- Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I wore my green glasses today.
- Things are…all over the place. I almost hate it when someone asks, “How are you?” Like, there’s a pandemic, I’m an extrovert trapped at home; my daughter is struggling and I don’t know exactly what I can do to make it better, work is emotionally draining 99.9999999995% of the time and my own mental health always seems precarious.
- So, I”m doing fine.
- Except, that’s not really true.
- I am fighting the good fight though. With daylight savings I can get more outside time and I’m delighted by that. I’ve taken Yappy on an evening walk every day this week. The increased sunlight and exercise is always great for my mood. I’ve started sleeping with my weighted blanket again. Sometimes that added weight, pressure just is so soothing.
- I’m really struggling with parenting right now. We have a good medical team. We’re really trying to give Hope autonomy with her care as a young adult. I’m trying to give her structure, but it’s really a lot with everything that’s going on. The issues are just like whackamole; we get one thing under control and something else pops up. Depression is getting better, but now the anxiety is debilitating. I can only imagine what it must be like for Hope. Not being able to find a “fix” is killing me. I really feel helpless and super frustrated. I don’t see this ending anytime soon.
- At the end of every day I’m exhausted. I would probably allow myself to get in my bed at 7:30pm if it didn’t sound SOOO early. Sometimes I do it anyway, but days like today…I’m trying to wait until at least 8pm.
- In other news Yappy is now using steps to get on and off of my bed; I’m so proud of him. A few months I noticed he was starting to have to work harder to get up on my bed; it’s a big jump. I bought some doggie steps, tried a couple of times to train him to use them. He looked at me like I was stupid. I shrugged and just left the steps there. After a month he started randomly using the steps, just like that–no prompting, no treats, nothing. He just started using them. Now he uses them consistently unless he’s feeling frisky and wants to hop up. If only everything was that easy.
- I am supposed to get my second vaccine next week. I’m now able to really count down the days until I can see my parents, who will be getting their second shot tomorrow. Just knowing I will be able to hug them in a matter of weeks nearly brings me to tears.
- I still wish I was motivated to write more, especially about parenting and older child adoption. Sometimes I get so frustrated because so much of the adoption conversation is dominated by infant, international and transracial adoption. I really wish more folks were writing about families like me and Hope. There are absolutely threads that are similar, but there are narratives that are different–not better or worse, just different. I often find myself trying to decide if I want to weigh in on posts even though I know the conversation isn’t about older child adoption and I want to hear about those stories and from those adoptees. I’m realizing that I might need to reconstruct my adoption squad. Our challenges never really go away, but I don’t necessarily seek the same kind of engagement and help that I used to seek. This young adult thing is different, and while in some ways it’s hard to remember what life felt like before Hope, it’s only been 7 years. It’s crazy. I just wish there were more folks talking and sharing about this kind of journey. Sometimes it’s lonely out here.
Tag Archives: Adoptive Parenting
- I’m a day late. What can I say? It’s been a hella busy week and while I started the draft yesterday (Wednesday), sleep proved more important that blogging. Sue me. LOL.
- Tuesday was my birthday. I worked. I ordered in, and I got a huge same day order from Target. It was a good day. Is it petty that I had to order in for Hope and tell her no she’s couldn’t get a milkshake because it was MY birthday? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
- I’m feeling so much more stabilized now. I’ve had some reflection time, and while I’m still feeling legit fragile with all that’s going on, I’m realizing that my hormone levels are starting to swing like a trapeze. That’s a problem. I’m still looking to take some time away, but it feels less urgent now. I do need to go get some bloodwork done to see where my “levels” are. This is happening a few years younger than it did for my mom, so I’m like yo, what’s happening here? This aging thing is something.
- I’m spending a lot of time thinking about parenting these days. I continue to learn so much on this journey with Hope. The pandemic changed both of our lives so radically that it still feels like we are trying to figure out how to live together. And even though I know Hope can be a remarkable young woman, she can also be a little devil in PJs. I hereby confess to occasionally allowing her to sleep the whole day away just so I can pretend to be alone. I’m a hardcore extrovert, but everyone needs alone time sometimes. Lately when I retire to my room around 8:30, Hope wants to come with. Um, no thank you. I’m about to do my yoga, sip this wine, read the paper on my phone and turn this light out in an hour. SHHHHHH!
- I’m so frigging over this gotdern pandemic. Put the stupid mask on and stay home. I mean if we could get everything in the universe to sit on our collective asses down for a good 3 weeks, we would have this thing licked, but noooo! I’m really, really over it. And even though I have greatly improved my work from home set up, I’m resentful about having to make space because so many folks won’t stay the eff at home.
