Tag Archives: Black Adoption

Four Years Ago

Four years ago, Hope was here for a pre-placement visit. She spent two weeks with me, including Thanksgiving. I was a hot mess during that visit.  

I hadn’t got to a place where I really understood my soon-to-be daughter. In fact, I didn’t have an effiing clue. Looking back with clarity and a little rose-colored grace, I know that we were both trying our hardest to hold it together. It was scary as all get out to figure out how to be a family, but the alternative seemed like failure so the possibility of this visit being a disaster was a non-starter. We were doing this. 

But I hadn’t lived with anyone but the late, great Furry One for more than a decade. I lived all over my house. Hope’s room was still transitioning from a guest room. I was used to my mess, but no one else’s. I hardly ate meat at that time, so I had this super vegetarian friendly house. I didn’t buy snack foods; I didn’t buy ice cream (I was also about 30 lbs lighter, but who’s counting…). My house was not adolescent-friendly. It wasn’t even a little bit.  

But I was doing this thing. It was our second visit—the first one having been a month before and only about 4 days long. It was polite, hotel based and what I would probably call, more like kid-sitting than trying to start a mother daughter relationship. We had fun, but it wasn’t even parenting-adjacent.  

But during Hope’s trip to what has become our home, I felt like I was more in control. This was a home game. I would entertain Hope. I would introduce her to yummy, healthy foods. She would get to meet her new family for the first time. We would go visit what would end up being her school. We would pick out things for her room.  

We would bond and it would be glorious.  

But honestly, it wasn’t. I was bored senseless at the museum where Hope did her damndest to show me she was brilliant. She ate all of the gummy vitamins I bought her in one day. She showed her single digit emotional age more times than I care to remember. I fielded questions about why she did some of the things she did, which was hard since I didn’t have a clue why. I even managed to drop the Thanksgiving turkey all over the carpet right outside my front door in my condo building. It was a messy visit, literally, figuratively, emotionally. 

In the evenings I cried. The responsibility of caring for a kid was new and exhausting. I chugged a lot of wine after Hope’s bed time. I chronicled my experiences as a fledgling parent. I questioned if I was really cut out for mothering Hope. I doubted everything I knew about everything I thought I knew. I worried that backing out would be a shameful failure from which I would never recover. How could I reject this kid because I really wasn’t sure I wanted to give up my single carefree lifestyle? But as I cried and boozed myself to sleep during those two weeks, and as the day for Hope to return home drew closer, I found that my tears shifted to anticipating the pain of being separated from this scared kid who just wondered if I accepted and wanted her.  

It was all pretty humbling.   

Those two weeks, four years ago, Hope became my daughter. She was a scared, hot mess of a kid, who needed endless love, support, therapy, and permanence and an occasionally stern talking to. Even as we boarded the plane to take her back to her foster family, I couldn’t have known how I would come to love Hope. I loved her then, but my heart nearly hurts when I think about how much I adore her now. 

Four years later, I see so much growth in both of us. Lord knows we struggle on the daily. I mean, really, really struggle, but we’re so much farther than we were back then when we were trying to figure out if this family was even going to be a thing.  

As for me, specifically, I think I may have gotten the hang of this parenting thing; it’s still hella hard, but I think I’m doing ok. I’m not so secretly annoyed by how much food contraband has migrated into my house under the guise of being “teen friendly.” I bumbled along until I made a few parent friends. I got over my guilt about not going to PTA or band parent group meetings. I don’t like them; I’m not a joiner and as a single parent with a kid in multiple kinds of therapy, parent groups rank dead-arse last on every list. I made peace with only occasionally selling fundraiser crap (but also opting sometimes to just send a check because really, do any of us need a tub of pizza dough and ugly wrapping paper?). I also resumed my travel schedule, which I know puts a huge strain on us, but the experience has taught me a lot about Hope’s maturity and attachment to me. That girl loves her mommy, but doesn’t stress too much because as she says, “I know you’re coming home.”  

I have helped my daughter see places she never dreamed of—I’m currently trying to work out details for Spring Break in Greece, and I also get to see the world through her eyes. I’ve learned that I can still be selfish with my stuff and my time and that it’s ok. I have learned to say both yes and no when appropriate. I have new metrics by which to measure choices—what’s the impact on my family? Is it worth my time? Do I enjoy it? Do I really want to? I’ve also tried to create a framework for my daughter, who as far as I know, will be my only heir, to eventually experience financial freedom. I figure I’ll probably work until I keel over—partly because I enjoy working and partly because I’ll need to keep earning. But Hope? I’m doing my best to set her up to have a comfortable life filled with lots of choices, because choices equal freedom.  

