot.  Today, she talked and played with me; ever so often she would announce, “I’m still mad at you. I still hate you.”  I just replied, “I know.”  She let me hug her for the first time in 5 days.  That’s got to be some kind of progress right?

Stress is the devil.  So remember when I said detangling Hope’s hair last week was like pulling out a yeti?  Yeah, well, I’m so stressed that my hair is now shedding like yocks of hair.  I swear I harvested a guinea pig out of my head this weekend.  Sigh…

I’ve cooked for the first part of the week and am really going to try to stay hydrated and rested.  I actually got a zit this weekend!?!?!  Zits at 41 are no bueno.  I need to find a happy place stat.  Today was all about hair and skin conditioning.

I have writers’ block.  I estimate that I only have about 10 pages left to write on my dissertation.  Needless to say, I’ve been distracted.   I cannot continue to dwell on this dang chapter; I need that cognitive energy for other things.   I pushed out a page today, but I need to pick up the pace.

The Furry One just likes to go pee in Hope’s room.   Yeah, he just does.  I’m going to go buy a Bissell Green Machine, and we’re going to have to learn to keep Hope’s door closed when she’s out and about.  My old dog is just an old dog, doing old dog things, I guess.   I still love him.  #shrug

So, that’s this week’s lesson recap.  This too shall pass; I know it will cycle back.  I’ll be more prepared next time.  I’m hopeful that this week, Hope and I can make progress, that we can get back to a little piece of our version of normal.  I hope my face doesn’t break out and my hair stays put.  I hope for more friend bonding, less dog messes to clean up and a completed dissertation.

Amen.


The Sand Storm that is Trauma

Hope is terrified of the idea of normalcy, of family, of happiness.  All of this fear and anxiety manifests itself like a furious sand storm that just beats you in the face with no end, goes up your nose, gets lodged in your ears.  It covers your hair, your eyelashes, your clothes.  The angry sadness finds its way under your finger and toe nails.  It’s in your private parts.  It’s gritty, painful, it’s everywhere.  It’s dangerous; it’s deadly.  It chokes Hope.  It chokes me, too.

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I knew I was going to fight this sand storm from the very beginning, but this week, it’s been relentless.  My beautiful Hope is stuck in all this sadness and anger and if the sand storm analogy wasn’t bad enough, my girl’s lack of hope for herself and the life she can have with me is sucking her in like quick sand.   I am doing everything I can to pull together all the resources necessary to drag her out of that sand.

I am so tired this week.  And I am terrified too.

She has described my very existence as really being the root of so many of her problems. I know it’s not true, but it lances a tiny bit of blood every time she suggests it.  In nearly the same breath that she’s cursing me, she will demonstrate a kindness towards me from somewhere so deep inside of her that is like the smallest most precious drop of water in a hot desert.

I see glimpses of her desire to just be happy; but they are fleeting.  They are overwhelmed by all the fear, pain and hurt. During some hours, it feels like there is nothing I can say to ease any of it.  The defiance is so rough that she will just deny anything and everything just so she can have some control.

The sky is blue.  No, it’s not; it is purple.

I love you.  I hate you.  I don’t want to live here.

I want you to stay here with me forever.  No you don’t; you want to throw me away.

Sigh.

It just doesn’t stop.

Trauma is just so awful. It makes people just believe they have no self-worth; that they aren’t deserving of anything that could possibly, conceivably be construed as love, hopefulness, joy, normalcy.

I’m finding that aspects of trauma are contagious.  Oh, I have experienced nothing like my lovely Hope has, but her trauma has now become my trauma.  Her pain is now my pain.  Her anger is now my anger.  Living with her, it’s all become mine too, but I’m the one responsible for helping her find her way, our way, out of this mess.   It is consuming and overwhelming.  It also hurts like hell.

People ask me how I’m doing.

Sigh…

I’m just doing.  I’m living moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day.

I take a lot of deep breaths.

I cry a lot.  I cry for her.  I sob for her and all the dreams I have for her.

And I do this mostly in private, because how can you explain to people that Hope doesn’t understand how to be happy?  How can you explain that her fear makes Hope say she hates you?  How can you explain that Hope’s trauma is so consuming that she wonders whether she can just survive the day?  How can you get people to understand the long term effects of trauma in the face of being offered a “good life?”

You can’t.  So, mostly, you just don’t try.  So you live this process alone.

It’s really lonely.   Even when you have people around who are supportive and grasping to understand, it is still lonely figuring out how to survive the most irrational behavior you’ve ever experienced.  There are things you don’t dare share.  There are things you can’t imagine saying.  God forbid you say something that makes someone wonder quietly or worse, out loud, that it might be all your fault.  If the drama of trauma doesn’t keep you up at night, the fear of that kind of judgment will.

Yes, trauma is contagious.

And yet, I try to have hope for Hope even while she pushes me away and spews venom that hurts my heart.  I just want to hug her.  I want her to just stop resisting and rest in my arms for a good cry.   I want to soothe her tears, smooth her hair from her face, look into her brown eyes and tell her that I’ll love and protect her always, that it really will be ok.  I want her to understand that she doesn’t have to test me; I’m not going anywhere. I just wish she would stop fighting.

I just want the sandstorm to stop.

It’s only been a month today since she arrived, and I know that the reality is that the storm is just starting.


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