Tag Archives: Black Adoption

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.


A Kid, You Know, a Small Human

I’m a dog person, a pretty serious dog person.  I’ve owned The Furry One since he was only 8 weeks old.  He sleeps with me.  He rides shot gun in the car without even having to call “Shot Gun!”  He’s my little buddy.   I love most other people’s dogs; and if I don’t it is usually because of the owner not the dog.  I just really love dogs.

So, this morning when I stopped by the front desk of my condo building to ask a favor related to the adoption and thus disclosed that I was adopting, Mrs. G (the desk attendant) raised a shady eyebrow and asked, “Adopting a what?”

I smiled and replied, “A kid, you know. a small human, so I think that’s a ‘who’.”  Mrs. G laughed and said, “I thought you were announcing you were getting another dog.”  She then gushed with the nicest, sweetest, supportive comments and posed for a picture for the book I’m creating for Hope.  She will see Mrs. G every weekday at the desk as she heads off to school, so I wanted to include her in the book.

And so it goes.

I know that I have written a bit about those individuals around me who have said things that are not really supportive of my choice to adopt or are just insensitive when yammering on about childbearing and child-rearing.  I acknowledge that most of these comments come from a place of ignorance rather than malice, and I’m trying to learn how to manage my emotional reaction to that static.

The reality is that most of the people in my life are really, very supportive.  A friend painted Hope’s room white so we can start decorating with a fresh canvas.  I’ve had people offer airline points to help me visit Hope when the time comes.  I’ve had friends offer to connect with me with friends and relatives who live in the area to help me secure information about school districts, places to stay, places to eat and supportive shoulders to lean on.  I’ve got friends and family close by and far, far, far away who excitedly ask for updates.  There’s a “tween shower” in the works to help welcome Hope to her new home.  Even my HR director squealed with delight today when I asked about family leave options for the next year (I never got to take family leave with The Furry One in nearly 14 years!).   A young cousin already has plans to talk hair and nails and all kinds of teenish activities with Hope.

So, although those folks who say less supportive things lance me deeply, I have this amazing group of people in my life who are committed to helping me be a successful mom.  They help me patch the wounds up pretty quickly and carry on.

I don’t see too many people of color adopting.  I have heard that in-family adoptions can be more common within families of color.  As I started this process, I didn’t expect the lack of role models to affect me so deeply.  It was only after a few months of running around filling out paperwork and taking my required training that I really started to feel lonely.  I also started wondering how my extended family would react to this decision.  I come from an amazing extended family, and they never gave me any reason to think they wouldn’t be supportive.  But this was such a radical path for me, and for us, that I just didn’t know.  This isn’t a path I had much exposure to growing up.

I’m grateful, and relieved, to know that my Hope and I will be loved, supported and even championed among my family and friends.

I’m also getting better about asking for what I need, thanks to a great therapist who nudges me a long when I occasionally get stuck.  I recently asked my agency for some families who could be my cultural touchstones as I navigate this process.  I wished I’d asked six months ago; my agency sent me over a list of folks right away.

So, in spite of those annoying folks who say silly things; my love and support cups are getting filled.  I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

Funny thing is…if I had just paid attention to how they treat me on issues related to The Furry One, I probably would have realized that the addition of a human child to my family wouldn’t have been a big deal.

Love me, love my kid and my dog.


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