- I’m about to make a hiring decision between to candidates. I honest to goddess do not know with of these two candidates I will pick. They are really different, but the same: confident and hungry for career building work experience. I don’t there’s a bad decision to be made here which is an enviable place to be in. Still I have feelings.
- Back to parenting. Anyone else’s kids regularly send them tik toks to watch? Hope sends me the weirdest, darkest, random mess on a regular basis. I don’t bother feigning interest in that ish. I’m guessing she wants to be interesting and stylish, and that she wants more connection. I never complain about the rando videos, but they do make me wonder if this is the stuff she shares, what in the world is she watching the rest of the time??
- Yappy is having serious issues with dreaming at the moment. In the evenings he snores, baby barks and sleep runs. Just once I’d love to peek into his dream and see what he sees. It’s kind of adorable.
- I’m thinking of getting a new coffee maker. I kinda want something fancy even though counter space is at a premium. I just have a regular Mr. Coffee at the moment, but I’m thinking about something more sophisticated since I don’t really get coffee out anymore. Suggestions? I noted that Instapot has a new coffee maker that takes Kcups and Nespresso pods. I like the idea, but it’s not what I had in mind. Hit me with your best coffee maker recommendations.
- At what point does one stop giving their children money to buy the birthday/Christmas/etc gift, while also telling them what to get? Now, admittedly at Christmas, Hope took my request and upgraded it to the amazing bamboo bathtub caddy. She tells me that the waffle iron I requested (and low key paid for) will arrive today, but seriously…how long do we go through these theatrics?
I am still in the emotional whirlwind. We’ve been stable the last couple of weeks, but it’s like a stable version of hell, soooo it sucks.
I’ve been angling for a breakthrough in this situation. I made a request that went unanswered.
I’ve been patient. I haven’t lost my schitt in front of Hope. I have moderated my outward emotions. I have not raised my voice. I have tried reason. I have tried science (I’m a nerd, leave me alone). I’ve leaned into every bit of every skill in my toolbox.
I announced to Hope on Sunday that she had 2 days to move the needle or I was taking matters into my own hands and escalating things.
Nothing happened so, I made my move today.
There is a part of me that wonders if it is the right decision, and there is a part of me that sees this escalation as the only path toward making sure I’m doing my job of looking out for Hope’s wellbeing.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about what I was like and who I saw myself as when I was Hope’s age. In some ways we are alike and others so vastly different. I realize just how much I took for granted looking back now.
I certainly engaged in my share of shenanigans in high school, but I was also a “good girl” so I showed up to college with some innocence. Despite all that Hope has been through, she also showed up with a bit of innocence.
I was an avid reader and continue to be an endlessly curious woman. I was certainly academically ready and my curiosity meant that I was always looking to understand all these new experiences. I am intrinsically motivated and I had some very specific goals to accomplish during college. I avoided just about everything that would possibly derail me—except a ridiculous boyfriend who was handsome but not at all what he appeared to be. Even that, I managed to escape with some emotional wounds that certainly shaped the way I viewed future relationships, but in the grand scheme of things, I got off lucky.
Hope and I are very, very different in this respect. She is not motivated in the same way, and trust over the last 6+ years I’ve tried to understand what motivates her. I still don’t know, and I’m not sure she does either. She is naturally curious, but I’m still not sure that she has figured out that she can channel and leverage that curiosity in ways that would directly benefit her.
I never doubted that my family was my support system and that they would be there for me. They had been engaged with me my whole life, so of course I felt secure in that.
Hope has only been with me for 6+ years, which on some days seems like an eternity and others seems like the blink of an eye. We are very attached, but I feel like there’s a part of her that is just out there. I get it. I will never, ever fill some specific holes, and I don’t try to. I can only be what I am to Hope. I love her dearly. I know she loves me, but the path to our family is a littered with loss.
That kind of loss changes you. It changes your brain development and function. It changes you emotionally. I am sure it changes you at a cellular level. And those changes…
Well, I believe that those changes have left my daughter vulnerable to all sorts of things.
She has come so far over these years, but emotionally, she’s not 19. She’s like a 15 year old dropped into college student aged stuff. And, some of it, she can handle and other stuff…it’s just clear she’s out of her depth.
There are few times I’ve been as afraid for her as I am right now. It’s consuming me. Between work, which continues to just be barely bearable because of workload, our family crisis is taking whatever is left.
So, I escalated things today to see if I can get this situation to some sort of resolution. I don’t know what that resolution is going to look like and that terrifies me. I don’t know what my relationship with Hope will look like when its all said and done. I don’t know what she will do next. I don’t know what the next revelation will be or how much it will hurt to hear whatever it will be. I just know that there will be more emotional upheaval before its all over.
