Tag Archives: African American Adoption

Sex Chats

This week a podcast went viral featuring Atlanta based rapper and married but still trolloping, T.I.

Image result for ti rapper

T.I. revealed that he annually accompanies his now 18 year old daughter to the gynecologist. He went on to say that he does so for the purpose of confirming her virginity by having the doctor check to see if her hymen was still intact.

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Say what now?

Can I say that this dust bucket, who habitually cheats on his wife, is so problematic that it makes me feel like I need to lie down.

Sure, I’m down with encouraging your kid to delay sexual activity, but a hymen check? A hymen? Something I probably busted that time in 5th grade when I borrowed a neighborhood boy’s bike and hopped off without gently leaning it to the side? Something that could actually be broken during a gynecological exam?

O.

M.

G.

I mean there’s this young woman’s agency and autonomy to consider as well. And the hypocrisy of this man…I mean, I guess if he’s trying to protect his daughter from dudes like him, but really?

It made me reflect on the many conversations about sex and intimacy I had with Hope over the years and how different it was from how my parents were with me.
I was raised in a religious home; sex before marriage was a bad thing, forgivable, but you know, don’t do it. I knew lots of other teens who were sexually active and who even had children while were in high school. I messed around, but just avoided having sex until I was in college. I was so devoted to my studies and my goals that I thought having sex and possibly risking pregnancy was too great of a risk to my goals, so I was reserved. When I got with a long term boyfriend, I got on birth control and was on my way. I did feel some religious guilt; I did wonder whether the Holy Homeboy would punish me. I got over it.

My parents really didn’t talk about sex with me, not directly anyway. In my teens I wished it wasn’t such a taboo questions, but I ended up getting my answers from the more experienced kids. I think my parents did their best; I’m not disappointed in them. I turned out just fine, normal even. That said, when Hope came into my life, I resolved to do things differently.

Child sexual abuse is a serious public health problem. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 9 minutes child protective services find evidence and/or substantiates a claim of child sexual abuse. Every 9 minutes! NINE! And foster children are especially vulnerable; they are 4x more likely to be abused. This doesn’t even take into consideration that some children are removed due to sexual abuse.

I considered this as I set about trying to talk to Hope about sex and sexuality. I’ve written about some of this before, but I don’t think I really covered my philosophy, which really is about sex positivity.

Given that Hope was so vulnerable, I wanted to put her on a track that would make sex safe for her. I wanted her to feel like she, and only she, had control over her body. I wanted her to feel like she had control over the decisions around what she did with her body. I wanted her to feel like she had good information and was capable of making good decisions about her body. I wanted her to know that her feelings and curiosity were normal. I wanted her to know how to extricate herself from risky situations.

I didn’t want her to be completely bound by religious constraints about morality. I didn’t want her to be forced to do anything she didn’t want to do. I wanted her to know how to care for herself and her needs. I also wanted her to know that when she was ready, sex could be fun, could feel good, could be bonding with the right person and could be beautiful.

I wanted my daughter to be and feel free, strong and empowered.

So, I started following a few accounts around social media like @Sexpostive_families and hashtags like #sexpositivity. I learned a lot about my own hang ups too. #bonus I thought a lot about how to foster open dialogue with Hope—sometimes that wasn’t so comfortable. I knew I had achieved the goal when she started asking me about condoms in the middle of school shopping at Target one Saturday afternoon (ERRRBODY got schooled that day). I held fast to a rule that whenever, whatever she wanted to discuss about sex, sexuality and relationships I would stop what I was doing and engage. I strategically shared bits of my own history, hang ups and times when I really felt like I made good or bad decisions. I did whatever I could to normalize conversations about sex.

I did talk about morality, but I also talked about maturity and personal responsibility. I talked about pain and pleasure, how body parts worked and could create either. I talked about sexual violence. I talked about all the awful persuasive lines I’ve heard in my day from would-be partners trying to get me in the sack. I talked about the walk of shame and the morning after pill. I talked about contraception and I talked about abortion (and being definitively pro-choice). We talked about straight sex, gay sex, oral, anal, digital, you name it, we talked about a lot of it. I did quite a bit of research on my “incognito” browser.

There were times early on when I was really, really uncomfortable having these conversations. There was one conversation that started shortly after we got in the car that resulted in me detouring to the beltway and driving us the 66 miles all the way around just so we could finish the conversation in the car bubble. It got easier with time; I learned to practice what I preached. Hope seemed shocked that I was willing to talk about everything, and then she started asking me questions in Target.

I answered her questions and the questions of her “friends,” some of whom I’m not really sure existed.

And you know what? Hope is strong and knowledgeable and has said she’s just not ready to take all that on.

Good, that was still my goal: an informed decision not to have sex until she’s ready.

