Tag Archives: adoptive parents

Making Life Safe

Hope is in the second semester of her junior year of high school.  Soon enough, she’ll be a senior and we’ll be doing all those ‘senior’ things that families do–senior nights, college visits, planning, spending, more planning.

As Hope and I face this future the other thing that has emerged as a major issue is anxiety.

My “normal” parent friends chuckle and joke about this time as they begin to plan what to do with their impending empty nest time. Their kids get teased a bit about moving out, launching and being dropped off at college while parents RUN to the car and into their less intensive period of parenting.

This seemed so natural and Hope wants and plans to go to college, so I joked a bit with her about how she was going to grow up, move away and live her life. Occasionally she would respond that she just got here, did she have to go so soon?

It’s taken me some time to realize that was a real question for Hope, that maybe she felt like I didn’t want her around and that I was eager for her to graduate and move on and move out.

Oy. Sigh.

Parenting is intense and while I look forward to that period of life that is a little empty nested; I went into this gig knowing that Hope was probably not going to fly the coop, so to speak, when other kids did. I figured that she would need more time. I figured that she would need more time academically and emotionally.

What I didn’t understand was that my joking about this next big rite of passage would scare the ish out of her. I didn’t get it.

I’m not beating myself up about it; I’m sad though that Hope is not able to enjoy this season of her life. I’m sad that she was robbed of so much and that what she’s endured haunts her such that she is still so deeply affected by it. I’m sad that my baby girl wonders if I would really just kick her out of our home after she graduates.

It breaks my heart.

During one of our car chats recently, I found myself in a parking lot, asking Hope to look me in the eye, as I told her that she was safe, that she was home, that I wasn’t abandoning her, that I would always support her and that I hoped one day she would feel safe and secure enough to flirt with having some independence but that I wasn’t pushing her out.

She only nodded, and I hoped that I would only have to say this speech 10,000 more times instead of a million.

Just when I think I’ve dealt with my own emotional baggage about Hope and school, this realization that Hope isn’t all that jazzed about

Will next year just be one anxiety ladened episode after another? Will every ‘senior’ event be a trigger about independence and attachment? Will graduation be a celebratory event at all or will it just represent an independence that is not being asked of my daughter?

It all sound misery inducing. It also makes me wonder how much self-sabotaging is going on with Hope’s school performance. I swear the last two years it has often felt like she was gunning to fail.

It’s also makes me second guess my long ago decision not to hold her back a year academically. Four years ago, when Hope was placed with me, I seriously entertained demanding that the school system place her in one lower year grade. I thought it would suit her emotional needs and given that the schools in her home state weren’t that great, she could gain some academic confidence by repeating some content. When I mentioned this possibility to the social workers and with Hope everyone rained hell-fired down on me. I backed off and hoped that at least Hope and I would have a better start without that type of conflict.

While I’ll never know what our relationship would be like now if I had held her back, and I know that we experienced a really rough transition anyway, I think I regret the decision to give her another year to just feel safe.

I’ll never know if it would have made a difference, so I guess I’ll just have to keep pressing forward, but I definitely wonder what impact that decision had on her.

And even though she has seemed hellbent on failing important classes, I’m not sure she’s conscious of it. I’m not sure how much of this is ADHD or trauma/attachment related. I know that she feels awful in failing and that she knows it’s makes her appear to be something she’s not: dumb. Even knowing that, I’m not sure she knows what her psyche is really doing to protect her.

She’s scared, and I have got to spend the next year trying to make her feel safe about this next chapter.

All while trying to make her feels safe for another dozen issues we have.

I wonder how I’m supposed to do that. How do I make life feel safe for Hope?

Sigh.

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Rested & Ready

Normally, on MLK weekend I plan some edutainment activities, but I was just struggling with my emotional responses to my daughter so much recently that I couldn’t get it together enough to plan anything. So, on the one hand I feel like I failed in my aspirational goal of being a social justice mom, but really, I got something else right this weekend.

I took care of me.

After raging like a hurricane, and giving off caustic energy for several days, I was exhausted. So, I rested. I did my workouts, planned my meals and crawled into my bed with a good book, my heated blanket and Yappy. I just tuned everything out (including Hope, other than making sure she was alive and fed) and relaxed.

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I aspire to Yappy’s self-care commitment.

I breathed.

I made tea. I online shopped and ordered myself an obscene number of new spring dresses.

I luxuriated in solitude and exhaled.

