Tag Archives: Adoption Post Placement Challenges

Kids Don’t Want to be A$$holes.

I was surfing around Facebook this past weekend and stumbled upon posts with parents venting about kids’ behavior. The “kids” may have had trauma backgrounds, may have neurocognitive challenges and some had both and more. I could practically hear the frustration through my phone and laptop screens. I empathized deeply.

I’ve certainly posted here about my frustrations around Hope’s more challenging behaviors, and how they were really, really difficult to cope with, so I get it. I have a love/hate relationship with online adoption support communities, but I do think that online support groups are important because we all need safe spaces to just release the big emotions we have in trying to cope with what inevitably feels like very personalized behavior designed to destroy us. It’s natural to feel that frustration. It’s natural to need to vent.

What struck me, though, is how easy it is to go down the rabbit hole of seriously thinking your kid is out to get you, to impose consequences that serve to push the kid further away and to really think there’s nothing going on but what you see on the surface.

Pro Tip: There’s always something going on below the surface.

I learned some time ago that Hope’s behaviors typically weren’t about me at all, but they were a form of communication with me. Parenting Hope through trauma and ADHD was and is…hard. Of the over 2,000 days Hope and I have been a family, I experienced some level of emotional upheaval for at least more than a good third of it.

Way more than a third of it if I’m brutally honest.

This has not been a walk in the park, nor has it lived up to the parenting experience I thought it would be. It’s been, in many ways, better than that notion and way underachieving in other ways.

It took me a long, long time to understand and appreciate that Hope’s most challenging behaviors were really her trying to tell me that she was struggling, that I needed to meet her where she was, not where I thought she should be. She was, and sometimes still is, scared and unsure of the circumstances and her place in those circumstances. She didn’t always have words, so she acted out. She still doesn’t have many words, but she will apologize for not being able to tell me what she needs. Sometimes it’s like we play out charades as I run though a list of potential challenges trying to guess what it is she needs and whether I can do something that will relieve her stress.

Hope was never out to get me in those moments when she was acting all spawn of satan and ish. She was calling for me to save her.

As we spend some time venting, we’ve got to remember that kiddos need us. That they are, in fact, often telling us what they want and need. They don’t want to be acting out. They don’t feel good about any of it. They aren’t trying to stay in those dark places.

According to the US CDC, nearly 10% of kids have an ADHD diagnosis. And although only about 3% of kids have depression and 7.1% of kids have anxiety, there is a high likelihood that if you have a diagnosis for one, you will have a diagnosis for another with a side dish of high incidence of behavioral problems too. For those of us parenting adopted children and/or children with trauma or ADHD, it might seem like these stats are low. They are relatively low; it’s just that we all hang out together, plugging into communities with other parents who are living the same experience. It ends up feeling like it’s a lot more people because we are plugged in.

There was a conversation I had with Hope one time when she was trying to explain what ADHD felt like without meds and what her depression feels like. It was heartbreaking for her to vocalize what it actually felt like, but it helped me understand that as frustrating it is, as much as I feel so personally attacked with some behaviors, as disrespectful as it feels, what Hope feels in those moments is so much worse. I pondered it for weeks.

Our kids don’t want to have behavioral problems. Our kids would love nothing more to be “normal.” Our kids want to blend in. They don’t always have the capacity to keep it together. They don’t always have the skills to even perform normalcy. We have to support them and create space that will allow them to get as close to it as they are able.

It’s ok to vent. Really, it is absolutely ok to vent, just remember that they aren’t trying to be assholes. They aren’t.

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A Year Gone By

As I close out the year, it’s hard not to do a lot of reflecting on the massive changes in my life in 2014.  I know that this is a critical year in my life, one that I will look back on and think about how my life trajectory shifted.

Hope was placed with me in January.

I started seeing Elihu in early February.

By mid-February I thought everything would collapse into total disaster.

I finished writing my dissertation in the midst of the chaos.

I defended it in late March.

Hope and I seemed to really, really start settling in around April.

I graduated in May.

We finalized in June.

Mimi and I launched Add Water and Stir.

We celebrated at Disney in June/July.

Hope’s extended first family found us.

