Tag Archives: Black Parenting

Sex Chats

This week a podcast went viral featuring Atlanta based rapper and married but still trolloping, T.I.

Image result for ti rapper

T.I. revealed that he annually accompanies his now 18 year old daughter to the gynecologist. He went on to say that he does so for the purpose of confirming her virginity by having the doctor check to see if her hymen was still intact.

giphy-downsized

Say what now?

Can I say that this dust bucket, who habitually cheats on his wife, is so problematic that it makes me feel like I need to lie down.

Sure, I’m down with encouraging your kid to delay sexual activity, but a hymen check? A hymen? Something I probably busted that time in 5th grade when I borrowed a neighborhood boy’s bike and hopped off without gently leaning it to the side? Something that could actually be broken during a gynecological exam?

O.

M.

G.

I mean there’s this young woman’s agency and autonomy to consider as well. And the hypocrisy of this man…I mean, I guess if he’s trying to protect his daughter from dudes like him, but really?

It made me reflect on the many conversations about sex and intimacy I had with Hope over the years and how different it was from how my parents were with me.
I was raised in a religious home; sex before marriage was a bad thing, forgivable, but you know, don’t do it. I knew lots of other teens who were sexually active and who even had children while were in high school. I messed around, but just avoided having sex until I was in college. I was so devoted to my studies and my goals that I thought having sex and possibly risking pregnancy was too great of a risk to my goals, so I was reserved. When I got with a long term boyfriend, I got on birth control and was on my way. I did feel some religious guilt; I did wonder whether the Holy Homeboy would punish me. I got over it.

My parents really didn’t talk about sex with me, not directly anyway. In my teens I wished it wasn’t such a taboo questions, but I ended up getting my answers from the more experienced kids. I think my parents did their best; I’m not disappointed in them. I turned out just fine, normal even. That said, when Hope came into my life, I resolved to do things differently.

Child sexual abuse is a serious public health problem. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 9 minutes child protective services find evidence and/or substantiates a claim of child sexual abuse. Every 9 minutes! NINE! And foster children are especially vulnerable; they are 4x more likely to be abused. This doesn’t even take into consideration that some children are removed due to sexual abuse.

I considered this as I set about trying to talk to Hope about sex and sexuality. I’ve written about some of this before, but I don’t think I really covered my philosophy, which really is about sex positivity.

Given that Hope was so vulnerable, I wanted to put her on a track that would make sex safe for her. I wanted her to feel like she, and only she, had control over her body. I wanted her to feel like she had control over the decisions around what she did with her body. I wanted her to feel like she had good information and was capable of making good decisions about her body. I wanted her to know that her feelings and curiosity were normal. I wanted her to know how to extricate herself from risky situations.

I didn’t want her to be completely bound by religious constraints about morality. I didn’t want her to be forced to do anything she didn’t want to do. I wanted her to know how to care for herself and her needs. I also wanted her to know that when she was ready, sex could be fun, could feel good, could be bonding with the right person and could be beautiful.

I wanted my daughter to be and feel free, strong and empowered.

So, I started following a few accounts around social media like @Sexpostive_families and hashtags like #sexpositivity. I learned a lot about my own hang ups too. #bonus I thought a lot about how to foster open dialogue with Hope—sometimes that wasn’t so comfortable. I knew I had achieved the goal when she started asking me about condoms in the middle of school shopping at Target one Saturday afternoon (ERRRBODY got schooled that day). I held fast to a rule that whenever, whatever she wanted to discuss about sex, sexuality and relationships I would stop what I was doing and engage. I strategically shared bits of my own history, hang ups and times when I really felt like I made good or bad decisions. I did whatever I could to normalize conversations about sex.

I did talk about morality, but I also talked about maturity and personal responsibility. I talked about pain and pleasure, how body parts worked and could create either. I talked about sexual violence. I talked about all the awful persuasive lines I’ve heard in my day from would-be partners trying to get me in the sack. I talked about the walk of shame and the morning after pill. I talked about contraception and I talked about abortion (and being definitively pro-choice). We talked about straight sex, gay sex, oral, anal, digital, you name it, we talked about a lot of it. I did quite a bit of research on my “incognito” browser.

There were times early on when I was really, really uncomfortable having these conversations. There was one conversation that started shortly after we got in the car that resulted in me detouring to the beltway and driving us the 66 miles all the way around just so we could finish the conversation in the car bubble. It got easier with time; I learned to practice what I preached. Hope seemed shocked that I was willing to talk about everything, and then she started asking me questions in Target.

I answered her questions and the questions of her “friends,” some of whom I’m not really sure existed.

And you know what? Hope is strong and knowledgeable and has said she’s just not ready to take all that on.

Good, that was still my goal: an informed decision not to have sex until she’s ready.

