Tag Archives: african american adoptive parenting

A New Parenting Chapter

Hope is dating, and without spilling all her business, she has her first boyfriend.

I am emotionally all over the place about this. I am happy for her; she is delighted that someone outside of family is smitten with her. She is smitten, and it’s adorable.

I haven’t met dude, and Hope has indicated that my invitation to have dinner is premature. I have made sure that she has communicated that he could become a hood ornament on my car if he treats her poorly.

Yes, I threatened him. Hey, it’s on brand for me.

Anyway, I’m happy for her because she’s happy. As for me? I hate it.

Now I don’t hate it because I don’t want her to date or because I don’t think anyone will ever be good enough. I hate it because it is forcing me to grow and change parenting strategies during a period of great upheaval.

Yeah, I don’t want to deal with this right now.

Work is draining. Diversity work is head and heart work. It’s teaching, coaching, advising, holding accountable, brainstorming and strategizing and doing it over and over. In periods when there isn’t large scale social unrest, this work can be taxing. I’m good at walking away from it at the end of the day and resting my head and heart and diving back in. But in moments like the one we are in now, the push and pull of work feels unending even when I walk away from my desk at 5pm.

Since the video of police officers murdering George Floyd hit the internet at the end of May is has not been uncommon for folks to call me after hours or on weekends. The back to back zoom meetings are unending. The need for consultation has only expanded. Boundaries are sometimes hard to maintain.

I took the first week of July off, and I don’t even remember that I had time off a few weeks ago. I live for the weekends, when I just crash. The pandemic keeps me home, and exhaustion keeps me on the couch or the patio.

I am constantly feeling like I’m on E. I plan to take another week or so off this month, but honestly, I know it’s not enough time, especially since I’m trapped at home with no place to go. I could use an adventure right now.

So, the notion that I need to also adapt my parenting to accommodate Hope’s love life has me in my feelings.

I fret that they want to go out and spend time together—doing what where? It’s a gotdamn pandemic? Can’t go to the movies, many restaurants aren’t open. And what’s his COVID-19 prevention routine? His roommate doesn’t even want Hope to come to their house (and I don’t effing blame him). And is the curfew I’ve set ok for a 19-year-old in her first real relationship? And how about that I can barely make it to 10pm keeping my eyelids open, is she really making it home on time? When Yappy and I knock out for the evening we both can sleep through bombs.

What are the right questions to ask? What are the new privacy boundaries? How do I check in to make sure she’s ok?

She looked at me like I’d grown horns when I asked her to be sure to have the location feature activated on her phone; she asked why. I told her because if something happened to her with him, I want that phone to tell us where she is. She told me she would be fine. I said, I know, but just in case…

Like Hope, wrestling with this new phase has been on a slightly slower schedule than a lot of my contemporaries. I thought we would have covered some of this ground over the last few years. I was kind of shocked, but happy, that this didn’t happen her first year of college.

This summer has just been a whiplash of developments for Hope. They’ve mostly been good. She’s worked hard. She’s kept a schedule. She’s dating. She’s actively trying to figure out this chapter. I’ve been distracted with work and really in a reactionary posture related to parenting. I’m usually a step ahead of Hope, but I haven’t had my eye on the ball.

And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Hope needed a bit more autonomy and independence. That’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t.

But it makes me feel…neglectful somehow, and that raises all kinds of complicated feelings when I think about the situations Hope endured early in life. I know that it’s not a fair comparison on a lot of levels, but I do feel like she definitely hasn’t got the best of me since she’s been home due to the pandemic.

And now, she will be home at least until January since her college decided to go remote. Her being home means active dating and active parenting continues, right here, right now.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of this. I know this. My rational brain knows that all of this is normal, that things will be fine and that Hope will be fine and I will rise to the occasion, but real talk: I don’t want to deal with it.

It’s hard admitting that. I have so much guilt about that. So. Much. Guilt.

But really, I don’t wanna.

I’m glad Hope is home and safe. I’m glad she’s happy and learning what it is to be really be smitten and to learn about herself as she continues to blossom. I’m excited to see how I will change during this time. I’m looking forward to having her around through the end of the year.

But I do need people to stay at home, social distance and mask up so that she can go back to school in the spring and I can go through empty nest emotions again.

Sigh….


Parenting a Young Adult

This last month of staying at home with Hope has been hard for me. She has been testing limits in ways that are new. It’s normal; it’s age appropriate, and I hate it.

Since the ‘stupid games’ episode, Hope seems to have forgotten a number of truths: I no longer trust her because she lied. I rarely forget. We are not roommates; I am her mother.