Hope and I fumbled through the summer with increasingly normal teen/mom stuff.

I lost the Furry One.

School started in September, and I started traveling.

We struggled with all kinds of things.

We excelled at all kinds of things.

Hope became less recalcitrant about new things.

I wondered that the devil I was doing with this mothering thing.

We welcomed The Yappy One.

We survived the holidays.

And now we look at our first anniversary of placement.

It’s been an exhausting and exhilarating year.

Looking forward I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful that Hope will continue to grow, to feel safe, to thrive here.  I hope that I will gain a bit more confidence in this parenting game. I hope that things will continue to be good for me and E.  I hope I can hang onto myself, stay healthy emotionally and physically. I hope that Hope will continue to blossom, that she will hit some of the developmental markers that still wait for her.  I hope our relationship continues to grow.

I could make all kinds of predictions about 2015.  Somethings I just know will happen, others are just guesses in the dark.  It will be fun to see how it all comes together.  There’s a lot going on and a lot to be done.

Happy New Year everyone.  May 2015 bring you much peace and happiness!


Random Loss

Several times a week I get a startling reminder of Hope’s losses and varied experiences in her early life. It’s always jarring. I marvel at her strength and ability to just talk about things now. I’ve gotten so much better on focusing on that moment and figuring out what she might need. Sometimes she doesn’t seem to need anything but the comfort in knowing that she can interweave these moments into daily life.

The moments sit in her memory bank, and whether I like them or not, they are life points of reference for her. However awful they may be, they often represents how she sees the world.

Sometimes it’s a random reference to some kind of abuse she experienced. Other times it’s a reminder that neglectfulness made her miss out on childhood trimmings. Some days it’s wondering what it would be like to have been adopted by another family in a foreign country. Still other times it’s her fear in asking for something as simple as a snack because she’s used to such inquiries coming with consequences.

In the moments I feel anger first, compassion second, sometimes my own sadness third.   I feel blind fury that she has had such a hard time. I am mad because so many of our struggles have easy to understand, obvious triggers rooted in these random moments of loss on a day to day basis. I am reminded of loss I have experienced in my own life. Sometimes I hurt even though I know she loves me and I’m her mom.

It’s like a really long, crazy game of red light, green light.

Green light: we are cruising through life.

Red light: Screeching, distracting halt.

Yellow light: Tread lightly, maybe stop, maybe go.

We are making such progress, but some days…Sigh.

I am glad that she feels safe. I’m glad that she is able to express herself. I’m glad that I have better skills to help her navigate these challenges. But I wonder if we will get to a time when we have less of these moments and more green lights.


Time Outs, Switches & Modern Parenting on AWAS!

The Podcast!

The Podcast!

“Ohhhhh man!  Back in the day, my mom whooped me with an extension cord!”

If you’ve ever hung out on “Black” social media, surely you’ve come across such a #ThrowBackThursday kind of post.  Not only has corporal punishment long been a form of discipline within the Black community (and other groups too), but there is often a certain amount of pride in having endured and thrived under the lash of a good spanking/whooping/beating.

On this week’s Add Water and Stir podcast ComplicatedMelodi’s Mimi and AdoptiveBlackMom will talk about discipline, communities of color and adoption.  Adoption often involves significant loss and trauma, requiring patient, therapeutic parenting.  Mimi and ABM will talk about how all this jives together in the face of family and friends who fondly reminisce and declare that if it was good enough for them, then corporal punishment is good enough for the kids.

Of course, we’ll have our regular Wine Down session–we’ll catch up on Married at First Sight (live tweeting tonight)–and offer our recommendations!

 Join us on Google+ on Thursday night at 9pm CST/10pm EST!

 


Add Water and Stir: What’s Going On?

The Podcast!

The Podcast!

On this week’s Add Water and Stir, Complicated Melodi’s Mimi and ABM from AdoptiveBlackMom talk about current events, raising children of color, power and privilege, and their fears, hopes and dreams for their kiddos.  Recent events like, but not limited to, the killing of 18 year old Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO, should give all parents pause and require a moment of thoughtful reflection.

