Tag Archives: african american adoptive parenting

Eager Anticipation

I’m eagerly anticipating the return of the empty nest.

Don’t get me wrong. It has been wonderful having Hope home for the holidays.  We have had some nice moments of quality time during the last few weeks. It’s been cool.

That said, this is the longest that Hope has been home since the summer, and before that she was in boarding school and would only come home occasionally on the weekends.

She’s not returning for spring semester until next weekend…10 more days.

Now, I feel kind of guilty anticipating Hope going back to school, but the feelings are real.

Hope only came home twice during the semester, during fall and Thanksgiving breaks. Consequently, I got used to my alone time.

I cooked but not nearly as often since I could eat cereal or make a quick cheese toast for an after work bite along with wine, you know for a balanced meal.

I did my laundry and left it in the basket for days.

I picked up groceries on the weekend, and they actually lasted all week!

If I wanted to walk around in my skivvies, I walked around in my skivvies.

The occasional overnight guest? Not a problem.

Yappy and I had a cool routine and I was getting him reacquainted with his crate due to his separation anxiety.

Since Hope has been home, we are constantly running out of food even though occasionally she will not eat a real meal for a day or two. Then she’ll eat *all the food*.

I have to cook nearly every day…like actual meals. #LOL

I feel like I have to finish my laundry so that she feels compelled to finish hers.

It’s impossible to keep orange juice in the house; she drinks it like water.

I can’t walk around half-naked, and there are no guests.

I have to remind her to take her meds.

I have to ask her to walk the dog.

I made her get back to volunteering this week so that she wasn’t watching Asian dramas all day, because the Holy Homeboy’s children have to work in this house. (Yappy’s job is being cute and providing emotional support in the form of too much attachment).

Dishes are everywhere.

Ack!

I adore my daughter; she really is amazing. This first semester of college was really rough academically (like OMG rough) even though she really seemed to do much better socially. She needed this time to recover a bit and just rest. I get it. I support it. But…after a few weeks, I’m kinda ready to get us back to our new normal.

Is this what my parents felt? Did they love when I visited, but also loved when I returned to school? Did they feel kinda guilty about that? Can you really have the three day guest rule when it’s your home?

I never, ever want Hope to feel like this isn’t her home. This. Is. Her. Home.

*Whispers*

But I’ve gotten used to her being at school! I have adjusted and like my life as a empty nester.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as Hope preps to go back to school. We’re deciding if I’m driving her back or if she will take the train. I’m wondering how this semester will go, will she find her academic groove, will she want to continue? And if she doesn’t, what will our life be like with her back full time? What can I do to prepare myself for that? How did I let myself get so comfortable? And what will my grocery bill look like with this young adult living back in the house?

So many questions swirling….

But in the meantime, I legit am excited about her going back to school and me walking around in my skivvies, eating cereal for dinner over the sink and feeling kinda guilty about how excited I am about it.

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Thoughts on “How to Deal” with Racists

I was cruising around social media on New Year’s Day and throughout all the lovely end of year tributes and proclamations for 2020. During my scroll-fest, I kept stumbling upon posts by white folks seeking counsel on how to deal with racist family members. Not all the posts were adoption related; some dealt with awkward family moments during the holiday dinner and others dealt with business folks who were dealing with racist clients or colleagues.

For some, the revelation that their friends/family/colleagues were racist AF was not new. They had long known that these individuals in their lives had trash ideas about folks who are not White. It had only recently become an issue that needed “dealing with” when they announced something monumental like an adoption, an engagement or a new client or job. In other words, these posters *knew* and either giggled along at the racist jokes/commentary or sat silently when the behaviors were occurring. In either case, the information was not shocking; it was only shocking that somehow the racism was directed at them as  proxy for their child/partner/client/colleague.

For other folks, these revelations were new; allegedly (heavy on the emphasis here) there was no previous evidence of being racist. For them, this new knowledge was shocking and triggered a spin into cognitive dissonance as they wondered whether Uncle Jim was always an arsehole (I guarantee you he was).

All of the posts sought counsel on how to navigate this new knowledge which I find to be just…sigh…sooooo privileged.  We really need a book, “How to be friends/family/colleagues with a racist without personal moral and emotional quagmires.”

Sigh. I swear this is exhausting.

Listen, racists are going to be racist. It’s what they do. Racists are as predictable as the sun rising and setting.