Four years later, I’m an ok mother. I’m learning to be happy with being an ok mother. Mothering/parenting is hard work. Maintaining multiple identities is hard work. Centering my daughters needs in my life is still hard work. I’m doing ok at it all. There is always room for improvement. During the next four years, Hope will hopefully enroll in college, maybe even finish an associates degree. She will vote in her first election. She will get her driver’s license. She might move out into her own place. She probably will have finally visited South Korea (if we’re all not blown off the map yet). She’ll have many more passport stamps. She will continue to grow, continue to heal and thrive. And I get to watch from the front row. It’s the best reality TV show ever. It’s amazing.  

As Thanksgiving approaches, I needed to sit and just ponder that first visit to our home and how we’ve changed. I am incredibly grateful, and super proud of the hard work we’ve put in.  

Here’s to four more years.  

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Thoughts on Being Invisible in Adoptionland

Hope shared an interesting tidbit with me today. We were recently asked to participate in a video for our adoption agency recruiting other potential adoptive parents for older foster kids. We haven’t decided to do it yet, I’m leaving the decision up to Hope. She was telling me about the reaction she gets when she shares that she is adopted.

Hope said most of her peers are like, oh wow, that’s interesting. But, invariably, there is always at least one person who says they don’t believe her because her mom is black.

#recordscratch

Say what now?

Yeah, Hope says, kids think only white people adopt kids, especially black kids. They think we’re rare. That’s messed up, right?

Uh, yeah, that’s messed up. I am so done!

Of course, there are folks of color who adopt, but we’re largely invisible. Unless it’s a transracial adoption (POCs adopting white children) we just sort of blend in. Our voices in the adoption sphere tend to be muted and the few of us who are vocal and visible are just not enough of a critical mass for folks to take a shine to us. I just made the wonderful list by Healthline of the best adoptive mom blog (Second year! Woot, woot), but I’m the only person of color.

The only one.

This invisibility means that folks think we aren’t here. It leads grown folks and kids to think my daughter is just joshing them by saying she’s adopted because if it was true her parents would surely be white.

Sometimes it feels like the only reason we’re invited into adoption spaces is to help white people raise children of color with free advice and well wishes. This phenomenon makes it hard for people like me to construct our support systems, our villages. There may not be folks comfortable talking to us, building relationships with us, not having one-sided transactional relationships involving our kids. It makes for a lonely journey unless you hunt down and/or fall into your safe space that includes folks who are willing to share their lives with you.

Adoption journeys require intimacy.  As parents we open our homes and our lives to children; children who need homes have to find a way to learn to live with and hopefully trust these parents. The people around us don’t simply play voyeur; they often are parts of our extended family and close friends. Even if they don’t see everything; they see a lot. Parents and kids need specific support systems, and those systems must be safe enough to share some our darkest secrets about our wins and our challenges.

We are invisible, we aren’t able to even build the scaffolding necessary to create what we need.

It is so hard sometimes.

And on top of everything else, our absence from the adoption narrative makes kids doubt my daughter’s adoption story.

That’s effed up.


Drawing Her Back In

The thing I’ve found that helps Hope and I move past drama more quickly is to just draw her closer to me. All I usually have to do is text her and say, “You want to…’

Watch a movie?

Watch a show?

Show me some K-Pop videos?

Share some popcorn?

Make s’mores?

Have some cocoa?

With me.

Ultimately, Hope wants to spend time with me. She doesn’t want drama; she wants love.

So, last week, after I dressed her down about her BS excuses about school and told her she could not go to prom with her friend; Hope retreated to her room. She put on her headphones and watched videos nonstop for an hour or two. I let her be for a while. And then, knowing that we needed to get past my fussiness of school and prom, I texted her from the living room:

text

Next thing you know, Hope schleps out with her blanket, and we watch a couple of deep sea creature documentaries and all was well with the world. We were cool.

Even when Hope is in a lot of trouble, all she wants is the reaffirmation that I love her, that I want her, that she is safe and that we’ll always be cool. And we will be. We’ll be just fine.

I try to remember that when I get angry or frustrated with her; all I have to do is draw her back in.