So what do you think about Ferguson? Did you talk about it at all in your family? What did you say? Does it make you think about how you raise your children? If you are an adoptive family of color or transracial adoptive family, how did these lenses shape your reaction to this social episode?

Drop us a line and let us know your thoughts and we’ll try to chat about it on the show.

In the “Wine Down,” Mimi and ABM will chew the fat on the Love and Hip Hop:ATL prize fight reunion shows and Married at First Sight (which incidentally we both live tweet through on Tuesdays).

Find us on Google+ for the live hangout on Thursday, September 4 at 9pmCST/10pm EST!

The YouTube video is available immediately and you can catch our MP3 downloads on our Add Water and Stir podcast page within a day or two of our live show.


See, What Had Happened Was…

Um, so, I, um, kinda got into a *thing* at the Bruno Mars concert. Yeah, I did. Some inebriated woman started pushing and shoving folks when she was confronted about being in the wrong seat in our row. It happened so fast and the next thing I know, this 50-something, stumbling drunk woman pushed Hope hard as she was swinging on someone else. Hope, on one of the happiest days of her young life, started to cry because it was going down in the seats next to her while Bruno was getting his Michael Jackson-Prince-James Brown-Elvis on a few rows away.

Awww hells no!

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I quickly donned my angry wolf mama face, deftly switched seats with Hope and assessed the situation. I had to hold the lady back from swinging on the dude who was explaining she was in the wrong seat. I leaned over and spoke in her ear, “Hey, settle down, you are a little out of control, get your ish together, take a break.” I let her go, and she spun around and swung on me, and pushed to try to get past me, stopping in front of Hope.

Say what now? Awww double hells naw.

Hope was now in hysterics (God only knows what kind of trauma memories this all triggered); 3 rows of people were trying to get this lady to settle down or exit.

And I pushed her away from my kid. Yeah, I did. And I’d do it again.

Not proud of putting hands on her but she was out of control, and all I could think was that if she swung on me and a full grown man, what would this drunk lady do to my kid?

She, um, flew, kinda, out of the row (I had about 100lbs on her). After a couple more Bruno songs and several complaints filed by people all around us, crazy lady was tossed out of the venue.

Hope was scared and for a while inconsolable. Seatmates all around were so kind, and for a while, when it looked like security was going to let the lady stay, I thought there might be a full on melee (at a dang Bruno Mars concert??? All the crazy concerts I’ve attended and a melee was going to break out at a Bruno Mars concert?)

And then Bruno started singing Hope’s favorite song—Grenade—and she grabbed my hand and we started to sing.

I’d gladly take a grenade for this kid.

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It’s been a crazy week, and I haven’t done a lessons learned bit for a while. So, let’s dig in!

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I now know what heaven looks like. Bruno Mars is Hope’s all time, favorite celebrity. Oh she loves him. She was anxious about the concert, freaking out about what to wear, asking questions galore. I spent an absurd amount of cash on those tickets, but the moment that the curtain went up, the pure ecstasy on her face…really, there aren’t words to describe it all. I can tell you nothing else mattered in that moment. It was better than her arrival, it was actually on some short term level better than finalization. It was better than Disney. It was a snapshot in time that I will take with me to my grave. All I could think was being able to give Hope this very moment, this very experience has just crystalized my concepts of the joy of motherhood. There were moments of just watching her that just seemed like bliss. Heaven must be like that. Sign me up.

In my quest for normalcy, I forget that Hope has developmental problems. My wanton forgetfulness about her social anxieties, random phobias and developmental delays, is no good for us. I can see so much growth in her over the last six months, but I also am aware that it’s hard to see the invisible things that still make her different. Many of her little issues are little and over time may, with love and support, may self-correct. But right now it’s hard to deal with meeting new kids and sometimes acting age appropriately. The OCD behaviors pop and things go off the rails quickly. And you know what? It can be embarrassing for both of us. Even more so now; I feel like others feel like we should be “normal;” I mean we’re finalized, we’re legal, there’s permanency, right? It’s hard sometimes being reminded that we aren’t normal, especially in the presence of others.