And I just…I am just so very sad. So, so, so sad.
I’m struggling to find time to write these days. I’m still working like a madwoman. Today was a 12 hour day. Evenings and weekends, I’m totally vegging.
Hope has not one but TWO jobs. She’s tired and thriving. I’m really proud of her; her transformation from human sloth to working woman is kinda head spinning. She was recognized for her stellar performance after just two weeks at her first job. She was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of her first paycheck; fortunately she has created her own savings plan. She also has picked up a few groceries and filled the had tank–unasked!!! (I did reimburse her.) Hope has always been a good kid, but watching her these last few months has honestly been the most delightful.
Hope being out at work also means that I have some of the home alone time I crave. I have treasured my time with Hope during the pandemic, but we could stand some time apart. Of course, that’s complicated too. With the ongoing unrest and law enforcement continuing to use excessive force even with all of the heightened scrutiny, I worry about her getting to and from work safely. And well, there’s still a pandemic going on. 🙄🙄🙄
Unironically, I’m realizing that if she ever goes back to college, I might have to go through empty nest feelings again. Her college is planning on opening as usual; I’m not convinced that they will though. I guess we’ll see.
I’m crocheting another blanket. I’m currently watching The Great on Hulu (It’s just ok. I like my historical dramas to have a bit more accuracy.) I spend a lot of time on my patio in my zero gravity chair; it’s my favorite place from spring until fall (I have been known to put on my goose down and plop on the patio in the dead of winter). I’m trying to hold on a few weeks until my summer vacation. I’m kinda bitter that the pandemic means no beach this year.
I’m better this week, but I’m really tired. But I’m better. And Hope is doing so very well that it gives me hope that everything will be ok.
So, there’s this pandemic.
Holy ish, there’s an effing pandemic!
Ok, so as folks know, we are supposed to be social distancing in hopes of preventing the wildfire spread of COVID-19. The virus was first discovered in China, and despite the country putting folks on lock down weeks ago, the leadership of my country just waved it away. Seemingly no one told the folks in charge that every nasty thing in the world can be at your doorstep in a matter of hours.
So here we are. Schools are shuttering. Colleges are closing and some are kicking students off campus. Small business are struggling and the stock market? Dumpster fire. The latest guidance is don’t even be around more than 10 people at a time.
For those of y’all with big immediate families…well, dang!
Hope has been home from college for a little over a week. She will be here at least two more weeks, though my gut tells me that we will only be going back to clean out her dorm. Her classes are moving online; though one is stagecraft (which she got into last year at school), and I dunno how that’s going to transition. Whatever.
I didn’t initially panic shop. I bought a few extra groceries; after all Hope was home. I reasoned well, I have a few rolls of toilet paper and I’ve got a bidet in my bathroom, we’re good.
Then last Friday, Hope grabbed the last roll of toilet paper, and for those of you who have had the blessing of living with a teenage girl, you know that being down to the last roll of TP on a regular, degular day constitutes a household crisis. So, here we are on DAY 1 of social distancing, and I’m in a full scale panic trying to find TP for sale anywhere nearby. (Shout out to the Target app for accurately telling me what each store had in stock!).
The TP run to Target at opening turned into a panic shopping spree.
A few hundred dollars and a few stores later, I had enough food and coffee to last us a week. I had a new French press, some unnecessary makeup and several pints of low cal ice cream. Later that evening I had to resist the urge to do a run to the local wing place for takeout. Then on Saturday, DAY 3 of social distancing, and I panic scoot into DC buy some herbal medicinal products because I don’t know how long this distancing thing will last and I am not emotionally or hormonally equipped to deal with being home-bound long term, never mind any BS fantasies about such I might have previously uttered.
By DAY 4, Hope’s capacity for levels of lazy not yet seen with the human eye had already irritated me such that I declare that we will take a walk everyday of this distancing thing. There was a reaction.
And then we went walking. I ignored the incessant whining and gnashing of teeth. We walked 3 miles that day. We walked about 2.7 miles yesterday and another 2 today.
There was a brief moment when Hope attempted to bargain about walk length and frequency. I told her that her bargaining position was weak and reasserted that this is a benevolent monarchy with me the head chick in charge. We were walking daily. Length and time dictated by me.
Yappy is delighted to have his pack all together. Positively over the moon. He’s easy. I did panic shop for him as well. I was low on food and well, don’t we all need new toys and extra treats in times such as these?