She feels good about her decision; she finally feels like she has some control over her life and her body. Foster care had really ruined her sense of agency and autonomy. She feels like she has control now; she knows she has choices. She’s got good info and knows how to access resources.

Sex positive parenting requires vigilance; the heavy morality messaging can be pervasive and I firmly believe that it’s problematic for our foster and adoptive kids. Folks are easy to say, “just teach your kids ‘good’ morals.” I respect the position, but I believe that Hope needs good information and agency more than just good morals.

This year at her private boarding school, “family life education” was offered. I found out they contracted an anti-abortion organization to do the training thanks to some internet research, and I asked to see the curriculum. It was heavy on sexual morality and religion. There was no space for kids who might identify as something other than straight. It never considered that any of the students might have a history of sexual abuse; it wasn’t trauma informed. It showed awful anti-abortion pictures to students. It promoted adoption as a way out for girls who “got in trouble” while kind of absolving the boys from their contributions. #canwesaypatriarchy?

In all, the message was if you don’t buy into this, you’re probably headed for hell.

I immediately called to pull Hope out of the course, then I had a nice long confab with the headmaster. The least they can do is promote an inclusive, trauma informed curriculum. I told Hope that the curriculum was not consistent with what I believe and think she should know about sex and sexuality. She trusted me, even though she was the only student pulled out of the program. It was important to me that she not get that messaging and that she know that I was still her champion and advocate. (That curriculum was criminal as far as I was concerned. Let’s say it was an interesting discussion with the headmaster.)

As we prepared for Hope to leave for college this summer, I broached the subject of birth control. I told her that the intensity of going to a new school with so much freedom, so many options and some boring blocks of time (boredom can be a ridiculous aphrodisiac when you have nothing else to do, and sex is a free activity) that she might change her mind. I doubt that she will, but I wanted to emphasize the need to be prepared—hunting for contraception later is less likely to happen and “hoping” to not catch an STD or get pregnant isn’t a strategy. So, off to the midwife practice we went. I briefed the nurse and sat outside and waited for Hope to conduct her grown woman business.

I didn’t ask for a hymen check. I didn’t because it isn’t my business and because what would it really tell me anyway? My kid actually has drunk texted me from college (don’t ask)—I’m guessing if and when she decides to become active, she probably will sit on the info briefly before sharing it.

Yeah, I’m guessing she’ll tell me; she seriously tells me everything.

No, I don’t want to know. I honestly don’t want to think too much about it.

But in creating the open space for sex positive discussions Hope trusts me not to judge her; she knows that I will love her anyway. Hope knows that I will believe in her informed decision-making. She knows that I’ll still be there no matter what happens.

So, yeah, Hope and I have had a lot of sex chats. I believe that our kids, foster, adopted and everybody else, should get a good solid education about sex without messaging that condemns them. I never wanted anything in Hope’s past to be conflated with a healthy, enjoyable, positive sex life later.

I feel good my decision to take this approach. I feel confident that I’ve done what I can to set her up for good decisions about her body.

So, what’s your approach? Does this sound radical? Heretical?

Worked for us!


Ask Hope, vol 4

What was the scariest part about being adopted?
I think the scariest part about being adopted for me was just the fact that I would be moving to a new state with a person that I had just met. Leaving old friends and stuff behind wasn’t really that difficult since I didn’t really have many in the first place, though there were a few people that I wish I was able to keep in contact with post-move. Moving mostly scared me because I had always hated having to adjust to a new school because middle schoolers are rude. I did have thoughts that I might end up with a person that I wouldn’t like. I was uncertain about adjustment and how I would do with such a big change. I was also uncomfortable at first since I wasn’t used to people doing things for me and caring for me so I didn’t know what to do and I wouldn’t ask about things that I wanted to know.

What advice would you give to parents of adoptees who have lost a parent?
I am not sure about the kind of advice I would be able to give. It really depends on the kid, and how the situation came about.

I think that if the parent is someone with which the kid had grown up in good-decent circumstances that they should have quite a bit of attention paid to them. If the kid brings up the parent on their own or clearly shows how they feel about the deceased then that should be a big part of how you decide to handle this. I think that they should be able to mourn the parent and remember the parent openly. I feel like you should be open to talking about the parent with the child when they feel comfortable opening up.

ABM weighs in: Create a permanent space for acknowledgment, mourning and open discussion. We have very visible pictures of Hope’s parent in our home. We were able to have these pictures because of our open relationship with extended biological family. I never thought I would have pictures of Hope as a little or with her father. Open adoption gave us that gift. Hope’s father is very much a part of her life, even in death because of a commitment to just including his memory. 