Someone once called me territorial when it came to Hope. It wasn’t meant to be a hurtful comment, but I’ve struggled with this characterization for a while now. I tried not to be offended. I understand how it must all look from the outside; maybe it’s true. It’s hard creating a therapeutic home where Hope can be safe trying to heal from years of abuse of various kinds and years in the foster care system. It’s hard creating a space where she can wrestle with the invisible problems privately, where I can wrestle with it all privately too. It’s hard realizing that the addition of a new family member isn’t what folks thought it would be. So yeah, I’m territorial and protective even against some of folks closest to me. It’s hard getting side eyes from people who don’t understand why we stay in or why things go nutty when we go out with other people. Six months in and I jarring reminders about how far we still have to go, while celebrating how far we’ve come, which in reality is so very far. Sometimes it feels like we just can’t win. So I escape to the land of denial.

I’m not sure what’s less fair, ascribing feelings of pressure to be normal to others or wishing so hard that we were actually normal, or putting Hope in positions where her behaviors seem characterized as failure when she’s really doing the best she can. It all kinda sucks.

Single parenting is hard. This isn’t new, but when I’m trying to figure out who a backup will be for pickups or trying to plan for fall business trips, it’s a reminder about how I have to try to line things up far, far in advance because I’m alone. I’m working on getting my team of sitters in place so that I can resume some business travel this fall. I don’t know what role family can/will play in helping out over the long haul. I worry a lot. I worry about money a lot, even though I seem to be financially ok. Sure things are tighter than they used to be, but we’re fine.

I appreciate not having to consult folks on many decisions, but I wish I had someone to consult with on others. I selfishly like not sharing Hope, but see such an awesome kid who would also benefit long term from a positive male role model that I wish I had one for her.

The early need to be “territorial” made it difficult to create close sustainable, safe relationships for me and Hope; the expectations about how things were supposed to be were just too much to live up to. We were both burned and got burned, and we’re still recovering and trying to build trust. Consequently, I don’t reach out to folks I thought I would reach out to. I hope that will change. It’s easy to forget that it’s only been six months, so much has happened.

I’m still depressed. Oh, it’s not as dramatic as it was shortly after placement and during our major crisis in Feb/March, but it’s still there. I manage it. I have gotten better as self-care, mostly in getting time away to just be. I still have lots of room for improvements in taking care of me, though. But often, if I’m honest, the blues are just below the surface. The blues oddly coexist with joy in seeing her earn an award at camp, enjoy a concert and get on with a new friend when social anxiety makes things so hard. I’m delighted by those things, and even though my controlled cries are much less than they used to be, they still happen every few days. I wonder when they will vanish.

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I am doing well. I’m managing and learning how to ask for help. Of course I have no idea how this coming week is going to go down—why did I agree to a camp that starts at 9:30 and ends at 3:30? Don’t they know people work???


Adoption is not a quick fix!

As Hope and I approach finalization this week, I’m ever so mindful about the things Family of Five writes about post. Our finalization is not the end of our adoption journey or our story, just the beginning of a new chapter.

These few sentences ring like a bell in my ears:

“Adoption does not and cannot wipe away over night the emotional and physical damage caused by years of trauma and neglect. Nor does it repair brain damage, reignite cognitive brain function or even miraculously cure delays in brain development. “

Our court order and new documents making us a legal family don’t wipe the slate clean; it just a big step to achieving an important level of permanence. We still have miles before Hope feels truly safe and secure. We still have a long journey before she catches up on some developmental milestones, including and especially emotional maturity milestones. We’re better, but there’s still a ways to go.

I don’t know what the comparable stats are for US post-finalization adoption disruptions, but I know about the risks. I’ll be writing about our emotional hiccups as we head to our hearing later this week in a separate post.

Thanks Family of Five for a great post!

The Family of 5's Journey

Im so tired of being faced with people that believe ‘adoption fixes everything’. The looks of disbelief when I try and explain why something may be more difficult for my girls to manage, or the eye rolling when I suggest they may need some extra support through a tricky period, or the sighs of exasperation when I try and explain how their actions impact on my girls emotional well being or the lack of interest when I ask for someone to be mindful of their words/actions.