I’m enjoying my time with Hope. She has matured a little (seriously it’s only a little but it is noticeable); her vocabulary is improving. She was telling me her thoughts on the movie Parasite, and I listened intently as she shared a pretty sophisticated and layered critique of the movie (she thinks its overrated by the way—by both Asian and American movie standards). She’s still as goofy as ever, but she is way cooler to be around these days. Honestly, she’s content to spend some time with me and retreat to her room, her space, her things. Life with her is different now.
Like everyone else, we are in this bubble. We’re kinda away from the world and kinda not. We video chat family daily. I do fret and fuss over my parents, who both have compromised immune systems. I get to turn off the alarms on my phone. I’m still productive. I’m cooking. There’s still laundry, and until this afternoon, I was working from home. For the next week, I’ll be a slug who walks a few miles a day with her daughter. Hardly anyone is out. We walked during what is normally rush hour; we might’ve seen 100 cars while we were out. Not much traffic at all. I’ve been curating my Netflix queue, knowing I’ll probably just rotate through my usual favorite shows on network TV.
In some ways, this time is reminiscent of the first few weeks home with Hope. I was off on family leave to focus on her (and my) adjustment to this family life. We were in the same home, but gosh the tension, the nervous anxiety, the fear that it wasn’t going to work out, the all out fear about everything. It was exciting and terrifying. Yet, it was us and a dog (The Furry One) just like now. Only now, we are calm. We talk and it’s meaningful but mostly boring. We snuggle on the couch and bicker about what to watch on TV. There’s still a dog, a younger pooch with a big personality and a deep affection for his pack of people. It’s something to reflect on those months in light of our current situation. What we have now is what I dreamed that those months back then would be. It was a silly and misinformed dream back then; there’s a lot of work, living, learning and growing that got us here.
The boredom we experience now is what we always dreamed of…to just be a regular family.
So far, life in the bubble is thought provoking and a bit of a dream—once I got over the momentary panic.
Sending you all lots of positive energy and good handwashing skills.
What are 4 things I’m grateful for in the context of adoptive parenting?
One of the questions people tend to ask folks on the cusp of becoming parents is, “Are you ready?” Usually the question is surrounded by a bit of levity, maybe even said in a joking matter with a wagging of eyebrows for effect.
I remember folks asking me and my response was always deadpan: Hell no, but I’m doing it anyway.
Of course, stepping into parenthood is beautiful and all, but it’s hard. It’s exhausting and expensive and discombobulating.
And largely wonderful, even if it is punctuated by many less wonderful experiences.
In the grand scheme of things, my parenting journey has been good. Some would even say that it has been relatively easy for a family coping with the long-term effects of trauma and grief. I don’t disagree with that, but yes, it has been challenging.
And there have been times when I felt like parenting broke me.
Since becoming a parent, I have had to have several increases in anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications—so I’m now taking two meds at true therapeutic doses. I’ve had to resume intensive therapy to help deal with my own mental health during these years. I’ve survived but it’s taught me a lot about myself, my limits and my coping mechanisms.
There has been a lot of growth during these years for me and Hope.
So, what are the things I’m most grateful for in the context of parenting?
- My primary care physician. Dr. G has been my doctor for 21 years. He’s rocked with me through major health challenges, weight gains and losses, cancer screenings, preventive health you name it. I remember when I had to take the form to him to give me a clean bill of health to share with my adoption agency, he was so kind to me. He and the entire staff have always been so supportive. He’s been fantastic with Hope. He’s patient and considerate. He gives sage advice and counsel without judgment.
I realized recently just how much I adore him and how he has supported Hope and I through this journey when he went out of medical leave and I legit panicked that he might not come back. Dr. G has been there rocking with us since the beginning and I’m so grateful.
- I’m grateful for the grace Hope’s family has shown me. Every holiday we get two cards in the same envelope sent by Hope’s biological grandmother. The big card is for Hope and the little card is for me. It’s so thoughtful.
These last few years, Hope has not had a lot of contact with her family. This has been her choice. I encourage her reaching out, but I don’t push it. I understand why it hard for Hope, and I know that her reticence to maintain contact has been painful for her family. I’ve often worried that they thought it was me blocking contact; they have kindly reassured me that they know that I’m not. I try to send letters, lots of pictures and updates on how she’s doing. I feel a real pain in my heart knowing and seeing this estrangement and not being able to smooth it over. I’m a fixer, so I want it to work out.
I don’t know what the future of the relationship will be, but I’m so grateful that they have been kind to me and have welcomed me into their homes and hearts. They are wonderful people, and I’m grateful for them and what they’ve brought to my life.
- I’m grateful for this this goofball, Yappy, and his predecessor, The Furry One.
