Tag Archives: African American Moms

Ten Things on Thursday: 5/27/2021

  1. Sometimes staying on schedule is so dang hard. What can I say? Another busy week that had me going until 7pm yesterday and working then driving to my parents’ today. Just busy, busy!
  2. I’m headed to see my sister and her family tomorrow. She’s been going through a really rough time and even though Hope and I will be going for a longer visit in about 7 weeks, I needed to see my sister sooner than that. Hope had to bail at the last minute because she decided to work. Actually she was faced with a tough decision–go to see her aunt as planned or finish her orientation for her new job this weekend. She chose the latter since she wants on the schedule sooner.
  3. It would seem, though that Hope thought I would change *my* plans. Um, no. I had always said we were leaving on Thursday so we could see my folks and I was boarding Yappy. I stuck to those plans. I love my dogwalker-boarder, and so does Yappy. Hope will soon have a work schedule and I’ll be heading back into the office soon. Yappy needs socialization with other dogs and to have away time from us since he now gets anxious if Hope leaves. I kept his boarding reservation.
  4. It nearly made Hope cry. As much as she wants to adult, she is perfectly content to be at home with her family. It’s sweet really and speaks to our attachment, right?
  5. Ok, real talk– *I’m* the one who wants to go out. I’d like to see Beau more than I currently do. I miss drinks and brunches. I need the panorama to end so I can go outside!!!!! (And no, Hope can’t come and crash my party! I need her to get age appropriate friends and go somewhere.)
  6. I’m gonna take a minute and say, Yo, this vaxx life is good. I’m still masking up because for the 50-11th time–a bunch of folks JUST learned how to wash their hands and legs in the last year and a half. They nasty, don’t wanna vaxx and yeah..you get the point. I don’t trust everybody who side-eyes those of us who are trying to save ourselves. Aside from that, this is the second time in 2 months that I’ve got to see my parents and hug them with wild abandon. I love it so much. Thank you science.
  7. There is an upside for me in Hope staying home. I have no one to look after but me for 2.5 days. Do you know how long its been since I’ve had a few days like this? I don’t have to share my hotel room. I control the remote; I choose all the food and if I wan to stop and there is no one to whine, beg, complain.
  8. Just look at the Holy Homeboy, would ya! Ha!
  9. I packed face masks, some of my good bath bombs and a couple of my special homemade cookies made with infused butter. I am lowkey excited. I’m excited.
  10. I need this weekend. It will not fix much, but it will give me a moment to begin to gather my thoughts and figure out my next move on this journey. I would like to start looking at a retirement situation in the Caribbean. I just got asked to contribute to another book. I want to keep writing here, but I want to give some thought about what the next chapter of our story will share; what does Hope want and inviting her to take a more active role. (She is available to answer questions on her page of the blog.) We’ll see what we come up with soon!


A Bunch of Things on Thursday: 4/29/21

  1. I totally meant to write yesterday, but here we are.
  2. I’ve now added mid-week baths to my self-care routine. I add a bunch of epsom salt and some bubble baths. I only stay in for about 20-30 minutes, but gosh it feels sooo good and I sleep so well.
  3. My condo building had another fire this morning, and now things are smokey again. Second fire in 2 months. We’re fine and no property damage for us, but oy, this can’t become a monthly thing.
  4. The death of Ma’Khia Bryant has hurt my soul so deeply. She was a foster child. I weep for her biological family, having now lost her twice.
  5. I’m normally very defensive of foster parents, but where the hell were they? There are reports than the fight against these grown women that day wasn’t the first time they had come after Ma’Khia. Why…how did the foster parent let this happen. I’ve seen reports that she had encouraged the bullying at times. Those folks had one job: to keep this girl safe and as whole as possible if and until her biological or future adoptive family could provide care.
  6. And yet Ma’Khia is gone. And to hear folks on the web tell it, foster kids are “problem kids”…it’s the same rhetoric we hear the begin to rationalize the murder of a grown man who might’ve tried to pass a fake $20 at the local bodega. EVEN if it were true, does that warrant immediate death?
  7. My therapist shared that she’s had to disarm knife and gun wielding folks…and she did it without any weapons and with no injuries.
  8. I’m just so angry and so, so, so sad.
  9. That could very well have been Hope. I barely know what to do with that thought.
  10. I’ve been cooking lately. Nothing fancy, but still yummy. We had ravioli with a meatball sauce today. It was yum.
  11. According to my zoom picture, I’ve gained a few pounds over the last month or two. Got to reign it back in.
  12. I typed that knowing full and damn well that I’m headed back to the kitchen for another sliver of the cake I made today.
  13. Judge me or whatever.
  14. Hope’s allergies are the worst they’ve been since she moved here. Daily I tell her to take her allergy tabs, irrigate her nasal ways, and take a half benadryl at the first sniff of trouble. Of course, she doesn’t, so I”ve been listening to her sniff since about 5pm. She finally just took some benadryl.
  15. Hope is *still* looking for a job. She hasn’t even had a nibble. I’m not sure what it all means, but we both agree, she needs to get up and out for her overall wellbeing.
  16. Ok, I’m out…right after I go get that little piece of cake.