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For example: Learning about ‘Family Tree’s’ can bring up all manner of issues, for a start it could leave the child wondering who they’re supposed to include in this family tree, which family? Topics about War and Famine, Deprivation and Loss, do I really need to explain why this might be tricky for some adopted children? seriously? Films like Annie, Despicable Me, Oliver, Rapunzel…

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The Struggle is Real

Last week was challenging. It was challenging on so many levels. I’ve been snarfing up bad foods since Friday evening and I’d really kind of broken out of rudderless emotional eating in recent weeks. I must toss the rest of the Easter candy, I knew no good would come from having this mess in the house. I’m chocolate-wasted right this minute. But I digress…

There were some revelations that I’m still wrestling with on this Monday evening. I learned some new things that hurt. I continue to mourn old things that still are incredibly painful. I wrestle with the anxiety associated with…just everything. I rarely cried last week, which I’m not sure is a sign of some newfound pool of strength or just being so overwhelmed that I just can’t manage to wring out some tears. I’m not depressed (thank you anti-depressants) I’m just sad and wondering when will we get to the next stretch of better. So here’s the week’s recap.

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­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is just…ugh…hard. I know, I know, this is not new news. But it just bears repeating over and over and over again.

It’s either feast for famine. And while some of these challenges look normal, peel back the layers and just listen to some of the things the neglected child will tell you. She’ll over plate food because she’s worried there won’t be enough or any more for in case she gets hungry, but saying something that sets off her alarms will mean none of it gets consumed. She will say she’s not worthy of being loved. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is ever her fault because well to admit fault means that you might get shipped away, even though that’s kind of what you think you want (see below). The kid will read your body language and facial expressions for filth—you can hide nothing, not anything, not even a slow blink.

Consequences for undesirable behavior are only met with more defiance because, as Hope told me on Friday, when you’re not used to having nice things or being treated nicely, then having those things removed as a behavioral consequence is neither a punishment nor a motivator for behavioral change. It’s just a state of being. She never thought she would have those things or even deserved those things anyway [note, these are different from desiring these things, which she does]. The removal of these things which she desires just returns her to a state that she understands and accepts—having nothing.

A song, a drive past a cemetery, a passing bumble bee can trigger huge, sustained emotional reactions from somewhere deep inside.

I’ve come to think of her emotions on a circular continuum with no end, all underpinned by fear. The fear is so extraordinary and so deep that facing it seems impossible but not living with it is not possible either, so the option is to go with what you know and that’s living under constant fear that consumes everything in its wake.   It is hard to watch and live with; it seems so irrational and rational all the same. It’s hard to reassure that the fears are no longer warranted. It’s just hard in ways that I can’t really articulate.

Hope is waiting for me to give up. It was sad to hear her talk about how she has resigned herself to live with me, but she really believes that she’ll get sent back. She had a failed placement before, so she knows that it happens. She’s waiting for it to happen; it’s hard for her to believe that it won’t happen and that I’ll keep her. She doesn’t understand why I would want to. It’s not just that she’s testing me to see if I’ll cave, there’s a part of her that really wants me to cave so she can go back to what she knows. She doesn’t know how to live in a home with unconditional love. I wrote several weeks ago that she doesn’t know how to be happy. I realize now that she doesn’t know how to live without severe dysfunction; she has the skills to survive in that situation. But to live in a “functional” (I use the term loosely because we are all a bit dysfunctional) home? Well, she just doesn’t know how to live in that. She doesn’t have the skills for it. So there’s a part of her that is just committed to either causing the dysfunction that she understands and can survive in or just causing me to just roll over and give her back.

Reconciling this is hard for me.

It’s hard to feel like you’re doing anything right when everything seems to be going so wrong. Intellectually I know that we’re pushing forward. Going back to read my own posts shows me we’re moving forward. But being in the thick of things requires a level of vigilant consciousness that the world is not actually ending (as I constantly tell Hope that the world is not ending) takes a lot out of you. You just have keep reminding yourself not to get sucked into the emotional crap that’s being spun all around. It’s like mud wrestling in emotions all the time, but without the sexy wet t-shirt contest. It’s hard to not feel like a failure, even when you know you’re not failing. I’m sure most parents, no matter how they came to parenthood replay episodes at night, thinking about how they might have/should have done them differently, so that’s not unusual, but I’m finding that imposter syndrome: Parenting edition, is real y’all. It’s so real and it’s so serious.