There is No Magic

A few days ago Hope and I were in the car listening to a podcast. We were chuckling about the show, and then it ended and we listened to some of the commercials before the next podcast started. One of the commercials was about a new podcast on the magic of childhood.

I was only halfheartedly listening to the commercials. I caught the thought and let it slip through my mind.

But Hope was listening.

“There is no magic in childhood. None.”

She immediately had my attention. I didn’t know what to say.  All I could manage to say was, “Huh?”

“Magic? What’s magical about childhood? Nothing,”

We sat quietly at a light.

I quickly thought about all of her young years and the things she endured. I felt her trauma in my soul.

She didn’t say anything else, and I wasn’t sure what to say next. So, I didn’t say anything at all. It was one of the few times during our time together when I was completely stunned to silence. Usually, I can come up with something, but I had nothing. And I was just overwhelmed by the absence of magic in my daughter’s childhood.

I understand how she concluded that the magic of childhood was nothing but a farce. It breaks my heart. I have these fond memories of growing up. I remember my parents love. I remember birthday cakes and playing in the street with neighborhood kids. I remember when they took me and my sisters to Disney World and numerous other family trips. I remember feeling safe and loved. I remember so many little details that are clear to me know but seemed magical then.

I know that there are some memories that Hope has with her first family that are happy memories, but the number of those moment to moment memories are dwarfed by memories of instability, fear, and profound grief. The latter so crushing that she can barely see the good stuff in her mind. And she can’t separate those memories and just erase the bad ones. She has figured out how to reconcile the bad stuff; she can’t partition it to try to create some magic.

The magic of childhood is lost to her.

I wish I could change it all for her. I can’t, but I wish to hell like I could.

I have spent a lot of time and resources on helping Hope heal. I didn’t realize that I was also trying to create some magic in the waning years of Hope’s adolescence. I try to give her big and small experiences that will stick with her. I’m hoping they are special, magical, but knowing that she doesn’t think there’s any magic in childhood just makes me feel so sad.

I wonder will she still feel this way years from now when she has her own child? Did my silence, my failure to offer some wisdom about childhood magic, just reaffirm her grief? What can I do to make magic for her? Can I still create some magic for her?

I honestly don’t know what was I supposed to say in that moment that would validate her but offer a different narrative. I still don’t know what I was supposed to say to that declaration. I just don’t know what to say about there being no magic in childhood.


What Would They Say about Us?

I am overwhelmed with grief and anger. My mini getaway was marred by Black and blue death. My heart actually aches.

Hope is away at band camp; she hasn’t been online in a couple of days now. I was bothered because I hadn’t heard from her, though I took it as a good sign that she was having fun and making friends. Now I’m relieved that she is cloistered away from the internet and news. I hope it stays that way until I pick her up.

It gives me a couple of days to figure out what to say to her about two more black men dying at the hands of police.

I’ve written a lot on my fears about being Black and raising a Black child in an age where the incidence of police brutality seems to be increasing.

I’ve gone back and forth on what I wanted to use this platform to say about the deaths of Alton Spalding and Philando Castile and now the officers slain in Dallas.

I don’t know what to say or even where to begin.

I can say that this is the terrorism that I am most afraid of.

I am grateful for friends of a many races and backgrounds who reached out, who commiserated, who were experiencing the same anguish I feel.

I am also acutely aware of crickets chirping in areas of my life, where nothing was said, nothing was acknowledged, or where Black humanity was seemingly ignored. #iseeandhearyou

I unplugged for a while because the anger and sorrow was just too much.

I am actively pondering what would people say about me if a traffic stop ended in my death or that of my daughter.

Would people look for a mug shot of me to use in the media?

Would people recast my diversity and social justice educational work as militant?

Would people dig into my background to find mistakes that would cast me as worthy of death by police execution?

Would people gaslight my family by saying, “Well, we don’t really know what happened; let’s wait for all the details?”

Would the body cameras mysteriously fall off or fail to record what happened to me?

Would there be anyone around using a cell phone camera that showed what happened to either of us?

Who around me would be silent about my death?

Would I be cast as the exception rather than the rule because I’m middle class, educated with no record?

What would they say about me?

What would they say about Hope?

Would the failings of her first family be used to crush her and explain why she was wothy of police execution?

Would my parental failings be broadcast widely in order to justify her execution?

How would the privacy of her story be violated, because we already know it would be?

