Tag Archives: african american adoptive parents

An Extrovert in a Pandemic

I am an extrovert. I’m not quite as extroverted as I used to be. In the years preceding Hope’s arrival, I’d had to pull back on my social life because I was working on my doctorate. I still managed to get out and I had managed to balance my work travel with my studies. The travel satiated my serious need for connection with people. It kept things interesting.

And then Hope came along and everything changed. I reduced my travel significantly the first year of motherhood. A few months after Hope’s arrival I tried to bring her out to brunches and dinners with friends who wanted to meet her. It didn’t go well. Hope’s ability to handle those interactions was minimal at best. We endured some embarrassing moments. It took me a long time to really understand that Hope is an introvert, or at least she presents as one.

I eventually had to start recharging alone. I wanted time to be with people, but parenting can be exhausting. I was ok, nay, I was great with more alone time when I could get it.

The last two years, Hope has been away at school, first a boarding school and up until recently college. The distance has allowed us to truly be ourselves. I could be social in the ways that brought me joy and so could Hope.

And then social distancing happened, and Hope and I were (are) back living together full time. We will be together at least until late summer since her college is transitioning to online courses for the rest of the summer due to the pandemic.

We are really different now. I’m ok with more alone time these days, but there’s a limit to that. I desperately need interaction. I get anxious when I don’t have enough human interaction. It can be hard.

HEY

Hope is much more social these days, but with everyone from school far flung and hunkered down at home, Hope has retreated to her introverted origins.

While I genuinely want her to get fresh air and exercise, my insistence about a daily walk is as much about her wellbeing as it is about my need for human interaction. She humors me. She knows I need it even if she doesn’t want anything to do with exercise. She graciously gives me that hour and I devour it, loving the connection and the energy I get from it. I might be physically tired when I get back but my emotional state is like a high. I’m energized.

Hope can’t wait to get back to her room and close the door. I might only see her once or twice more the rest of the day.

I corralled my family—a mix of 3 introverts and 2 extroverts—into a video chat over the weekend. It was delightful. My mother, the other extrovert, and I were delighted! My dad was in frame for a while and then he wandered off to wash the dishes and listen with no interaction.

I resumed working today. Most of my meetings are on video, and while I get my kicks out of the interaction, I’m exhausted by the end of the day. I went for a 20 minute walk in the rain midday. I did my best, and yet I still snarled at Hope this evening.

In my defense the trash I told her to take out 3 days ago was still sitting in a bag in her room. And the fried rice I made that I thought would last a couple of days was devoured in the middle of the night leaving about one serving left. I’m tired and grumpy and I need people.

People other than Hope. My goodness I miss my boss and coworkers.

I miss people.

This is a challenging time for everyone, but it’s also a rough time for us extroverts who are hunkered down with limited opportunities to get our energy through connection with other people.

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Be kind to the extroverts in your life right now. We are probably annoying as hell and a bit spazzy. We’re not ok. We miss you and everyone else. We are starving for external connection. We have irritated our families, and now we’re out of people to buzz around. So yeah, help us out. Humor us.

Thanks.


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.

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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

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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.


Early Adulting

Way, way, way back in the day, I told my parents that I wanted to go party at another university for the weekend. I didn’t ask; I informed them.

They said no, I couldn’t go.

Nonplussed, I hopped in someone’s car and off my friends and I went to a university two hours away where I had all the fun to be had.

via Giphy

Back then “daisy dukes” (short shorts) were really in and I found a pair that “fit.” I was really proud of these shorts because I have some lovely thighs that usually made such shorts a no go for me. I recall sporting these shorts around my parents house one weekend when I was home from college. My dad, who is quite proper, commented on the shorts and asked me not to wear them anymore because he thought they were inappropriate.

I replied that I wouldn’t wear them in his home anymore.

He narrowed his eyes at me a bit, but said nothing.

I was in that gray area of life where I was still dependent, but I was also an adult and flexing about making some adult decisions like where I would party and what I would wear. I don’t recall asking for permission much during those days. I remember feeling so good about the increasing freedom I had to do what I wanted.

Fast forward many years and now I have a daughter of my own in college. I assumed that she would flex a bit.

For the most part, she hasn’t. In fact, she discloses WAY too much about what shenanigans she been up to. And before you say, oh she’s not telling you everything….even if that were true, she still has shared too much.

via Giphy

She also asks for permission.