I’ve got more parenting books than I can stand to read. I’ve binged purchased books. I’ve binge checked out books from the library. I’ve got regular parenting books, parenting the troubled child books, Christian parenting books, howl at the moon parenting books. Books for parents who are right handed with auto-kinesthetic dyslexia [that would be me, but no the book isn’t helpful]. Books for adoptive parents, black parenting books, books written by other parents, shrinks, pastors, social workers, educators, adoptees, other adopters…Tiger mom, single mom, black mom parenting books. Parenting without a father books.

If my Kindle app was an actual library of physical books, I think someone might call up Hoarders and recommend me for an episode. It’s all so absurd.

I know there isn’t a holy grail for parenting the adopted child, but sigh…I wish there was. Better yet, I wish there was a cliff notes version or just put it in a Powerpoint. I bought two new books today. I will skim them tonight.

I’ve read 5 books since I finished my dissertation on March 27th. Three were delicious, trashy beachy kind of reads. The other two were parenting books. I’ve done about half a dozen devotional reading plans. I’m sure I’ll binge devotional read this month too.

And there are still so many gaps. I find it’s not really about “knowing” kids; it’s about trying to figure out what’s going to work with your kid. It’s not about normal when normal is often only surface deep, and there’s a HAM (hot arse mess) just under the surface, it’s really just all about dealing with the HAM itself.

And yet tomorrow, I know I’ll be on the library’s website and Amazon continuing, to look for the elusive, key to everything text that doesn’t exist.

And then you get a sort of validation that maybe she’s reading something besides the non-existent poker face. After only earning half of what she normally gets in allowance last week, Hope is ALL over that chore spreadsheet so she can get the big money this week. She commented how she likes how I keep butter sitting out on the counter so it’s always soft and spreadable (thanks to all my Brit friends for that tidbit, it really doesn’t go bad!). She insists on wearing her natural hair because I wear mine. Tonight she copied something I do with my PJs and she asked how many times could she use the same towel when bathing because I shower morning and night she couldn’t figure out why I didn’t run out of towels. When she cleaned her room yesterday, she threw away two bags of trash that included papers of hers. She never throws anything away. Something about throwing away her papers is meaningful, she’s able to let somethings go. She asked me to read her a bedtime story tonight. My inside voice was like, “For reals? Bye Felicia.” Fortunately, my good sense kicked in and I rooted around on her shelf to find her Daddy Goose book that her father gave her. She told me how much she loved the book even though her father never read it to her. So I read her a story, and she giggled and laughed and wanted to see the pictures. And my daughter who is now several inches taller than me was tickled because at 12 someone finally read her a bedtime story. I’ll be reading one every night.

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So that’s the word, Big Bird. We are surviving. She nervous about heading to Chicago this weekend for my graduation, but we’re going to have a good time. I love her. I love her madly, even when she is annoying the hell out of me. I love her. And we will get up tomorrow to do it all over again.


About Last Night

Last night I just lost it. Last week, our pattern broke and there was no downturn in moods or behaviors. That was super awesome. But this week has been an exercise in challenges day after day, moment after moment. We had a tech blackout for couple of days, there were hours where she was sent to her room. The defiance, the yelling, the anger, the lying…oh the lying. By last night I was over it, so over it. So I went to bed.

After a back and forth related to a couple of what should’ve been minor issues, I just threw up my hands and said something that seems unthinkable. It was a mixture of truth and a lie all rolled into one.

I said, “I don’t care.”

I’m sure in one of the dozens of books I’ve read that I’m not supposed to say that. Ever.  And of course I do care, but I consciously just threw up my hands and told her that I didn’t care how long she stayed up, didn’t care that she wouldn’t do her chores, didn’t care that she found the need to retwist her hair last night inconvenient, I didn’t care that she got nasty with a teacher requiring a phone call from the school and I just didn’t care what she did last night.