Would they say she was troubled?

Would they say that she was angry and disobedient?

Who would stand with me as I grieved my child?

Would our deaths help the deniers get a clue about state sanctioned murder?

Would there be indictments?

Would anyone even really expect indictments?

If there was a trial how would our executions be portrayed in order to justify our deaths?

Would anyone give either of us the benefit of any doubt? Any reasonable doubt?

If there was a trial does anyone really think there would be a conviction?

Would our lives matter beyond a hashtag, some good speeches and a protest or two?

Would our deaths change anything?

Would our living have been in vain?

Have you ever had to ask yourself these questions? Have you ever needed to? Have they ever even crossed your mind?

I’m just pained, from the inside out.


Lessons Learned #8741

I haven’t officially written about lessons learned while parenting through adoption in many moons. As I sit in a hotel in Michigan this morning I realize that I really learned some cool things in the last few days.

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Business travel is a form of respite. This isn’t really a new lesson, as much as I really need a reminder sometimes. Hope and I actually get along much better when I travel at least once a month for work. It can be such a hassle getting everything in place to go away without a bunch of worry. She’s also a little older now and when I leave she tends to step up a bit more. Seriously, just being in a hotel where I can leave my clothes on the floor (something I don’t do at home) is simply indulgent. Even room service—wow, someone brings me food without kvetching about it. The validation I get after a lecture or a meeting; that’s something I don’t get at home much, so the ego stroke is super nice. I’ve been on the road for 5 of the last 7 days and it’s been marvelous.

Travel also gives me perspective, which is essential.  Back during the first year to 18 months, Hope and I would video chat while I was away. It was fun since we would also download apps that would allow us to draw on each other’s faces and make funny noises and everything. And then, one day, she didn’t want to anymore.

I was sad. I was kinda hurt too.

Every time I head out of town, I ask, “Hey you want to video chat while I’m away?”

“Nope.”

When I was leaving on Friday last week, she said, “Dang mom, you’re coming back!”

It was like a light bulb went off.

Hope knows I’m coming back. She believes I’m coming back. She’s secure in knowing I’m coming back. She doesn’t need to see me, sometimes acts like she doesn’t even need to talk to me, while I’m away, because my daughter who was afraid of being deserted knows I’m coming back.

I smiled because that’s probably the biggest positive development ever—she feels safe, even when I get on her nerves, even when we bicker, even when we yell, even when it all falls down around us, she knows I got her.

I am overwhelmed in trying to figure out how to handle all of this education stuff.  It’s not that I don’t know how; I’m so fortunate to work in education and to have some street cred with the whole doctorate. It’s really that I’m swimming in information. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, a lot of research, trying to figure out strategies might help us, what might help click some things into the right place. Trying to get a plan together is exhausting—who knows what will work.

I’m still not good at patience; I’m still not all that great with figuring out long games versus short wins. I’m still developing those skills, I guess.

Tomorrow I’ll get the latest psychologist report back and start that planning process all over again.

Hope use to groan about all of the appointments and conversations; she doesn’t anymore and I know it’s because she also wants to believe we can figure this life knot out and help try to smooth her path a bit.

I want to believe it too.

Yappy is turning into one of the great loves of my life.  I honestly didn’t think I was capable of loving a pup again the way I loved The Furry One, but my terror of a terrier has wormed his way into my heart. He really is a comforting critter when things are hard, and his attachment to me…it’s probably unhealthy, but gosh, I love that he loves me more. It ain’t right, but it’s real.

You could not pay me to be a teenager again.  I remember these years—they are coming back to me because really, I had banished it from my memory—these years kinda sucked. I mean, there were some awesome times with my best girlfriends and all the football games, the sports I played, the fellas I pined after and/or dated. But the insecurity, the hormone swings, the drama, so much drama. The boys and what I liked about them and what made me dislike them.

Over dinner out this evening, Hope was telling me about some boy in her band section that she must’ve had a 15 minute crush on. She went on to say how the crush abruptly ended when she saw him sleeping ugly on the charter bus on the spring band trip.

What, that’s it? That’s all he did?  He slept ugly?

Yep, that’s what did him in.

I start scrolling through my phone pics, “You mean like this one? Or this one? Or what about this one?”{all pics of Hope sleeping less than ‘pretty’.}

“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!”