How important is it to have connections to your biological family?
It really just depends on the kid and how their connection is and if they want to have that connection. I think that the age of the kid plays a big role in this as well. A younger kid, like below the age of ten, is not very like to know how to make that kind of decision. I would say that if the kid has had contact with their biological family throughout their time in the system, and they have been having positive experiences I think that it is a good idea to maintain that relationship. If they haven’t had any contact or if they have had contact and it was a bad experience for them, depending on how they feel would be the best way to go.

I think that regardless of the two situations you should wait until they have had a decent amount of adjustment time and start off by bringing up the subject of possibly wanting to meet family or ask if they have ever thought of doing so. I don’t recommend taking it upon oneself and making this decision for the child.

ABM follow up question: How’s your experience been? Is there anything I could have done, still do, to make this connection stronger/better/easier?

My experience has been pretty good. I mean every relationship has its ups and downs but I never had any huge problems that made me think differently. When I first moved in I had a bit of a hard time adjusting. A lot of problems emerged at different points during the adjustment period. My mom worked with me a lot, she also worked really hard to make sure that I was able to experience many things. A lot of the things that she did made a big difference in my life. I was able to see just how much I had gained, and I was able to see all that I had to be grateful for. I feel like opening up would have been better for the construction of our relationship, but we were both in a tough situation that required lots of work. Another thing that I think I could have done id that I should have tried to do things differently. I was so used to how I had always done things that I continued to live how I previously did even though my conditions made my defenses useless. I was in a safe place, and I didn’t need to continue to defend myself. There is probably so much more that could have been changed that would have helped our relationship. Even though somethings could have been changed our relationship is very good, and we have become very alike in many senses. Once the bond is made is just gets stronger every day afterward. 

[ABM cries real tears. I LOVE YOU HOPE.]

Do you ever see you getting into adoption advocacy? To help other adoptees?
I’m not really sure about that. I’m not sure how I would be able to help out another kid through their adoption. I think for a kid getting adopted, it is easier to maybe give the parents some insight as to what the kids might be thinking or feeling. It would definitely be nice to be able to help the other adoptees out, but I know from my own experience that many can and will be stubborn about a lot of things and aren’t going to be very likely to be looking for another person giving them suggestions or for another person to be telling them what to do.

I think that parents need to pay more attention to the signs that their child gives them. They should follow their behaviors and work up a comfortable relationship with them. From my experience, I was very defensive and kept everything closed inside and didn’t like sharing anything. I was used to keeping to myself, and I didn’t really engage with my childhood and was used to doing everything for myself.


Midterms

Hope was home for fall break recently. I just saw my daughter a few weeks ago when I went to visit for Parents’ Weekend, and like the first visit, her fall break was great.

Although I’m striding through this empty nest thing in relatively good shape, I do miss Hope’s presence at home. It was nice to have her home, to smell her smell, to cook for her, to fuss over her, to fuss a bit at her for sleeping on the couch rather than in her bed.

It was a delight; just thinking about it almost makes me cry.

And then I have a reality check and remember that she’s enjoying college and I’m enjoying having a daughter who is away at college.

As we chatted the weekend away, Hope broached the subject of her grades.

I’ve been asking about how things are going over the last few weeks. I knew midterms were coming and I was checking in to see how she felt about them. While there is a part of meet that clearly wants to see good (great) grades, I’ve repeated told Hope that I was more concerned about her getting settled, finding friends and getting involved. I wanted her to just be ok; the academic performance would eventually come.

Yeah, this is different than how much I’ve pushed, dragged and pulled Hope through the last 6 years of school. What can I say, college is different. For college, she gets to study things that really interest her; she has more control. Hope has options and choices, and I believe that once she gets her sea legs under her, she will embrace all of that.

Actually she already is.

She’s having fun; she has friends. She opts to stay at schools on the weekends so she hang out with friends. She’s engaged in activities. She is doing the dang thing.

And yes, she still wants to do well academically. My goal? This semester, my hope is that Hope will do well enough and build enough confidence to go back and do it all again next semester.

So, Hope started warning me about her mid-term grades. I asked her did she do her best? She said yes; I said cool. I asked a few more questions, suggested that she go talk to her professors about what she can do to improve and check out tutoring services since they are free and probably will help. And then I dropped it until a few days ago.

She sent her grades and framed the texts almost apologetically.

There was an A in probably the hardest course: Mandarin.

The was an A in an intro required course all freshmen take.

The other mid-term grades were really not good.

But there weren’t any surprises, really. I pointed out how one class might have been a letter grade higher if she turned that paper in on time last month. She said, yeah, I was probably right.

And then I said I’m still so proud of you; you’re doing fine. Finals can make a big difference, but the goal of being stable enough to go back next semester is pretty much a done deal.

And then I told her to have fun this weekend and try not to tipsy text your mother.

I’m sure she looked at her phone and wondered who body snatched me.

What can I say, my expectations for Hope are different now. I know she’s going to be fine. I see her blossoming a little more each week.