Grandma got racist during this administration? Nah, grandma got bold during this administration; trust, she was racist long before this administration came into power.

You are floored that your parents don’t want a black grandbaby…I’m guessing they have that one or two “acceptable black friends” that have never received an invitation to their home in 40+ years.

As a Black woman, I’m always more shocked by the folks who are shocked that they now “see racists.”

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I’ve never had that luxury. I had to learn to spot them early in order to just live. Honestly, spotting them is not hard; they typically are more than happy to reveal themselves. And if you miss the first hint, don’t worry, they will predictably show themselves again.

So, when White folks are *gasp* stunned to find that friends/family/colleagues are racist, I’m usually like really? You didn’t know? How did you not know? And now you want to know how to deal? What does that even mean?

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Does it mean that you are trying to deradicalize them?

Does it mean that you want to find a way of not banishing them out of your life?

Does it mean that you want your would-be Black/brown child to still be able to have a relationship with these folks because #friendsandfamilyareeverything?

Does it mean that you need an exit strategy before you straight up ghost them?

What does “deal with” mean?

Let me tell you something: I don’t deal with racists.

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I do diversity work professionally. Once I peep the racist, I’m cordial but frozen tundra frigid, not just chilly. If they are in my workshop, I’ll include them, I’ll make sure they don’t derail the program for everyone else, and I’ll also ice them with a quickness if necessary. And I get paid to deal with this stuff, and I just refuse to give them more than a passing professional thought once I’ve peeped them.

But let me run up on a racist outside of work….

I have zero time or tolerance. If I address them at all it will be with enough smoke to hide a major metropolitan city.

Here’s what I’m not going to do: I’m not going to spend any time with them. I’m not bring my kid around them. I’m going to let my friends/family/colleagues know that that person is not safe to be around. I treat them like a biblical leper. #canceled #mymoodforever

So all of this handwringing over racists…why?

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Because exacto-blading racist friends/family/colleagues is hard? Yeah, so is being Black living in a world committed to racism and white supremacy. So, yeah, I’m sure it is hard for folks to cancel these people, but the alternative is what…subjecting yourself and your kids to a bunch of rancid foolery?

How Sway, how????

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That’s going to be a hard no from me, and I ain’t posting a response to your ridiculous inquiry. #IsaidwhatIsaid

Every day, I read comments made by foster and adoptive parents raging about the deficiencies of biological parents. While some hope these parents get it together to be able to parent or have an open adoption, more than a few advocate zero contact at all. None. And while in some specific instances this might be warranted for safety reasons, folks are out here trying to rationalize hanging out with racists?

Really?

This is what we are doing in the year of our good Beyonce 2020?

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Come on, people. #dobetter

If grandma was a pedophile this wouldn’t even be an issue. Trust that exposure to racism is damaging, and it’s not just damaging to kids, it’s damaging to everyone. I can’t even believe this needs to be said.

Kick these folks to the curb, full stop. Protect your kids and protect yourself.  Stop making excuses and space for this kinda radical behavior. Let them know why you are cancelling them; let them know that it is a consequence of bad behavior. Let them know that reinstatement will only be considered after a presentation of sufficient evidence of changed hearts and minds over a sustained period of time, and that they could still be cancelled at any time.

And then walk away.

Dassit. Walk. Stroll. Strut. Roll out.

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Stop trying to make a way for racists. Stop it.

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Stop trying to rationalize; stop trying to be nice; stop trying to be understanding. Have some principles and be out.

Friends/family/colleagues don’t let friends/family/colleagues hang out with racists.

Just stop it, and go pick up a copy of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Antiracist.

 

 

 


Reflecting on a Decade

Ten years ago, I was in a serious relationship that I thought was going to lead to marriage. We were going through a really difficult time because my partner was battling addiction. I can’t remember exactly how we spent that NYE, but I kind of remember the fall out. I remember going to brunch with a friend on New Year’s day. I also remember making a decision that would really change my life that day.

I knew that the relationship was not sustainable, but for reasons I still don’t understand, I didn’t leave then. It would take me another 7 months.

I knew I wanted to go back to school and that 2010 seemed like a good time to do it. As I got closer to making that a reality, I knew that pursuing my EdD, and the heavy lift it represented was my exit strategy for my relationship.