Recently her favorite band announced that there would be a concert in the area this summer. She rang me up to ask if she could go if she saved the money.

My internal monologue was like, “If you plan to save up for the ticket, why are you even asking????” Out loud, I simply said, “Sure, save up your dollars and have fun.”

It’s in these moments that I’m reminded of the challenges Hope has endured.

When Hope’s social worker flew with her to visit me the first time, she shared that Hope was emotionally only about 5, despite a chronological age of 12. She’s grown so much in the years since then, but as for maturity….well, Hope has certainly matured, but is she emotionally 18?

Probably not.

Definitely not.

Hope is able to mimic maturity for short bursts, but eventually it all comes out. If I had to guess, I would estimate an emotional age of 14 or so. This would explain why she gets along so well with my 11 year old nephew and also has a whole lot of difficulty navigating socially with her own peer group.

This is also why my beautiful daughter called me from her college dorm to ask me if she could spend her own money on a concert ticket and actually go to said concert.

At her age, if I did ask, I didn’t have any difficulty openly defying my folks because I reasoned that I…was…

GROWN.

via Giphy

Hope is still very much my little girl. Which is kind of crazy to me. When I adopted a 12 year old, I never thought I would be tucking her in at night, reading her stories, buying her *white* tights to wear (she picked them while I screamed on the inside) or numerous other things that I thought were completely fixed to children much younger than 12. There were many moments that I treasure the connection forged in those moments while hating that Hope needed it because she was so deeply hurt.

It scares me, though. If Hope is really 14 and away at college…

*pauses to reflect more on my own collegiate shenanigans*

This could be a hot mess.

I know she is more vulnerable. She is so eager to make friends that she is at risk for manipulation. She’s often so lonely which only drives the risk and vulnerability up higher.

In the midst of my persistent amusement at Hope’s attempts to begin adulting, I’m saddened that once again her trauma puts her in such a predicament. I’m angry about it. I’m frustrated for her.

I’m hopeful that 2020 will bring advancements in her healing that will bring her closer to her chronological age and all the joys that come with it.


A Role Model for Hope

Hope has had a bit of the blues this week. She’s texted me just about everyday and this morning “made an appointment” to talk to me this afternoon.

She’s kind of keeping up with schoolwork and she seems to be settling into a nice routine. Medication management continues to be an issue for her, and it looks like I’m going to have to go back to holding the scripts, getting them filled and mailing them to her.

She finally came clean and told me she had been off of one of her meds for nearly a month. We had to revisit an important confab about taking meds daily and the academic and emotional consequences of not taking them.

“Ohh, yeah, that makes sense. You’re right. “

I’m really getting better at keeping my screaming and yelling on the inside and keeping my nice, supportive Mom voice together when talking to Hope. I gotta admit that it’s hard when you have to revisit the same issues over and over and over and over again.

I’m like, how did you forget that when I have left notes, emails, snail mail, texts phone calls and various other kinds of reminders. Do I really need to hire a skywriter to remind you to pop those 3 pills every morning and the other one in the afternoon?

Apparently.

Knowing she needed a bit of a pick me up, I told her the story of a student who called me earlier this week and shared a huge recent accomplishment with me.

I med A nearly 5 years ago when I launched a podcast at work. He was one of my production interns. He was such a great person to work with and had great ideas for the show that I still sometimes look at for inspiration years later.

After about a year and a half, A stepped down from the position. I never found anyone to replace him, but we kept in touch, even managing having lunch one day when I was in town.

Much like Hope, A’s journey was a bit rocky (don’t worry A, I’m not going to tell all your business!). I quietly fretted that he might give up or that he would change course away from a long held career dream.

I have worked with literally thousands of students over the years. I call the one’s I really develop personal relationships with my Pocket students. I keep them on speed dial or check in on them on social media. They all have my cell number and call to talk about all kinds of things. I’ve been to weddings, funerals, baby showers and other celebratory events.

There are those times when they call me to tell me the best news; A did that this week. As he told me about his latest achievement; I sat in my office basking in a rush of emotions.

I was so incredibly happy and proud of him and how far he has come. I reflected on previous chats and email exchanges and those times I peeped around to anonymously see how he was doing (yes A, I know all!). The last few months I’ve been distracted and hadn’t check in on him so when he reached out to chat, I was delighted.