This week Hope announced her plans to me on a number of occasions. She was going to the outlet to shop for shoes (Ok, she really needed shoes). She was going on an all day date (Oh really? Did we forget we were supposed to be experiencing the consequences of stupid decisions?) She was taking the car to go out on Friday.

This is where I drew the bright line. Hella irritated by these declarations brought on by Hope’s trying on of adulthood, I said no. I initiated a conversation about how I’m trying to give her space to develop some independence, but I needed her to reframe her declarations to requests. We ain’t roommates; that’s my car and she needed to ask to use it. There are still expectations of a curfew and I fully expect to be told where she’s going.

That conversation was several days ago, and I’m still struggling with Hope. She is a good kid, but she is wildly immature. She recently ordered about $100 of slime.

SLIME, y’all. 🙄 A sophomore in college and binge spending on slime. Woooosawww. Ok.

When you see those kinds of purchases rolling into the house and then get *told* about how your car will be used without any consideration about any plans you might have… Well it’s triggering.

I’m committed to not yelling, to discussing things like adults and to coming to positive resolution. Yeah, all that. But real talk, I didn’t issue any ‘declarative statements’ to my parents until I was living completely independently with my own address in another zip code. This version of young adulting is foreign to me, and I. Don’t. Like. It.

I can’t even get Hope to do the chores I ask of her when I ask, so my emotional struggle these last few weeks has me hot under the collar. Lots of deep breaths.

I have tried explain my response to these shenanigans. I have attempted to articulate my communications needs. I have tried to find some grace, especially since I only have another month with my daughter before she heads back to campus. But, real talk, I’m seriously annoyed.

And what’s even more annoying? There only so much I can do. I’m super conscious of that. This is a gray area. I need to offer some rules and guidance— less of the former and more of the latter. I’m trying to grow the trust (super hard lately) and independence while insisting on respect for me, this home and my things. I’m also hyper aware that there are things I would never do to Hope, like threaten to put her out. I did tell her that if she wanted to do all the things she thinks she’s grown enough to do, she might make plans to get and finance her own apartment next summer since somethings just ain’t ever going down here. That said this will always be home, but it comes with some rules.

I’m struggling, and the more I struggle the more irritated I become. I worry that this conflict will engulf us. I need to avoid that, but I need Hope to find her emerging lane and promptly get in it.

I’m really worried about Hope going back to school next month, what with the pandemic and all. That said, I am looking forward to missing her a bit. I’m ready for a parenting-cation.


Stupid Games, Stupid Prizes

Earlier this week, I discovered a secret that Hope had been hiding for a couple of weeks. I’d all but told her that I knew the secret ahead of the confirmation.

I love my daughter, but the art of deception and concealment are not her strong suits. In fact, Hope has rarely lied to me; if anything she often shares a little too much with me. I chalk that up to her not having too many friends her age, and the closeness of our relationship.

Anyhoo, I knew or at least was strongly suspicious about  the thing she’d tried to conceal for a couple of weeks.

The actual thing she did was super stupid and a totally dumb, yet age appropriate thing. We’d already had a chat about it a few months ago, but here we are 3.5 months later revisiting the issue.

Cover Art (8)

What totally sent me over was the series of bold-faced lies that were told in a sad attempt to avoid detection.

Bless Hope’s heart. I have repeatedly told her that her mom is smarter than the average bear.

I do not do lies. I especially don’t do lies with bad liars.

And Hope is a horrible liar. It’s just not in her make up. I had point blank asked questions and had given her 3 opportunities to fess up, but instead she decided to lie.

Alright girl…whatevs.

giphy

via Giphy

So, after I confirmed what I knew to be true, I left her a note for when she got home from work to let her know that she was busted. I told her that the stupid issue had been attended to and that she had really stepped in IT, primarily due to the lying. And then I went to bed and slept soundly.

The next morning, I get an apology via text. I read it, but didn’t respond. I was still angry, so I only spoke when necessary and waited until we were in the car headed to visit my parents to really get into the discussion.

Parents of adolescents know: the car is sacred space and prime for important chats with kids.

There we were, on 95S talking about the stupid thing, the lies and what the consequences of both things  should be. I put the task to figure out what an appropriate consequence should be on Hope.

She was baffled by this task.

Hell, I was baffled by this task, which is low key why I put it on her.  

And then I dropped it, because I didn’t want it to ruin the day.

We visited with Grammy and Grandpa, had a delicious lunch and headed downtown to join some BLM protesters who have taken over the grounds of a monument to Robert E. Lee. The statue is slated to come down sometime soon, as are other confederate statues across the city. In fact, one was removed less than 24 hours after our visit. #goodriddance

After we had returned from our trip, I raised the issue of consequences again. Hope did not come up with many ideas, so I tossed a few out. We agreed on a couple of scenarios and I dropped it. In all, the consequences were minor compared to what my parents did for less, but I think they will hit her where she feels the impact of her poor decisions.  I also told her that the next infraction would have stiffer penalties.