And it is really emotional. Six years ago this month, I hopped a plane to fly to the west coast to meet the child who would become my beloved daughter for the first time.

And now, she’s a college freshman.

Damn, yo. Hope is a college student who is doing fine.

For the first time, we’re in a situation that looks and feels normal, and that ish feels so good.

So, the first round of mid-terms are a success in my book. Just 7 more midterm episodes to go.


Parenting a College Student

Hope and I have settled into a nice routine of semi-daily texts and 1 phone call a week to catch up and talk shop.

The “catch up” part is really what’s going on in our lives. The “talk shop” part is derivative of the first—it’s how we talk about the things we need to do as a result of the “catch up” part.

If I’m lucky, I get a 2nd call a week because Hope misses me and just wants to chat for a few minutes.

The texts are pictures of Yappy (which as decreased because she can see every pic on our google folder for Yappy), memes, quick check ins and good nites.

I’m really loving this rhythm and what it represents: Good attachment!

I feel good about that. I’m also thrilled that I’ve managed to train Hope to tell me the important stuff by phone and let’s keep texting fun and not the place for good chats. I’m hoping that she is able to transfer that concept to her general texting interactions. #stillparenting

She doesn’t ask me to send her random stuff anymore. I nipped that in the bud after the first month. She proudly told me that she gets her groceries delivered to campus each week. Good for her, but “groceries?” I reminded her about that ‘generous’ meal plan I’m on the hook for…use it. I’m thrilled she figured out how to get what she needed.

Each conversation I see Hope growing a little. I hear her struggles but also how she is trying to problem solve things. I don’t hear too many excuses anymore. The biggest realization is that my opinion means a lot to her and that she trusts me as a knowledgeable human.

May every parent have this moment because like Jesus, I wept. Of course my tears were from joy.

This is the period of life, those adolescent years, when you just think that you are the schitts. You know EVERYTHING. And if you didn’t know it, someone in your peer circle probably knew it just like you probably knew that one rando thing that they didn’t know. And you think that anyone over the age of maybe 25 was pushing off to the nursing home any day and couldn’t possibly know more than you because they have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel and had no doubt lost so many brain cells that they should be on a mush diet.

Yeah, you know the age.

Y’all we are past it.

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via Giphy

Hope doesn’t just want my opinion, she actually thinks I’m smart, like really smart. She knows I don’t know everything, but she knows that I know a lot, certainly way more than her. So Hope will text me questions; she will have deeper philosophical conversations with me. And in the moments when our chats are delving into “advice” territory, she actually pushes through the conversation, prompting, asking me for my thoughts and insights.

It’s really startling.

Of course then she will send me a video of someone trying to light farts. #disturbing #cantunsee

We have a ways to go yet.

Our chat a few days ago covered this knee injury she has, her recent cold, her grades, realizations about her ADHD and her upcoming trip home for the weekend that slid into us talking shop.

The student health clinic wanted to refer Hope to a specialist about her knee. We discussed and decided that she would see our GP when she came home this week and go from there. She’s happily over her cold, which I think developed from sinusitis and allergies. She said I might be on to something there. I told her she needed to get some Tylenol or scope out a kid on the hall whose parents remembered to pack Tylenol (I sent her with the gigantic jar of Advil. Whatever she can trade).

She confessed to not turning everything in on time and why and how she’s struggling to control her ADHD symptoms in the afternoon. I told her she should talk to our GP about that as well since he’s handling medication management these days. I told her I didn’t want him to hear it second hand (from me) and that she could just call the office to talk to him about her symptoms since we’re in a practice that allows that. She paused, toying with just asking me to do it or with the idea of dropping it. She said, send me his number. Since I’m coming home to see the doc can I talk to him about this too with him?

Me grinning on the other end of the call; “Yep.”

We talked about a hair appointment; she said she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her hair. I didn’t press but said, well, I found some salons in your neck of the woods that do Black natural hair. When you’re ready just make an appointment and check in with me to see if you need extra money to get it done. We verbally shook on it.

I swear boards of directors could take a page on the efficiency of our “talk shop” conversations. They’ve evolved and it’s really cool. It means we’re on the same page—What has to get done? What needs a step towards a solution?

And even more cool, Hope has real, cogent ideas about solutions. She may have even tried an idea or two before telling me. We’re beyond the, “maybe Beyonce’s foundation will pick us…” days. #girlwhat?

Oh there are many days when she has ridiculous ideas mixed in (all the time), but she’s more confident about all of her ideas and sharing them with me.

I don’t want to make it seem that all of the drama we have endured isn’t still there. I think that Hope and I have a bit more clarity about it and how it affects her and us. Hope is still well below her peers in overall maturity. She still is a vulnerable girl prone to being overwhelmed and succumbing to some specific kinds of peer pressure. She is not nearly as fragile as she once was, but she’s still somewhat fragile.