I had two thoughts.

First, this young fellow is going to do great things because he stayed on the grind, didn’t give up and reached this particular goal.

Second, this is the kind of person I want Hope to look up to. It’s people like A that give others hope and serve as an inspiration and role model.

So, during our downtrodden call today, I told Hope about this guy I have known for a few years who has experienced some similar struggles and how he persevered.

She “uh huh’d” me politely, and then asked some questions. After a couple of back and forths she said, “That’s cool” which every parent knows is high praise.

I tell Hope about a lot of my pocket students, and it’s cool know that she’s getting close to the age when I usually meet them for the first time. I’m starting to see her through that lens as she figures out what she wants to study, what kind of work she wants to do and how she will define herself as a young adult.

It’s such a different view of her than being my daughter; it’s envisioning her as an adult, completely separate from me but still connected. It’s cool and weird and exciting and hopeful.

I know that Hope finds A’s story as a good model. I think it will sooth some anxieties she has about what can happen even if she continues to struggle at school. With support and hard work, she can still achieve the goals she sets for herself.

So this post is dedicated to A, the goal he has achieved and how he is role model for my precious kiddo and no doubt many others..

A, I am so ridiculously proud of you and all that you’ve gone through and done to get to the fantastic news you shared with me this week. It will be one of my career highlights. Sometimes you don’t get to see how things turn out for someone or you see it at a distance. Thank you for personally sharing this with me and thank you for being the awesome person you are! Know that your impact extends way, way beyond your immediate circle! You are making waves, and I’m honored to watch on the sidelines!

Hope and I are so very proud of you!


More Moments of Delight

  • During my bucket list trip to Athens Hope hugged me as I cried going up the steps into the Acropolis, when we got to Mycenae and when we walked around ancient Corinth.
  • Countless therapeutic breakthroughs.
  • Hope’s first crush on a boy at school. That crush lasted way longer than it should have but gosh at the beginning it was the cutest.
  • That time I took Hope to see Bruno Mars in concert. I would seriously set body parts to see the look on her face when he stepped out on stage the first time. It was a level of joy I had never experienced.
  • The first New Year’s Eve dinner at our preferred restaurant had a waiter who catered to Hope all night. She beamed and had such a great time trying different foods and sipping her “mocktail.”
  • The first time Hope and I had a serious discussion about sex. Everyone seems to fret about talking to their kids about this topic; I remember thinking this is challenging but *we* are doing great. I remain proud of the relationship I have with Hope; it’s led to a comfort level that allows her to ask me anything, anytime, anywhere. And yes, sometimes it *can* be a little awkward, but I wouldn’t trade it.
  • The time we rode rides at Busch Gardens on a band trip. She was sad at first because her classmates dumped her. I’d just had a beer with other parents (yep, we were drankin’!) when Hope asked me to go ride with her. I was green because I had chugged my beer, but I was delighted that hanging out with Mom was the default setting.
  • Seeing Hope in her band uniform for the first time.
  • Seeing Hope in her Air Force JROTC uniform, in her dress uniform and at graduation.
  • Seeing Hope the first time she tried on a formal dress for prom. She was breathtaking. And when she tried on THE dress…I had to pull out my hanky. So very beautiful.
  • Hearing Hope tell me how much fun she’d had at prom and how much her feet hurt from her high heels.
  • When Hope told me where she wanted to go to college.
  • At graduation the moment when Hope saw her birth aunt in the aisle snapping pictures as she descended the stairs to return to her seat. The tears that flowed that day…we were a mess of emotions with lot of chatter about all the events we had to celebrate together in the coming years.
  • Dropping Hope off at college. Packing up the car, driving down, moving her in, and then preparing to drive home. I was so filled with emotion I drove a little ways away and pulled over and cried.
  • The sweet relationship that Hope and my dad have forged over popsicles. He always makes sure there are some in the house for her; if we surprise them he immediately runs to the nearest store to get some.
  • The letters that Hope has written me over the years and how they track the growth in our relationship. I pull them out sometimes and just hold them to my heart.

And yes, there are so, so many more moments of delight in mothering my dear Hope. I hope you’ve enjoyed my recounting and that you will spend some time thinking about the delightful moments you’ve had with your own families.


