Tag Archives: african american adoptive families

Ending Eleventh

Another school year is over. Hallelujah.

This has been an incredibly challenging year; seriously frustrating. Hope is really bright. There are some serious issues with executive function; there is an unwillingness to ask for help or even checking in for guidance. This is the trauma stuff and the ADHD stuff.

Then there’s the teen stuff where you’d just rather do other stuff that was far more entertaining.

Our county shows its schools to be very competitive nationally; I was always so proud to live in this county and was proud that the schools here are quite good, even the ones on the less affluent side of the county where we live. Well, there’s an unfortunate underbelly to our school system. When students who’ve done poorly all year even *modestly* trend upward in the final quarter the final grade will show as the lowest possible passing grade. This keeps the completion stats high and the course passage rates solid.

And this is how my daughter will pass two core classes without actually being proficient in the skills taught in those classes. I’m furious since we will go through yet another set of classes next year for which Hope is unprepared. Additionally, Hope has now 3 years of conditioning that her proficiency is better than it actually is. We are set up for the same frustrations for a 4th and final year.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of school.

I’m sure Hope is tired of school too. I know she is. She hates school.

I’m starting to hate her school too.

I’m hopeful that sending her to a summer academic program will help her develop some skills, but my expectations are low. I am more hopeful that she will learn how to engage with her teachers and classmates in positive ways. I am hopeful that she will learn how to try out a little independence in a safe environment.

She is a rising senior now. I’m looking forward to some of the milestones that come with this year. I’m wondering how many I should insist on so that memories and traditions are created and, in places, continued. I want her to enjoy finally being on top—being a senior has been important to her since 9th grade.

I want so much for Hope. I’m hoping that the gap between the amount of hopes and dreams Hope and I have is narrowed this year. I want her to dream big. My wish for Hope is that she will dream big, work hard and find her version of success. I don’t know what that will look like, not really for me to say or determine. That’s her journey.

For now, we’ve come through another year of school. It was hard fought, but we did it.

On to the senior year.

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Doing Right by Hope

I listen to a podcast called, Terrible, Thanks for Asking. A recent episode explored the feelings of a father and daughter who lost their wife and mother to cancer when the daughter was just a toddler. The father remarried and never really discussed his late wife, so his daughter was never sure whether it was ok to talk about her.

As I was listening to the show, I started wondering am I doing enough to make Hope feel comfortable talking about her birth family. We have a relationship with a portion of her birth family, and that has been a little hit or miss just based on Hope’s desire. I made sure that I got numerous pictures of one of her parents and they are hung prominently in our home. I have made it clear that whenever she is ready to visit her family, I’m down to make it happen. She expressed an interest in her birth mother, I looked for her and found her. When she said she was satisfied just knowing where she was but didn’t want contact, I put the info away and told her she can have it whenever she wants.

I’ve told her numerous times that if she wants to talk, I’m here. Anytime, anywhere.

And yet, I do wonder if I’ve created the right environment for Hope to feel like she can tell me what she needs around accessing her birth family.

I have learned that my daughter’s feelings about her family are complicated. There is a lot of loss, feelings of rejection, anger, but also love and affection. I know that my daughter can sign a birthday card and say that she hopes to see them soon, but when I ask to schedule a visit she says no, what she wrote was really just a pleasantry.

Early on, I fretted that her birth family would be upset that I was keeping her away from them. We are a four hours’ drive away but are connected by phone, email and social media. We’ve visited several times; of course, they would like us to visit more often. I don’t want to put up roadblocks to reunion if that’s what everyone wants. The reality is that my daughter’s idea of reunion and theirs don’t jive at this point. I’ve learned to be really honest with them about what she’s going through and how much contact she wants. Those are hard conversations to have with a family that also feels like Hope is the prodigal kid, who was lost and now found. I try to make sure that cards get sent, pictures and band concert programs are mailed so that they can see she’s doing well, but truth be told, there’s not much contact between Hope and her family.

On the daily, we don’t talk about her family of origin much either. Occasionally something will remind her of an episode from before my time and she’ll share it with me, usually something funny, sometimes something dark. The dark stuff is always very sad, and honestly, those are the stories that more often get repeated…verbatim. Therapy has helped her write some new scripts, but old habits and trauma die hard. Occasionally, I’ll ask about a parent and she’ll share a little story or shut down the conversation, depending on her mood. This is how we roll; I don’t have much to compare it to, so I guess this is normal. I listen to adult adoptees and know that it can be super complicated. I know that Hope will come into her own and decide if, how and when she wants more of a connection to her birth family. I just don’t ever want her to feel like she doesn’t have my support or that she can’t bring it up in our home. I try to follow her lead on creating and sustaining chosen connections.