The patina of trauma that once was sooooo thick it just masked her is much thinner, but still very much a part of her. It covers her. I hear it in some of the pauses in our conversations about certain things. I feel it when she says she misses me. I see it when she is sad. I see it even in moments of joy. I see her conquering it slowly, but it is there.

There are many, many things we still talk about that my friends have already discussed with their 10-year-olds. Hope was in the system when she was 10. She moved a few times that year. She managed to progress to the next grade, but the lack of permanence was still there and would still be there for many months to come. And there were countless moments preceding her 10 years that led to predicament Hope found herself in at that tender age.

I hear all of that when I talk to Hope too. It’s still there. And I’m amazed to she her still pressing forward in spite of all of it. But, it’s still there, and it’s still hard for her and for me.

I’m so excited that she will be here for a few days next week. She hasn’t been home since she left in mid-August. I’m looking forward to fun chats, a happy dog, all around goofiness and to learn more about Hope in this new chapter of her life.

The more I learn about her, the more I learn about me.


Forty-Four Days

I dropped Hope off at a little over 6 weeks ago. We talked once or twice a week on the phone, and over the last few weeks, we texted nearly daily.

Well, 44 days after dropping Hope off at college, I saw her yesterday.

Oh my, did I hug my baby girl.

The waves of love were nearly overwhelming. My chest was a little tight, and I fought back the single Chilly Willy tear as I held Hope to me. I smelled and dug my fingers in her hair. I looked at her skin. I turned her around and over like a baby to check her all over.

She giggled. She swatted my hands. And then she surrendered into my arms and exhaled.

And we stood there for a while.

Hope’s room was tidy! She admitted to cleaning up before I arrived, but it was clear that there was a decent sense of order to begin with. Clothes were hung up in the closet!!! She’s using her calendar. She’s working hard.

She looks good. Her hair is growing; her skin looks clear.

I met her friends. The boy with the blue afro. The girl with the emotional support cat. The girl who bounded down the hall like Tigger to say hello. They call Hope “Grandma” because she always wears a sweater and mother hens folks when they’ve consumed too much of things they have no business consuming (don’t even ask!).

We went shopping for sweaters, cruised Amazon for new sneakers to wear with the step team she tried out for and made last week.

She confessed not leaving campus much. She realizes that her social anxiety isn’t just anxiety but true blue introversion; peopleing can really be exhausting so she hangs with her small gang of friends.

I listened as she shared how much she misses me and Yappy and wants to come home for the weekend, but has real FOMO (fear of missing out) when the gang gets together on the weekends. We agreed she’d come home in a few weeks to go to the dentist, get a medication tune up and cuddle with Yappy on the couch.

She gobbled her favorite pizza at the local joint she frequents across the street from campus, and I showed her that she could walk to the local Family Dollar just a short walk down the hill from school.

We talked. We laughed. We scrolled Instagram together and shared some of our favorite hashtags to follow (mostly dog related).

I found a local diner and took her to brunch and caught her up on all the family stuff going on. Her cousin called while we were out, and I eavesdropped while they chatted business: coursework.

She proudly showed me her notebook where she has her whole college coursework career mapped out. I learned that somehow she’s taking 17 credit hours this semester; more than I would have recommended but she is pushing herself so she can wring everything out of this time.

My daughter is blossoming. She still giggles, but there’s a growing maturity that I can hear in her voice.

Over breakfast, I told her how incredibly proud I am of her and all she’s accomplished. She balked, asking me what and why? I reminded her of the first day we met. I shared how I saw a scared little girl in the body of a 12-year-old. I told her how I marveled at her commitment to survival up to that moment and through to this one. I told her how this year just marked so much change and accomplishment that it’s sometimes overwhelming to consider it all.

The reality is that Hope is in college. She says it’s hard, and it is, but she’s thriving.

I’m so blessed to have been a part of her journey. It’s such an honor to be her mom. I can’t imagine what life would be without her. There have been times when it has been so hard, but to see her thriving is just so beautiful.

This chapter of our journey is so…I’m not sure what the right words are to describe it. What I do know is that Hope has grown tremendously in these 44 days since she’s been away. It foreshadows a crazy transformation that is underway. It’s nothing short of magical to watch and be a part of.

So, Parents’ weekend was amazing. Hope is amazing. We’re amazing. 😊

BTW—Hope wants more questions! She’s serious about wanting the share her experiences as a FFY and an adoptee, so yeah, send questions!


When Magic Ain’t Enough

First things first: Hope is doing marvelously. She has friends; she is social. She is trying to stay on top of her schoolwork. She joined a club last week. She’s doing great. She’s also still open to questions for her column, so…Ask Hope by sending an email to adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com.