Moments of Delight, pt. 1

I had a long day today at the office and then headed to the other side of my county to attend an orientation for a local volunteer program. I sped through a few podcasts on the long commute to the orientation and then back to my side of the county an hour later.

I adore podcasts. I listen to them at 1.5 speed so I can run through more content. I listen to politics, history, social justice, comedy, crime, mental health, meditation, religion and story-telling podcasts. You ever need a podcast recommendation, I’m your girl.

I listened to this week’s episode of This American Life which was called The Show of Delights. Gosh I love this episode and it got me to thinking what things in my life have I thought were delightful and how will I pursue delights moving forward.

Now I could go back to still being delighted by the red, white and blue dress I had on at the age of 3. It was the year of the bicentennial and the summer dress had Betsy Ross on it and my hair had patriotic ribbons in it. It *had* to be the 4th of July, I mean really mom? It is one of my earliest memories and I delight in that memory every time it rises to my consciousness.

I could start there, but I’ll avoid boring you and focus on some of the delights I had from the beginning of my adoption journey.

  • November 2012 – when I went to an adoption conference and this agency featured this beautiful Black couple who had adopted an older child talking about their experiences. Adoption is often so White, and I remember being soooo happy to see this couple. I ended up going with that agency, with that program. The mom and I are buds now.
  • The day I dropped the agency application in the mail.
  • The day the agency sent me Hope’s profile. It was the first I had ever received. I opened it and just knew. I don’t know how I knew but I knew.
  • The day Hope and I were actually matched.
  • The moment I saw her the first time in person.
  • The day I graduated from my doctoral program and Hope was there. It was my first Mothers Day weekend.
  • The day we received her passport.
  • This time when we were in Montreal in a little French café and Hope was just adorable.
  • The time I bought unnecessary fudge at an ice cream shop on Martha’s Vineyard and paid the super cute 15 year old boy $5 to casually deliver it to Hope outside. Turns out his dad was working the counter and we both had a great laugh. Since the first visit EVERYDAY on the island, Hope insisted we get our evening cone at THIS shop because the boy was so cute. (Frfr, he was adorable, had me and Sister K wondering if he had an older brother or if his dad was similarly fine and possibly single?)
  • The time Hope participated in a teen summit in a panel talking about social justice with her BLM shirt on.
  • The time Hope was on the program at the Unitarian church we sometimes attend; she was so graceful and confident.
  • The absurdly overpriced dinner at the adorable café we had with Grammy in Switzerland; we laughed and just had fun.
  • The time Hope told the lady at the supermarket that her mom was famous. She had recently googled me for the first time and there was a lot online about the work I do IRL. She was proud and I was so touched that she was.
  • The first time she asked if she could go hang out with some friend from church. I was so happy for her and for me.

Gosh there’s so much more that I’ll have to have a part two!

What has delighted you on your own journey? Do you ever sit and just think about it?


White Gazes

This weekend social media was abuzz with commentary on Tyler Perry’s latest movie playing on Netflix (A Fall From Grace). I scrolled past most of it because I wasn’t in the mood this weekend for a TP flick. I’ll also admit to being one of many critics of his storytelling. I support him and want him to succeed, but his storytelling is mediocre. He recently boasted of his work ethic and how he writes everything he produces alone; well, it shows. A good writing room and/or a good editor can turn good writing into brilliant writing.

But I digress, this isn’t about TP and his Netflix movie, it’s about the critiques, who’s making them and who’s watching those who are critical.

An old friend recently posted something akin to if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all on social media today. I wrote a response that despite all of TP’s contributions, it is still more than appropriate for us to have a critical conversation about his work. His contributions to Black American culture are obvious, noteworthy and meaningful. At the same time, in my opinion, his work is lacking, often recycled and full of misogynoir. She eventually deleted her posted and I slid into her DMs to apologize for blowing up her post and to inquire about how she was really feeling.

Turns out, there was a lot of defensiveness because White folks in her life were yucking it up about how TP’s stuff is so bad that he was being dragged by other Black folks. All of this made it easier to dismiss all of Black creatives. She wished that we could have these critical discussions in private, away from the White Gaze but we can’t so the default position is to say nothing bad, nothing critical. She emphasized that this lesson in “can’t say anything nice, then say nothing at all” is one of her core parenting values.