On the whole, I feel like I’ve tried to create a space that supports her, values her family yet consistently prioritizes her emotional needs. It’s hard though; it’s complicated. I find myself wondering if I’m doing enough or too much sometimes. Hope is getting older; emotionally she’s still pretty young despite her gains over the last few years. I see her turning into a young adult; I see her questioning a lot of things about the world and about herself and about her personal history as she lived it and interprets it. I know in the coming years I’ll be transitioning from active parenting to a parent-guide of sorts as she comes into herself and launches into the world. I have no idea whether what I’m doing on the birth family stuff will bear fruit—or even what that means, honestly. I just know I want her to be happy and healthy, and I want her to know I’ll always ride hard for her.

I hope I’m doing right by Hope.


Thoughts on our Evolution

I’m presently relaxing after a long day of touring around Southern Greece reflecting on my travels with Hope of the last year. This trip has been our most ambitious trip yet. I have taken her on trips to multiple states and we also spent a spring break in Montreal, but this trip has changed the game.

I have wanted to travel to Greece my whole life, no really, I can’t remember a time that Greece wasn’t a dream trip for me. I’ve loved Greek and Roman mythology since I was able to barely read. The idea that things from millennia ago still stand blows my mind.

I’ve been putting it off and putting it off, almost like, I didn’t deserve to go or worried that maybe I couldn’t afford the kind of experience I wanted to have and create.

Then one day last fall, I reasoned that the way politics were going with Twitter wars between unstable world “leaders,” a roll back on the US commitment to address climate change and a steady stream of just US constructed crazy, I figured we were all going to die anyway, climate change was going to ruin the ruins and that maybe I could afford to have the kind of trip that would just bring me joy. So I started looking for tickets and an Airbnb, and I just made it happen.

I worried and fretted during the last couple of months wondering if Hope would handle the trip well. She loves history, and I know that she especially loves opportunities to experience history. I prayed that she would enjoy this trip as much as I anticipated it. And if she didn’t, I was fully prepared to drug her and beg the Heavenly Homeboy for his grace and mercy in making sure she didn’t ruin this trip for me. #Greeceismyhappyplace #behappy #dontruinit

After climbing the steps into the Acropolis a few days ago, I sobbed when the Parthenon came into view; a high bucket list item was checked off. Hope is used to me being emotional. My tears didn’t phase her. What made me struggle to hold back tears later? Hearing Hope talking almost to herself that being here, in Athens is hard to believe, that she’s standing on and next to stuff so old and historically important, stuff she read about but never even thought about visiting because…well, why would she? Throughout this trip she has commented that being here is like a dream. Just thinking about it brings a tear to my eye.

It’s been a dream for me too—for me as an individual and distinctly, as a mom.

Hope and I have changed so much over the last four years. I could not have dreamed of taking this trip with her then. I have more patience now. But I am also ok making the decision to pharmaceutically deal with anxiety freak outs (like recent bug phobia related meltdowns) and limiting choices. I try to teach Hope that freedom is about having choices, but too many choices for her can also be overwhelming—so sometimes I have to just shrink them down to 2 choices in order to make things go smoothly. I’m also ok just saying no. I’m parenting way more confidently than I used to. I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I know my kid and I get what makes her tick–that’s more than half the battle.

I’ve learned to meet my own needs. I made sure that our rental had individual rooms for everyone—I knew I would need alone time and space to just regroup. I bought myself nice things and splurged on things I wanted while shopping in the markets. I gave Hope her own money so I didn’t have to decide if what she wanted to buy was silly or not—it’s hers and she needed to learn how to treat herself as well. It she bought silly stuff, it’s not my concern; if she focused on easily consumed things rather than things like mementos, well that would just be the choice she made. It wasn’t my choice, since I got my mementos. I got up most mornings to just enjoy the quiet. #selfcare Last night, Hope even begged off dinner allowing my friend and I to go have a drink and a light dinner and have grown folk talk.