Me?

I’m not doing so hot.

It’s not an empty nest thing, though some of it is probably a change thing. No, it’s really about work and personal life. I hit an emotional wall a week ago that was just incredibly damaging, and while I grinned and bore it; I’m not ok. And this week I feel like it shows across every aspect of my life.

I recently celebrated 15 years in my job as a diversity and inclusion professional. I love my work; I know I’m making a difference. There is so much work to do, but I can look at several generations of students and see the impact that my work along with the work of so many others.

I’ve got research projects and consultations and student organizations. I give lectures, conduct workshops and create assessment tools. I’ve written policies, standards, papers and books.

I’m not bragging. I’ve just worked hard.

Along the way I went back to school, did a couple of degrees and half raised an amazing daughter.

I feel like if I totally checked out right this moment, I will have left a mark, and that’s immensely satisfying even when I see so much more that can and should be done.

But it has all has come at a cost.

I’ve been one of few people of color broadly and very few black people and even fewer black women, in countless spaces over the last 15 years. I’m used to it. I can hold my own in such spaces, but these spaces aren’t always inclusive or hospitable. I’ve been called names. I’ve heard racist jokes. I’ve been harassed. When I went natural and chopped my hair off the first time, a white male colleague said I looked exotic. I have given lectures that were rated poorly because I didn’t have any effs to give about white fragility.

I’ve coached, coddled, chastised and championed.

I love this work, but it is emotionally exhausting creating content to reach, teach, and move people in ways that keeps them engaged and not triggered by their own fragility. It comes at a high cost that I’m willing to pay if it means that I can make this profession better. My commitment to this work is also why I continue writing about my life and parenting experience in this space, why Mimi and I hosted Add Water and Stir and why I’m now trying to move into doing some consulting with adoption agencies interested in exploring these issues.

I recently participated in a work-related meeting that demonstrated clearly to me that there is still so much more work to be done. It was in a space that positioned me as an outsider, that felt very silencing and was wholly oblivious to how problematic it all felt for those of us who were outsiders—either by professional discipline or race.

No one was mean. No one said anything inappropriate. No one was overtly racist. But it was very superficial and wildly damaging to me emotionally.

It’s been a week, and I haven’t recovered. I’m still working, still producing, still rolling, but feeling like the walking wounded. That space wrung what little Black Girl Magic I had left. It’s gone. It’s like the experience just zapped it. I am broken.

Couple that with a continued barrage of trash on the dating scene and I’m on the ropes. I’m just done. Last week, I pulled my profile down and shuttered myself like I was preparing for a hurricane. It was like a one-two punch and the ref is just hovering over me counting….1. 2. 3. 4. 5…..

I can’t get up.

I’m emotionally empty.

depressed

People can see it. People can feel the icky energy rolling off of me. My therapist knew as soon as I walked into her office yesterday that I was not ok. She remarked that my energy was similar to when I started going to her shortly after Hope’s arrival when I was deep in the depths of post-adoption depression.

And she’s right. I sobbed in her office. I finally said how unseen I felt at the meeting; how so much of my work seems in vain, how the dating scene is trash, but I would love to have a life companion and that I’m hella glad Hope is away at school while I’m seriously falling apart.

My empty nest fall was *not* supposed to be like this. The work I love is not supposed to make me so miserable. Dating should not make me wonder if the next dude is going to be awful to me too.

I’m not going to stay in this dark place though. I’ve booked a 5 star get-a-way for two weeks from now on a whim. I thought as the bill was rising higher and higher as I as I was upgrading this and that, this is getting pricey. Then I asked what would I be like in two weeks if I don’t do this or something like it? What if I didn’t invest in myself? And what would Hope do/say/feel if she saw me like this?  I might be ok, but the people around me will surely suffer—actually I will suffer most of all.

So, I booked exactly what I wanted and needed for 5 days away in a location that’s warm, sunny, beachy, with lots of rum, good food and lots of brown people—majority brown people. I need to be in a space where black and brown folks are the dominant culture for a few days. I need to feel emotionally safe; I need to not be directly under the searing gaze of white folks for a few days. #yeahIsaidit #lovebutyallareexhausting

And tomorrow, I’ll be calling up the doc and getting some new meds. A vacation time-out will help a lot, but I know it is not a panacea for what ails me. I know that it will not bring my magic back. Chemistry will help bring my magic back. So will eating right and continuing to make plans that focus on my restoration

Parents weekend is next week, so I will get to see my beautiful Hope then. I’m so excited about seeing her and getting a glimpse into the life she is creating for herself. I’m so proud of her. With my restoration plan coming into focus; I feel better about the ABM she will see next weekend. The vacation will jump start a new chapter for me; I’m committed to that.

