Tag Archives: african american adoptive families

Not Sharing It

So, I haven’t shared the story of the little boy whose kindergarten class came to witness his adoption finalization, and I will not be sharing it. I think it’s worth unpacking briefly why in hopes that we can all practice some discretion and reflection on adoptee narratives.

Hope and I finalized our adoption by Facetime since the court with jurisdiction was across country. We invited my parents, sisters and a local cousin and his family. We had a little BBQ afterward and shared the time with family. There are some pictures, and although Hope looks happy, I now remember tinges of sadness around the day. I felt it then, but I couldn’t understand why. Now, years later, I appreciate the gravity of the occasion so much more; Hope was leaving a life behind in many ways. While many adults might not have looked at that life fondly, she was with a parent she adored and that’s what mattered to her. She has told me on more than one occasion that she would give anything to have that again. Our finalization day represented that option being completely closed off to her in her mind.

We do acknowledge our family day these days, but in a very, very low-key fashion. It’s hard to know what that young boy will feel in the future with so much public attention on this moment in his life, but I don’t want to be a part of publicizing something that  might result in some really, really complicated feelings as he ages.

I also recognize, now even more than ever as Hope is 18, that at only 5, he can’t consent to having his story publicized. Yes, it’s warm and fuzzy, but it is his story—yes, it is a shared story, one that would have been just as warm and fuzzy if kept private. Take the all the pictures, the videos, make a scrapbook for him to have an remember, but keep the kid off the internet and let him create his narrative.

I’m hardly perfect in what I’ve shared about my and Hope’s life in this space, but there are many, many details that I really try to keep private. Those are the times when I have more vague references or just gloss over information. It’s just not my stuff, and I shouldn’t take stuff that isn’t mine and share it with you. I just shouldn’t. So as much as the story is heartwarming, I just wish it was kept private or even just keep his name private..

And because of this…clipped from the CNN article on the adoption.

Capture

This child didn’t orchestrate this, the adults in his life did. And, again, adorbs that the kiddies showed up and out for their classmate, but be clear that this wasn’t something he initiated. If you watch the interviews, you’ll see him (cute as a button) talk about it, but be clear that it was orchestrated. Sometimes, in this overly socialized world we live in, we just share, share, and share when maybe we should be more judicious. This was the ultimate social media post; I’ve seen it at least a dozen times this week. I just couldn’t share it.

And last, but certainly not least, is he really the only little black boy for miles in Grand Rapids, MI or what? He *is* the racial diversity in his class. He is in an environment that is nice but really homogenous looking. It makes me hope that his parents are taking pains to create extensive and meaningful connections to folks who look like him. His support system is adorable, but there’s no one in it who looks like him. That shook me a bit. I also didn’t want to put that out in the universe either.

So, do I think his adoption day story is lovely?

Sure, but I also appreciate that it’s probably complicated. Even if it’s not complicated, I wish his story wasn’t so public. Yes, it’s feel good, and yes, it may even promote the adoption of children in foster care who need permanent homes. But is that all worth the loss of this child’s private narrative?

I don’t think it is.

I wish the family well. I wish that beautiful child well.


Find the Thing that Keeps You Going

I don’t talk a lot about religion and faith in this space. I’m transparent about being a woman of faith, but I am not one for proselytizing, and I cringe when I think about how religious narratives run through adoption in ways that are not ok.

I was raised Christian, Baptist specifically. I grew up very active in church. My faith was always strong but my views on Christianity and organized religion in general have always been a bit rebellious. I don’t like the perversions of faith, I loathe how religion is often weaponized, how it is used to marginalize and oppress, the intolerance that usually comes along for the ride.

I’ve always, and I mean always since in elementary school, been curious about other religions, other ways of knowing, other faith orientations and how people come to explain the world around them. Consequently, though I identify as Christian, my beliefs are quite a bit more expansive than that. When Hope and I left the church that declined to have public adoption blessings of older adoptees, landing with the Unitarian Church made a lot of sense.

Even with that, I tend to find it confining sometimes so I’m more of a drop in kind of congregant.

Some things that have never budged: my love of gospel and my ability and willingness to pray without ceasing.