Four years ago I know I couldn’t have taken this trip with Hope and enjoyed it the way I have. I desperately wish it was longer since I’ve got so much stuff going on at work that I didn’t fully unwind, but I’m better than I was. I also have concluded that I need to get back to traveling and going ahead and just bringing Hope along. School is very stressful for her and as much as the structured days might be good for her, school life, for us, is just misery inducing. Travel might be the thing to help us soothe our souls. I might as well pull her out of school and just go.

Aside from being reminded to follow my passions, this trip has taught me how much Hope and I have evolved during our time together. There’s more growth to come, for sure, we aren’t where I’d love us to be, but gosh, it’s remarkable how much we’ve grown. I’m also so warmed by seeing how much my daughter has healed. The things she wrestles with are still there, but they haven’t dominated her this week. I think she’s really going to be ok; that means we’re going to be ok.

We head back to the states tomorrow with one of my biggest bucket list trips done. This is just the first trip; I need to return, there’s so much to see and so much to be completely overwhelmed by. It’s been an amazing experience with lots of happy tears and quality time with Hope.

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Hopeful for Hope

Hope is extraordinary. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it.

Ok, so some days, are much (seriously, so much) better than others. I and everyone around her has noticed the good days versus the bad days more than usual in the last year.

These last four years for Hope have been stable. I’d like to say that they’ve been good, great even, but I know that that’s probably not true, and I’m guessing that the benchmark for good might be fuzzy. On the outside looking in, it’s been great, on the inside looking out, it’s been…more good than not; it’s also been super challenging for her and for me.

Hope’s life before was hard. There was a lot of upheaval and a lot of safety issues. There was also a lot of love in her previous life; I never doubted that. I might side eye a lot of stuff that I know about her past, but I never doubted that her family of origin loved her so very much. There were just a lot of problems and barriers to probably being the type of parents they wanted to be.  All that stuff made Hope scared, distrustful, headstrong, and survival focused. That stuff also left Hope with some real developmental challenges that linger and make life harder for her. That love shaped her, and it made Hope have hope about her future life. I cling to that probably as much as she does.

We seem to be at a bit of a fork in the road in this journey.

My daughter has to make some choices about the type of future she wants. I’m not talking about 5 or 10 years down the road; I’m talking about the next year. To me, the choice for her is obvious, but it’s not. It seems that those extraordinary survival qualities Hope developed in times of need make it hard for her to see the range of choices clearly. It makes what feels like should be an obvious choice not so obvious for my daughter. As a mom, it’s so hard to see the struggle she endures trying to find her way through this maze. The skills that served her so well for so long don’t work as well in this chapter of her life, and the time hasn’t been long enough yet for her new survival skills to evolve.

It’s like taking an Olympic swimmer and putting her on a stage with a concert violin and demanding that she play as though she’s been playing professionally her whole life. She hasn’t and so she won’t.

And yet, she muddles a rocky rendition of Chopsticks and calls it a day. Hope is extraordinary.

Sometimes I find it so incredibly hard to understand how Hope sees and maneuvers through her world. I see immense talent, tenacity, courage and street smarts in her. I have wondered how to help her leverage her skills to her benefit. I’ve tried all kinds of things, but neither of us have found the magic sauce yet. It takes time. With a major life event (finishing high school) looming, it feels like we’re behind schedule.

We’re not, but it feels like it.

As a mom, all this feels so weird, awkward even to guide her though this—it’s a bit of the blind leading the blind. I mean, I went through traditional life events, but with none of the history or life experiences that Hope has had. Sometimes my life experience feels irrelevant and ill-suited for any kind of possible comparison. I can only imagine how it feels to Hope to know how to live a life only to be thrust into another one where everything, EVERYTHING was different. I chose this life to mother and parent her; she didn’t choose anything about this life. I try to remember that as we muddle through together.

These next 4 months will have a major impact on my daughter’s life for the next year. I’m not sure what she will choose; I’m starting to question what the “right” choice is for her. I thought I knew, but I’m also realizing that she and I have different views and different sets of choices ahead of us over the next few months. Things aren’t as obvious as they appeared, I suppose.

As we talk about the choices, I try to assure her that I love her, accept her, still think she’s an extraordinary kid and I will support her no matter what. I hope that Hope believes me. I hope that she does what she thinks is best for herself and that it sets her up for success.

I’m hopeful, and prayerful, and anxious, and worried, and committed and still more hopeful.


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.