When Hope moved in, I was doggy mom The Furry One. I’d had him since he was 8 weeks old and he was closing in on 15. Most of my truly adult life I’d had this dog.
The expansion of our dynamic duo to a trippy trio was very hard for The Furry One. He was old, delightfully grouchy and still forever my sweet baby. He passed away about 7 months after Hope’s arrival, and I was devastated.
My grief was overwhelming. For months I couldn’t look at another fluffy white dog without bursting into tears. I know my grief was magnified because Hope and I were headlong into beginning to really cope with challenging behaviors, mental health issues and more. I was also still trying to integrate my new realities with my career. I was a mess.
It took me a long time to realize that The Furry One had a long life and his last gift was his affection during a really hard transition.
About 4 months later, we got Yappy through a Craigslist ad and I’ve been hopelessly in love ever since. Yappy is seriously the cheeriest dog I’ve come across in a long time.
He is super social and affectionate. He loves people so much that I rarely take him to the dog park because all he does after his business is lap surf all the other dog owners sitting on benches. He is my constant companion, snuggle buddy and wordless cheerleader. He looks at me like I hung the moon and the stars.
Sure he has severe separation anxiety, but hey, he ADORES me unconditionally.
- I’m grateful for my sisters. I have amazing siblings. We are close, very close. We love hard, and we try to show our love constantly in our support for one another. We each have our own ways and love languages, but we are always there for each other. My sisters have been unwavering in their support of me and Hope. They’ve listened to me cry. They’ve been there to celebrate. They’ve sent gifts. They hosted overnights. They shopped with us and for us. They’ve been the best aunties ever. We’ve always rode hard for each other, but during this chapter of our lives, it’s been amazing. And I’m grateful beyond measure.
Of course there are many, many other things for which I’m grateful. There have been so many people along the way who have touched my life, helped me be a better parent and helped me get myself together. It is more grace than I deserve. It is humbling and beautiful. So I’m sending a big thank you to the universe for so much on this journey.
Fall used to be my busiest time of the year, but these days have me gallivanting all over the place all dang year.
And you know what?
It is exhausting!
I haven’t been on this kind of grind in nearly 10 years, and I definitively know that I did not miss this pace. And did I mention I’m 10 years older now? I mean, I’m still fly, but it’s still a whole arse decade!
Anyhoo, I’m launching into a month of travel with a legit vacation wedged in there around week 3. #costarica
Because of this grueling schedule, I’m suffering from some major writer’s block, aka “productivity exhaustion.”
So, all of that to say, I’m using some writer’s prompts to help me keep writing through the layovers.
This post is about the things I had to unlearn on my parenting journey with Hope.
There were a lot of things I had to “unlearn.”
Like a lot.
A lot a lot.
Ok, here are the top 3 things I had to unlearn.
I had to unlearn my existing identity when I became a parent.
When I began my adoption journey, I was single and not even dating, about to be 40, entering my dissertation year, and about 6 months past one of the most serious health crises in my life. Up until those few months prior, I had focused primarily on my career. I enjoyed brunching with friends. I didn’t particularly enjoy dating, but I did enjoy the notion of finding my person. I had been traveling for a number of years, but still not yet to the real adventures I wanted to take on.
Life was good, but of course, something was missing.
Once I was parenting Hope, I learned quickly just how hard the self-sacrifice that parenting required was on one’s identity. Initially, it was like my life shrunk instead of expanded and I had no idea how to handle that.
I’m a contrarian by nature, and seriously sometimes I say no just because. No reason, no rationale, for no possible reason that could make sense. There are times when saying no is so clearly not in my interest and I cannot stop myself from declining. I’ve been this way since I can remember.
This made sharing my life so stinking hard at first. I wanted Hope here, but having someone in the house after living alone for so long was super hard.
I am an overachiever. I constantly felt like a failure while parenting Hope. Initially it was when I inadvertently triggered her. Or when I felt like I made the wrong decision for her wellbeing. I thought I would make life worse for her.
I had to get to a place of really letting the old me go and rising up as something new. It was hard, but I think I finally got the hang of it. Now I’m realizing that I’m struggling to reintegrate my old identity and elements of what’s on the horizon.
I’m back into work hardcore in ways I wasn’t in recent years. It feels different. I’m reassessing what it means to have a kid in college and what does the next chapter looks like.
I’ll be 50 in a few years, and that’s a big year. I’m not immediately sure what’s on or in that horizon. It’s like I don’t even have a 5-year plan right now. I know I’ll still be working, quite probably at the same organization. I’ll be wondering what’s up with Hope. I don’t know academically or professionally what she might be doing. No idea. I don’t have a plan, but I probably should.