One Pandemic Year

One year ago, today, I was buzzing around a local hotel with other colleagues making sure that the next to the last day of our annual conference went smoothly. I remember being tired, but excited because Hope was on a bus headed home for spring break. I was looking forward to seeing her when I got home and maybe ordering takeout.

Little did I know that that was really *it* for us, in terms of going out and living free. I had taken a few days off from work to spend with her before she headed back to her small liberal arts college. I ended up working from home full time later that week, while we just assumed that she would be heading back to school in a couple of weeks when this COVID stuff all blew over.

Three weeks later we were packing up her dorm room masked and gloved up.

A week later I had COVID, assuredly contracted during our brief trip to pack up her things.

We’ve both been home ever since.

Hope did have a couple of summer jobs, but quit, in part, because classes resumed remotely in September.

We’d been managing to hold it together until then, but early fall presented an escalation in our struggle. Honestly, things just went totally left in August and it’s been a daily struggle ever since.

Hope experienced a series of traumas related to some decisions that 19-year-olds can be prone to making. Honestly, I made some of the same decisions, as did many other 19-year-olds I knew at the time. It’s just a wickedly unfair world that some of us pay dearly for those choices, while others get skate away trauma-free.

I had to really remind myself to meet Hope where she was and remember what that season of my life was like to be as empathetic as the moment required. It’s easy when you have nearly 30 years more life experience to forget what it was like and how easy it was to do something that didn’t seem like it might have lasting repercussions.

There were definitely days when I failed miserably at meeting the moment, and other days when I nailed it. I’m hoping that Hope shows me the grace I don’t deserve as the years pass.

The hits just kept coming through the fall and into the new year. This kinda lost pandemic year totally wreaked havoc on both of our mental health statuses. The loss of control, the lost freedom, the inability to have the usual levels of family and friend support has been so challenging.

I see a lot of loss ground for Hope in some ways; I see a lot of lost ground for me as well.

My own career soared during this time, but it came a huge cost. In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, my job and voice was in high demand. There was little time for my own processing of grief and anger. It was mostly a lot of work.

And then after a month or so, a lot of anger and frustration about how folks chose to engage me, how little my own humanity seemed to matter, how much was just constantly demanded of me. I really had to start working on creating boundaries in ways I didn’t have or want to before.

Ten months later, I still trying to create boundaries with almost virtual electronic/barbed wire fencing. I do this in the face of receiving recognition for the work I do within a largely homogenous profession. The wear and tear on me this last year…whew.

Add on how I seem to be sliding into menopause…and I just feel…tired, cranky and crazy.

It’s all hard to describe, but it’s just perpetually feeling off. I’ve got some cream and I’ve upped my self-care game, but I’m headed to the doc this week to just talk about what I can and should be doing during this time to cling to my sanity and to not kill anyone.

This year has been hard.

But it hasn’t all been bad.

Hope and I are probably closer than we’ve ever been. Our parent/child relationship is evolving to a parent/young adult relationship. The biggest difference is knowing that being of legal age means I just have to let a few things go and focus on leaning into the years of trust we’ve built.