She swears she learned her lesson, but the reality is that there will be other stupid things. Hope is 19,a little immature, vulnerable to some bad influences, and eager to have connection with folks her own age—sometimes too eager.

And with stupid games, come stupid prizes. That is just a part of life, right?

Right.

We’re fine. Hope is fine, and we’ve endured another stupid first, and the stupid prizes that go with it.


Dolla Dolla Bills

A couple of years ago, Hope, Grammy and I were having dinner at a cute restaurant in Basel. It was the most expensive dinner we had on a two-week vacation to Paris and Basel. You’re thinking, “Really??? What did you have?”  

Two burgers, one steak, one dessert and two glasses of champagne. The damage was close to $200 US. It was outrageous. Burgers for $35!!! Which is why I just went ahead and got the steak—it was $38. On the walk back to our flat, I decided that this Swiss dinner was going to be my new currency benchmark.  

The mortgage is 6 Swiss dinners.  

Hope’s new sneakers were half of a Swiss dinner.  

Her college tuition was…well you get the point.  

This week, Hope finally understood the joke my mom and I thought was so funny about my currency reference.  

Yesterday Hope turned 19; sadly, I had to work all day. After I wrapped up, we went to get Korean takeout and hit up one of Hope’s favorite little Korean import store which carries all the latest KPop cds. Delighted to spend her own money, Hope purchased 3 new cds.  

This is where things got interesting, and Hope and I started really talking about money. 

Since Hope started working, she has put money into a savings account. She’s a bit overwhelmed by the influx of cash, and it’s a bit of a delight to see her contemplate purchases.  

Hope has largely been oblivious to the cost of things. To some degree I protected her a bit. She had some really difficult and impoverished years. I wanted her to know that we were stable and comfortable; actually, I didn’t want her to know, I wanted her to believe we were stable and comfortable.  

I ended up with a kid who at times came off as spoiled. She didn’t necessarily ask for a lot, but she didn’t take care of her things either. She would just ask for replacements, and it annoyed the hell out of me. I usually said no or delayed the replacement until such time as I thought she had earned a replacement.  I thought she would learn to appreciate her things; most of the times, it seemed she didn’t. 

Enter “Working Hope.”  

Working Hope counts her pennies. She actually has 2 separate savings accounts. She studies her pay stub. She estimates her take home. She’s money conscious.  

She’s treated herself to a few things, but really hasn’t spent much. The cds were the largest single purchase, and she fretted over the expenditure. I reminded her that she could afford the cds, it was her birthday, and that we all deserved the occasional treat. She grinned and said, “I’ll take these” to the cashier.  

On the drive home, I asked Hope, “So how many hours of work was your purchase?” 

“Huh?” 

“How many hours did you have to work to get your cds?” 

“Oh.” She started trying to calculate the hours in her head but offered up a guess. It wasn’t close.  I told her to pull out her calculator to figure it out. In the end, she determined that the cds represented two days worth of work. She was surprised.  

I discouraged her from regretting the purchase; instead I encouraged her to consider the value of her hard work and consider that as she makes purchases. I don’t want her to fret over money, but I do what her to respect it.  

Hope started asking me about the household bills and about what it takes to maintain our lives.  

I told her to clear her calculator and start over.  

Then I told her the rounded figures for the mortgage, the car, insurance, cell phones, internet and TV, condo fees, electric, monthly donations, grocery bill, personal care and maintenance expense, medical insurance and expenses, and a few other things.  

The amount was sizeable, and I hadn’t even included my student loans, credit card, savings and investment contributions and “play” money.  

She sighed and said, well, there are adults who work where I work. I wondered how do they afford these things? I told her that there are lots of people who can’t afford those things.  

We went on to have an interesting discussion about money, income and income inequality, and why I have been pushy about education. Education doesn’t solve all problems, but it certainly can position you to better deal with some of life’s problems.  

She had a mini meltdown and asked if she would ever afford to move out on her own. I told her that yes, eventually she would be able to afford to live independently. I don’t  think she believed me, but time will prove me right.  

This seems to be Hope’s coming of age year which is crazy because pandemic, social justice protests, murder hornets, Saharan sandstorms, cicadas, elections…etc, etc. *This* is the year that is when things are seemingly coming into focus for Hope.  

I hope to keep talking to her about money. I’m hoping that in addition to the other lessons she seems to be learning that she will also learn the value of her time—it’s the most precious commodity we have. I hope she also learns to be discerning about her financial choices and continues to develop good financial habits.  