I’m also reliving a good portion of this developmental phase because Hope loves to talk. Now, I’m incredibly grateful that she does talk to me and that she wants to talk to me, but some of this ish is so utterly ridiculous that I actually feel precious brain cells slipping away.

It is hard feigning interest after say, the first 45 minutes of really trying to follow along.

Dear Holy Homeboy, help us all. Teenager-dom is hard work. Hard, hard work that is sucking my brain through a small, painful straw.

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So, the lessons are always coming, even when I don’t write about them! We are on the upswing and this time apart is giving us both an opportunity to breathe, think and reflect.


Thoughts on Charleston

I am really tired of writing about the challenges of feeling unsafe walking around in Black skin, raising a Black child.

I am tired of feeling like it is open season on Black lives.

I am tired of being fearful of watching the news, choosing to binge watch Hulu or Netflix because the reality of living in this skin means that it is more likely than not the news will relay a story of the death of a brother or sister…at the hands of someone White…because that’s what makes national news these days.

Oh sure, yeah, I hear the rumbling excuses used to distract us from living under the threat of social terrorism—“What about Black on Black crime?”

What about it?

I am tired of hearing about why we can’t get serious gun control in the US.

I am tired of seeing, reading, hearing about how White mass killers are “loners with emotional problems” who write racist manifestos, tell friends and family that they want to start a racial war, and are gifted a gun by parents.

I am shocked that this young killer was taken alive, given a bullet-proof vest and humanely taken into custody. That alone seems to be a privilege not afforded to Black folk who are walking down the street.

I fear that a time will come when my economic and educational privilege will be shown, in dramatic and terrifying fashion, not to trump the disadvantage of my skin color.

I am angered by the unmitigated gall of South Carolina to fly what I believe to be the treasonous flag of the Confederacy;  the Confederacy lost. We’re supposed to be a union.

I grieve for the dead:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Rev. Sharonda Singleton
Myra Thompson
Tywanza Sanders
Ethel Lee Lance
Cynthia Hurd
Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
Susie Jackson

I am so weary of this general subject matter. I feel compelled to write about it too often.

I am scared for Hope. I don’t want to keep explaining this ish to her. There is no explanation. None. I feel a sense of anguish after this massacre in Mother Emanuel. It is shameful. It is horrendous. I don’t know how the families can offer forgiveness. I am clearly not as far in my faith as they are, because I can’t offer that at all.

I am not even sure I can write anything else…the grief, sorrow and anger are just too much. I’ll just end with what my dear friend Mimi said on one of our early Add Water and Stir podcasts: “We’re trying to raise kids here!”


What Happened and What Didn’t

I just did a lessons learned recap that covered more than a week so I thought I’d share some highlights of the last couple of days that just seems to be a good commentary on where were are on our journey.

Our Super Bowl trip has been booked! The end of June promises to be a time for big celebrations around these parts. My degree completion, the end of Hope’s school year, her birthday and finalization of our adoption. So what do folks do to celebrate so many events? Go to Disney World of course.

I actually hate Orlando (no offense to anyone who’s from there or currently reside there). But Disney is a bit of stimulation overload coupled with an outrageous mouse tax. Fortunately, we’re staying with a friend and we look forward to the days enjoying the sun, beach (Daytona) and the big rat’s park.

God has jokes. I know I mentioned on a previous blog that Hope recently asked me to read her a bedtime story at night. This is something that’s been integrated into our evening routine. This weekend we hit the library to check out a few things and I picked up some evening reading for us. At some point yesterday I found myself rooting around in a closet where I found this gem.

God's got jokes making me buy this book years before I needed it.

God’s got jokes making me buy this book years before I needed it.

I bought it years ago. Actually I bought 3 of them. I gave two away and have been searching for a kid to give this book to for several years now. Ha! Well, I don’t have to look any further since I read my lovely princess a story from it tonight. You just don’t know the plans God has for your life. He had me scoop up this book probably 4 or 5 years ago, only to have me trip over it after my 12 year old daughter asked me to read to her nightly. I have long believed that God is going to send an Isaac into my life since I am so aware of how he jokes me.

Hope’s hair is growing. So Hope’s hair has been out of the braids now for about two months. We’ve got a routine down now—full wash on Sunday evenings in preparation for the week. I’m a lazy naturalista. I don’t fret over products. I don’t put too much heat to my hair because I’m lazy not because I’m afraid of heat damage. I’ve taken increasingly to wearing fro’d out twist outs and when my hair is stretched scooping it back into a banana clip.