I do not like the dark space. I do not like feeling like I’m wandering or wondering. I want to come back from this. I want to keep going; I want to be strong and magical. I also want to be better at preventing this kind of emotional spiral.

Practice makes perfect right?


Dating and Parenting

Shortly after Hope agreed to become my daughter, I met a wonderful man, E. E and I were together for about 3 years. When we parted, it was sad, but there were no burned bridges. We keep in touch.

I didn’t attempt to date anyone again for nearly 2 years.

When Hope went off to boarding school last year, I decided to get on an app and try to date. I met someone who I had great fun with but when it ended a few months ago, it did so in an absurd dumpster fire. It’s ok, I’m fine. I walked away easy peasy.

brush2

via Giphy

And so shortly before I dropped Hope off a month ago, I said, ok, let’s try this again. I signed up for 2 months on an app. I carefully curated my pictures; I wrote my profile, and I posted it all.

I’ve been on one pseudo-date. I say pseudo because we met up, went for a short walk and sat on a bench to talk.

I have received numerous inappropriate messages.

I’ve found that men generally think very highly of themselves and their manners.

I’ve found that some men take rejection horribly, resulting in lash out behavior.

I’ve found that some men want to school me on my standards being too high.

I’ve found that despite loving me some men, a lot of men are just really deeply troubled (this is me trying not to call them all trash). #toxicmasculinity

I just about tapped out last week after I rejected a man’s interest, he lashed out in really ugly mean ways that were just completely over the top when compared to my standard, “Hey I don’t think we are a match, good luck in your search” message. Really, I was like, “Dassit, I’m going to get me a few more auntie robes, maybe another small dog, a better bonnet and shut this dating situation down forever.”

But I’m still here.

Now what does this have to do with parenting? A lot actually.

Aside from this process clarifying what my own emotional wants and needs are in a potential partner; I center Hope in thinking about what is best for us. Now, I don’t know who Hope may bring home one day, but I can’t in good conscious make moves that don’t model a healthy dating life and hopefully a healthy relationship. My girl had too many years when she didn’t see these things, so I want to be sure that if she’s looking to me to show the way, I had better make good decisions.

I think even more critically about the types of people I want in my life. I think about what kinds of people, I definitely don’t want in my life. I think about how people talk to and with me; how they present themselves, how they talk about the children they have and the other parents of those children. I think about what they will say about Hope and our story if they ever get to hear it, and how much education on adoption I will have to do. I think about how they talk about women—not females which can be any species and is a term that annoys the heck out of me—but women. I think about how they talk about all kinds of women. I think about a lot of these things.

Most of the things I have considered show up in my profile as some non-negotiables.

And it’s amazing how pissy men who don’t meet any of the criteria are about me articulating my standards.

And I think about that as well. When I see a message, if I respond, I try to meet it with kindness. If I were to kick it and Hope opened my app and saw my responses, I would want her to know that I try to be kind and authentic. I want her to know that about me so that hopefully she will embrace that for herself.

Hope really wrestles with social anxiety; she can be delightfully awkward, but I know she is always looking for behavioral models. She’s trying. I want to always be that model for her.

So, even on a dating app that I hope she never has to deal with, I try to be authentic and think about What Hope Would Say or Do? #WWHSD

Centering her and the model I want to set for her, even with her away from college, has kept my terrible frog kissing to a minimum since I’m really trying to screen hard for the worthy prince.

the princess and the frog GIF

Via Giphy


Beyond the Mug Cakes

So, this is where we are with me at home and Hope off at college:

Yeah, so, I do in fact miss Hope, but not like when she went away to boarding school last year. I really was so sad after she left for the year. I fell into a bit of a depression and felt a little rudderless during the first couple of weeks.

I do not feel rudderless this go ‘round. I feel…different. Not sure I have a word for it yet. I miss Hope. We text every other day or so and talk on Sundays. She sounds happy, if a little anxious. She seems to be thriving socially. I do miss her, but, no I’m not crying over her departure. When folks ask me how I’m doing with my empty nest, and I reply “FINE!” they seem to be disappointed that I’m not falling to pieces.

One thing is the same as when I experienced my first empty nest last year: the fatigue. Active daily parenting is frigging exhausting and when your regular parenting involves a lot of anxiety and a major life change on the immediate horizon, it’s a wonder you can get up in the morning.

This past weekend I enjoyed the ridiculous luxury of taking 2-3 hour naps Saturday and Sunday. It was decadent, and with the break in the weather serving the smallest whiff of fall, this was prime napping weather. I was couch-drunk most of the weekend.

So, yeah, there’s that.

Now what?