One thing that is coming clear to me in all this is that Hope is starting to really see her own future and what the possibilities look like. It’s kind of like watching an alien see and consider earth. She’s surprised, full of wonder and confusion, while also curious and dreaming.  

Thinking about Hope imagining living independently makes me smile. I’m proud of her. She’s come so very far in 6 years. I hardly know how to process what I’m seeing with her.  

I just know that I’m proud of her, more so every day.  


On the Fly

I’m struggling to find time to write these days. I’m still working like a madwoman. Today was a 12 hour day. Evenings and weekends, I’m totally vegging.

Hope has not one but TWO jobs. She’s tired and thriving. I’m really proud of her; her transformation from human sloth to working woman is kinda head spinning. She was recognized for her stellar performance after just two weeks at her first job. She was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of her first paycheck; fortunately she has created her own savings plan. She also has picked up a few groceries and filled the had tank–unasked!!! (I did reimburse her.) Hope has always been a good kid, but watching her these last few months has honestly been the most delightful.

Hope being out at work also means that I have some of the home alone time I crave. I have treasured my time with Hope during the pandemic, but we could stand some time apart. Of course, that’s complicated too. With the ongoing unrest and law enforcement continuing to use excessive force even with all of the heightened scrutiny, I worry about her getting to and from work safely. And well, there’s still a pandemic going on. 🙄🙄🙄

Unironically, I’m realizing that if she ever goes back to college, I might have to go through empty nest feelings again. Her college is planning on opening as usual; I’m not convinced that they will though. I guess we’ll see.

I’m crocheting another blanket. I’m currently watching The Great on Hulu (It’s just ok. I like my historical dramas to have a bit more accuracy.) I spend a lot of time on my patio in my zero gravity chair; it’s my favorite place from spring until fall (I have been known to put on my goose down and plop on the patio in the dead of winter). I’m trying to hold on a few weeks until my summer vacation. I’m kinda bitter that the pandemic means no beach this year.

I’m better this week, but I’m really tired. But I’m better. And Hope is doing so very well that it gives me hope that everything will be ok.


Checking In

Hope and I are just in a state of overwhelming grief, sadness, and rage. The events of the last week–the weaponization of White tears against the Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper and the murder of George Floyd by four police officers–are physically and emotionally heartwrenching.

I’m not able to pull together my thoughts in a truly coherent way and spellcheck is definitely of a mind that I should not try this right now. I desperately want to say something, to make meaning of it–not just for my readers, but for me and for Hope. The truth is I’m kind of lost at the moment.

For the first time in her time with me, Hope woke up in hysterics after a bad dream. The dream? She dreamed that she was being chased by police with batons in the air and their guns drawn. She dreamed that this happened on her wedding day. It took more than an hour to get her settled down.

I couldn’t say, “Oh honey, it’s just a dream. That will never happen!” I do not feel like I could say that because I don’t believe it to be true. I just gathered her in my arms and told her I knew what she was feeling, and that I’m so sorry that I can’t protect her from one of the “few bad apple” cops. That is not the message I want her to get, but I also can’t lie to her.

I know that her heart hurts and so does mine. I’m not sure when we will feel better. We fret over the violence at some protests, but then we see police acting badly *at the protests.* We know despite our grandest hopes that this will happen again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

I don’t know what to do with that or say about it right now, so I’ll say this:

As a reader of this blog, I challenge you to do what you can to end White Supremacy and police terrorism (it’s also brutal, but my daughter was terrified).

Don’t ask your BIPOC pals/family for a to-do list to affect change. That requires emotional labor. Google is effing free–seriously, look up:

How to not be racist?

How to be an antiracist?

I promise you tons of amazing things will pop up. You will find the answers to your questions with minimal collateral damage to the BIPOC around you. Don’t make them do the heavy lift of educating you–you can do that; the resources are legit at your fingertips.

If you are a blue lives matter person, I believe in good community policing (with some caveats), but real talk, there is a problem with policing in this country. In fact #throwthewholecriminaljusticesystemout and start anew. Besides, blue life, revered and respected is a career choice; black life, maligned and marginalized is not a career choice, it is a happenstance of birth. These things are not responses to the other. Stop it.

My Christian peeps, if your church wasn’t talking about preserving Black life with a heavy dash of liberation theology this morning or over the last week–Why? The Holy Homeboy missed given y’all a message about how justice oriented Jesus was? He was about liberation before it was cool. Ponder that along with whether your church’s adoption messaging is louder and larger than its family preservation ministry.