And then I was able to think about how to get us back on track. Hope is an amazing kid, and amazing kids do dumb stuff sometimes, it’s just what they do. Heck, I did it too back in the day. Of course some of Hope’s dumb stuff is informed by a history of messy stuff.

I decided I would speak my peace to Hope and put this episode behind us, though she still has some consequence time to pull during the next week.

In speaking to Hope I had to remind both of us that anger is usually informed by hurt, deep hurt. It’s easier to be pissed than it is to be sad. I was sad that she broke the rules. I was sad that she violated my trust. I was sad that she self-sabotaged. I was sad that she seemed unable to take responsibility for her behaviors. I was sad and that made me mad.

And then I hugged her and reminded her that I loved her and that I have feelings that I struggle with too. And we turned the corner emotionally, ventured out to a new international store (I bought all kinds of goodies!), went shopping, and worked out.

I’m rounding out the holiday weekend by dying my hair—a new midlife crisis habit I’m enjoying. My hair is more gray than black now and about 4 months ago, I got it in my brain that after 10 years of avoiding dye like the plague, I would dye my hair fantastically bright colors. Because my gray is resistant to color and I choose semi-permanent color, I could enjoy temporary bursts of color without long term commitment. #perfect I started with a soft pink in October and followed with a bright purple. Tonight, I dyed it teal. It will have faded some by the time my annual conference rolls around in 5 weeks, but it will still be blue and the non-conformist in me is delighted about that. #notoconformity #mylifemytermsmyhair

I hated how I felt emotionally last week…really hated it. I’m proof that when you can choose to change your mood. It’s normal for all of that emotion to build up. Therapeutic parenting is….draining. I love my daughter, and I personally don’t have any other style of parenting to compare it too other than observation of others parenting, but I gotta say, I don’t enjoy therapeutic parenting much. #realtalk #truth

It’s essential for us and especially so for my Hope, who needs more connection and more safety than your average kid. And well, there’s hardly anything I won’t do for her; I’m committed to therapeutic parenting.

I’m ready to face another week and so is Hope. Tomorrow we will work out in the evening and chatter about our day, all while hoping that the anticipated snow misses us so we can keep the regulated good times rolling.

I am rested and ready. I’m thinking that is good enough on the edutainment front for this holiday.


Holiday Feels

Hope has been on winter break from school for over a week now. I can tell she’s finally unwound and has been just enjoying herself. We’ve had more time together and have just really enjoyed some good bonding time. Over the weekend we finally got a chance to see the movie Coco, about the Day of the Dead—if you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s amazing. As we were watching it, I thought to myself—well, there’s all kinds of stuff that is transferrable to adoption up and through this movie; I wonder how Hope will process this.

Well, I found out on Christmas night.

The thing about the Day of the Dead is it’s about remembering your people, your family. You honor them. You keep pictures up so you can see them, remember them, so that they can come back to visit you on that holiday.

For a kid who’s lost a parent—either to death or other kinds of separation—this is a bell ringer.

Earlier this year, we visited Hope’s extended first family and I made a point of getting copies of pictures of her parents. When we returned from the visit I had a collage made and the pictures are hung prominently in our home. I thought it was important, but after watching Coco, I saw the importance through a new lens.

We are coming up on a period in Hope’s life when she’s been separated longer than she was with her family. And because of her age and the countless transitions, memories are being questioned and sometimes things seem fuzzy. It wasn’t going to take much to trigger lots of emotion.

I found myself reminiscing about my own childhood and my grandmothers who are long gone now. I got a little choked up myself as I looked at my larger family on Christmas and pondered what they would have to say about their progeny. I was a bit in my feelings too.

And then there was the triggering event. It’s Hope’s story so I won’t share that, but it wasn’t bad, just some circle of life stuff. It was enough to have her snotting on my shoulder for 20 minutes.

The truth of the thing is that my daughter misses her first parents. She misses them deeply. She misses her extended family and understanding their connections to her. She’s seeing some of them age, and watching aging just ain’t fair. Hope’s realizing that some of the narratives about her life that she spun for her own survival aren’t holding up over time.

All of this sucks, it sucks royally. And there’s always some fairly innocuous event that triggers the avalanche of realization, and even when I *know* that it’s imminent, it catches me off guard.

I feel like those moments make my heart stop. I know I suck in air; my mind starts to race considering what’s the best approach to bring Hope comfort. My own tears trickle down my face and my heart aches for my daughter. More than anything I want to take away the pain, even when I know that the only way is to just help her push through it.