I remember laying in bed and looking at the ceiling and thinking I need a plan.

I made one.

A year later I was in school working hard and I was single.

Four years later I walked with my degree as a new mom; Hope had moved in 4 months prior and we were about a month out from finalization.

Now six years later, Hope is a college freshman.

A lot happened over the last decade. I edited a book. I published some papers. I did a LOT of writing personally and professionally. I saw my career move to another level. I lost weight and gained weight. I went natural. I joined Twitter. I lost a dog; I got a new dog. I traveled to places I dreamed about as a kid. I read many books and listened to countless podcasts. I fell in love and out of love. I fell in lust and refrained from hitting a particular dude with my car (repeatedly). I survived serious health issues. I became an aunty—one who gives great gifts, but also brings her own booze to family gatherings. I started being called Dr. I started being called mom.

And so much more, though so many minor details seem just lost to me.

It was a challenging decade, but change is always hard.

But it’s been so sweet. So many of my dreams came true during this last decade. It’s stunning when I really sit down and consider it.

As I look to the 2020s I think about what I have to look forward too.

I will turn 50 during this decade. Hopefully Hope will finish undergrad and began making moves on her own. I hope to find my person and begin building the next chapter with him.  I hope to love myself unconditionally. I hope to accept myself—the good, bad and ugly. I hope to forgive myself of things I’ve been dragging around since before the last decade. I hope to discover the next things I want to do professionally (which may require some moves). I hope to finally really commit to some getting some of the things on my vision board done—one thing has been on the last 3 and I haven’t done anything towards it. I hope to get answers to some of the biggest mysteries of my life. Most of all, I want to be happy and content.

As of today, the end of the 2010s, I am generally happy…more happy than not happy for sure. I feel like I was able to make the most of the 2010s in ways that count. I am hopeful that I can do that for the 2020s as well.

Happy New Year friends.


In Need of Grace

I always love the ideas of holidays, but holidays are…complicated. They always are even if we all only post the happy versions of the highlight reels on social media.

In my pre-Hope life, things were complicated for all kinds of reasons.

Most of the time I’ve been single during the holidays.

Still not skinny and all my food issues and body issues hop into overdrive and are usually kept there by someone commenting in passing on my body.

The need to drive around creation to “see” everyone.

The desire for simplicity and routine during a time that legit represents neither.

The grief I hold in my heart for family and friends who are no longer here.

The complicated personal theology that keeps me going, but doesn’t quite fit with the holiday themes surrounding this time of year.

And sometimes wondering if I even belong anywhere.

Yep, complicated.

And then Hope came and all of that still existed but new stuff emerged as I tried to graft this new family together with new traditions. The reality is things became more complicated in many ways.

Hope has her own grief, profound grief.

She wonders if she belongs anywhere.

There’s so many people and they want/demand hugs.

There’s “holiday” routines and traditions, but can we get back to our regularly scheduled programming?

How much alone time can be had without folks asking if she’s “ok?”

There’s the introvert’s exhaustion from having to exist around 30 people for hours.

There’s thoughts of what should have been her life with her family of origin.

This year was no different, in fact it might have been more challenging. What can I say, schnitt happens.

Hope and I open gifts on Christmas Eve. Every year Hope writes me a letter (she’s also usually broke so she leans into the much more personalized gift). I heard her sobbing in her room. I asked if she was ok, she kept saying yes. I finally dropped it. We gather to do our Christmas and she hands me her letter.

This year’s letter is different from all the others, which I keep with all my important papers. There’s always a lot of love and gratitude in the letters; they are sweet…precious. I can see her maturity over the years in them and what she talks about. They are a big window into Hope’s emotions, which I don’t get too often.

This year’s letter thanked me for adopting her and went on to talk about repaying me. This letter was beautiful and heartbreaking. Hope does not owe me anything. I’m high key horrified that she thinks she does in any sense. I wanted to be a mom, and she needed a parent. We were a match and we’ve worked hard to make this match work. I adore Hope. I read the letter, sobbed and hugged her an uncomfortably long time while repeating over and over that she owes me nothing.