I have to blow Hope’s hair out for her twist outs. We’ve tried wet twists, and let’s just say no one is happy about the results—lots of sucky sighing. We’ve discovered that el cheapo ORS Smooth and Hold Pudding works well as a styler for both of us. It’s great; not too heavy and leaves her hair shiny. Not my favorite product on my hair, but it’s good.

Hope wants long hair. She’s is frustrated by shrinkage. I have to blow her hair out again mid-week just to loosen things up a bit. But I’ve been snapping pics along the way. Top left-first day post braids before I trimmed those see through ends off. Pink shirt about a month ago. White shirt is today.

So much hair!

So much hair!

I can’t wait to show her the progress, especially when every few days she’s stretching and saying, “I think it’s to my jaw line now.”

She wants to do a memory project with me. While standing in the Dollar Tree today, Hope describe a craft project in which we capture memories in a wooden box from this time and put them away to show to her future kids. It was so sweet. She has written out a plan and everything. Next weekend we’ll hit the Lowe’s to make this project a reality.

I put together an emergency anxiety kit. I should’ve done this ages ago. It’s got a silly putty, a stress ball, a backup external charger for electronic devices and a granola bar. Into a Ziploc and Into the purse it goes. We had a bit of a social meltdown on Friday and I thought to myself, “You’re a mom, you don’t even have baby wipes, what the hell is wrong with you???” Now I’ve got things that help her manage stress, which helps me manage my stress.

Movies in her bedroom are the gift that keeps giving. She really would prefer to watch things with me on the big tv but there is something decadent about watching a DVD in her room that is a special treat. It’s a treat that gave me 5 hours that included an adult beverage, 5 chapters of a trashy novel, several episodes of Will and Grace #justjack and several episodes of Designing Women #lightsoutinGA. She actually went to bed on her own and fell asleep watching Finding Nemo. It was awesome.

We had not one fight. Not one fight or bickering moment. I’m starting the week with such a positive outlook. I can’t wait to see her smile tomorrow.

In the words of Ice Cube, “Today was a good day.”


Living Rooms, Kinky Coils & Mama/Daughter Bonding

So, I’ve made an appointment for Hope to get her hair braided this weekend, but first we had to take out her current braids, wash, condition and blow out her hair to prep it.  I’ve been eager to do this since she got here.  I wear my hair in its natural state: curly, kinky, coily; so does Hope, but most of the time her hair is hidden away in braids.  I wanted to learn more about Hope by doing her hair.  I also wanted to have the little girl/mommy time that comes with doing hair.

When I was a child, my mom washed my hair in the kitchen sink while I stood on a small chair.  Then she painstakingly blew out my hair with a hair dryer, followed by getting it straight using a comb heated on an eye of the stove.  She would then either braid our hair or put it up in ponies.  The whole process took about 2 hours—I had a lot of hair.  Then she’d tackle my two younger sisters’ heads, both of whom, at various times, had hair down to their waists.  Grammy was tired after it was all over, but she loved to see us with our hair all fresh and styled up.

There was an intimacy in those moments that I now more deeply appreciate.  I always trusted Grammy to make me pretty.  We would sometimes talk or even sit in silence, but getting my hair done on that small chair in the kitchen with Grammy was my time with her during hectic weekends.  I had her undivided attention.  She would fret over the health of my scalp and hair.  She would cluck if she used too much heat on my hair or nicked my ear with the hot comb (long before flat irons).  She would wail when I took scissors to it mid-week to cut crooked, too short bangs because she had to figure out how to help me hide them until they grew out.  Even though it was a chore, it was something so selfless that Grammy did to care for me and to make me pretty.  Looking back it was a special thing we shared.

I wanted to share that with Hope.  I had to use a dining room chair in the living room instead of a tiny kiddie chair in the kitchen, but I got it done.

It took an hour to take Hope’s braids out, and more than 30 minutes to detangle it and get all the shed hair out (which incidentally was a lot, like think yeti).

I explained why I don’t use shampoo to cleanse (I find it too drying for my curly tresses), and yes, Hope, I go through large quantities of conditioner.

I explained that I don’t use towels on my hair because my hair can catch in the terry loops and break; instead I buy t-shirt fabric since the nap is gentler on my hair.

