Tag Archives: Back to School

How the Decision Process is Going

It’s been a really interesting weekend. Hope is doing things I’ve never seen her do before.

She’s making pro and con lists.

She’s reaching out to classmates at both schools and parsing out the good advice from the not so good advice.

She’s asking me to check the blog comments and votes (she’s incredibly grateful for all of your contributions and comments!).

During her therapy appointment, she talked about her options with AbsurdlyHotTherapist.

She’s thinking about her future in ways I’ve never seen her do before.

She is researching. She’s making a question list to send to the boarding school for more information.

Whatever her decision, I’m seeing her do what I saw her do throughout the summer program: Rise to the occasion.

Talk about stepping up: She’s organized, thinking critically, asking questions and shouldering a huge decision.

Every few hours I make a point to remind her of a couple of key considerations:

  • I want her to prioritize her happiness.
  • This decision isn’t just about academics; it’s also about emotional needs and that one is not more important than the other.
  • There is a chance for a do-over. We could figure out how to make it work if it comes to that.
  • Don’t fret about the financial consideration—that’s a mom issue and I got it under control.
  • I and Yappy will miss her like crazy.
  • I will also make sure that if she chooses to go to the boarding school that she can still make it to a few of the football games at her home school if she wants to go.
  • I’m happy to also invest in a private online language courses in Korean if she goes to the boarding school since they don’t offer it there and I know she wants to keep up with her language development.
  • I will never, ever abandon her. I’m her ride or die, no matter what, where or why.

It has been a stressful weekend for Hope. This has been the biggest decision she’s been faced with since deciding about wanting to be adopted. It is weighing on her. So today, we’re going to do some fun things to take our minds off of the choice that has to be made.

In all though, it’s all good. I’m happy with how the process is shaking out; so much so, I’m really not focused on the decision. I’m really into just Hope’s immediate emotional needs.

Some of you posed some questions and comments in the comments of my last post that I’ll address below!

Do we have a school selected?
Yes, Hope attended a lovely military academy about 80 miles away from our home in Northern Virginia. It’s in the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, on a small but beautiful campus. The school is very small, just 350 students in the high school total with about a third or so in residence. I hadn’t even heard of the school 6 months ago, but I’ve been wowed by the support they offer, the responsiveness, the racial and ethnic diversity and their commitment to excellence. Of course, at that price, they should be, but it’s definitely a good school. They know what they’re doing there. I do wish it was close enough for day school, but 80 miles is just too far.

Can she switch mid-year?
Yes, but only in one direction. She can go from the boarding school back to the home school, but not the other way around. I’ve told Hope that if after the first quarter or semester it’s really not working out, she can come and finish up at her home school.

Decisions of the Head and Heart
Several readers have noted that this is a decision of both the head and the heart. That point has really resonated with us. Thank you for framing it that way! I’ve tried to impress upon Hope that it’s totally valid to want to just be home. Home is critical; home is especially important when it’s been elusive for periods of your life. A decision that is centered on home and everything that comes with it is a valid decision, and it even might be the best decision.

What about accountability and can it be replicated at home?
To some degree yes, but I simply can’t replicate what they do at the boarding school. I don’t think I could do it here with the best planning and execution, and I especially don’t think I can replicate it as a single parent. One, my work/management style is just not as rigid as what is offered there. At heart I’m a creative; I know that I don’t thrive in that kind of environment and my ability to construct that kind of home is just…nonexistent. The home school is a good school, but with a couple thousand students, they don’t have the time or resources to create the structure that Hope seems to crave and thrive in. What’s been interesting about this summer experience is that Hope has started considering a possible military career because the structure and direction just works for her. It makes me proud and scared shi%less.

Counseling by phone?
AbsurdlyHotTherapist is totally down with this. We would also schedule her appointments on the weekend when she can have in-person therapy as well. Of course, he has declined to offer an opinion, but is delighted that we’re considering options and how well Hope is doing self-managing through her decision-making process.