I went to my room. Did a couple of work emails, twisted my hair, showered and went to bed at 9pm. Lights out and everything. For a few minutes I lay in the dark thinking, “This is so absurd. I know this is a mistake. I know there must be some other kind of way to deal with all of this.” But I just couldn’t will myself to get up and deal with one more minute of any of it last night.

I woke up a couple of hours later and the house was dark. I thought of all the things in our routine that I do to make sure she is ready for bed. The hair twisting, the water bottle filling, setting the alarm, closing the blinds, making sure the closet door is closed, fluffing her pillow, fluffing her bedding when I tuck her in, kissing her forehead, clicking the light, asking her to tell me “when” as I draw the door closed and putting up the doggie gate so The Furry One doesn’t go wandering.

I didn’t do any of it last night. It bothered me; I’m sure it bothered her. I missed kissing her forehead most of all.

I got the petitions from my attorney yesterday to finalize my adoption yesterday. Coincidence? Probably not. Of course I’ve already signed them; I need to drop them off at FedEx later today. I’m so excited about this next step. I didn’t even hesitate to sign the papers; mailing them seems to be another story. There’s just a lot of emotions and it all boils down to less than 10 sheets of paper and a check to my attorney.

Ten sheets of paper and there’s a 12 year old in my house. That’s so crazy.

Seeing that paperwork just has me…wondering what the hell I’m doing. Oh I’m not backing out; I’m all in, but it’s kind of like buying your first house or car and you love it and it’s so exciting, but you harbor questions about whether you can really handle this even though you’ve run the numbers a million times. Even though you are handling it.  You just wonder what the heck are you doing and how the heck did you end up here.

I’ve read that this emotional hiccup is normal and passes, but ugh. I can see, in the light of day, how my brain and heart just needed to shut down.  For some reason it was just too much.

This morning I had to deal with a scared kid who looked like Don King. I sent Hope to school rocking her first puff today. #irockroughandtuff

Her thoughts?

“I’m going to get picked on today.”

Hey, I did decorate her puff with a lovely flower. But yeah, I’ve got to do hair tonight.

Over breakfast, I prayed for peace over this house and I silently prayed for peace in my heart and patience…dump trucks of patience.


Getting There

Yesterday was our monthly visit with the social worker. I really do like her a lot; she’s so supportive and encouraging. While I will be glad to finalize my adoption of Hope; I will kind of miss my check-ins with Ms. E. She’s been a nice, unbiased, non-familial attached person for me to check in with and actually ask for advice from rather than just getting unsolicited advice. While thinking about our visit, I was able to really give some thought to the goings-on of the last couple of weeks. I haven’t done a recap in a while, so here goes.

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Respite and self-care: Where have you been all my life?? To everyone who told me to find a way to take a break to just take a breath and get my bearings; thank you. You were right. After interviewing half a dozen people I wouldn’t leave a houseplant with, I finally decided to use the sitter service that I got a Living Social deal on a month ago. Last week I got myself a sitter for Friday and Saturday and wouldn’t you know it, I’m a new woman. Now I talked incessantly about my kid while I was out, but I didn’t call once to check in and I felt free. We tried two sitters, one who was a late 20s and in grad school and another early 20s undergraduate student. Turns out the younger of the two was a hit with us and we’ll be requesting her on a regular basis, because yeah, I need a break sometimes. The investment was worth every penny.   I came home feeling like a new woman, and after Hope got over the anxiety, she found that it wasn’t so bad since I came home in a good mood.

People do strange things when they know you’re adopting. So, Hope’s teachers know that this is a pre-adoption placement. They have been kind and helpful and understanding. And then things got weird on the field trip. Suddenly, I had no name other than “Hope’s Mom.” No really, while introducing the chaperones to the 140 kids in the auditorium, I literally got introduced as Hope’s Mom, with no name of my own. Every other parent got introduced as Mr. or Ms. Smith/Jones/Rodriguez/Jenkins and 70% of the time their kids’ last name was different. It was almost as if this was some attempt to make sure Hope and I were bound together publicly. It was weird and awkward and well, just kind a weird. Hope was completely nonplussed; she has not called me by my given name in months, so to her, that kinda is my name.