Our conversations are different. The gaps in knowledge around life skills are more apparent. My pushing and pulling is not seen through entirely negative eyes; she can tell me how she sees things. We are closer, and I’m hoping that whenever the next new normal lands that we’ll maintain this level of emotional connection. It’s nice.

I have also finally, genuinely moved to a place of acceptance regarding my body. This last decade of my life has featured a number of body betrayals that were just layered on to two previous decades of body image problems. I exercise every day. I try to eat reasonably healthy. I do not deny myself foods that I enjoy. I ride my bike. I walk a lot. I do videos and I invested in work-from-home equipment that would help me maintain some healthy habits.

I wrote some time ago that I really shifted my thinking to what my body can do and how to maintain and expand its capacity rather than focusing on how it looks. Honestly, regarding my body, the last 4-5 months or so have been the most liberating of my life.

I still fight negative thoughts, but they are fewer and far between.

Most of all, Hope sees me being less critical and that means a lot as well. She’s a beautiful girl, and she struggles to establish healthy eating and exercise habits. The best I can do is model them for her.

In total, it’s been a rough year. I don’t know when the pandemic will be “over.” I got my first vaccine a few days ago and I’m excited that I will be able to see my parents for the first time in nearly a year in a matter of weeks.

It will be a while before Hope is eligible for the vaccine. Because she’s unemployed and not in school this semester (much less hardly leaves the house), she’s very low risk and will be at the bottom of the list for the vaccine unless something changes. I’m hopeful that this year brings some better energy to both of us. I hope that we can get back to some version of our old normal at some point this year


Modeling Behavior

Not gonna lie; I have a number of vices…

Cake.

A good glass of wine.

An occasional edible or three.

Pizza.

Shopping.

Buying organizing stuff that I don’t bother using to actually organize.

And a bunch of other stuff…

But I also have a lot of healthy habits.

Daily exercise.

Simple prayers of gratitude.

Cooking.

Desperately fighting my anxiety and depression.

I’m fortunate that I have had only a few moments in this life where my mental health rendered me unable to function. About 15 years ago, I took a month off from work to just pull it together. It was hard. I was keeping crazy hours, trying to define myself professionally, trying to navigate a dreadfully unhealthy relationship, and struggling with an eating disorder. I just had to hit the pause button.

The early years of parenting nearly brought me to the brink. I’m not ashamed to admit that I wasn’t prepared to really tackle the trauma that Hope had endured. I thought I was, and Lord knows I fought for her every step of the way. The reality is that those pre-adoption classes that agencies make APs take as a part of the approval process are bullshit; they are soooo woefully inadequate. I knew nothing about secondary trauma, post-adoption depression or all the ways in which trauma might manifest in my daughter’s worldview.

There were definitely times when it brought me to my knees, begging for a timeout from the rest of my life so that I could really figure out how to parent and do it well.

I spent a lot of time just putting my head down and plowing through.

As Hope and I recover from another recent major trauma, I’m considering hitting the pause button once again.

I’m tired. This pandemic with non-stop social unrest has gotten the best of me, and it’s gotten the best of Hope as well.

In recent years, I’ve really tried to model healthy behavior for Hope. I work out daily; even if it’s just a YouTube workout video in the living room. I get outside every day, rain or shine. I balance my sweet tooth with attempts to get my fruits and veggies in. I get up; I get dressed even when there is no where to go. I, at least, put on fresh lounge wear. I make sure she sees me reading for pleasure, for work and for information.

When Hope fell into the deepest pit of depression a few months ago, I really tried to include her in light workouts, cooking, doing hair, reading. It was hard to see her decline and just roll over to go back to sleep. I get it; gosh to I get it. I often feel like I could just roll over and sleep for ages because my emotions are just too much that they feel both burdensome and invisible. But I’ve got to work and keep us fed and sheltered, so I soldier on.

With the recent developments, we’re back into the stuck in bed thing. It’s so hard because really, there’s a pandemic and crazies are out protesting an election that was resolved months ago. Other than going for a walk and to buy groceries, being out and about isn’t really an option. On my days off I still get up, get dressed and pull together a plan for the day—even if it is sitting on the couch watching movies. I try to stay active. I try to model pushing back on the darkness for Hope.