Well, I’m back in the dating hunt, which is….challenging. Dating when you’re older feels different. Your priorities are different. You are forced to even see yourself differently. The rose-colored glasses come off pretty quickly. Trying to be intentional about getting out, meeting people and dating raises my insecurities about all kinds of things.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m a catch. I know I am, but for whom? Some standards have gone way up like I really want to be with someone with same or similar educational attainment and a solid career. But as we slide into the late forties, how I think about myself and others is morphing. I still see myself through youthful glasses, and then I see the pool of men and I think, “Oh, we are aging. I mean, we still look good (some more than others), but that glossy veneer has worn away.” It’s a sobering gut check.

But I’m still out here trying to foster a healthy and robust social life.

And then there’s my role in the adoption community. I mean, it hasn’t changed, but it kind of feels like it has. I’m pondering what things I will write about, how will express the feelings of watching Hope navigate this next chapter. I’m taking on some volunteer consulting around diversity and adoption agencies. I’m looking forward to that and hoping it might turn into some other opportunities since how people of color show up and engage in and around the adoption community is important to me.

I’m diving into work and feeling like there are new challenges and opportunities ahead with my career. I see a shift in my work on the horizon. I’ll be getting a new colleague soon, launching new studies, debuting some new research. I’m passionate about my career, so I’m excited, but I’m also…already thinking about my exit strategy. I’m thinking about what my next chapter will be, when will I be able to retire and what will I need to do to make that happen. Even then, I’m eager to plan my retirement. I’m curious what and who I will be then. There have been a few evenings since Hope has been gone, when I just sat on the patio and dreamed about what that chapter might look like. With Hope in college, it seems like I can think about it for the first time in a long time.

And Hope…I do worry, maybe worry isn’t quite the right word. I’m concerned. It’s not eating at me yet, but it’s rambling around in the back of my head.

Is she overwhelmed?

Does she feel ready?

Is she ready?

A recent chat with AbsurdlyHotTherapist suggests that she’s really internalized the anxiety about being in college. She’s saying she’s fine to me, but being a bit of a pill in therapy.

How long is that sustainable?

And what plans should I put in place to guard against a meltdown or pick her up after one?

What would life be like if she isn’t successful on that path? As resilient as she is, would she recover from that?

Would I?

So, yeah, I’m concerned now that classes will officially start in 4 days. I’m going deep into the prayer closet this weekend.

I’m holding it all together and trying to map my next moves with and without Hope. I’m trying to be judicious with the mug cakes and get more exercise to compensate for this evening delight I’m currently digging.

But all in all, I’m good.


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.


She Did It!

So, Hope is off at college. When I think about it, it’s pretty mind blowing. When I started this journey, of course I wanted my eventual son or daughter to go to college. Once Hope entered my life, I quickly realized that there were certainly way more realistic goals to have. College became a far away, almost abstract concept. I was hopeful, and I did whatever I could to still get her to college.

And I got a lot of feedback along the way.
“Maybe college isn’t for her.”

“It’s not for everyone.”

“She can have a good life without going to college.”

All of the feedback was true, but it didn’t get to the central issues about why I, ABM, was committed to getting her as close to college as I could—even if it was delayed.

Education is very much a central part of my own identity. It is one pathway to more choices, and I believe that choices lead to greater freedom. I want more than anything for Hope to feel free. Education, college, is a pathway to that.

So, fast forward 4 years to the end of Hope’s junior year of high school. We had long talks and agreed that she would start out at the local community college and work towards transferring to a 4 year school at a later date.

Then came the summer program, which also saw Hope do really well academically. That was followed by a year at the boarding school, where she still struggled academically, but had a lot more support.

That school required applications to 3 colleges. Hope ended up applying to 5. By the time it was over, we visited 3, 4 including the community college, aced her placement exam and fell in love with a small liberal arts college in the mountains of VA.

I get a little emotional when I think about the changes she has gone through this year. Last week as we were talking about the big move, I asked her what she thought this next year would bring given how this year took us in a completely different direction that we planned. She shrugged and smiled.

I imagine that next summer, Hope could be on the other side of world, living her dream in an Asian country soaking up the culture, the food and the language.

In the meantime, I’m reveling in the fact that my beautiful brown girl is a campus coed, a new Wildcat and finding her way in the world.

Here are some highlights from our journey this week, just in case you don’t follow my FB page (which you totally should)!

 

Totally turns out that we “weren’t” that family. We ended up being modest, as best. Someone even called Hope’s stuff “streamlined.” Kids bring a helluva lot of stuff to college with them.

One of the most disturbing revelations of the trip. I’m still so horribly embarrassed.

The roommate had a beanbag chair, so Hope needed a beanbag chair.

A rare Hope sighting! BTW, she’s still taking questions for Ask Hope! <<—Click the link to drop us an email!

I’ve already had to send her a package since she managed to forget her wallet in the car and flip flops. I also sent a few of those ultrasonic pest repellent doodads.


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