As an adult, there have been about 5 episodes when life kept me on my knees either literally or emotionally. The last big episodes were when I found out I would never have biological children and the first year of my and Hope’s life together.

The grief I felt after being plunged into infertility still gnaws at me. It still stings even as I have entered peri-menopause. It was a betrayal of body and of what I thought was faith promise. I did everything I was supposed to do and my body *still* wasn’t worth ish. My prayers were so angry, furious, accusatory and grief stricken. And then I got back to focusing on the moment that really should have overshadowed the loss of my fertility—the fact that the health issue *only* left me infertile. The original prognosis for my health issue was terrifying; the surgeon told my parents he had not seen anything like what he had found and told them to get ready for the worst. A couple of days later a second surgeon, heavily pregnant, burst into my room, my mom sitting by my bed and shouted that the pathology reports were clear and I was going to be ok. The tears that flowed…I still am reduced to tears thinking about that moment. It took me a long time to shift my focus to that moment because I focused so much on my loss.

I focused on the loss and not the life extension.

The reminder grounds me, even as I still wrestle with my grief years later. There’s a song that takes me there and was so instrumental in me getting to that shift, Byron Cage’s I Will Bless the Lord. That part when he sings, “You don’t know cause you weren’t there when God snatched me out of the enemy’s hand…”

That part.

My life was spared; the price was infertility and while it still feels like a high price, this song reminds me of how much I want to live. I play it anytime I need to get right, especially in those moments of deep depression when it’s hard to pray.

The other recent period was the first year of placement/adoption for me and Hope. I knew it would be difficult, but I really, really had no idea how difficult. When I tell you I prayed all the time and for everything and to any deity…whew.

I was parenting a kid who had more issues than Newsweek. I was alone. No one in my life really understood what home life was like. I was judged a lot. I didn’t have a lot of support in large part because people have such warped perceptions of older child adoption. I exacerbated the isolation by writing about the lack of support, which seemed to make people in my life take sides—they didn’t take my side because I was being mean. So few people asked whether I was ok, why I was writing the things I wrote, what support that I needed that I low key still hold some resentments about it, but that’s another story for another day.

I joke about it now, but there were legit times when it was so difficult to navigate the emotional landmines inherent in adoption that I found myself sitting on a stool in my tub in my bathroom with the curtain drawn, the door closed, sobbing, eating chocolate cake and feeling like I could not possibly do this another day. It wasn’t unusual for me to lay in bed in the wee hours of the morning, looking at the ceiling fan praying for relief and strength to carry on.

I feel like I was a shadow of myself. Alone, with a daughter who needed me in ways that I could barely wrap my head around. I was just trying to get it together, constantly. Songs like this one got me through. #letgoandletgod

My point in this post isn’t to try to convert anyone to anything other than figuring out what you need to give you the umph to get through another day. For me, music, prayer and meditation did it in the worst of times. I’ve certainly added coping mechanisms along the way (a good therapist, anti-depressants among other things). But something about a good gospel song gets me together.

This life thing isn’t easy sometimes and finding emotional energy to build you up can be so hard at times. Figure out what works for you, what fits with your faith orientation (shout out to the atheists and agnostics as well, much love to you). Sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a prayer, a book and glass of wine. Find what recharges you, even if it’s just a quick spark and lean into it. This isn’t just about infertility or adoption; this is about life. And for many, this time of year life feels…even more difficult. Figure out what lifts you and do that.

I tell HAPs all the time to get a therapist, some drugs and some serious coping skills before they bring a child home. I’m serious about that too. Folks have sent me messages about whether that’s really necessary…yeah, it is. Do it, it will help you be the best parent you can be and kids need that. Recognizing and reckoning with your own stuff better situates you to deal with someone else’s.

So that’s it. That’s the post, lean into what keeps you going, what reminds you of the joy of living, what gives you the energy to go another day.


Morning Coffee

Hope and I only talk once a week or so via phone or video, usually on the weekends. All other times, we text. It works for us. I feel like it’s reasonable; I don’t want or need to talk to her daily. I don’t assume something is wrong if we don’t talk every day; instead I assume we are both off living our independent lives.

But the two times I’ve seen my daughter this semester, we get that quality time that really connects us and highlights our attachment.

And now Hope is home for Thanksgiving.