I sat with my daughter for a good 20 minutes as she sobbed. I cradled her; I stroked her hair. I waited for her to find words to describe her feelings. I told her I loved her, that I knew this all sucked, that none of it was fair. The only upside is that I know my daughter is feeling; for so long she wouldn’t allow this at all. Feeling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s healthy and it’s necessary for healing. It’s taken us 4 years to get to these free-flowing, pain-filled tears, but the truth is that I hated when she couldn’t and didn’t cry and now that she does it breaks my heart in ways I didn’t think were possible.

Hope and I enjoyed a nice long chat Christmas night about grief, about aging, about memories and how to keep them alive. I try to draw parallels whenever possible, and I search for solutions to make the situation as close to right as it can get. It’s so hard. It really is.

It’s in these moments that I’m convinced that my journey to mothering was rocky and occasionally blocked just so I would have some wise-sounding ish to say to Hope who really seems to need to hear it. That day to day stuff I might be raggedy as hell, but this… for these in the moment, high intensity, therapeutic parenting episodes, I’m totally clutch. I also feel like these are the moments when I HAVE to get it right. I gotta do all that reading, all that prepping, all that internal monologuing just for these moments.  It’s in these moments that I stop thinking about the unfairness of my own journey or at least put it in the larger context of how unfair life is in so many ways.

My and Hope’s Christmas was great, even with a moment overcome by adoption-related grief. We are learning to fold these moments into our lives. As a mom, I’m learning to spot triggers and other things that need to be processed by Hope. I try to do my own processing and reflection more intently, and I just try to sit with my daughter to help her find her way through this life of hers.

As I see my Hope come into a new life chapter filled with more healing, I am eager to see what the new year brings for us. I know it won’t be easy, but Hope is getting stronger and I’m so amazed to have this front row seat for her evolution. I’ll keep tissues at the ready and my shoulder available always.


Dreams of My Daughter

In spite of our recent struggles Hope and I persist. #nevertheless

This weekend I decided to redo my bedroom. I painted and moved the furniture. I hadn’t done this is more than 15 years; it was more than time for me to make this change. Freaked Yappy out, but I’m delighted by the change.

Hope helped me paint my room. I got up early and got started by myself. She joined me a few hours later. It was such a fun experience teaching her how to paint the walls. I’ve been working on getting her to abandon her perfectionist ways, but on this occasion, they came in handy as once she got the hang of things, she insisted on doing the detail work.

We painted. We took breaks and had veggie omelets. We painted and stopped for lunch. We painted and watched a movie. We moved heavy furniture around (#girlpower) and took Advil before bed.

Hope tapped out before everything was totally done; she retreated to her room to catch up on K-dramas. I finished painting some trim and got started on cleaning up. We’d had such a lovely day working together. Hope said she really enjoyed the painting and wondered if this was something she might do in the future…professionally. I told her how much it would’ve been for someone to come in and paint my room professionally and how people make a good living doing painting professionally. She still trying to figure out what she wants to be one day, but the fact that she’s actively trying on ideas is a lovely thing.

Of course, some of this dreaming about her future makes her anxious; actually, a most of it does. Turns out getting hooked up with a nerd mom who loves school, studied school and works with schools puts a lot of pressure out there even if I try not to. I want Hope to find her own way and to take her time doing so. She says she wants to be a linguist, but I also know that she has some natural interest and ability in physics. If she were willing to practice music more, she’s talented, gifted even, there could be a future there. Who knows what she will end up doing; I’m not worried. I know she will find her way.

What’s wonderful to me, even in the midst of her struggle, is that she is dreaming of a future. She’s envisioning herself doing different kinds of things. That’s so cool.

What’s more is Hope also dreams about how she will live. This weekend she regaled me with details about the kind of home she wants and how it would be decorated. She has good tastes.

On more than one occasion this weekend I found myself suppressing a smile of pride as she went on about the kind of life she would live.

It’s taken a long time for Hope to start dreaming about her future…or at least vocalizing the dreams she has for herself. I hold onto these moments tightly since I know we’re still roughing it. It’s reassuring to know that she is thinking about her future. Some days it’s so hard to think about the future; the past crushes us. It hangs around like a bad penny. So whenever Hope mentions the future, a part of me summersaults.

I continue to be optimistic about her healing and her ability to become this amazing woman.


Parenting in the Era of #MeToo

As my fellow sisters continue to take to social media to share their experiences around sexual harassment, assault and other predatory behavior, I’ve been thinking about how all this affects Hope and kids like her.