She feels good about her decision; she finally feels like she has some control over her life and her body. Foster care had really ruined her sense of agency and autonomy. She feels like she has control now; she knows she has choices. She’s got good info and knows how to access resources.

Sex positive parenting requires vigilance; the heavy morality messaging can be pervasive and I firmly believe that it’s problematic for our foster and adoptive kids. Folks are easy to say, “just teach your kids ‘good’ morals.” I respect the position, but I believe that Hope needs good information and agency more than just good morals.

This year at her private boarding school, “family life education” was offered. I found out they contracted an anti-abortion organization to do the training thanks to some internet research, and I asked to see the curriculum. It was heavy on sexual morality and religion. There was no space for kids who might identify as something other than straight. It never considered that any of the students might have a history of sexual abuse; it wasn’t trauma informed. It showed awful anti-abortion pictures to students. It promoted adoption as a way out for girls who “got in trouble” while kind of absolving the boys from their contributions. #canwesaypatriarchy?

In all, the message was if you don’t buy into this, you’re probably headed for hell.

I immediately called to pull Hope out of the course, then I had a nice long confab with the headmaster. The least they can do is promote an inclusive, trauma informed curriculum. I told Hope that the curriculum was not consistent with what I believe and think she should know about sex and sexuality. She trusted me, even though she was the only student pulled out of the program. It was important to me that she not get that messaging and that she know that I was still her champion and advocate. (That curriculum was criminal as far as I was concerned. Let’s say it was an interesting discussion with the headmaster.)

As we prepared for Hope to leave for college this summer, I broached the subject of birth control. I told her that the intensity of going to a new school with so much freedom, so many options and some boring blocks of time (boredom can be a ridiculous aphrodisiac when you have nothing else to do, and sex is a free activity) that she might change her mind. I doubt that she will, but I wanted to emphasize the need to be prepared—hunting for contraception later is less likely to happen and “hoping” to not catch an STD or get pregnant isn’t a strategy. So, off to the midwife practice we went. I briefed the nurse and sat outside and waited for Hope to conduct her grown woman business.

I didn’t ask for a hymen check. I didn’t because it isn’t my business and because what would it really tell me anyway? My kid actually has drunk texted me from college (don’t ask)—I’m guessing if and when she decides to become active, she probably will sit on the info briefly before sharing it.

Yeah, I’m guessing she’ll tell me; she seriously tells me everything.

No, I don’t want to know. I honestly don’t want to think too much about it.

But in creating the open space for sex positive discussions Hope trusts me not to judge her; she knows that I will love her anyway. Hope knows that I will believe in her informed decision-making. She knows that I’ll still be there no matter what happens.

So, yeah, Hope and I have had a lot of sex chats. I believe that our kids, foster, adopted and everybody else, should get a good solid education about sex without messaging that condemns them. I never wanted anything in Hope’s past to be conflated with a healthy, enjoyable, positive sex life later.

I feel good my decision to take this approach. I feel confident that I’ve done what I can to set her up for good decisions about her body.

So, what’s your approach? Does this sound radical? Heretical?

Worked for us!


Black Beauty

Hope was home for the recent holiday, and while she was here, she decided to cut her hair. Hope had decided some time ago that she regretted relaxing her hair and wanted to “go natural” again. After about 7 months of growing it out, we snipped off the relaxed ends and basked in the glory that is now her little Afro.

Ok, so maybe I basked; Hope seemed beside herself with shock, anxiety and the ever present teen worries about how others would see her.

When Hope came to home nearly 5 years ago, she had a lot of hair that I lovingly nurtured right on down to her shoulders. It was not chemically treated. I twisted it, coiled it, braided it, did all kinds of things with it. Hope was really proud of her hair; she got a lot of compliments. She learned to really embrace how her naturally curly, coily hair looked.

Hope has thick hair. It’s not just that each strand is thick; there are also a lot of strands. I swear when I first started doing her hair, I thought I was wrestling a carpet!

As she got older, and I shifted more of the burden of doing her hair to her, things got…difficult. My daughter’s care-taking abilities didn’t produce the same results, and eventually she decided that she wanted to relax it.

I hated the idea. I wanted her to love her hair and to learn to properly care for it. It had been years since I’d given up relaxing my own hair, and there was a part of me that took it really personally that my daughter wanted to relax her hair.

I had failed to promote the beauty of our hair.

I had failed to foster a sense of pride in our hair in its natural state.

I had failed to cultivate a sense of beauty that didn’t adhere to Euro-centric beauty norms.

I had failed to get her to love herself.

In spite of these failures, I also support one’s ability to wear their hair however they please. So, I asked her hair dresser to relax her hair.