It’s hard to maintain that flow. It also feels useless as my beautiful daughter languishes in bed for days at a time, getting up to eat after I’ve gone to bed and jacking up my Netflix recommendations even when she has her own profile. I encourage her to try. She never regrets getting up and about, but she never initiates it on her own.

Recent developments have just taken their toll on me, and I’m finding it hard to keep going. I, too, could use some time to lay in bed—even though I know I won’t, or at least won’t the same way Hope does—and just sit with my emotions. I’m kinda overwhelmed with all that’s going on.

So, I’m looking to take some time off. Even with that, I feel bad because I need to cancel some engagements and some workshops I committed to recently. But I try to remember that if I got hit by a bus, those things would go on and folks would simply find someone else to do the things I thought I would do. Cancelling is not the end of the world, and some of this stuff…well, I probably should’ve said no to in the first place anyway.

I’m trying to model self-care. I’m trying to model coping. I’m trying to model self-love and resilience. I honestly don’t know if the lessons are landing, but I’m doing the best I can as I try to find my way through my own darkness.

We’ll see what the next month holds and whether I take the time I need and show my daughter how I hit the pause button. I just know I’m really tired, right now.


2020 Reflections

Each year I do a vision board. I have it blown up and I keep it framed in my bedroom so that I see it daily and am reminded that there are things to do.

My 2020 board included things like evolving my parenting now that Hope is in college, chasing some adventure, self acceptance, health and as always love.

How does the meme go?

How it started…It was to be a year of great promise.

How it ended…It was a year of survival.

COVID-19 pretty much took a wrecking ball to the year.

Hope is currently not enrolled in school, and I’m back to daily, active parenting. Just when she was becoming more social and connected, everything was cut off. It all made her really vulnerable, and just like that trouble found her. It’s been really hard dealing with the fallout of the summer’s drama. The pandemic made it just that much worse—there are so few outlets for having any sort of social connection.

Adventure? Well, going to the grocery store became an adventure. Going anywhere became an adventure. I feel like my world just closed in this year. In January I was counting down days to a trip to Israel in March, but instability in the region made my travel buddy want to cancel. We rebooked and planned a trip to Costa Rica, but then COVID hit and our trip got postponed to November. November came, along with a surge in cases, and Costa Rica was cancelled. In July Hope and I took a day trip to see my parents. That was a highlight for the year.

My vision board has hiking and relearning how to swim on it, meanwhile the pool never even opened. Adventure finally came about two months ago when I decided that we would start visiting local farms in the area. It was fun, and I have a lot of jam in my pantry now. It was wonderful having fresh pressed cider and fresh picked collard greens. I will likely sign up for a CSA in 2021 so that I can be sure to keep the goodness coming.

While I’m grateful that I found small ways of creating adventure, I’m sad that my world shrank in so many ways.

I have had a lot of time to think about what I like and dislike about myself. I’ve also had a lot of time to remember that Hope watches and learns from me. I have been able to make a lot of progress on self-acceptance. Listen, I’m not saying I’m “there,” but I’ve at least switched my thinking from focusing on my looks and size, to focus on what my body can do and what I need to do to make sure it is able to keep doing those things. I lost about 20lbs this year, most of it in January-March, but have largely kept it off. I walk every day. I’ve managed to increase my daily steps substantially. I cook more.

But I also still make a cake every 4-5 days; I still eat too much sugar, I still haven’t mastered hydration and my coping mechanism when it comes to consumption is still…an issue. 😊

I’ve been fortunate that I didn’t take a financial hit this year. I’m grateful for that. It’s meant that I’ve been able to keep debt low and afford some things that have made quarantining more comfortable—more streaming subscriptions, a new electronic standing desk, and some other odds and ends. I’m now contemplating some updates to the kitchen and my bathroom. I mean, if I’m going to be hold up here indefinitely, I probably should make it pretty and comfortable.

The flip side is that this has been one of the most challenging years of my career. The emotional toll is heavy. Dealing with rampant White supremacy in the midst of a pandemic is draining. The murder of George Floyd will be with me for a long time. The fall out has changed the way I think about the work I do, the pleasantries that I’m sometimes forced to engage in, the patience that I’m nearly always in short supply of. And watching some folks just fade back into racial oblivion is…toxic, yet to be expected during the best of times.