Hope is 16. We watch the news, and I try to keep her abreast of current events. Last year, we sat and watched Bill Cosby’s legacy tumble down as numerous women came forward to say he sexually assaulted them. For me, it was painful to watch the Jello pitchman, Cliff Huxtable, lovable, funny guy I grew up watching shed all of that and be revealed as a sexual predator. He wasn’t a part of Hope’s youth, so it was more removed for her.

But the moment that we’re in now where the revelations are weekly or daily, where a senatorial candidate has been accused of trolling for girls close in age to Hope, where social media is flooded with stories of #metoo: it’s kind of triggering for both of us.

So many kids have a history of sexual abuse; nearly 1 kid in 10 among all kids, and over 1 in 4 of US kids 14 to 17 years old. When this latest moment launched, Hope and I had a really personal #metoo discussion. I shared my stories with her, and she shared a little bit of her story too. I thought it was important for me to talk about things that I felt were violating, so Hope could continue to develop her own benchmarks. We talked about limits, about how to defend ourselves against unwanted advances, and about who and how to tell when something unwanted happens. I wanted this conversation to help both of us feel empowered.

A few days later, on the way to school and while listening to a pop culture podcast, the topic came up again. This time I focused on being clear with Hope about my hope and expectation that she tell me if she’s ever hurt. We’ve already established that I have a tiny bit of Huck from Scandal in me, and I promise to try not to straight up murder anyone who hurts her (torture might be more fulfilling anyway). I wanted her to understand that I want her to be safe and that I am prepared to do whatever I need to do to make that happen.

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We’ve had talks about dating safety and what that looks like In practice. We talk about consent and slippery slopes that aren’t consent. I posted this summer a podcast series that I listened too, The Heart, that explore how many women are “gently” pressured into sex when they were clear they didn’t want to have sex. The show explored how insidious pressure can be and how easily a no can be converted to not a yes, but a “well, ok, but I’m not really into it.” We talked about always making sure you have bus fare and that maybe, just maybe I should let her in on my Lyft app so she can always get a ride if she finds herself in a not so safe situation. We talk about how you can hold your keys so they can be used as a weapon.

We talk a lot.

And still, it feels like we’re oversaturated with news of predatory behavior.

Earlier this week over breakfast as we watched coverage about Matt Laurer, Hope asked, “Is that the one who flashed himself from the bathroom?” No that was allegedly two other guys. “The one from that Netflix show?” No he seemed into assaulting men and being an a-hole to both genders. “Ok I know it’s not Bill Cosby because this guy is white.” I finally remind her that we used to watch Today until they did Tamron Hall wrong, and I switched to CNN. “Oh…oh yeah.”

There’s seriously so many stories tumbling around that it’s hard to keep up.

I try not to be alarmist with Hope. She has enough anxiety without my contributions, but I do want her to be aware of what’s happening and how relevant the discourse is to her life. More importantly, I want her to learn so she can be safe in ways that affirm her confidence and security. It’s hard though; it’s hard right now when we’re having conversations about high profile predators in positions of power making decisions about other people’s lives. This is some scary ish.

The best I can do, is keep talking, keep affirming, and keep my inner Huck contained.

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My Shero

Hope is my shero. She is a supreme badass.

I long to be as strong as she is, of course without all the icky stuff that made her so strong.

I am and will always be in awe of my daughter, and after art therapy tonight, I told her so.

Hope is struggling, which means we’re struggling. It’s just been such a rough few months. I noted a few weeks ago that we seemed to unexpectedly turn a corner that at least made me think we were out of a danger zone. Despite being out of danger, my daughter is just struggling with so many demons related to her life story. It’s hard to watch; it’s hard to live with. It’s hard because I hate seeing her hurt at all; but it’s devastating because I feel helpless in trying to help her get emotionally healthy.

Recently I spent an hour just doing routine case management for Hope: touching base with some teachers about assignments, checking in with the guidance counselor, trading emails with AbsurdlyHotTherapist, etc, etc. It was in the emails with AHT that I learned about some recent emotional developments that made me grab a tissue. I knew things were tough, but I didn’t know that Hope was ready to talk about them. An abbreviated version of the development? Hope is feeling the full range of her emotions after suppressing them for a very, very long time, and feeling stuff supremely sucks.

I felt…relief about the development, but I know that it also means we’re really in for a long, rough ride. Feeling feelings is a good development, but after so long, yeah, it sucks so bad.