So now I’m learning that I’ve got to recreate myself again, somehow. I thought evolution was more linear, clearly, it’s not.
I had to unlearn my preexisting ideas about parenting.
I have loving parents who worked very hard to raise me and my sisters. I definitely do not always agree with them on many things, but I thought that they were a good parenting model.
The problem was that my parents created 3 overachieving, highly intrinsically motivated, bright, curious, minimally rebellious during the teen years women.
This meant that our standards are absurdly, and as many therapists have told me, sometimes unachievably high. We’ve surrounded ourselves with similar folks. Our friend circles are populated by some super cool, wicked smart and highly successful folks.
Hope came to me performing well in school. She’s bright. I marveled at how she had managed to endure her past and still make such good grades. I thought, “awesome, she’s bright and will continue to slay at school!”
But then the neurocognitive issues really emerged, and depression, anxiety, and PTSD all pushed their way to the front and center stage in her life.
Grades plummeted. Self-esteem plummeted.
I was flummoxed. It took me a while to figure things out, get the proper diagnoses and advocate for her. And yet with each grade…each one, I realized that nothing I was doing was actually resulting in improved academic performance.
Hope felt awful. There were definitely times when I didn’t appreciate her depression around this like I do now.
As for me, I felt disappointed on multiple levels. Why couldn’t I get Hope to do her work and do it well? I felt shame because I run with a crew who shares my love of high standards, so *of course,* they routinely asked how Hope was doing in school. I felt frustrated and low key mad all the time. Why couldn’t I fix this? Why didn’t she try harder? Doesn’t she know what’s on the line here?
I had to unlearn all the scripts about what achievement looks like in childrearing. More than not, the achievement is raising a child who feels safe and confident. Sure, I tried to provide that for my daughter, but what that looks nothing like what I thought it would.
I knew it would be hard, but I thought it would be easier. Not looking for any credit or criticism; I thought my logical outlook would get me through parenting. Ha!
As I’ve unlearned my preconceived notions of parenting; I’d learned that there is nothing logical about 90% of parenting.
It is all magic though.
I had to unlearn a bunch of stuff I thought I knew about loss.
I realized through parenting Hope, that I needed to recalibrate how I thought about loss. I don’t mean to suggest that there’s a loss Olympics—there isn’t. Folks feel what they feel.
I definitely have had my struggles over the course of these 47 years. But real talk; the losses I’ve endured and the hurts I’ve survived though deeply impactful to me are radically different than what my daughter has experienced.
I thought I new loss and grief. I thought I understood the emotional burden therein. I thought I got it.
I wasn’t even close to getting it.
I’m very privileged when it comes to loss in the grand scheme of things. Meanwhile, Hope can practically tell me dates of those moments in her pre-adoptive life where she felt small, out of control, grief-stricken and more. I didn’t save her from those moments. She lives with those moments daily still.
Getting over and around loss and grief is enormously challenging. Of course, folks do it all the time, but it’s hard work for many of us. I had to realize that I had a lot of impractical mythology around loss. I had to set about to unlearning that stuff and replacing it with knowledge and strategies to help Hope and me work through huge emotional stuff on this journey.
I’m grateful for the notion of “unlearning.” I’m still learning and unlearning stuff. It’s a routine with no end in sight.
This weekend social media was abuzz with commentary on Tyler Perry’s latest movie playing on Netflix (A Fall From Grace). I scrolled past most of it because I wasn’t in the mood this weekend for a TP flick. I’ll also admit to being one of many critics of his storytelling. I support him and want him to succeed, but his storytelling is mediocre. He recently boasted of his work ethic and how he writes everything he produces alone; well, it shows. A good writing room and/or a good editor can turn good writing into brilliant writing.
But I digress, this isn’t about TP and his Netflix movie, it’s about the critiques, who’s making them and who’s watching those who are critical.
An old friend recently posted something akin to if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all on social media today. I wrote a response that despite all of TP’s contributions, it is still more than appropriate for us to have a critical conversation about his work. His contributions to Black American culture are obvious, noteworthy and meaningful. At the same time, in my opinion, his work is lacking, often recycled and full of misogynoir. She eventually deleted her posted and I slid into her DMs to apologize for blowing up her post and to inquire about how she was really feeling.
Turns out, there was a lot of defensiveness because White folks in her life were yucking it up about how TP’s stuff is so bad that he was being dragged by other Black folks. All of this made it easier to dismiss all of Black creatives. She wished that we could have these critical discussions in private, away from the White Gaze but we can’t so the default position is to say nothing bad, nothing critical. She emphasized that this lesson in “can’t say anything nice, then say nothing at all” is one of her core parenting values.