Ah, I got it.

Again, this isn’t about Tyler Perry at all. It’s about White folks.

Seriously, so much of this life is about White folks that it is seriously a mystery how we get anything done.

In a nutshell, the White Gaze is the world as we know it through white eyes. White folks write the history. White folks teach the history; anything that is not directly connected to them and/or their production of history is easily discounted, dismissed and forgotten. The White Gaze prioritizes white identity and centers white experience in all things. It dictates the way we talk, the way we dress, how we think about presentation, how we engage, how we are paid or not, how we raise our kids, and how we engage socially. It impacts us in countless ways, all day, every day. And it’s not even malicious, it’s just unconscious White supremacy at work.

This notion that we can have a meaningful community debate about the quality of Black art privately…well, we can’t on a large scale. . The same way I consumed the tweets, insta-posts and FB feeds White folks do as well. The fair and meaningful critique, similar to that which they might produce for art created by other White folks, is viewed differently and used to dismiss all.

The White Gaze is crushing because it’s always present.

After our interaction in the DMs, I thought a lot about what it meant and in what ways the White Gaze has shaped my life and my parenting.

When I was younger, my business dress was very conservative. I wanted to be taken “seriously” by all of the White folks where I worked. I remember the first time I cut my hair short and how all of the mostly White men I was around commented that I was so exotic. I grew my hair out. I kept my color schemes muted; didn’t want to be accused of being too loud or looking unprofessional. I worked on my public speaking and disavowed as much of any lingering southern accent as possible. I wanted to fit in, and very specifically, I wanted to fit in with White folks.

I eventually aged, and I began shedding f*cks. I largely wear things that are comfortable, sometimes colorful and I relish speaking in my own authentic voice. I’m matured and feel more free now.

I also know that I have this freedom from the Gaze only because of the capital I amassed from decades of succumbing to it. I’ve earned my freedom, but I also know it has limits. The Gaze always creates limits.

So when Hope came along, I was committed to trying to raise a strong Black woman who was self-assured and confident (we’re still working on this). I think back to my emphasis on manners and certain kinds of interactions. I think about the little weekend classes I sent her to on Saturday afternoons, and how I leveraged every bit of privilege I have amassed to her benefit—usually in rooms where I was the only Black or brown person. When she acted out, it was always uncomfortable, but when she acted out in front of White folks, my cheeks burned hot with embarrassment. I know the tableau we presented could easily be extrapolated to pathologize more Black folks. Suddenly, we were a stereotype, live and in color (pun intended).

Fear of the Gaze lingers just outside my front door. Heck, it’s in the house, and sometimes this blog is influenced by it.

During my afternoon pondering, I considered all the ways I silently conditioned my daughter to survive this Gaze. I considered how she pipes down when we’re in front of White people and it’s always the best of the best manners. I considered how stressed she gets when she has to dress formally; it’s not just that the clothes aren’t always comfortable, but there is a fret about how she will be viewed in the ensembles. I think about some of the clothes I’ve bought her since she left for college. Some of the things that I (and many of us) would consider basics, I know she has no interest in and that I am trying to affect her presentation—when there’s nothing wrong with her presentation. I am hyper aware that my parents conditioned me that in formal situations (read White situations) I need to have on my best clothes, best manners, best diction…best everything, and the pressure was enormous. One wrong move didn’t just ice me out, but might others out as well. I thought about all the ways I have conditioned Hope…not even intentionally (I’ve done that too) but unconsciously conditioned and modeled certain behaviors that help me navigate the Gaze.

And then, because I totally go down rabbit holes, I wondered how transracially adopted kids learn about the White Gaze. I wondered who teaches them about it and how especially immersed they are in it? And if their parents eff with that colorblind foolishness that centers whiteness…what then?

The White Gaze is oppressive without even trying to be.

So while I won’t be checking out of Tyler Perry’s stuff I still want him to win. As much as I think his writing is mediocre, I think that equality means that all folks have successful yet mediocre artists producing successful yet mediocre art. His wins also mean that I am free enough to criticize him publicly without care for the White Gaze and its oppression. A world in which that works is a world where parents like me are also free from having to coach our kids how to survive the Gaze as well.

That’s a world where I want to be.


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.

via Giphy


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