Tag Archives: Black Adoption

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.

K E Garland

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