Ah, I got it.
Again, this isn’t about Tyler Perry at all. It’s about White folks.
Seriously, so much of this life is about White folks that it is seriously a mystery how we get anything done.
In a nutshell, the White Gaze is the world as we know it through white eyes. White folks write the history. White folks teach the history; anything that is not directly connected to them and/or their production of history is easily discounted, dismissed and forgotten. The White Gaze prioritizes white identity and centers white experience in all things. It dictates the way we talk, the way we dress, how we think about presentation, how we engage, how we are paid or not, how we raise our kids, and how we engage socially. It impacts us in countless ways, all day, every day. And it’s not even malicious, it’s just unconscious White supremacy at work.
This notion that we can have a meaningful community debate about the quality of Black art privately…well, we can’t on a large scale. . The same way I consumed the tweets, insta-posts and FB feeds White folks do as well. The fair and meaningful critique, similar to that which they might produce for art created by other White folks, is viewed differently and used to dismiss all.
The White Gaze is crushing because it’s always present.
After our interaction in the DMs, I thought a lot about what it meant and in what ways the White Gaze has shaped my life and my parenting.
When I was younger, my business dress was very conservative. I wanted to be taken “seriously” by all of the White folks where I worked. I remember the first time I cut my hair short and how all of the mostly White men I was around commented that I was so exotic. I grew my hair out. I kept my color schemes muted; didn’t want to be accused of being too loud or looking unprofessional. I worked on my public speaking and disavowed as much of any lingering southern accent as possible. I wanted to fit in, and very specifically, I wanted to fit in with White folks.
I eventually aged, and I began shedding f*cks. I largely wear things that are comfortable, sometimes colorful and I relish speaking in my own authentic voice. I’m matured and feel more free now.
I also know that I have this freedom from the Gaze only because of the capital I amassed from decades of succumbing to it. I’ve earned my freedom, but I also know it has limits. The Gaze always creates limits.
So when Hope came along, I was committed to trying to raise a strong Black woman who was self-assured and confident (we’re still working on this). I think back to my emphasis on manners and certain kinds of interactions. I think about the little weekend classes I sent her to on Saturday afternoons, and how I leveraged every bit of privilege I have amassed to her benefit—usually in rooms where I was the only Black or brown person. When she acted out, it was always uncomfortable, but when she acted out in front of White folks, my cheeks burned hot with embarrassment. I know the tableau we presented could easily be extrapolated to pathologize more Black folks. Suddenly, we were a stereotype, live and in color (pun intended).
Fear of the Gaze lingers just outside my front door. Heck, it’s in the house, and sometimes this blog is influenced by it.
During my afternoon pondering, I considered all the ways I silently conditioned my daughter to survive this Gaze. I considered how she pipes down when we’re in front of White people and it’s always the best of the best manners. I considered how stressed she gets when she has to dress formally; it’s not just that the clothes aren’t always comfortable, but there is a fret about how she will be viewed in the ensembles. I think about some of the clothes I’ve bought her since she left for college. Some of the things that I (and many of us) would consider basics, I know she has no interest in and that I am trying to affect her presentation—when there’s nothing wrong with her presentation. I am hyper aware that my parents conditioned me that in formal situations (read White situations) I need to have on my best clothes, best manners, best diction…best everything, and the pressure was enormous. One wrong move didn’t just ice me out, but might others out as well. I thought about all the ways I have conditioned Hope…not even intentionally (I’ve done that too) but unconsciously conditioned and modeled certain behaviors that help me navigate the Gaze.
And then, because I totally go down rabbit holes, I wondered how transracially adopted kids learn about the White Gaze. I wondered who teaches them about it and how especially immersed they are in it? And if their parents eff with that colorblind foolishness that centers whiteness…what then?
The White Gaze is oppressive without even trying to be.
So while I won’t be checking out of Tyler Perry’s stuff I still want him to win. As much as I think his writing is mediocre, I think that equality means that all folks have successful yet mediocre artists producing successful yet mediocre art. His wins also mean that I am free enough to criticize him publicly without care for the White Gaze and its oppression. A world in which that works is a world where parents like me are also free from having to coach our kids how to survive the Gaze as well.
That’s a world where I want to be.
I was cruising around social media on New Year’s Day and throughout all the lovely end of year tributes and proclamations for 2020. During my scroll-fest, I kept stumbling upon posts by white folks seeking counsel on how to deal with racist family members. Not all the posts were adoption related; some dealt with awkward family moments during the holiday dinner and others dealt with business folks who were dealing with racist clients or colleagues.