Connected and Ish…

We’re a little over a week into the year, and I already feel like I have hell in a hand-basket in my home. Trying to get routines back in place is hella hard when there was a two week break, followed by two days of school, followed by three snow/cold days. The bull-ish has set in for real around here, and Hope has fallen back into her typical routine of whatever it is that she does.

I understand. I get it. There’s the trauma stuff. There’s the anxiety and depression stuff. There’s the ADHD stuff. There’s so much stuff. Tons of stuff, binders of stuff, lots of stuff.

And then there’s me on repeat about rules, expectations and routine. All of that ish is busted. It just seems to go into the ether and float away, and I’m peeved as hell.

I mean, if you live an illogical life, and there’s someone there to simply tell you what to do to carry on, then well, just follow the dang directions. It ain’t hard.

But alas, that would be logical and our greatest attribute is being illogical, so it’s not just hard, it’s like mythologically hard. Like Sisyphus hard.

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Via Giphy

And I’m supposed to practice “connected parenting.”

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Via Giphy

This parenting style requires that I move beyond and over the illogical parts to reframe and try again to connect to my daughter, building new healthier neuropathways…blah, blah, blah.Yeah, ok. I am all in on the connecting and moving forward, but errrr…uh….I find that what they don’t address in those books, on those videos and in those workshops is that parents have feelings too. We’re people, living and breathing imperfect creatures who also do dumb ish. They don’t mention that our hearts hurt from also feeling rejected and stepped on by our kids and isolated by families and friends who don’t have a clue what we’re going through. That even as we *know* intellectually what’s going on with our kids and develop/have the skill set to deal with it, this trauma parenting mess is some epic, next level bull-ish, and it makes ERRBODY feel some kind of way almost all the damn time. #webothmiserable #alot

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Via Giphy

In all that soft spoken, “the child’s reptilian brain, blah, blah, blah” there is a failure to acknowledge we have our own primitive brains too, no matter how well adjusted or how much work we’ve done on ourselves. (I know that there are many folks out there who think that adoptive parents should go through more intense screenings and training, but trust: We are still emotional creatures, you can’t screen/train that out of us unless we are just going to have Sheldon Cooper as the archetype AP).

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Via Google

There is never a discussion about how there are parenting moments—some trauma, some SPED, some just regular old run of the mill day-to-day stuff—that is just real bull-ish. Yeah, parenting is effing hard.

This week I have been on slow burn. Hope did some dumb stuff; some of it emotionally driven and some executive function influenced. Oh, I get how it happened. I get how the levers and buttons of her brain got us here. I get it. But I’m still simmering because it’s so ridiculously stupid. It just shouldn’t happen.

I’ve fought the desire to be confrontational. I’ve fought the desire to drop hammers. I’ve wrestled with natural consequences vs what I really want to do (rage if that wasn’t clear). I’ve just sat with it. I’ve emailed and texted my daughter when I knew that physically allowing audible words to come out of my mouth anywhere near her would be a really, really, bad idea. I have resisted doing everything that is in my naturally occurring combative nature to do this week. #winning

This week has been about restraint.

I am a wild Chincoteague pony pawing to get out and trample everything in my path. There is a bit in my mouth, and a saddle and reigns on me to just try to keep control of myself. Inside I’m an effing hot mess.

Yeah, they don’t tell you this ish in PRIDE, or those other parenting classes or any of those stupid parenting books for any kind of kid. Well, I’m here to tell you parenting ish ain’t academic.

I’m just trying to get through each day with some kind of peace of mind that I will not throttle my kid because she did some dumb ish that sometimes she literally can’t help doing. I exercise, eat right, have a cocktail, and try to get in bed early to just get some rest. I sing spirituals…because yeah, just because.

Most of all I try to keep my pie hole closed.

I’m not not speaking to my daughter. I just can’t handle but so much interaction right now; it just ain’t safe. Breakfasts are made, dinners are had and some workouts are done together. But I’m chasing solitude and peace to calm my frazzled emotions.

Someone asked me just today if I ever imagine what my life would be like if Hope hadn’t become my daughter. I can’t even imagine that; I have no idea. It was such a fit. I adore her, more than I ever thought I was capable of loving anything, I love her. It’s an expansive thing. Life has taught me that the thing that brings you that kind of love will try you to extreme.

Yeah, we’re there. Right now. Right here. We are so there, and I’m trying my best to parent the hell outta Hope.

All connected and ish.


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.


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.  


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