Earlier this week Hope texted me asking for some money to take an Uber to catch her bus home. Having just given Hope her allowance 10 days prior I blew a gasket that she had spent it all with no consideration that she needed to get to the bus station. We’ve been dealing with her spending for a few weeks now and I *lost* it. Texting furiously I reamed my daughter for her irresponsibility that she didn’t even have $10 to take an Uber. I sent her an email after checking in with the bank spending analysis. And then I said we would discuss once she got home.

And then she nearly missed the bus, and I lost my ish again.

Seriously, this kid ran my pressure way up this week.

And then she was home, and I tried to still be a bit pissy. Yeah, I did, because I’m so damn petty sometimes. But I picked her up from the station, brought her home, fed her, inspected her skin, assessed her demeanor and just hugged her. My anger melted away.

We still needed to talk, but I told her we would table things until the weekend so we could enjoy our holiday. Over dinner, Hope said grace and prayed that I didn’t rip her a new one when we talked. I tried not to laugh.

And the truce lasted about 12 hours. Over coffee we started our chat about school, money, health, friends, and life.

A_small_cup_of_coffee

via Google Images

We talked about her classes, challenges, depression, anxiety, and money. And we talked about medication compliance and things clicked into place. No meds for a few days, things slip, no meds for a week or more and things slide downhill fast. Not thinking you need your meds creates situations where it’s obvious that you need your meds.

I pointed this out to her, and she nodded her understanding.

I swear I can’t stay mad at her; annoyed and a little pissy, yeah, but all out mad? No. I just can’t. She needs me too much for me to stay mad and withhold love and affection from her.

We have more to discuss this weekend, but we made a lot of progress over coffee this morning.

I also learned my daughter takes her coffee black with a little sweetener and that her anxiety is probably driving her misconception that the dining hall food “makes her sick.”

We picked out some hair cuts for her to consider and I took her for a massive haircut this afternoon. I teased her as she sat in the chair having inches shaved off. I gushed as she rose from the chair; the new look becomes her.

Tomorrow we will call our family—her birth family—down south to catch up, and we will travel to visit our family in VA. She will see her grands, her cousins, and aunties. She will eat, laugh, play and eat some more, and I will watch her and marvel.

But first, we will have a cup of coffee together.

 


Freshman Year Challenges

I low key like a challenge. I like crushing goals and projects. I like pushing myself to do more and different. I don’t think I’m flashy about liking a challenge; I want to focus on the task and not all the stuff around it.

Hope focuses on everything around the task, except sometimes, the task itself. While I look at things at a systems level to figure out how to get from beginning to end, my daughter focuses on every possible step from beginning to end, but not necessarily the beginning or the end.

Challenges sometimes overwhelm Hope. She gets consumed by the individual steps down the line while she’s stuck on step one. She has trouble conceptualizing the system of big pictures that connect A and B. She is skeptical of the process in a challenge. For Hope, a lot of this leads to stagnation and imposter syndrome.

Observing Hope in this first semester of college has been remarkable. When she was at the military school last year, there were so many limits there that, in retrospect, I’m wondering how much I learned about Hope overall during that time. Don’t get me wrong, I saw my daughter grow a lot, but as an individual being, I’m just realizing I’m not sure I learned a lot about her.

These last few months have been totally different. I see my daughter positively thriving socially for the first time since becoming her mom. She has friends on her hall and in her classes. Hope tried out for and made the step team; she got involved in the Black Student Association. The social anxiety that plagued her for years seems to have faded away. When I went to visit for parent’s weekend, she confidently strode down her dorm hall while her core homies congregated to say to hello and be introduced to me. She has only been home once this semester because, even though she is homesick, she isn’t homesick enough to assuage her “FOMO” (fear of missing out) around hanging with the homies over the weekend.

During a lengthy, serious discussion a month or two ago, I asked Hope if she was happy.

She finally said yes.

Sure, she’s not totally happy about every single little thing, but she is overall happy with her social and extracurricular life.

I am thrilled. She’s actually seemed in a much better emotional space than I’ve seen her during much of her time with me.