For some, the revelation that their friends/family/colleagues were racist AF was not new. They had long known that these individuals in their lives had trash ideas about folks who are not White. It had only recently become an issue that needed “dealing with” when they announced something monumental like an adoption, an engagement or a new client or job. In other words, these posters *knew* and either giggled along at the racist jokes/commentary or sat silently when the behaviors were occurring. In either case, the information was not shocking; it was only shocking that somehow the racism was directed at them as proxy for their child/partner/client/colleague.
For other folks, these revelations were new; allegedly (heavy on the emphasis here) there was no previous evidence of being racist. For them, this new knowledge was shocking and triggered a spin into cognitive dissonance as they wondered whether Uncle Jim was always an arsehole (I guarantee you he was).
All of the posts sought counsel on how to navigate this new knowledge which I find to be just…sigh…sooooo privileged. We really need a book, “How to be friends/family/colleagues with a racist without personal moral and emotional quagmires.”
Sigh. I swear this is exhausting.
Listen, racists are going to be racist. It’s what they do. Racists are as predictable as the sun rising and setting.
Grandma got racist during this administration? Nah, grandma got bold during this administration; trust, she was racist long before this administration came into power.
You are floored that your parents don’t want a black grandbaby…I’m guessing they have that one or two “acceptable black friends” that have never received an invitation to their home in 40+ years.
As a Black woman, I’m always more shocked by the folks who are shocked that they now “see racists.”
I’ve never had that luxury. I had to learn to spot them early in order to just live. Honestly, spotting them is not hard; they typically are more than happy to reveal themselves. And if you miss the first hint, don’t worry, they will predictably show themselves again.
So, when White folks are *gasp* stunned to find that friends/family/colleagues are racist, I’m usually like really? You didn’t know? How did you not know? And now you want to know how to deal? What does that even mean?
Does it mean that you are trying to deradicalize them?
Does it mean that you want to find a way of not banishing them out of your life?
Does it mean that you want your would-be Black/brown child to still be able to have a relationship with these folks because #friendsandfamilyareeverything?
Does it mean that you need an exit strategy before you straight up ghost them?
What does “deal with” mean?
Let me tell you something: I don’t deal with racists.
I do diversity work professionally. Once I peep the racist, I’m cordial but frozen tundra frigid, not just chilly. If they are in my workshop, I’ll include them, I’ll make sure they don’t derail the program for everyone else, and I’ll also ice them with a quickness if necessary. And I get paid to deal with this stuff, and I just refuse to give them more than a passing professional thought once I’ve peeped them.
But let me run up on a racist outside of work….
I have zero time or tolerance. If I address them at all it will be with enough smoke to hide a major metropolitan city.
Here’s what I’m not going to do: I’m not going to spend any time with them. I’m not bring my kid around them. I’m going to let my friends/family/colleagues know that that person is not safe to be around. I treat them like a biblical leper. #canceled #mymoodforever
So all of this handwringing over racists…why?
Because exacto-blading racist friends/family/colleagues is hard? Yeah, so is being Black living in a world committed to racism and white supremacy. So, yeah, I’m sure it is hard for folks to cancel these people, but the alternative is what…subjecting yourself and your kids to a bunch of rancid foolery?
How Sway, how????
That’s going to be a hard no from me, and I ain’t posting a response to your ridiculous inquiry. #IsaidwhatIsaid
Every day, I read comments made by foster and adoptive parents raging about the deficiencies of biological parents. While some hope these parents get it together to be able to parent or have an open adoption, more than a few advocate zero contact at all. None. And while in some specific instances this might be warranted for safety reasons, folks are out here trying to rationalize hanging out with racists?
This is what we are doing in the year of our good Beyonce 2020?
Come on, people. #dobetter
If grandma was a pedophile this wouldn’t even be an issue. Trust that exposure to racism is damaging, and it’s not just damaging to kids, it’s damaging to everyone. I can’t even believe this needs to be said.
Kick these folks to the curb, full stop. Protect your kids and protect yourself. Stop making excuses and space for this kinda radical behavior. Let them know why you are cancelling them; let them know that it is a consequence of bad behavior. Let them know that reinstatement will only be considered after a presentation of sufficient evidence of changed hearts and minds over a sustained period of time, and that they could still be cancelled at any time.
And then walk away.
Dassit. Walk. Stroll. Strut. Roll out.
Stop trying to make a way for racists. Stop it.
Stop trying to rationalize; stop trying to be nice; stop trying to be understanding. Have some principles and be out.
Friends/family/colleagues don’t let friends/family/colleagues hang out with racists.
Just stop it, and go pick up a copy of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Antiracist.