Finally, if you work with Black folks, this might be a good time to tiptoe through the emotional tulips. Don’t get tight when the video on Zoom is set to the avatar picture. Keep meetings short; minimal small talk. Yes, it’s ok to check on them, but see above if this is your follow up, “Juanita this is so sad, do you know where I can learn more about the inherent racism in the US criminal justice system?” Sir, ma’am, them, stop, pull out your phone and ask Google Assist or Siri to find you something to read. Be patient with us.

Finally, to my fellow BIPOC, I’m holding you in my heart. This is a sad time, but all of our ancestors have experienced more and worse. We can continue to fight for equality. EArlier in the week, Hope told me a quote she found online.

They better be glad we just want equality and not revenge.

Take care of yourselves; I’ll be back with more in a few days.


Gainfully Employed

Hope is experiencing another first! She got her first job this week! 

I had hoped that she would work and maybe take a class or two at the local community college, Well, the bureaucracy at the community college made taking a class unable to happen, so we pivoted. Hope buckled down and put in applications at numerous places in our local area. She got a couple of quick ‘no’s’ and then poof, she had a few interviews lined up. 

I launched ABM’s Interview Boot Camp, where we practiced interviewing a dozen or so times. I’m always amazed at how poised she can be when she really sets her mind to it. It’s always so reassuring to me that she will be ok. 

Within 24 hours of filling out a bunch of applications, she had a job at a local fast food restaurant. In the current economic environment, I really didn’t think she would find a job, much less so quickly. I’ve chalked this up to the universe wanting Hope to really have this experience for now.

I helped her fill out the tax forms and other paperwork. I measured her for her uniform so she could get something that fit. I soothed her anxiety about another new experience. 

And then, she went off to start her first 8 hour shift.

I’m so proud of her. 

New experiences still cause a lot of anxiety for Hope. She catastrophizes a lot; not quite as much as she used to, but still quite a lot. She is improving though, and I see evidence of her developing coping skills. 

During the interview boot camp, I found myself laying out her options–go to the interview, do well, get the job. Go to the interview, do well, but don’t get the job. Go to the interview, don’t do well, but somehow still get the job. Go to the interview, don’t do well, and don’t get the job. In none of the scenarios will you get hurt or your future fall apart. It’s just an interview. Just do your best. 

When she got ready for her first day, it was another pep talk. Go, learn a lot, embrace the training, you can do this. Watch and learn and remember that there’s a team of people, none of you want to fail, so you’ll work together. 

I find myself often making her stop and consider the “bad” first time experiences since we’ve been a family. Oh, there have absolutely been missteps and some failures, but they weren’t the end of the world. I remind her that if she has to think hard to come up with a list because the number is relatively low, then you’ve probably got a good ratio and that somehow things will be ok, even if they aren’t perfect. 

Today is day three of being gainfully employed, and she says she likes it. I think she also likes the idea of having a job and knowing that that will lead to greater independence. I’ve asked her what she thinks she’ll spend her income on; she said she will put most of it in savings. She still has 2 more interviews for jobs that pay more, but I think she will be content if those don’t work out.

I’m super proud of her. It’s really such a privilege to watch her come into adulthood and stretch. With each new thing, she faces her fears and realizes that she will be OK. She remembers that I’ll be there to support her. 

Hope is a really a cool human; I love being her mom.


Life in the Bubble

So, there’s this pandemic.

Holy ish, there’s an effing pandemic!

Ok, so as folks know, we are supposed to be social distancing in hopes of preventing the wildfire spread of COVID-19. The virus was first discovered in China, and despite the country putting folks on lock down weeks ago, the leadership of my country just waved it away. Seemingly no one told the folks in charge that every nasty thing in the world can be at your doorstep in a matter of hours.

So here we are. Schools are shuttering. Colleges are closing and some are kicking students off campus. Small business are struggling and the stock market? Dumpster fire. The latest guidance is don’t even be around more than 10 people at a time.

For those of y’all with big immediate families…well, dang!

Hope has been home from college for a little over a week. She will be here at least two more weeks, though my gut tells me that we will only be going back to clean out her dorm. Her classes are moving online; though one is stagecraft (which she got into last year at school), and I dunno how that’s going to transition. Whatever.

I didn’t initially panic shop. I bought a few extra groceries; after all Hope was home. I reasoned well, I have a few rolls of toilet paper and I’ve got a bidet in my bathroom, we’re good.

Then last Friday, Hope grabbed the last roll of toilet paper, and for those of you who have had the blessing of living with a teenage girl, you know that being down to the last roll of TP on a regular, degular day constitutes a household crisis. So, here we are on DAY 1 of social distancing, and I’m in a full scale panic trying to find TP for sale anywhere nearby. (Shout out to the Target app for accurately telling me what each store had in stock!).