Hope has started talking to me about what she’s feeling, how often she feels sad, when she experiences anxiety. We talk about coping. It’s hard for her to deal with feeling stuff. I explained to her that her mind and body are strong; all the things inside her have worked hard to protect her for a really long time. As a result, emotional walls were constructed, feelings about big and small things, chunks of time and experiences were compartmentalized and put neatly away in the back of their minds because she simply didn’t have the time or capacity to deal with any of it.

It’s really amazing how hard the body and mind will work to prop you up, to make you resilient and to make you functional in the midst of a lot of dysfunction. It truly is a miracle. It is a gift from the divine.

The flip side of that miracle is when your mind and body takes its rest because things are no longer chaotic, the hypervigilance and the emotional shields are no longer necessary. It’s then when all of those feelings you’d unknowingly tucked away reemerge.

It’s taken four years for my daughter’s *body and mind* to acknowledge that she’s safe and secure in a way that allow for all of this other stuff to come tumbling out. Four years to get to what essentially is the beginning of the really emotional journey to healing. These four years have flown by in many ways, but four years is  just over 1400 days and that kind of feels like a long time. Four years is only ¼ of Hope’s life.

In retrospect, these last few years of my and Hope’s journey together were just prep work; almost like we were being screened; like our admission to the hardcore emotional work was like taking the LSAT or the GRE and we needed a minimum score in order to advance. We finally have the necessary score.

As I talked to my daughter recently, I explained how things are going to be hard; the emotional work is going to be taxing, but that she was surrounded by a lot of people who loved her and would help her through it. We talked about what it feels like to feel things you’ve avoided for so long. We talked about what it’s like when you body and mind says they are ready to deal, but your daily consciousness is like, “that sounds hard, eff that.” We talked about “trusting the process” and learning to how to consciously trust since her body and mind seems to already trust that this life is safe.

I asked what else I could do to help her feel safe; she shrugged.  

I told Hope that I thought she was the strongest person I know. I told her how I admired her because I do. Hope said she didn’t believe me, and because I love data, and Hope knows this, I listed the many reasons why I thought she was both strong and brave, She stared off while I rattled off my list with lots of examples. She’s a friggin superhero.

I told her because of all of that, I know that she can get through this healing process. Yes, she will need help and support, but she’s got that from me and her extended family. It will not be easy feeling all these icky feelings and figuring out how to reconcile them, and things even may feel worse before they feel better. She will get through this.

As for me, I am wrestling with emotions too. I’m over the moon that there’s been a shift. It hasn’t come easy for either of us. I’ve fought hard to create a home that gives Hope what she needs physically and emotionally. I’m in a constant state of worry if I’m doing enough; if there’s something new I haven’t tried that might make a difference in her life. I’m unfairly marginalizing our experience because I compare us to other adoptive families dealing with their own dramatic developments. I’m also depressed and anxious and exhausted of my own accord. At least a few times a day I sit down, close my eyes, take a deep breath and exhale a short prayer for Hope, for me, and for our futures.

I genuinely admire my daughter. Sometimes I wonder how she gets up in the morning. Her strength and resiliency dwarf mine. She will get through this, and I will have a front-row seat. I will continue to learn so much from her. She’s a teacher and she doesn’t even know it.

She is my heart and my shero.  


Four Years Ago

Four years ago, Hope was here for a pre-placement visit. She spent two weeks with me, including Thanksgiving. I was a hot mess during that visit.  

I hadn’t got to a place where I really understood my soon-to-be daughter. In fact, I didn’t have an effiing clue. Looking back with clarity and a little rose-colored grace, I know that we were both trying our hardest to hold it together. It was scary as all get out to figure out how to be a family, but the alternative seemed like failure so the possibility of this visit being a disaster was a non-starter. We were doing this. 

But I hadn’t lived with anyone but the late, great Furry One for more than a decade. I lived all over my house. Hope’s room was still transitioning from a guest room. I was used to my mess, but no one else’s. I hardly ate meat at that time, so I had this super vegetarian friendly house. I didn’t buy snack foods; I didn’t buy ice cream (I was also about 30 lbs lighter, but who’s counting…). My house was not adolescent-friendly. It wasn’t even a little bit.  

But I was doing this thing. It was our second visit—the first one having been a month before and only about 4 days long. It was polite, hotel based and what I would probably call, more like kid-sitting than trying to start a mother daughter relationship. We had fun, but it wasn’t even parenting-adjacent.  

But during Hope’s trip to what has become our home, I felt like I was more in control. This was a home game. I would entertain Hope. I would introduce her to yummy, healthy foods. She would get to meet her new family for the first time. We would go visit what would end up being her school. We would pick out things for her room.  