Hope’s academic performance have been a bit of a different story. I’ve always worried about Hope’s academic performance. It took me a long while to really appreciate the struggles of folks with ADHD. I tried to get her to lean into what she was good at—music. I got tutors and regularly met with counselors and teachers. I expressed grave concerns about some classroom practices and whether the approaches were really teaching kids about how to improve or increase capacity for executive function. Hope is a really smart young woman, but challenges with executive function make it hard for her best to shine through.

Midterms revealed a lot.

College is different. Less grades, more autonomy and more responsibility, greater need for self-direction.

Getting her midterm grades was a bit of a reckoning for Hope. Whatever fears she had about going to college and what the next few years would look like, step by deliberate step, quickly rose to the surface. Despite my certainty that the grades would eventually come, Hope’s realization that she was really struggling was always top of mind. Panic began to set in, and I began fielding texts and calls saying she made a huge mistake in coming to college, she should be home working or going to community college.

My heart breaks a bit when I hear her self-doubt. I also feel guilty: you can’t keep telling your kid how important school/academics are and expect them to believe your more laid back attitude when they really begin to struggle.  I have no track record of not stepping into Hope when she brought home struggle grades.

I’ve listened to Hope work through her feelings. I’ve told her that I believe long term it will all work out and that the grades will come; this is a part of the transition. I’ve told her that she probably wouldn’t have the same wrap around support at the local community college. I’ve reminded her that we originally agreed to one full academic year. I’ve told her that I believe she’s working hard and things just haven’t clicked yet.

It feels like she’s having none of it. She’s practically dragging herself, her intelligence, her worthiness, her ability.

It breaks my heart. We go through a pep talk, I help her develop a to do list of folks to talk to and where to get support. I follow up a few days later. I make it ok to pontificate about what life back home might look like and what my expectations of her might be. I try to channel to the conversation about steps that can help her feel like she’s moving forward, using campus resources and chasing her version of success.

It is very difficult confronting reality sometimes. Hope’s reality is requiring her to step up; my reality is supporting her from the sidelines. As a parent, I am trying to support and encourage, but it feels a bit helpless seeing her be sad about her performance and question her abilities. Hope’s self-esteem about school has always been low, so I’m really sensitive about how hard this must be for her. I believe that largely, these are some of the first big adulting challenges, that she will experience, and adulting, well, it kinda sucks sometimes.

My biggest concerns are about whether she can stick it out past the rough transition, whether she can muster enough belief in herself to right her ship and figure out strategies that work for her and whether her resilience is strong enough to help her not internalize her grades.

Ironically, this is the first time I haven not fretted about Hope’s grades. I knew the transition would be challenging, so I was prepared for not the best grades. My hope was that she passed everything and could continue on into the spring semester where she would feel a bit more experienced and have a few more coping skills.

As we come to the end of this semester, things are really up in the air for next semester. I am not sure how I feel about that; it’s disconcerting. I am eager to hear more of her thoughts and ideas as we spend time over the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m hopeful that we can put together a good pro/con list. I’m hopeful that her grades will allow her to have a full range of options from which to decide. But for now, I don’t know what will happen.

We are going through the motions of preparing for her return to school in the spring. We are completing the dreaded FAFSA. We are looking at her course schedule for next year. We’re planning, so I guess we aren’t completely rudderless.

It sure does feel like it though.

Whatever the decision, I know it will be fine because I know Hope is researching, thinking and being deliberate. She’s communicating about her feelings and about the concrete stuff. We’ve always managed to be fine. We’ll be fine with this too.


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.

giphy-downsized

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.


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


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.


Days to Go!

We are 3 days out from hitting the road to go to move Hope into her dorm. Here’s what’s been going down.

My house is a mess.

IMG_20190810_102917

Ok, it’s really just the dining room back wall where we have piled everything for her dorm room up. I know that this is temporary and that we’ll be loading up the car in a few short days. But there are honestly boxes from Amazon that I haven’t even opened yet because I just couldn’t deal with all of the stuff. Things are packed a lot more compactly than when I was going to college, but still it’s a lot of stuff.

I’m looking forward to an empty nest purge after Hope is gone to school to continue to just get rid of some things. I’m feeling overwhelmed by all of the “stuff” in my home. It’s got to go.