The TP run to Target at opening turned into a panic shopping spree.

A few hundred dollars and a few stores later, I had enough food and coffee to last us a week. I had a new French press, some unnecessary makeup and several pints of low cal ice cream. Later that evening I had to resist the urge to do a run to the local wing place for takeout. Then on Saturday, DAY 3 of social distancing, and I panic scoot into DC buy some herbal medicinal products because I don’t know how long this distancing thing will last and I am not emotionally or hormonally equipped to deal with being home-bound long term, never mind any BS fantasies about such I might have previously uttered.

By DAY 4, Hope’s capacity for levels of lazy not yet seen with the human eye had already irritated me such that I declare that we will take a walk everyday of this distancing thing. There was a reaction.

giphy

via Giphy

And then we went walking. I ignored the incessant whining and gnashing of teeth. We walked 3 miles that day. We walked about 2.7 miles yesterday and another 2 today.

There was a brief moment when Hope attempted to bargain about walk length and frequency. I told her that her bargaining position was weak and reasserted that this is a benevolent monarchy with me the head chick in charge. We were walking daily. Length and time dictated by me.

Yappy is delighted to have his pack all together. Positively over the moon. He’s easy. I did panic shop for him as well. I was low on food and well, don’t we all need new toys and extra treats in times such as these?

I’m enjoying my time with Hope. She has matured a little (seriously it’s only a little but it is noticeable); her vocabulary is improving. She was telling me her thoughts on the movie Parasite, and I listened intently as she shared a pretty sophisticated and layered critique of the movie (she thinks its overrated by the way—by both Asian and American movie standards). She’s still as goofy as ever, but she is way cooler to be around these days. Honestly, she’s content to spend some time with me and retreat to her room, her space, her things. Life with her is different now.

Like everyone else, we are in this bubble. We’re kinda away from the world and kinda not. We video chat family daily. I do fret and fuss over my parents, who both have compromised immune systems. I get to turn off the alarms on my phone. I’m still productive. I’m cooking. There’s still laundry, and until this afternoon, I was working from home. For the next week, I’ll be a slug who walks a few miles a day with her daughter. Hardly anyone is out. We walked during what is normally rush hour; we might’ve seen 100 cars while we were out. Not much traffic at all. I’ve been curating my Netflix queue, knowing I’ll probably just rotate through my usual favorite shows on network TV.

In some ways, this time is reminiscent of the first few weeks home with Hope. I was off on family leave to focus on her (and my) adjustment to this family life. We were in the same home, but gosh the tension, the nervous anxiety, the fear that it wasn’t going to work out, the all out fear about everything. It was exciting and terrifying. Yet, it was us and a dog (The Furry One) just like now. Only now, we are calm. We talk and it’s meaningful but mostly boring. We snuggle on the couch and bicker about what to watch on TV. There’s still a dog, a younger pooch with a big personality and a deep affection for his pack of people. It’s something to reflect on those months in light of our current situation. What we have now is what I dreamed that those months back then would be. It was a silly and misinformed dream back then; there’s a lot of work, living, learning and growing that got us here.

The boredom we experience now is what we always dreamed of…to just be a regular family.

That’s cool.

So far, life in the bubble is thought provoking and a bit of a dream—once I got over the momentary panic.

Sending you all lots of positive energy and good handwashing skills.


4 Things

What are 4 things I’m grateful for in the context of adoptive parenting?

One of the questions people tend to ask folks on the cusp of becoming parents is, “Are you ready?” Usually the question is surrounded by a bit of levity, maybe even said in a joking matter with a wagging of eyebrows for effect.

I remember folks asking me and my response was always deadpan: Hell no, but I’m doing it anyway.

Of course, stepping into parenthood is beautiful and all, but it’s hard. It’s exhausting and expensive and discombobulating.

And largely wonderful, even if it is punctuated by many less wonderful experiences.

In the grand scheme of things, my parenting journey has been good. Some would even say that it has been relatively easy for a family coping with the long-term effects of trauma and grief. I don’t disagree with that, but yes, it has been challenging.

And there have been times when I felt like parenting broke me.

Since becoming a parent, I have had to have several increases in anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications—so I’m now taking two meds at true therapeutic doses. I’ve had to resume intensive therapy to help deal with my own mental health during these years. I’ve survived but it’s taught me a lot about myself, my limits and my coping mechanisms.

There has been a lot of growth during these years for me and Hope.

So, what are the things I’m most grateful for in the context of parenting?

  • My primary care physician. Dr. G has been my doctor for 21 years. He’s rocked with me through major health challenges, weight gains and losses, cancer screenings, preventive health you name it. I remember when I had to take the form to him to give me a clean bill of health to share with my adoption agency, he was so kind to me. He and the entire staff have always been so supportive. He’s been fantastic with Hope. He’s patient and considerate. He gives sage advice and counsel without judgment.