We would bond and it would be glorious.  

But honestly, it wasn’t. I was bored senseless at the museum where Hope did her damndest to show me she was brilliant. She ate all of the gummy vitamins I bought her in one day. She showed her single digit emotional age more times than I care to remember. I fielded questions about why she did some of the things she did, which was hard since I didn’t have a clue why. I even managed to drop the Thanksgiving turkey all over the carpet right outside my front door in my condo building. It was a messy visit, literally, figuratively, emotionally. 

In the evenings I cried. The responsibility of caring for a kid was new and exhausting. I chugged a lot of wine after Hope’s bed time. I chronicled my experiences as a fledgling parent. I questioned if I was really cut out for mothering Hope. I doubted everything I knew about everything I thought I knew. I worried that backing out would be a shameful failure from which I would never recover. How could I reject this kid because I really wasn’t sure I wanted to give up my single carefree lifestyle? But as I cried and boozed myself to sleep during those two weeks, and as the day for Hope to return home drew closer, I found that my tears shifted to anticipating the pain of being separated from this scared kid who just wondered if I accepted and wanted her.  

It was all pretty humbling.   

Those two weeks, four years ago, Hope became my daughter. She was a scared, hot mess of a kid, who needed endless love, support, therapy, and permanence and an occasionally stern talking to. Even as we boarded the plane to take her back to her foster family, I couldn’t have known how I would come to love Hope. I loved her then, but my heart nearly hurts when I think about how much I adore her now. 

Four years later, I see so much growth in both of us. Lord knows we struggle on the daily. I mean, really, really struggle, but we’re so much farther than we were back then when we were trying to figure out if this family was even going to be a thing.  

As for me, specifically, I think I may have gotten the hang of this parenting thing; it’s still hella hard, but I think I’m doing ok. I’m not so secretly annoyed by how much food contraband has migrated into my house under the guise of being “teen friendly.” I bumbled along until I made a few parent friends. I got over my guilt about not going to PTA or band parent group meetings. I don’t like them; I’m not a joiner and as a single parent with a kid in multiple kinds of therapy, parent groups rank dead-arse last on every list. I made peace with only occasionally selling fundraiser crap (but also opting sometimes to just send a check because really, do any of us need a tub of pizza dough and ugly wrapping paper?). I also resumed my travel schedule, which I know puts a huge strain on us, but the experience has taught me a lot about Hope’s maturity and attachment to me. That girl loves her mommy, but doesn’t stress too much because as she says, “I know you’re coming home.”  

I have helped my daughter see places she never dreamed of—I’m currently trying to work out details for Spring Break in Greece, and I also get to see the world through her eyes. I’ve learned that I can still be selfish with my stuff and my time and that it’s ok. I have learned to say both yes and no when appropriate. I have new metrics by which to measure choices—what’s the impact on my family? Is it worth my time? Do I enjoy it? Do I really want to? I’ve also tried to create a framework for my daughter, who as far as I know, will be my only heir, to eventually experience financial freedom. I figure I’ll probably work until I keel over—partly because I enjoy working and partly because I’ll need to keep earning. But Hope? I’m doing my best to set her up to have a comfortable life filled with lots of choices, because choices equal freedom.  

Four years later, I’m an ok mother. I’m learning to be happy with being an ok mother. Mothering/parenting is hard work. Maintaining multiple identities is hard work. Centering my daughters needs in my life is still hard work. I’m doing ok at it all. There is always room for improvement. During the next four years, Hope will hopefully enroll in college, maybe even finish an associates degree. She will vote in her first election. She will get her driver’s license. She might move out into her own place. She probably will have finally visited South Korea (if we’re all not blown off the map yet). She’ll have many more passport stamps. She will continue to grow, continue to heal and thrive. And I get to watch from the front row. It’s the best reality TV show ever. It’s amazing.  

As Thanksgiving approaches, I needed to sit and just ponder that first visit to our home and how we’ve changed. I am incredibly grateful, and super proud of the hard work we’ve put in.  

Here’s to four more years.  


Thoughts on Momming an Adoptee

It’s National Adoption Awareness Month, and as I always do, I spend some time scanning Twitter reading adoptee tweets and reading adoptee blogs and articles. I do that all year, of course, but I take a special interest the adoptee voice during NAAM. I think a lot about what they are saying and what Hope might be thinking about her experience as an adoptee.

I mean, whether she knows it or not yet, these are her people, and they are giving voice to some of the stuff that is probably floating around in her head. Stuff she is unable or not ready to articulate.