It’s been hard.

And love? One of the great loves of my life passed away in January, Elihu. I miss him every day. I wonder what I could’ve done to change the course of our relationship, even though I know my ending it was the right thing to do at the time. The loss of E came on the heels of losing another one of my great loves just the year before. Dating this year was trash. I am seeing someone, but I know it’s not a great fit for me, so I also know it has an expiration date. What can I say pandemics…#shrug. I’m hopeful that maybe I’ll make a meaningful connection in 2021—not meaningful like the Match commercial with Satan and 2020, but meaningful nonetheless.

But I suppose there are some bright spots.

  • I survived my own bout with COVID early in the year.
  • Hope had two jobs for a while and was really good at them.
  • Yappy is much more affectionate with Hope, even if he is primarily still very attached to me.
  • I managed it all without completely falling apart.
  • I deepened some of my friendships.
  • I did a lot of writing and creating, though not in this space.
  • I found another level to my voice regarding diversity at work.

I’m also super conscious of the fact that lots of folks would trade places with me in a minute during this crapshoot of a year. Hope and I are fine. I would give my left foot to hug my mom and dad, see my sisters and snuggle my niece and nephews, but I guess I’ll settle for waving on camera. In the grand scheme of things Hope and I are very fortunate to be comfortable. Our families have not suffered any losses. We are able to afford what we need and largely what we want. We have each other and Yappy.

We’re ok.

I have no idea what my vision board will look like for 2021; right now I just want a giant picture of OUTSIDE, but I’m guessing I should be more specific.


Trauma Whirlwinds

I am in the midst of a trauma related whirlwind the details of which are not mine to share.

This moment has clearly revealed Hope’s true vulnerabilities out in the world, and it’s requiring an enormous amount of emotional restraint from me.

I am a mess of sadness, heartbreak and unmitigated rage. That rage is not directed at Hope, but a third party who also has peeped my daughter’s vulnerabilities. It is taking everything in me not to round up my squad and take matters into my own hands. I also know that If I shared what is happening with Hope with some folks in my life, things would get very, very out of hand very, very, very fast.

And trust, I am so tempted to let that ish play out.

Via Giphy

But Hope needs me, and I am acutely aware of how much she needs me in this moment. She needs me as a mom. She needs me as a woman who has lived through some things. She needs me to just love her and reassure her that it’s going to be ok.

I am committed to keeping a 30K foot view of what is happening to my daughter. I can clearly see what is driving the behavior and what is driving the emotion and the need. I know that this mess is trying to fill a hole that has existed for a long, long time; I know this has everything to do with her life before me and the pieces of life that are still missing.

I know that there is nothing that I can really do or say to fill that hole; it’s primal. I get it. It’s also breaking my heart.

During the last day, I have tried to reason with her. I listen to her without judgment. I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open. The only way to do that is to keep my own emotions in check.

Via Giphy

Last night I had to take a late evening walk just to call a friend to let out my own emotions. There I was out with goofy Yappy walking the neighborhood in the dark, in the rain with a headlamp letting it all out, so I could come back with my own emotional mask on to reengage.

I’m glad I had that chance because I walked back into a whole ‘nother bucket of bs.

There is a silver lining in this moment; this moment could be so worse. It could be so much more devastating, but Hope was already questioning her feelings about her choices. She wanted to talk to AbsurdlyHotTherapist about it but hasn’t been able to get an appointment. I’m encouraged that she was trying to figure out how to work through this mess on her own and in a healthy way. I’ve reached out to him to beg for an appointment and to give him a heads up on what’s happening. I need her to have that unbiased third party to help her.

Hope is a horrible liar; she also is horrible at keeping her own secrets, much less anyone else’s. She almost always tells me or AHT what’s up or creates a situation in which I find out (See stupid games from last month). She told me that her lies are more about wanting to avoid disappointing me than a fear of something like me putting her out.

On the one hand she trusts that I’m not going to threaten her physical wellbeing, but I do wonder if she thinks my expectations of her are too high? It’s got me wondering if expectations are too high for her? I need my own barometer check.