Anxiety has settled in.
Hope and I have been having some great conversations about how she feels about going to college. She’s excited, but she’s got all the nerves of any other first-time college freshman. We talk a lot about specific areas she needs to work on in terms of personal development and strategies to help her. A couple of weeks ago, she kept telling me that her alarm on her phone was clearly not working on waking her up. She insisted that it wasn’t going off. After a couple of days, I sat down with her, elbow to elbow and studied the phone alarms with her.

No, nothing was wrong with the alarm. It worked fine. She was sleeping through it. I suggested that she choose an alarm sound akin to an airhorn. We also had a nice chat about accepting responsibility for the alarm and problem solving.

We’ve had lengthy discussions about medication management and how important it is to take her meds at the same time daily.

And she is…making lists and constantly harassing me about them. It’s funny, when I asked her to make lists, she didn’t. Now that she has lists, she sends them to me; she reads them to me. She reminds me about her lists. I’m good, I don’t need a list at this point. I need to make one more purchase for her dorm and I’m done. Today she asked me if she could put her clothes in the car. We don’t leave for 4 more days.

No Hope, you won’t be putting the clothes in the Nissan today.

I am proud of Hope, though. She is talking about her feelings. She’s articulating her needs. She’s trying to get herself together. I try to compliment her on these things every day because I know this she’s stressed, but she’s actually shouldering it quite well.

I’m prepping the nest.
I am trying to get myself ready for the feels I felt last year when Hope went off to boarding school. I remember feeling just exhausted for the couple of weeks after Hope moved into her dorm. I remember having to get used to the silence in the house, and all the things being exactly where I left them! I remember being able to eat cake for breakfast if I wanted. I mean, I know I can do it now with Hope being so much older, but I don’t I remember slipping into some freedom.

I met someone and dated him throughout this last year. It ended recently, so I’m out looking again.

If you are in a reasonably healthy relationship, make that ish work. These streets are rough. It’s just like the wild, wild west. It’s worst than dating in high school. Maddening. I could go on, but ugh.

I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to update Hope’s room. I’m not taking it over or making an office or anything. I’m looking to paint, purge and make the room look a bit more mature for when Hope comes home in the future. It *might* be time to take down the Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber posters. (Can’t say I’m not THRILLED about this!) Hope picked out a really lux paint color (like an eggplant), so hopefully I’ll be able to get the room updated over the next year. I’m hoping to take this time to also update the rest of the house. I feel like there are just piles of stuff here and there, not everything has a place, the new living room TV needs to be hung on the wall, there’s just lots of purging that needs to happen (If anyone has used one of those handyman apps, let me know about your experiences!). I just feel like I need to make some changes to mark this new chapter in my life.

I’m thinking about the long game.
This weekend Hope and I will also try to schedule which weekends this semester she might want to come home. I travel a lot in the fall so we need to figure out the schedule so I can reserve some train tickets. I’ve also put in my calendar things like, reminding Hope in October to start looking for/thinking about a seasonal job during the holiday break. Before you know it, we’ll be talking about spring break—we usually take an international trip then, and then Summer 2020.

One of the things about this chapter is realizing that at any point, Hope could totally launch. It could be slow, it could be fast, it could happen years from now. I’m just really conscious of the fact that the time we’ve had this summer could possibly be the last bit of time like this. She could be studying abroad next year. She could stay an do summer school. She could do all kinds of things. I suspect that she might be home, but just that possibility that things could change is front of mind for me. A year ago I did not believe we would be spending a weekend in August 2019 prepping for her to go away to college. Things can change so quickly.

It’s exciting to think about the possibilities.

All of that excitement is tempered by Hope’s history. I know her challenges and potential limitations. I’m committed to supporting her through it all. I’m hoping that these things don’t limit her long term, but I know that she’s still finding her way in navigating this life and that’s going to really take some time.

In any case, I am hyper aware of the fact that my kiddo *could* totally launch sooner than what I thought and that is just a marvel. I’m excited for her.

So today, 3 days out, I’m hosting a family lunch at one of her favorite Korean buffets to fete her as she steps into this next chapter. It’s a big deal. Grandpa is going to the Korean buffet—this dude does not do many foods outside of BBQ, crab cakes, burgers and chicken. Hope is so tickled that he’s stepping out of his comfort zone to come be with her.

This is a really, really special time around these parts.


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