So, I listen. I try to talk a little less and listen a bit more.

I write about my experiences as an Adoptive Black Mom, but I’m mothering an adoptee, Hope.

Part of my job as Hope’s mom is helping her find her voice. I don’t know what my daughter’s future holds for her. It would surprise me if she evolved into an adoptee advocate/activist; Hope is becoming a conscious kid, but it remains to be seen whether that will blossom into something. Who knows though, right?

Part of momming Hope is helping her figure out how she wants adoption to fit into her story. She gets help dealing with the stuff that led to her being in a position to be adopted. She talks to me about what she’s ok with being disclosed. Hope decides how much contact she wants with her extended biological family. Hope gets to decide how how/whether she wants to use her name, since we just added my name to her existing name. Hope gets to make a lot of decisions; my job is making sure that her surrounding environment is open and safe for her to make decisions and for her to have as many options as possible. My job is to be a facilitator. I get to help make this stuff happen. My other job is to check my ego as a adoptive mom.

Adoptive parents are often held up as these amazing saviors. Certainly, children need homes and people want families and adoption is often a bridge between those two facts. The truth is that I wanted to be a mom. My decision to adopt was selfish. Even the so-called noble choice to adopt an older child was rooted in my desire to maintain some aspects of my lifestyle—I didn’t want to have to deal with full time day care or feedings or potty training or any of that. I wanted to be able to still travel without taking a small house of baby stuff with me. An older child would be beyond that stage, would even as I parent offer some kind of engaging companionship, would be able to pack their own overnight bag for a trip anywhere. How I got to the mom I am now started in a pretty selfish place, and I’m ok with that.

I’m still far from perfect; and sometimes I fail miserably, but I hope my efforts count for something.

In pursuing older child adoption, I’ve also learned that there are a few more privileges that some other adoptive parents might not have. I don’t have to worry about figuring out how or whether to tell my daughter that she’s adopted. My daughter knows more about her story than I ever will, and she is more than capable of telling me what she wants me to know.

Like some other adoptive parents, I had to figure out early on how to incorporate biological family into our familial universe. I had to learn to lean into my own lessons on graciousness and the expansiveness of love. There can’t be a lot of jealousy or threatening feelings when you focus on welcoming people into a family. Your kid doesn’t have to figure out whose team they are on when parents conceptualize only one big team.

My daughter’s story is not normal, but I’ve worked hard to normalize our family and our life. I never want Hope to question my love and support for her. I never want her to think that I thought adoption cut her off from her biological and genetic connections. It’s easy to say those things don’t count when you have access to your biological/genetic connections.  I never want her to feel like she can’t talk about her birth parents in our home. I never want her to feel like she has to make a choice in defining her family holistically. When she has asked me to find someone in her family; I have. When she has then said she didn’t want to make contact, I put the information away until she changes her mind. When she asked to do something special for her family members who have crossed over, we have said prayers, celebrated birthdays with cakes and released balloons (sorry environment). What Hope needs to help her navigate her adoptive life, I do what I can to make it happen.

I have tried to create an inclusive family for us, and you know what? It hasn’t been difficult. It has occasionally been a little challenging, but it hasn’t been hard. Being Hope’s mom has called me to step my game way up. I’m better for it. I hope that Hope is better for it.

So, I hope this year, this month, National Adoption Awareness Month, that APs will create space for their kids to broadly love and be broadly loved. I hope that we can learn that more is better. I hope that we can support our kids in the ways they need, not just the ways we need. I hope that we can listen to adoptees more and heed their advice and guidance. I hope we can all just love more.


I Was Missed

I’m finally home. It took my mom and I planes, trains and automobiles to get home from Europe. Seriously, two days of travel, including a 9 hour plane ride that made Thursday feel like groundhog’s day.

Anyhoo, I’m home. Home with my kiddos—2 legs and 4 legs.

Hope has melted the ears off of my jet-lagged head. Nonstop. I’m almost dizzy with fatigue and this kid is telling me about the minutia of the last week…while coughing like she’s about to hack up a lung because she has developed a cold while I was away.

And then there’s Yappy. His separation anxiety is so bad that he won’t let me out of his sight. He lost weight because he wasn’t eating consistently—doggy depression. To hear Hope tell it, there was whining, under-the-bed-hiding, and in-house pooping (TMI).

In short, without mom, this place fell to hell in a hand-basket.

Is it wrong that I kinda feel good about that? I mean, it’s nice to be missed. It’s nice to know you’re needed.

It’s nice to be loved.