Yes, Hope, I use olive oil and coconut oil at various stages of the ‘hair-doing’ process.  No, coconut oil does not smell like a pina colada, like you might think; it used to though.  No, I don’t know why that old coconut oil grease used to smell like that.

I listen when she says she has “bad” hair (meaning it’s very kinky or coily, not straight), and I try to educate her that there is no such thing as “bad” hair.   Her dark brown and black curly hair is lovely.  And it’s so very thick.  It lies down at the first sign of heat, though.

I listen when she feeds me the line, “When my hair is blown out, it’s down my back.”  She has a lot of shrinkage, but it is not down her back.  It takes me back to the short haired girls who used to tell me that same line, when I arrived at school on Mondays with my long ponies swinging.  I remember how I couldn’t understand that science of how their hair could be longer than mine.  It wasn’t.   It never really mattered, but I see it for the self-esteem/self-identity issue it really is now.  I see Hope struggling with long hair desires, too.  She asked me for a weave earlier this week.  I said no. I’m not anti-weave, I just don’t think she needs a weave at 12.

Yes, you need to try to learn what your hair likes and what it needs to make it thrive.   I have gone through many products; we’ll figure out what your hair likes.

‘Oh, so the scalp massage feels good?”

She almost fell asleep, cooing how good it felt.

“Oh you like the paddle brush too?”

Hope begs me to keep brushing her strands after her blowout.

I explain why I need to trim her broken ends.   I don’t have to cut as much as I thought.

I explain what a twist out is, and how it’s usually how I style my hair.  I set her hair similarly.

Please, hold your head up. #phraseinheavyrotation

I am sad that her lovely tresses will be hidden in braids again by this time tomorrow.  She can keep them for 3 weeks, but then I want to have this experience again.  I need to  experience this with her again.

I want to coach my little naturalista to love herself and her hair.

That was five hours (yes, Lawd—FIVE!!!) of near bliss.


When a Week Seems Like a Year

I fly out to see Hope in 5 days.  Seems like forever.

This week I’m traveling for work and cramming in dissertation interviews so that I can keep this project moving.  It has been exhausting.  I’ve conducted 4 interviews this week and I’ve got another 6 before I leave to see Hope.  Lots of prep work, note taking and synopsis writing…late nights writing and early morning writing.  Actually, this dissertation thing sucks.  It really is a means to an end.  I enjoyed most of the coursework, as much as anyone enjoys the rigid discipline that is required to slug two-plus years of course work while working full time.  I made lifelong friends and colleagues and learned a lot both about my area of focus and myself.  I love my dissertation topic, but honestly, I cannot be more over this stupid exercise of demonstrating my capacity to do research.  I just need to get it done.  Onward and upward.

Meanwhile, Hope got the photo book that I sent her and apparently loved it.  She is so excited about her new life with me, that she showed the book to her friends at school.  Wow!  I am blown away and delighted that she is so excited!  I have no idea how a kid goes to school and says, “Look at the book some chick who wants to be my mom sent me about what my life might be like if I go to live with her.”  Is that even how the conversation goes?  How does a pre-teen even go about telling her schoolmates that she’s waiting for a forever home?  I have a hard time trying to figure out how I might have shared that with my friends back in the day.  My Hope is a brave girl.

She did raise the issue of timing…”So, my friend asked if I was going to go back with you after next week?”  It wasn’t an anxious inquiry, more like how long do I have to wait and what kind of timeline do I have to say goodbye.  We all need time to get our lives in order right?  I know I do.

She continues to give me peeks into her life and just when I think my heart can’t melt more, I find yet another smushy spot.  So, she likes two different boys in her class, just a little puppy love crush.  I love that she told me and actually didn’t seem to freak out when I asked questions about her crush.  I hope that she will continue to share those things with me.  I hope I can continue to earn her trust.

I’m still working on ideas for her room and pulling things together for her look book.  A dear colleague I had some quality time with during this week’s travels inspired me to include a pet fish in the book. Hope has asked if maybe one day she could have a dog of her own, but I can only have one furry beast at a time, so a fish has emerged as a new option. Dr. Beach has the coolest fish!!  She’s taught him to do tricks!!!!   I had no idea that fish could be taught to do tricks!  I’m starting to build a registry for Hope’s arrival and the R2 Fish School Fish Training Kit is so going on that registry!

So, it’s just a matter of days before I come face to face with my beautiful Hope.  I have so much to do to get ready, but I know the minute I see her that first time, nothing else will matter.


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