Small college in the future?
The plan was always to do community college for the first two years and transfer. This decision potentially changes the trajectory of the future. Actually, I think no matter what decision is made, the future path has evolved. I wanted Hope to do community college, so she would have more time at home before launching, but her transfer school would definitely have been a small, liberal arts style school. We’ve actually considered a few over the last year or so to visit.

Now of course, Hope is seeing a wider range of possibilities including going straight into the military, going to a small college first and going into the military as an officer, launching straight from boarding school, still sticking to the original plan. I’m delighted that she sees choices. One of our big values in our home is that choices equal freedom. You want to have choices, and you want to create scenarios where you have the best choices available to you. Hope sees what she needs to do where ever she chooses to go to get the widest array of choices. So, we’ll see!

We’ll make an announcement when a decision is made! Thanks to so many of you for weighing in. We both really appreciate it!

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Prioritizing Attachment

School sucks.

I was briefly so excited about the start of school.  School keeps us regulated. It provides Hope with some social engagement. It makes us (me) feel productive.

But the reality is that it all just sucks.

School is hard for Hope. Like really hard. Like really, really hard.

She’s smart, but she’s got some limitations and despite wishing really, really hard, she’s not going to be a valedictorian. She’s an average kid.

I don’t do average. My issue, not hers.

I’m an overachiever. My sisters and I pride ourselves in doing and being better than 100%.

This overachiever/perfectionist thing is a problem, but that’s a whole other issue.

So, realizing that getting Hope on honor is like me scaling Mt. Rushmore has been hard to accept for me. Heck getting her to do reasonably well in each of her classes consistently is like me roller blading in spandex pants with just a bra top on the beach. I mean, it can happen, but it won’t be pretty and I’d probably end up with a couple of broken bones.

I’ve hired tutors and sent Hope to a commercial learning center.  I regularly visit the school counselors. I check in with her teachers. I schedule visits with her docs to make sure that medications are managed. I pay for private testing so that we don’t have to wait months and months for data that will inform educational decisions. I have nagged, I have begged and pleaded to get homework done. Hell, I’ve even written a 9th grade essay just to get us across a finish line (this is particularly painful as I was my university’s honor code chair in undergrad. Look what parenting does to you!!!) #hangsheadinshame

I have done everything I can think of, and I’m exhausted. And so is Hope.

And you know what?

Hope’s grades haven’t budged upward.

Not at all, not even a little.

If anything, things are harder than ever.

And I’ve fallen into a really negative rut as I try to pull her through assignment to assignment, quarter to quarter, semester to semester.

About two weeks ago, I found myself pondering what must she feel like in the midst of all my interventions.

I see and feel the resistance and the resentment.

I wonder if Hope thinks she’s disappointed me. I wonder if all this effort to ‘help’ her has hurt her. I wonder if I’ve undermined my efforts to build her up. I wonder if I’m just another parent in a long line of parents who have tried to ‘fix” her.

I then starting running over the last few months and really evaluating the state of our mother daughter bond.

It’s ok; I mean, there’s always room for improvement.

Thank I wondered how all my academic efforts might have hindered our attachment. I mean, if I was Hope I might pull back from all the criticism and all the effort to make me perform something that is so hard for me for any number of reasons.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve made a decision.

After the next holiday break; I’m stopping the tutoring and learning centers. I’m going to still touch base with the counselors and teachers. I’m going to encourage her to breathe and know that she’s not defined by this academic thing. If she needs more time, then she’ll get more time. If she needs more coaching then she will absolutely have it.

I’m going back to prioritizing our relationship over her academic performance. It’s simply more important. She can take more time academically; but we can’t get this time back.

It’s just more important.

I love her, and while I want the best for her and I want her to benefit from all of the things I can give her, I think she really needs love, attention and encouragement.

We’ll come back to the schooling thing in time, but for now, she needs to know I love her just as she is.

She’s perfect.


Summertime

These last few months were rough, like drag me and Hope through life kicking and screaming rough.

And then, the hassle hustle stopped. Just like that the stress melted away.