I told the dog and the kid I loved them. I took Hope to the dentist and therapy then forced some Robitussin cough syrup with a McDonald’s chaser on her. I picked up a few groceries, then took Yappy to the park and plied him with lots of treats. There’s a load of my travel laundry in the wash.  Momming doesn’t give a crap about fatigue.

I asked Hope if she missed me. She hemmed and hawed; then said, “Yeah, I guess I missed you, but I knew you were coming back.”

She knew I was coming back.

Well, that was the best welcome home gift ever. It means Hope trusts me. She trusts that I’ll be there, that I’ll move heaven and earth to get home to her. She believes in me and my love for her.

My daughter trusts me. Hope trusts me. That totally blows my mind.

All I could do was nod when she said she knew I was coming back to her. We were in the car, so there was no eye contact. I wiped my eyes and played it off as fatigue. I smiled on the inside. I didn’t smile on the outside since I didn’t want to turn the moment into anything mushier than it already was. I didn’t want to kill the vibe and make her play like she didn’t really mean it.

I really melted in that moment though.

Would be nice if I could convince Yappy that I was coming back, alas, life isn’t that simple.

After an amazing trip with my own mom, I’m so very happy to be home with my little family.


The Elements

I grew up listening to Earth, Wind and Fire. My parents love music and exposed my siblings and me to some of the best disco, funk, and R&B out there as we grew up. Earth, Wind and Fire were special though with positive vibes, love songs and the sheer volume of hits they created. I loved them and continue to love them.

I went to my first EWF concert when I was a freshman in college. I took my mom. Maurice White was no longer touring with the group, though he occasionally would make a drop-in appearance. I remember rocking out with my mom and seeing the lights on her face from the show. I remember mom saying she hoped Maurice would drop into this show; it was like she was a young woman swooning over a famous crush. I remember it being such a fun time for us.

My daughter also loves EWF; her father loved the band and played their music often. Hearing an EWF song triggers happy memories of her time with her dad. When I heard the group was on tour with Nile Rodgers and Chic, and that they were coming to DC, I thought I’d invest in some floor seats and take Hope. It would be a good time for sure and also give us the good feel memories in the process.

So last night, my daughter and I met up for a yummy pre-concert dinner at a favorite restaurant of mine and headed out to boogie the night away.

If you are a fan of Earth, Wind and Fire and they are coming to your town on this tour—get your fanny to that arena and get your swerve on. Seriously, it was an amazing concert. The spectrum of people present was amazing. There was glitter, drunk folks, dandies, 70’s style headbands, whistles, ponchos—the people watching alone was worth the price of admission.

But the music…oh the music was EVERYTHING.

Hope and I rocked out. We screamed! We sang along. We smiled! We shimmied. We had an amazing time.

Hope was fast asleep before we could get out of the parking garage and in the bed before I could get back from walking the dog after we got home.

We boogied until we couldn’t boogie anymore.

Towards the end of the show the band did a lovely tribute to the late Maurice White. familyreunion

And the light hit Hope’s face the way it did with my mom 20+ years ago.

familyreunion

And…I got to thinking about my parents and Hope and her dad.

I reveled in my memories with my parents, dancing in the family room, turning the volume up in the car, looking at my dad’s army pictures when he was clearly grooving to good music. I found myself just oozing gratitude about having had them my whole life, how we shared these memories together, how The Elements were one of many parts of the soundtrack of our lives together.

I looked over at Hope who was swaying and singing. She smiled at me. I smiled back and thought about how much I wished she had had a longer time to build memories with her biological parents, how a whole series of episodes separated them, how at least she has these good memories that clearly bring her joy. I thought about how it just isn’t fair that my sisters and I have enjoyed our biological family having never known anything else, having never known the kind of upheaval Hope has, having taken for granted how easily things could have been different.

Life isn’t fair, and yet somehow Hope and I have been put together with a thread of music that helps us find common ground. We both get a chance to create these important memories. It doesn’t make up for the losses that Hope has experienced, but it does allow us to build from where we find ourselves.

“Ohhhh, this is one of my dad’s favorite songs.”

I smile and tell her it’s one of my dad’s favorites too.

There are only 3 original members still touring these days; they are all pushing 70 so I don’t know how many more tours there will be. I’m glad I took my daughter to see this one. I know that she will tell her friends and she will create legends about last night. I’ll look forward to reminiscing about last night with her 20 years from now as she tells her kids about last night. I hope we’ll both talk about our parents and what they loved about the music too.

That’s the way of the world.

 


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