Ultimately, I know that we will get through this, but I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know what the collateral damage will be. I don’t know…what is around the corner.

I also know, that this could happen again and again.

Trauma stuff is hard.

Adoption stuff is hard.

There are very real wounds.

I know I am not capable of fully healing her; I can only support her, love her, be there for her in these moments. She is transitioning into adulthood, and I worry a bit about how much my protection can extend around her. Before it seemed like a nice little bubble, now it’s just this amorphous thing and I can’t control the environment for her. I know that is normal, that actually aspects of this is normal for kids her age. I also know that as a middle-aged woman, I’m still, *still* dealing with some bullshit from my own youth, and I didn’t any a fraction of the drama in my life that Hope’s had in hers. I worry about where that leaves her.

All I know is that I’m still her ride or die. I always will be, but whew…this phase of parenting is not easy.

via Giphy

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.


2300 Days

According to The Google, I’ve been Hope’s mother for 2,300 days today, counting from the day of placement.

It seems kind of surreal when I count the days.

It is 13% of my life.

It is exactly 1/3rd of Hope’s life.

Motherhood for me has been a challenging blessing. Hope was an amazing kid in need of a permanent home, and I came to motherhood on the tail end of a doctoral program and after the recovery of a major health event. I have no regrets, but I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like had I given myself more time to finish my program and fully emotionally recovered from the health scare. As the Tootsie Roll owl used to say, “The world may never know.”

What would’ve been is neither here nor there.

Hope were and continue to be a good match, and I look forward to seeing how we continue to evolve in this relationship.

Just yesterday, I finally demanded that we organize all of Hope’s college stuff because the chaos in her room was driving me crazy. I am allowing the housekeepers to come back this week because although I’m good at housekeeping, I crave the good scrub down the place gets ever 2 weeks from professionals. When Hope is home and the room is a mess, the housekeepers ask to avoid her room—for what I’m paying I need the WHOLE house to get the full treatment, so it was past time for us to get Hope’s room together for their arrival this week.

There are some thing that Hope brought with her when she moved in. A lot of the clothes have long since been given away, but things like cards, pictures, blankets and stuffed animals have a permanent in our home. I will always make space for those things.

Well, yesterday, Hope announced that she was ready to get rid of most of the blankets and stuffed animals. Many of them where acquired through adoption fairs when she was foster care. Basically she would be taken to these fairs in hopes of meeting a future forever family. It didn’t work for her, but she would be given these parting gifts—cozy blankets and stuffed animals. When she moved here, she was very attached to these items, so I got shelves for her to store and display them.

So when she said they could now be given away, I was floored. I stopped what I was doing, looked at Hope and asked was she sure.

She was. She said she was just simply ready to let much of it go.

She bagged up some things that we will take to the local veterinarian. We’ll send one small quilt to my sister for her kids. She kept a few things but announced that she would probably get rid of those things too. I encouraged her to consider a few mementos, you know for her future presidential library. She laughed.

Letting go of these things is really a big deal for Hope, and for me. It seems to be a signal that there really has been some healing over these 2,300 days. There’s also room for new life, new memories. Hope talks about her life a lot; her stories are different now. The way she talks about things is different. Sure she is a bit more mature, but she’s also a bit more realistic about all of the parts of her journey. I can tell she’s really been working hard at healing.

I’m glad to have been with her for these 2,300 days on her journey. I’m glad to see her blossoming. I’m glad that she seems happy. I’m glad she’s finding her way.

I’m honored that Hope made me a mother. I love her so much. I’m so proud of her. She’s amazing.

I look forward to the next 2,300 days. So much will happy during these next 6 years, and I’m excited for both of us.

**This post is dedicated to Hope’s birth mother. We do not have a relationship with her, but I think of her often and hope a reunion is in the cards for Hope one day.**


Sex Chats

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

Image result for ti rapper

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

giphy-downsized

Say what now?

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

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

O.

M.

G.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worked for us!


Black Beauty

Hope was home for the recent holiday, and while she was here, she decided to cut her hair. Hope had decided some time ago that she regretted relaxing her hair and wanted to “go natural” again. After about 7 months of growing it out, we snipped off the relaxed ends and basked in the glory that is now her little Afro.