School ended last week, and we got a chance to breathe and I realized that this last school year was a doozy.

Hope started high school, rough by itself. All the academic gaps that she was able to hide became glaring. Her issues with executive function—or rather lack of executive function—manifested with a vengeance. Crushes, social anxiety and miscellaneous teen drama just made for a really hard time.

For my part, despite reading numerous blogs about how some kids who have traumatic histories and who have neurocognitive conditions really, really struggle with school, I utterly refused to accept that this might be my reality with Hope. Hope desperately wanted to be successful, and in retrospect I realize that she also wanted to please me. She worked as hard as she could with what she had and simply struggled, and it wasn’t until the last month or two of school that I began to really believe that something else could be affecting her performance.

How devastating for her it must’ve been to think she failed me over and over again. I could kick myself. It’s nothing but pride that prevented me from even considering that we wouldn’t follow a similar pattern. I am devastated that I piled on more pressure, more anxiety, more depression on to my daughter because I couldn’t bear to believe that she might have a problem beyond her control.

Although as the school year drew closer to a close, I did step my game way up in terms of advocacy and interventions, but I still could just melt away into the floor I’m so disappointed in myself that I couldn’t get past my own hangups earlier.

But, it’s a new day and I have another chance to help her and get it closer to right.

This summer I’m trying to keep the pressure light, give her lots of opportunities to be successful, to relish in that success and to help her work on developing the ability to say, “Help me please.” My girl’s pride is huge and she fancies saying that she can take care of herself. Ultimately my goal is to have fun this summer and to build up enough strength for both of us to go into the new school year more confident and armed with the tools and support that will aid success.

Today though, it’s all about grabbing some beach chairs and just chilling at the free neighborhood park movie night. #summertime


One Week of School Down

In the grand scheme of things we managed the first week of school pretty well. Hope decided I didn’t need to walk her to the bus stop anymore, freeing me up to enjoy my coffee alone in the mornings for 10-15 minutes. She started practicing her saxophone again and after the first hour it started to sound kind of like music again. I managed to keep one of the new hermit crabs alive—having trouble keeping things humid enough. We did have a bit of a run in at least once a day. I’ve had good engagement with some key teachers.

Yeah, by most standards, it was successful week. But I still feel like crap physically and emotionally. I’ve been suffering from ragweed allergies and asthma and it’s made me a bit of a grouch.

Today we’re in the braiding salon getting her hair done for picture day. So with hours of waiting, I have time to reflect more deeply on the week and all that’s happened.

————————————

Boundary issues have resurfaced. I had nanny night a few nights ago; it was a nice night out and as usual I came home in a good mood. As I opened the door Hope and the nanny were playing with “Piggy,” The Furry One’s favorite toy and now my most treasured artifact from his years with me.

I sleep with Piggy and she has not left my room since the dog’s death. Now here was Hope and the nanny playing with her, which meant 1) Hope had been in my room (forbidden without permission) and 2) she was playing with something so important to me that I immediately had to hold back tears.

brokengate

I’m not sure what upset me more, her going into my room or the tossing around of a sacred item. I later realized that The Furry One’s ashes had also been disturbed on the shelf.

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.

emotional-breakdown

I asked the nanny to give me a minute while I asked Hope about all of this privately. She felt justified since she had already broken the room rule by going to get some of my nail polish. She thought the nanny should see the dog toy. The nanny has been with us all summer; she’s seen Piggy before.

We had a brief, calm chat about respecting my room, my things and The Furry One, even in death. As usual she was so resistant that I had to explain that I felt like she might feel if I took out and played with her most sacred item that she has from her father. I respect that item and its location in her room greatly. I’ve never even touched it except for when I unpacked it with her things when she was placed with me.

Afterwards I had to check the nanny who allowed all kinds of rule breaking. No bueno for either of them.

Apologies accepted. Hope actually apologized to me one morning this week. We’d had a bit of a tangle the night before that resulted in me nearly not twisting her hair for the night. I nearly threw in the towel, I was so furious. The next morning we did our morning routine in silence. I thought to myself, this will blow over by dinner time after work and school. As she was about to leave for school, she turned and looked at me and said, “I’m sorry for raising my voice last night.”