I realized recently just how much I adore him and how he has supported Hope and I through this journey when he went out of medical leave and I legit panicked that he might not come back. Dr. G has been there rocking with us since the beginning and I’m so grateful.

  • I’m grateful for the grace Hope’s family has shown me. Every holiday we get two cards in the same envelope sent by Hope’s biological grandmother. The big card is for Hope and the little card is for me. It’s so thoughtful.

These last few years, Hope has not had a lot of contact with her family. This has been her choice. I encourage her reaching out, but I don’t push it. I understand why it hard for Hope, and I know that her reticence to maintain contact has been painful for her family. I’ve often worried that they thought it was me blocking contact; they have kindly reassured me that they know that I’m not. I try to send letters, lots of pictures and updates on how she’s doing. I feel a real pain in my heart knowing and seeing this estrangement and not being able to smooth it over. I’m a fixer, so I want it to work out.

I don’t know what the future of the relationship will be, but I’m so grateful that they have been kind to me and have welcomed me into their homes and hearts. They are wonderful people, and I’m grateful for them and what they’ve brought to my life.

  • I’m grateful for this this goofball, Yappy, and his predecessor, The Furry One.

Yappy

Image may contain: dog

The Furry One

When Hope moved in, I was doggy mom The Furry One. I’d had him since he was 8 weeks old and he was closing in on 15. Most of my truly adult life I’d had this dog.

The expansion of our dynamic duo to a trippy trio was very hard for The Furry One. He was old, delightfully grouchy and still forever my sweet baby. He passed away about 7 months after Hope’s arrival, and I was devastated.

My grief was overwhelming. For months I couldn’t look at another fluffy white dog without bursting into tears. I know my grief was magnified because Hope and I were headlong into beginning to really cope with challenging behaviors, mental health issues and more. I was also still trying to integrate my new realities with my career. I was a mess.

It took me a long time to realize that The Furry One had a long life and his last gift was his affection during a really hard transition.

About 4 months later, we got Yappy through a Craigslist ad and I’ve been hopelessly in love ever since. Yappy is seriously the cheeriest dog I’ve come across in a long time.

He is super social and affectionate. He loves people so much that I rarely take him to the dog park because all he does after his business is lap surf all the other dog owners sitting on benches. He is my constant companion, snuggle buddy and wordless cheerleader. He looks at me like I hung the moon and the stars.

Sure he has severe separation anxiety, but hey, he ADORES me unconditionally.

I’m grateful.

  • I’m grateful for my sisters. I have amazing siblings. We are close, very close. We love hard, and we try to show our love constantly in our support for one another. We each have our own ways and love languages, but we are always there for each other. My sisters have been unwavering in their support of me and Hope. They’ve listened to me cry. They’ve been there to celebrate. They’ve sent gifts. They hosted overnights. They shopped with us and for us. They’ve been the best aunties ever. We’ve always rode hard for each other, but during this chapter of our lives, it’s been amazing. And I’m grateful beyond measure.

Of course there are many, many other things for which I’m grateful. There have been so many people along the way who have touched my life, helped me be a better parent and helped me get myself together. It is more grace than I deserve. It is humbling and beautiful. So I’m sending a big thank you to the universe for so much on this journey.


Unlearning Things

Fall used to be my busiest time of the year, but these days have me gallivanting all over the place all dang year.

And you know what?

It is exhausting!

I haven’t been on this kind of grind in nearly 10 years, and I definitively know that I did not miss this pace. And did I mention I’m 10 years older now? I mean, I’m still fly, but it’s still a whole arse decade!

Anyhoo, I’m launching into a month of travel with a legit vacation wedged in there around week 3. #costarica

Because of this grueling schedule, I’m suffering from some major writer’s block, aka “productivity exhaustion.”

So, all of that to say, I’m using some writer’s prompts to help me keep writing through the layovers.

This post is about the things I had to unlearn on my parenting journey with Hope.

There were a lot of things I had to “unlearn.”

Like a lot.

A lot a lot.

Ok, here are the top 3 things I had to unlearn.

I had to unlearn my existing identity when I became a parent.

When I began my adoption journey, I was single and not even dating, about to be 40, entering my dissertation year, and about 6 months past one of the most serious health crises in my life. Up until those few months prior, I had focused primarily on my career. I enjoyed brunching with friends. I didn’t particularly enjoy dating, but I did enjoy the notion of finding my person. I had been traveling for a number of years, but still not yet to the real adventures I wanted to take on.

Life was good, but of course, something was missing.

