Tag Archives: Adoption Life

She’s Got a Safe Place

This week Hope was invited to a sleepover with a friend. She was invited to stay over a friend’s house last month, but I said no since I didn’t know the girl’s parents. This week, I did my due diligence, called the mom, had a nice chat and allowed Hope to go.

She was so excited.

So. Was. I.

Seriously, do you know what this means???????

Ok, here’s all the ish I’m supposed to say: OMG, my daughter is improving her social skills. She’s developing solid friendships. She’s being invited to parties and sleep overs. She’s finally, finally starting to blend in and find her groove socially, something that has really been so hard for her. Her social struggles, among other things, have been the source of much anxiety and depression, so I’m ecstatic about this development. Yay.

On the real, though, OMG!!!!! Hope’s social evolution also means some freedom for me. I might have some Fridays and Saturdays with Elihu and friends just cold chillin’ this summer.

Check it, last night after she happily kissed me good bye, tossing her backpack over her shoulder, striding out of the house confidently, I cabbage-patched my way to the coffee table to grab the remote. I cupid-shuffled on into the kitchen to pour myself a tumbler of red wine to go with some tortellini. I snaked my way to my beloved couch, clicked on Netflix and began what I expected to be a quiet evening with Yappy binge watching Orange Is the New Black.


I got through two episodes.

Just as I was padding into the kitchen to pour myself another tumbler of wine and smash another brownie, I got the wild hair to text Hope goodnight and that I loved her.

She called me back.

ABM’s internal millisecond monologue: “Awww, baby girl loves me! She’s actually calling me back. I bet she’s going to tell me what time to pick her up in the morning. Occasionally, she can be so darn sweet. I love this kid.”

What actually happened: “Um, hi mom. Um. I think I’m going to come home. I am not going to stay at XX’s house.”


I’m sorry, what???

Wait, what? I’ve only watched two episodes of OITNB! I’ve only had one tumbler of wine and one brownie. I haven’t even put on my good lounge wear yet. Something must be horribly wrong.

No, nothing’s really wrong, the movie creeped her out she just wanted to come home.

Huh? The movie? The rated R horror movie that you insisted wasn’t a big deal and that I was being a stick in the mud about because I didn’t normally let you go, but this time I relented because you were going to a sleep over and well, horror movies are a part of sleepover culture?

That movie?

For realsies?

Yeah, that one.

Just when I think we’ve gotten all the missed developmental hoops out of the way, the one where you get scared on your first sleep away and need to go home hits us square between the eyes.

Sigh. There are just so many little landmines on this journey to emotional health and well-being that you really, just can’t catch them all. You just can’t!

There was a silver lining though.

Kids who get scared on their first sleep away want to go home because home is safe. Hope called her mommy (that would be me) and she wanted to come HOME to her MOMMY where its SAFE!!!!!

I smiled and started cabbage patching again.

It’s true sometimes when they say a setback is a setup for something better.

I was nervous about her being away. I enjoyed my evening so much, but I kinda missed just having her in the house. If she had been here she probably would’ve been in her room not talking to me, but she would’ve been here. It was strange to be in on a Friday night and not have her here. In truth there were a few mixed emotions there. I was thrilled for her and for this rite of passage, but it only reminded me that I may only have her this close for a few years before she flies off into adulthood. I want that for her, but gosh the time is flying by so dang fast. This week she will celebrate her third birthday with me. In a year she will be able to drive (I don’t know if she WILL drive, but she’ll be legally able to do so). In three years, she’ll finish high school and don a cap and gown and stride across a stage to pomp and circumstance while I cheer and use Elihu’s hankie to mop my tears of joy.

It’s just going so fast.

But Hope’s desire to come back to home base where it’s safe is so significant. Her willingness to share with me that she was scared and needed a hug is such a big deal. Her desire for me to toss some salt at her door and window (to ward off evil spirits and purify the space) and her desire for Yappy to cuddle for a while with her are all such big leaps for her, that I was happy to give up the remaining hours of my freedom.

I was happy to greet her at the door with a big smile and a warm, safe hug.

Here We Go Again

Last week was delightfully mundane. Exercise time for me, band concert for Hope, the revival of crockpot recipes, and end of school year English projects. We capped things off with a trip to the hometown to see family. Post-Placement life continues to be a generally lovely thing. The lack of drama has allowed me to just enjoy Hope and do some reflecting on the last two weeks. But of course, drama is back and all I can think is, “Here we go again and how long do we go this time.” So…back to recaps.


I hate that damn reptilian brain. All that primitive thinking crap, fight or flight responding and all that just base level crap. I hate it. I hate it because there is no reasoning with it. There’s no amount of being pissed because the reptile brain is in charge that makes the primitive brain just take a break. The reptilian brain behaviors sometimes bring out the worst in me, despite my best efforts, which just gives it more power. I hate it.