Wow. Ok, I can work with this.

I hugged her, told her I accepted her apology and to have a good day at school.

The ability to apologize is not something she had before. I imagine it might be rare to see it even moving forward for a while, but wow is it a lovely development.

Messiness is next to “getting on my nerves-ness.” Hope’s room is an utter disaster. Now I understand that some of that is common for this age, but I guess I’m a bigger clean freak than I appear to be. At some point I just feel like I can’t live like that. Yesterday she decided she was going to do a puzzle on her floor, she didn’t finish so now there are pieces everywhere. Pieces are sticking to your feet as you walk by. Shoes, dirty clothes…just mess. She has not done her chores since midweek. This is the second week in which Friday/Saturday chores haven’t been completed. I end up doing these chores late at night because they just have to be done.

I know that there must be some reason for her lazy messiness, but other than just lazy, teen messiness I haven’t figured it out yet. But a day or two more that room in its present and ever declining state, and it might make me gag as I walk by. Ick.

I really am prioritizing my health. A lot has happened this summer, and I am genuinely concerned about my own emotional health. I’m just cranky all the time and it’s getting old. My emotional eating has gotten really out of hand and the scale….oh the scale. I usually do a fall wardrobe refresher, but I would need to go up a size (in addition to financing the upgrades) and I utterly refuse to go up a size. It’s offensive. I’ve got my annual physical coming up, and I’m convinced that when I go for my bloodwork this week that a sugary, fatty red substance will seep from my veins. A week later, I’m anticipating a lecture that I really am not trying to hear.

Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala!

I can’t hear you, Dr. Chuck…I can’t hear you.

Lalalalalalalalalala!

Yes, I know I’ve gained weight. Yes, I know my cholesterol is higher. Yes, I know my A1-C levels are probably up too. Yes, I know I’m not getting enough sleep or exercise. Yes, I know my blood pressure is up—I know this one is coming.

And your point is?

nene

Boy bye!

So, anyhoo, I’m really going to set some achievable goals and get my fanny to work.

And I’m going to do it for me. Hope will be the secondary beneficiary to my working on getting my health together.

Next week scares me. I’ve been wrestling with a lot of trust issues with Hope lately. I swear every time I turn around we are having to have a conversation about deceitfulness or boundary breaking or some other hot-arse mess thing she’s done. The trip thing is that she honestly believes that she will get away with this foolishness. Either she believes it or she’s a fantastic actor in the art of appearing shocked that she got caught.

Now this bucket of behavior is probably tied to some need to test me to see if I’m really checking up or if I’m going to overreact or just normal 13 year old foolishness or some nasty combo of all of it. I don’t know; I’m starting to find that I don’t care what’s causing it. I’d just like a few weeks of sanity in the house. I’m hoping that the routine of school helps us get back to a sane existence. A girl can hope.

Next week scares me though because it will be the first full week of school; the burdens of homework will hit. The saxophone practices will need to start in earnest. The need to be productive will increase. I hope that Hope will thrive, but I don’t know that she will. I know she can, but I just don’t know that she will. She’s been on a tech blackout as of late because of some dumb ish she’s done. That will end later this week. She will get some things back but not everything. She will also have access to a new chromebook for her homework. I have blocked access to so many things and the rule will be that she has to use it in a common area, like right up under my left butt cheek (not that my cheeks are necessarily”common areas”).

Given her recent track record, I don’t know that she can handle access to anything, but I guess I’ll see what lessons she’s learned and give her a bit of rope.

It’s sad that I don’t trust her. I also realize that my recently diminished trust has contributed to my grumpiness. It’s disappointment feeding the grumpy; I know that. I hope that she will make some different choices in the next week.

————————————

So that’s it. I’m hopeful about the week, even if I’m nervous, even if I’m still bearing scars from last week. I know she’s doing ok; she’s clothed, fed, rested and loved. She now can apologize; that’s a big deal. I’ll cling to that for now.