Once I was parenting Hope, I learned quickly just how hard the self-sacrifice that parenting required was on one’s identity. Initially, it was like my life shrunk instead of expanded and I had no idea how to handle that.

I’m a contrarian by nature, and seriously sometimes I say no just because. No reason,  no rationale, for no possible reason that could make sense. There are times when saying no is so clearly not in my interest and I cannot stop myself from declining. I’ve been this way since I can remember.

This made sharing my life so stinking hard at first. I wanted Hope here, but having someone in the house after living alone for so long was super hard.

I am an overachiever. I constantly felt like a failure while parenting Hope. Initially it was when I inadvertently triggered her. Or when I felt like I made the wrong decision for her wellbeing. I thought I would make life worse for her.

I had to get to a place of really letting the old me go and rising up as something new. It was hard, but I think I finally got the hang of it. Now I’m realizing that I’m struggling to reintegrate my old identity and elements of what’s on the horizon.

I’m back into work hardcore in ways I wasn’t in recent years. It feels different. I’m reassessing what it means to have a kid in college and what does the next chapter looks like.

I’ll be 50 in a few years, and that’s a big year. I’m not immediately sure what’s on or in that horizon. It’s like I don’t even have a 5-year plan right now. I know I’ll still be working, quite probably at the same organization. I’ll be wondering what’s up with Hope. I don’t know academically or professionally what she might be doing. No idea. I don’t have a plan, but I probably should.

So now I’m learning that I’ve got to recreate myself again, somehow. I thought evolution was more linear, clearly, it’s not.

I had to unlearn my preexisting ideas about parenting.

I have loving parents who worked very hard to raise me and my sisters. I definitely do not always agree with them on many things, but I thought that they were a good parenting model.

The problem was that my parents created 3 overachieving, highly intrinsically motivated, bright, curious, minimally rebellious during the teen years women.

This meant that our standards are absurdly, and as many therapists have told me, sometimes unachievably high. We’ve surrounded ourselves with similar folks. Our friend circles are populated by some super cool, wicked smart and highly successful folks.

Hope came to me performing well in school. She’s bright. I marveled at how she had managed to endure her past and still make such good grades. I thought, “awesome, she’s bright and will continue to slay at school!”

But then the neurocognitive issues really emerged, and depression, anxiety, and PTSD all pushed their way to the front and center stage in her life.

Grades plummeted. Self-esteem plummeted.

I was flummoxed. It took me a while to figure things out, get the proper diagnoses and advocate for her. And yet with each grade…each one, I realized that nothing I was doing was actually resulting in improved academic performance.

Hope felt awful. There were definitely times when I didn’t appreciate her depression around this like I do now.

As for me, I felt disappointed on multiple levels. Why couldn’t I get Hope to do her work and do it well? I felt shame because I run with a crew who shares my love of high standards, so *of course,* they routinely asked how Hope was doing in school. I felt frustrated and low key mad all the time. Why couldn’t I fix this? Why didn’t she try harder?  Doesn’t she know what’s on the line here?

I had to unlearn all the scripts about what achievement looks like in childrearing. More than not, the achievement is raising a child who feels safe and confident. Sure, I tried to provide that for my daughter, but what that looks nothing like what I thought it would.

I knew it would be hard, but I thought it would be easier. Not looking for any credit or criticism; I thought my logical outlook would get me through parenting. Ha!

As I’ve unlearned my preconceived notions of parenting; I’d learned that there is nothing logical about 90% of parenting.

It is all magic though.

I had to unlearn a bunch of stuff I thought I knew about loss.

I realized through parenting Hope, that I needed to recalibrate how I thought about loss. I don’t mean to suggest that there’s a loss Olympics—there isn’t. Folks feel what they feel.

I definitely have had my struggles over the course of these 47 years. But real talk; the losses I’ve endured and the hurts I’ve survived though deeply impactful to me are radically different than what my daughter has experienced.

I thought I new loss and grief. I thought I understood the emotional burden therein. I thought I got it.

I wasn’t even close to getting it.

I’m very privileged when it comes to loss in the grand scheme of things. Meanwhile, Hope can practically tell me dates of those moments in her pre-adoptive life where she felt small, out of control, grief-stricken and more. I didn’t save her from those moments. She lives with those moments daily still.

Getting over and around loss and grief is enormously challenging. Of course, folks do it all the time, but it’s hard work for many of us. I had to realize that I had a lot of impractical mythology around loss. I had to set about to unlearning that stuff and replacing it with knowledge and strategies to help Hope and me work through huge emotional stuff on this journey.

I’m grateful for the notion of “unlearning.” I’m still learning and unlearning stuff. It’s a routine with no end in sight.


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