Tag Archives: African American Transitions

Boxes on Shelves

I listen to an absurd number of podcasts. Today on the way home from Hope’s orthodontia appointment, I cued up a recent episode of Modern Love. The episode featured essays read by recent Emmy winners. The first essay was written by a birth mother and her experiences with an open adoption. It’s a beautiful story that is full of love, heartbreaking and shows that these relationships can be beautiful but complicated.

At one point in the story, she says it is like being invited to dinner but not knowing where to sit. I totally get that. Even with the privilege that comes with being the legal parent, it’s awkward as hell.

Sometimes, depending on the content of a podcast, I might switch it up. Hope gets regular doses of politics, essays, crime stories, diversity and inclusion content…yeah, she is subjected to a lot, and at some point I’ll write my own essay about why this has been an academically good thing for her.

Today, I inhaled deeply as I realized what essay was about to be played. I’d heard the essay when it first aired, but Hope had not heard it. I thought about changing to another podcast, but stopped myself.  I know she listens when she’s in the car; it’s one of our most sacred spaces. I guessed that she might not want to talk about the essay later, but I was curious what she might say when she heard it read.

So, I just let it play.

I periodically glanced to see if Hope had any reactions; she really didn’t. But know she was listening, and I know that at some point we’ll probably talk about it.

Then I got lost in my own thoughts, thinking about how our own family has expanded in the nearly three years we’ve been together.

We observed the birthday of one of her first parents earlier this week. It was healthy, but emotional observation complete with a birthday cake.

I wondered what it must’ve felt like to be separated from Hope.

I wondered about how difficult it was to know that legally they would be separated forever—legally, not necessarily physically.

I wonder what Hope’s extended family thinks of how our relationship is going? Do they believe that Hope isn’t very chatty or that I am preventing her from calling them? I’m not, but do they recognize how complicated this relationship is for her? Do I realize how complicated this relationship is for them?

Do they also feel the push/pull that both Hope and I feel? The desire to build this healthy relationship and to try to quickly foster something, some kind of connection with the need to feel and be emotionally safe?

I wonder what will the future look like? I have information that some days burns a hole in my lock box because I want to chase Hope’s mom. I wonder what things will be like when we all do meet one day, since I believe that we will.

As the story concluded I gathered my thoughts and put them back in that emotional box that I keep on the shelf and put them away.

I looked over at Hope, still no expression, no words, no facial movements, no nothing.

But I know her; I know under her stoicism that a lot runs through her mind.

As that segment of the show came to a close and another reading began, I saw her reactions. She giggled and asked questions.

Like me, she had put those emotions away for another day.

Figuring out how to *do* this adoption, family, open thing is complicated, but something we’ll continue to try to figure out together.

Day Three: Top Five

Things I’ve learned about my older child and older child adoption on Day 3.

 5.  Older kids have probably missed a lot of their childhood.

My own parents were often criticized as being too strict.  My sisters and I didn’t go to rated R movies, we didn’t have cable, we focused on school and activities and we were shielded from so much.  My sisters and I got to be little girls.  Hope seems to rarely have had a chance to be a little girl, and to some degree trying to impose a bit of little girlness in her life is like putting a genie back in a bottle.

The truth of the matter is that she has likely seen a lot more than I’ve seen in my 40 years.   She’s annoyed that I won’t let her see certain things, say certain things, do certain things.  She’s 12.  She’s not a grown up, she doesn’t have to be a grown up.  She can still be a little girl with some help.

4. The ego is frail.

I think all of our egos are frail.  But I especially think that our older adopted kids’ egos are so very fragile.  When it occurred to me yesterday, we were playing Wii.  She talked MAD ish about how she was going to whoop me.  Whatever.  She won the first game, and then I smoked her on the next three.  The sulking started and was headed to a full on cry when I just essentially stopped playing.  I stood there though the next 4 Michael Jackson songs, barely lifting my arms until we were far enough in the song that I knew I couldn’t win.

Let me explain why it’s more than ego in number 3.

3. Depression and low self-esteem is serious for these kids.

My heart broke several times during the day when Hope called herself ugly.  She said she wasn’t smart.  She said no one before her had really wanted her.  Her self-worth is so low.  Can you imagine such a life that you woke up one day and you ended up in the custody of the state and you bounced around for a couple of years, hoping someone will want to adopt you?  It makes me cry just thinking about it.  How can you not be depressed with low self-esteem under those circumstances?

It’s going to take a more than a few days to help her overcome all of this.  Protecting her fragile ego by not smoking her on Remember the Time is a small thing I have to do to help.

2. Tweens actually believe stuff in tabloids and on the internet.

This isn’t exactly limited to older adopted kids, but I do think that the desire to dive into the alternative reality offered in the tabs and on the internet allows them to practice a type of escapism.  The stories I had to hear about Justin, One Direction, the Kardashians and other tween idols were so utterly ridiculous.   It also requires a lot of patience to listen and not counter the narrative too much, because it’s really just a pain in the butt to grapple with.  Tween logic—I’m sure all tweens—just makes it that much more difficult to help parse reality from reality tv.  I’m struggling to help her get accustomed to her new reality.  She won’t marry Bruno Mars, but she will have a good life just the same.

1. Older kids are exhausting. 

So… people talk about the whole infant brigade.  I’ve seen the evidence that new parents can be walking zombies.  Parents of older kids must be faking it really well, because they seem to have it more together.

Dropping an older kid into your life is exhausting in a different way.  They don’t go down for naps.  They talk and talk and talk.  Bonding is so super awesome, but my brain starts slowing down in the afternoon.  My little night owl is just getting crunk.  I am so frigging tired.

I’m a serious extravert, but I still need that quiet time.  That quiet time is rare this week.  I know that I’ll have a bit more when we get settled into a routine with school and activities.  My car will be a sanctuary.  But in the meantime, all this bonding (which I’m not complaining about at all!) is emotionally and physically exhausting.   I found myself thinking, are you sure you don’t want to take a nap?  I think you should take a nap.

I want to take a nap.

In other news, The Furry One is clearly confused by the new addition.   He has taken to humping one of my slippers.  It is a new slipper.  It is a nice slipper.  It is a fluffy slipper.  Sigh.

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