Hope tends to be pretty transparent about being adopted. I try to follow her lead and not disclose unless she has. I’m sure the other parents thought I was a bit weird too. Clearly some of their kids had shared with them that Hope was from the West Coast, but she or they must not have shared that her move was a part of an adoption. In making small talk, I was asked how I was adapting to the East Coast and DC area. Ummmm….Hmmmmmm. Yeah, “It’s lovely here.” “Rough winter.” I’ve lived here forever, and Hope’s adjustment has been…big. Yep….a big adjustment….

I have developed the “Mom” look!!! Holy shizzle! I have successfully managed to master the look that mothers give their kids who are cutting up. You know, the looks that say, “You betta get it together!!” This is huge. I had to use the look while chaperoning my first field trip this week. Before we even got on the bus, I had to snatch Hope up and get her together because she attempted a smart mouthed neck roll in front her little friends in the group. Um, no girl. Midway during the trip she attempted a modest break bad moment and all it took was a LOOK! Hot damn, momma is cooking with grease now.

I need to tackle my anxiety/frustration/anger about being judged. I had an unfortunate run-in this week with someone very close to me because of a comment that felt judgy. The truth of the matter is a lot of things feel judgy these days; I’m hyper-sensitive, and it’s really my thing like 78.8713% of the time. It’s hard (especially for this overachiever) to take critical commentary about something you’re working so hard on and for and is complete and utter mayhem on the inside. It’s easy to become angry and resentful and just all around pissy. You withdraw and the circle of confidants gets smaller and smaller until you really are just confiding into the folks you’re paying to make this thing happen. It’s a vicious cycle because then the less people see, know and/or hear about, the more they come to believe that, well, your little adoptive family must be getting along like gangbusters, while secretly, you lie in bed alone nightly watching the ceiling fan spin, while crying and knocking over the red wine glass you had delicately placed next to you.

Oh, that hasn’t happened to you? My bad.

(Yes, I know that bio parents are probably also watching ceiling fans and knocking over wine glasses in bed too.)

I read an article on the Tiny Buddha this week called “Transforming your Relationships by Assuming Best Intentions.”  Ahh, this article was a bit of church and one that I will take to heart in all of my relationships. There are far fewer people in the world who care enough to wish you harm and failure than those who wish wholeness and love for you. People who don’t care about you actually don’t care about you, and they typically don’t even care enough to comment.   I have people who care about me, and it’s silly to continue to rationalize that they are out to get me. Now, changing this mindset will likely take some doing on my part but I need this transformation for myself and my daughter more than anything.

People are going to say some really unhelpful, sometimes less than constructive things; my challenge is to charge it to the head and not the heart.

Hope is starting to really try on her new identity as my daughter. I already mentioned that she calls me Mom and sees me as Mom, but it’s interesting as we approach finalization to hear the questions that she has. I told her yesterday that I had hired an attorney and that we were heading to finalization in June. She was delighted and said something like, finally I will stay here forever. It was a great response and then the questions started, like, “Will I still be from WA or does that all get erased?” I fielded all her questions and then she asked when would we get her passport and when could we go to the Bahamas; a trip that would require her to show her passport with her new name.

Of course the trying on of this identity also comes with a side of trying me, which is delightfully, annoyingly normal. Amazing how normal can also be painful, but whatever. The girl refuses to understand that there are consequences, positive and negative, to every action. And in three short months the sense of entitlement has rooted itself surprisingly strong. We are at the beginning of a tech blackout since rules have been broken and attitudes have been slung. Sigh…

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Overall, things are better. I’m hopeful; I know that we’ll be fine. Things are still very hard; there are moments of anxiety and nail biting and anxiety words and withdrawal and spouts of anger. It still can be overwhelming, but it’s ok. I can see the growth and I know it will continue if I just stay the course.

In the meantime she is punishing me by yelling, screaming and sporadically playing a harmonica. While $10 noise cancelling headsets are not quite as effective as Beats by Dre, they get the job done when coupled with a glass of wine, a pre-dinner brownie and a music playlist. I love her, but I know she’s not ready to be consoled or comforted.

And that’s ok.  We’ll get there.


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