Ok, so maybe I basked; Hope seemed beside herself with shock, anxiety and the ever present teen worries about how others would see her.

When Hope came to home nearly 5 years ago, she had a lot of hair that I lovingly nurtured right on down to her shoulders. It was not chemically treated. I twisted it, coiled it, braided it, did all kinds of things with it. Hope was really proud of her hair; she got a lot of compliments. She learned to really embrace how her naturally curly, coily hair looked.

Hope has thick hair. It’s not just that each strand is thick; there are also a lot of strands. I swear when I first started doing her hair, I thought I was wrestling a carpet!

As she got older, and I shifted more of the burden of doing her hair to her, things got…difficult. My daughter’s care-taking abilities didn’t produce the same results, and eventually she decided that she wanted to relax it.

I hated the idea. I wanted her to love her hair and to learn to properly care for it. It had been years since I’d given up relaxing my own hair, and there was a part of me that took it really personally that my daughter wanted to relax her hair.

I had failed to promote the beauty of our hair.

I had failed to foster a sense of pride in our hair in its natural state.

I had failed to cultivate a sense of beauty that didn’t adhere to Euro-centric beauty norms.

I had failed to get her to love herself.

In spite of these failures, I also support one’s ability to wear their hair however they please. So, I asked her hair dresser to relax her hair.

Oh there was lots of hair swinging. There were smiles. There was hair flipping. Hope’s hair grew and then…all the things that happened before the relaxer happened. Poor maintenance; lazy care, heat damage, split ends and breakage. There were a couple of heavy “trims” that took inches off.

And I was spending a small fortune getting her hair done.

We ended up in the same place as before, which made me feel as though my prior failures had been confirmed in this hair relaxing exercise.

Then one night I was watching hair videos on YouTube when Hope said she regretted relaxing her hair. She thought it would be easier, but it wasn’t.

I still have teeth marks on my tongue from where I nearly bit it off so as not to say, “I told you so!”

So she begin the journey to grow her hair out with the first major development happening during her fall break.

I’m delighted that she grew her hair out and that she wants to embrace the fullness and textures of her natural hair. That said, I know that rocking a teeny weeny Afro (TWA) is a shock at first. You see all your other features and you can feel weird about them.

Is my forehead really that big?

Were my ears so noticeable when my hair was longer?

I swear my acne was not this noticeable with bangs.

My nose is big.

My skin is so dark.

My teeth are big.

I need earrings to distract from this.

I don’t like the way I look.

People will make fun of me.

I’m never going to look like Becky (No, you’re right and you’re not supposed to.)

It’s all so loaded. Helping her reframe her thoughts about beauty is hard. Helping her think about the fact that six months from now she will have a lot more hair is hard. Helping her believe that she doesn’t need to “fix” anything is hard.

Self-acceptance is hard at almost any age; it’s especially hard at 17.

I think she’s stunning. Her chocolate skin is dark and creamy. Her almond shaped eyes sparkle. With the hair away from her face, her acne quickly faded. I finally was able to coax a pair of small, classy earrings on her. With her militaristic posture and figure I’d kill for, I think she’s an 18 out of 10.

But to hear her tell it, I’m mom so none that counts.

Understanding how oppression shapes even the way we see our beauty is exhausting; really, it is. Teaching that…it’s not only exhausting but also infuriating. I silently rage thinking about the fact that my daughter questions her beauty because kinky coily hair isn’t universally seen as gorgeous. I cut my eyes at the folks at her school who looked perplexed like they weren’t sure to compliment Hope when she returned rocking her afro. I nearly cried when she cast her eyes down when she saw folks see her hair for the first time.

Hope is gloriously gorgeous. She already doesn’t know how lovely she is; the short hair is a radical change that makes her glow. She doesn’t believe that though.

That’s not my fault even though I feel like I failed in instilling that.

It’s all of our faults. That nearly exclusive white standard of beauty is so embedded in our psyche that our brown and black kids hardly know and appreciate African diasporic beauty when they see it. And that makes me sad and mad, really mad.

I look forward to the day when my daughter looks in the mirror, smiles at her reflection and turns on her heels to go knowingly, purposefully slay us all.


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