Hope has a phobia of bugs. I’m trying to work with her, but it is now June in the DC area…there are bugs everywhere. If the bugs aren’t outside, the bugs are trying to get inside to a cool space. This will only get worse as the summer drags on. A bug got in the car today; Hope quite literally pushed me out of my driver’s side door with her arms and legs and then set off running. Fortunately we were still in a parking lot. I lost my shizz—my own reptilian brain was terrified and it came out as fury. I yelled and screeched. I howled because my arm got hurt as I was trying to get out of the way when she was pushing and kicking. We could’ve been so easily killed today, and good Lord it was a GNAT!!! A gnat almost got us killed. I cannot imagine how pissed I would’ve been at the pearly gates because my arrival was triggered by a got-dang gnat! This is the second time this has happened. She’s like a long armed, long legged windmill in the front seat of the car (a Mini Cooper—so there is limited space as it is). It’s scary and it’s dangerous.

But all Hope can see is that she was terrified of the gnat, had to get away any way she could and I didn’t understand and yelled and screamed. Because it’s a phobia there is no appreciation of the scale of danger between the gnat in the car and pushing through me through the driver’s side exit of a car that was barely at a complete stop.

The fury was only heightened since we were on our way to a medical appointment and the doctor “sided” with me on the danger factor in discussing the need to address the phobia and stat!

I can’t with this today. I hate the fight or flight response, and I hate the reptilian brain. #gonnafindahypnotherapist #phobiasbegone

Any unanticipated deviation in the schedule wreaks havoc, especially when layered up on existing stressors. The great weekend road trip was still a bit physically and emotionally stressful. Hope seemed to handle it like a champ. No apparent meltdowns on the horizon. Follow up on the day back with a scheduling error with a medical appointment —it was an hour earlier than what I recorded on the calendar so we were late. I apologized profusely, but the damage was done. Appointment was a disaster; homework time was painful; huffing and puffing. She even put me on punishment—no hugs and kisses for a month (#hollowthreat)— she was an all-around pill for two hellacious days.

And then I finally just got us together. Explained that we’re doing this thing together, that we will have good days and bad days and that hopefully there are more good days than bad days.   We had creamscicles, and I got some hugs and kisses and hopefully tomorrow will be a better.

Developmental issues are often invisible. I finally realized why I’m so touchy when Hope acts out in public (aside from just general embarrassment), or when someone chides me on why my daughter does something that they think is rude or otherwise inappropriate. They don’t know what I know. They don’t appreciate that she has developmental issues that are now more obvious to me, but remain largely invisible to everyone else. I can’t go around saying, “Oh, she does that because of a lifetime of trauma, so cut us a break why don’t ya?” To do so violates her privacy and her trust and potentially gives her a permanent label that just isn’t necessary.   So I grin and bear it, mostly in silence under withering glares or sometimes even the phone call that comes offering unsolicited parenting advice.

But this tidbit of information explains so much of why she does the things she does, of why some of her behaviors are odd and occasionally disruptive. The public spells are less frequent, but they happen. Her coping skills are improving, but they are still woefully lacking. Her developmental delays are increasingly apparent to me as she grows comfortable in our home. I’m better at accommodating them most days. But managing them in public is an issue for me. I wish it wasn’t but it is which brings me to my next aha moment.

Managing expectations is exhausting. When you are managing developmental delays with an older child who everyone assumes is “normal,” grateful to have been adopted and should be grateful and excited about meshing into your life, it’s so overwhelming that you just say nothing, withdraw, and mishandle the whole kit-and-caboodle. It’s like a disaster set up. You just can’t win; God bless us all if on one outing she is delightful and the next she’s acting like a three year old. How do I manage all of that and the follow up shade too?

Managing Hope’s expectations in social situations is tough, but that’s doable. Feeling some obligation about managing other people’s expectations about what my kid should be doing and how she should be behaving is absurd. Often you really can’t manage them at all. You wish you could, but you really just never can. It just feels like failing over and over again. I’m honestly not sure why I still try to manage expectations other than my own and Hope’s, but for some deep seated, unconscious reason, I still do.

Despite all the drama, the walls are coming down. Hope is increasingly allowing herself to be vulnerable. She wants to talk; she wants to tell me so many things. She tells me she needs hugs, and I’m only too happy to oblige.  Hope trusts me and she’s working hard at it, and I’m working really hard to make sure I am worthy of that trust. I don’t have much of a poker face and I’m finding that sometimes that’s a good thing; at other times I learning to be stoic enough to not distract her from telling me everything she wants to tell me. It’s hard, but her trust means a lot to me. Her trust is a major motivator in changing certain parenting behaviors.

Of course, I’m the only person she trusts. That’s a heavy load for me to bear sometimes. It’s hard to be the only person your kid trusts; I mean I want her to trust me. I need her to trust me, but building trust to a slightly broader circle sometimes feels impossible. It’s lonely and it’s heavy. Hope is very data driven (ironically, just like me); a lifetime of data has shown her that most of the people in her life don’t deserve to be trusted. I’m honored that she trusts me, but it’s hard being the only one. I look forward to the day when she is able to let others into her circle, not just for her own development, but to give me a break too.


So, we’re recovering after Bug-gate. Tomorrow is another new day to just try again. It’s easy to get down for a few days and just get stuck there. I hope we’re unstuck. Moving forward again.

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