Back to School

This!

Tomorrow!

That is all.


Negative Energy

Can I just say that I cannot wait until school starts? I might do cartwheels to the bus stop. This month has emotionally exhausted me. We need routine, and we need it bad.

The last month has been filled with a lot of bickering. Admittedly my patience in the midst of loss has been absurdly short. I was already tender and ouchie. Add to that Hope’s anxiety about returning to a school she says she hated and all sorts of adolescent drama and you’ve got a powder keg house. We can go from 0 to 60 faster than a sports car. It’s not been pretty. We really should be calling the fire house regularly because we can burn this joint down.

I hate admitting it because it makes me feel like a bad parent and certainly not a therapeutic parent. I’m kinda filled with shame at how just downright furious I feel 80% of the time.

During this period, I’ve noticed Hope absorbing and reflecting lots of negative energy.

evil-queen-mirror-o

Her self-esteem is already low, so whenever there are moments of angst, conflict, correction or whatever she sucks all that up and spits it out either with venom at me or with self-loathing. There is never a moment of bright, airy light. It’s always so negative. And whether it’s venom directed at me or her own self-loathing it sucks for both of us. It’s. Just. Awful.

I do a lot of affirmations with her. I work hard to shine some light and positivity on her—“Hope you’re smart, you’re funny, you’re lovely, you can do this….” It’s almost always deflected.

There are moments when she swings to the other end of the continuum. It’s during these moments that she can’t take correction because she is absolutely, unequivocally correct in all things. The need to be the “right” one is so strong that her very identity is wrapped in that rightness. When presented with evidence to the contrary there’s just rage. She rages a lot. The world isn’t really as she knows it; it’s dynamic and what was right yesterday may not be right tomorrow. That upsets her greatly.

I don’t deal with that well. Oh, I get the underlying need to be right; I have issues with wanting/needing to be right. But my identity isn’t defined by it. I see how this negatively impacts her ability to learn; she’s right and you are wrong so you couldn’t possibly teach her anything.

I am really worried about how she will do school this year. During the last couple of weeks I’ve been giving her worksheets for her weaker subjects so that she can get some practice. I’m heartbroken to find how far behind she is on foundational concepts she should’ve learned in 3rd or 4th grade. She missed so much school over the years, moved around so much that she was never even exposed to the material, much less learned it. And yet those few academic compliments she’s received from caring teachers on her journey are clung to with vice grips.

Trying to help her wrestle with academic shortcomings is hard. At the end of the day, Dr. ABM is just another dumb parent who has no effing idea what she’s talking about, according to Hope. The ego check isn’t the thing for me; the fact that she shuts herself off for growth and learning is the thing. Being smart is her shining beacon in an otherwise dark, dank self-worth. Anything that she might interpret as questioning her all-knowingness is to be crushed.

I worry about school this year. And I’m not sure what to do.

phoebe-sad-o

And everything else is out of whack too. It’s hard being 13, man! It’s hard being the mom of a 13 year old, man! It’s just hard around these parts.

This week we’ve navigated revealing more abuse that wasn’t in any of the disclosure documents, dumb adolescent ish, shopping for a birthday card for her bio-grandmother when all the granny cards are all lovely dovey and well, it ain’t that kinda party around here. Schedule changes, foot dragging, temper tantrums (mine and hers) and just dark, icky messiness that has made the house feel so negative that once a day I have to step out on the balcony just to step into the light.

I feel like I’m shadow boxing some kind of fighter that is straight kicking my ass. I’m almost on the defensive as soon as I get up in the morning. I try not to raise my voice. I try to just be quiet sometimes to just avoid escalating things. How we practice civility during the day would be very upsetting to the Nobel Committee because there are no peace prizes in the making around these parts.

I feel like I’m suffocating from the negative energy. It’s just negative energy in negative space.

I’m ready for school to start next week.

This post has been added to the Adoption Social’s #WASO link up.


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