Yappy doesn’t do well with big emotions—he’s a happy boy who just wants everyone to be happy. So during these moments of sobbing, Yappy is uncomfortably trying to get into our hug, pawing, sad faced, bringing toys to cheer us. We eventually had to do our “sit on the couch close enough for him to snuggle between us” to calm him; it’s his favorite thing. #packanimal

And that’s how Christmas started. We moved from that to an unfortunate incident in which Grammy only claimed her two bio grandkids despite having 5 grandkids—3 by adoption and guardianship. This happened in front of Hope who just pretended it didn’t happen. There were apologies later, but there were hours and hours of discomfort, anger, sadness, rejection, and the rest.

There were challenging moments with 30 people in a house, some of whom demanded “hugs” from everyone, especially the kids. Folks stop doing this and stop your family from doing this. You can’t teach bodily autonomy and safety when some rando woman you only see once a year is insisting on manhandling your kid. Hope only does hugs with folks she’s close to; the hugging demands are really triggering.

Then there were the quiet conversations between me and Hope about family gatherings, biological family, belonging, and sadness that took place in the space between our two beds in the hotel. The moments when I want to cry for her, but am not sure if such expressions of grief and sadness on her behalf are helpful or not, so I wait until the early morning when she’s sleeping to work through it.

And of course there is other emotional drama that I’m not sure will ever fully make it to this space—I’ll say this: getting to know folks romantically is hard. There is a part of me that is like, yo, Hope and I made this match work; those should be transferable skills right? Yeah, no. Years of awful dating experiences have taken their toll and every hiccup makes me want to just call it a day and get a hypoallergenic cat to go with my cute dog. It’s hard to heal, to trust, and to believe after what feels like countless failures. #butIdigress

I’m trying, and I’m trying to just muster sufficient grace to plow through this holiday season and all of the emotional schnitt it brings.

I love time with my family and with my beautiful Hope. I love the downtime from work—seriously my resting heart rate has dropped more than 5 bpm so I’m guessing work is stressful, eh? I love being able to nap in the afternoon. I’m officially addicted to knitting because it’s relaxing and I’m delighted to have all this time to work on projects.

But I’m a calendar based kinda of chick. You know how you wake up in the middle of the night, look at the clock and fret about how much time you have left to sleep? And then you can’t sleep all that great during the remaining time? Yeah, I do that with days, sometimes weeks. I’m already stressed about going back to work. I’m already stressed about taking Hope back to school.

I’m kind of a mess in need of a lot of grace as well.

And I left my fitbit at home, which begs the question, am I even really moving? How am I supposed to make sure my eating and exercise levels are at least kinda in sync?

Yeah, I’m a mess, and this time of year seems to bring a lot of it to the surface. I would love nothing more to buy a winning lottery ticket and disappear, just vanish to some far-flung place. Sigh, I don’t even play the lottery.

So, folks, I’m just trying to focus on being gracious today. Grace is a gift. It is centering. It can lead me to forgiveness when necessary. It gives me strength. It allows me to fret less. In putting grace out into the universe, I’m hopeful that the universe will give some back to me.

I need it.


Holiday Blues

This is a difficult time of year for me. I struggle. I struggle a lot.

The lack of long days of sunlight zaps my energy. The cold slows me down. I fall into a nasty cycle of eating yummies and then feeling awful about the eating and my body, remnants of a long ago raging eating disorder. I love shopping, but having to shop annoys me and stresses me out.

I like holiday decorations in other people’s homes; I would just prefer to not.

There’s a lot of grief, and there is a lot of loss this time of year as well. I think a lot about the loss. There were family, friends, parents of friends…Last year one of my exes passed away; we split nearly a decade ago. It was a sad, sad breakup. I am still stunned by how the grief associated with his death lingers.

It’s been…difficult.

But I’m trying.

I’m going to those therapy appointments.

I’m doing some meal planning.

I’m doing a few exercise videos a day to get some movement in.

I bought one of those therapy lights.

I’m knitting a lot.

I did most of my shopping online and sprung for gift wrap and just sent the stuff to folks so I didn’t have to carry it.

I’m binging funny shows on Netflix.

Hope is home, and I’m enjoying having her home. She’s glad to be home, but like me, this is a difficult time of year.

So, we’re going through some motions around these parts.

It’s ok. It really is. This will pass, and we will triumph again.

Take care of yourselves out there, and happy holidays.


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.


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.

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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.

 


Sex Chats

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

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

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Say what now?

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

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

O.

M.

G.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worked for us!


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.


She Did It!

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

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

“It’s not for everyone.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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