Oh there was lots of hair swinging. There were smiles. There was hair flipping. Hope’s hair grew and then…all the things that happened before the relaxer happened. Poor maintenance; lazy care, heat damage, split ends and breakage. There were a couple of heavy “trims” that took inches off.

And I was spending a small fortune getting her hair done.

We ended up in the same place as before, which made me feel as though my prior failures had been confirmed in this hair relaxing exercise.

Then one night I was watching hair videos on YouTube when Hope said she regretted relaxing her hair. She thought it would be easier, but it wasn’t.

I still have teeth marks on my tongue from where I nearly bit it off so as not to say, “I told you so!”

So she begin the journey to grow her hair out with the first major development happening during her fall break.

I’m delighted that she grew her hair out and that she wants to embrace the fullness and textures of her natural hair. That said, I know that rocking a teeny weeny Afro (TWA) is a shock at first. You see all your other features and you can feel weird about them.

Is my forehead really that big?

Were my ears so noticeable when my hair was longer?

I swear my acne was not this noticeable with bangs.

My nose is big.

My skin is so dark.

My teeth are big.

I need earrings to distract from this.

I don’t like the way I look.

People will make fun of me.

I’m never going to look like Becky (No, you’re right and you’re not supposed to.)

It’s all so loaded. Helping her reframe her thoughts about beauty is hard. Helping her think about the fact that six months from now she will have a lot more hair is hard. Helping her believe that she doesn’t need to “fix” anything is hard.

Self-acceptance is hard at almost any age; it’s especially hard at 17.

I think she’s stunning. Her chocolate skin is dark and creamy. Her almond shaped eyes sparkle. With the hair away from her face, her acne quickly faded. I finally was able to coax a pair of small, classy earrings on her. With her militaristic posture and figure I’d kill for, I think she’s an 18 out of 10.

But to hear her tell it, I’m mom so none that counts.

Understanding how oppression shapes even the way we see our beauty is exhausting; really, it is. Teaching that…it’s not only exhausting but also infuriating. I silently rage thinking about the fact that my daughter questions her beauty because kinky coily hair isn’t universally seen as gorgeous. I cut my eyes at the folks at her school who looked perplexed like they weren’t sure to compliment Hope when she returned rocking her afro. I nearly cried when she cast her eyes down when she saw folks see her hair for the first time.

Hope is gloriously gorgeous. She already doesn’t know how lovely she is; the short hair is a radical change that makes her glow. She doesn’t believe that though.

That’s not my fault even though I feel like I failed in instilling that.

It’s all of our faults. That nearly exclusive white standard of beauty is so embedded in our psyche that our brown and black kids hardly know and appreciate African diasporic beauty when they see it. And that makes me sad and mad, really mad.

I look forward to the day when my daughter looks in the mirror, smiles at her reflection and turns on her heels to go knowingly, purposefully slay us all.


Over-Under Achievers

Hope is in serious danger of needing to repeat this school year. I’m not sure what set it all off, but this year has been an academic nightmare. And for me as an academic junkie who used to verbally spar with her teachers over whether they really should have deducted a half point for some academic infraction, Hope’s academic performance has caused more than a little heartburn.

Each week I receive a progress report summary on her academic standing. Those damn things are so upsetting this that I sometimes don’t open them. They make my stomach hurt; they give me headaches and stressed out neck pain. Education and achievement are a part of my core values system. It’s been hard to understand how Hope’s background shape her views on school. It’s been hard to accept that her version of trying doesn’t look anything like mine. It’s been incredibly maddening that I can’t seem to influence her choices at all.

Last week one of Hope’s teachers reached out really alarmed with all that’s going on with Hope and her class. Over the course of the next few days, I talked to the counselor, the social worker and the teacher. We all decided that we would meet next week to further discuss ways to support my daughter.

Realistically, I have zero faith that this team of amazing people can create something that will turn Hope’s intrinsic motivation “on.” It’s not on; I’m not sure if it’s been on at all for the last year. I think Hope would love to be a good student but being a bad student…well that just feels like what she’s worth.

Hope also does not accept that any of this is her fault. Nothing is ever her fault. She was late to school and missed the announcement of an assignment? That’s the teacher’s fault because she should have pulled her aside and made sure that she got it. Chased her down the hall if necessary.  She didn’t do her homework because the teachers skills are awful, and she didn’t understand the material.  Tutoring? She doesn’t need. Homework? Eh.

This approach to school triggers every bit of my anxiety. Part of it is just how I feel about education, but part of it is just how I can’t wrap my head around this kind of self-sabotage. I don’t get it. I see it happening. I get the pathology from a scientific and academic perspective, but lived experience?

This ish is cray.

Hope has the intellectual capacity to do well, in the traditional, classical sense. Even thought I feel some kinda way about testing, Hope’s PSAT score felt validating in a “see, I knew she had more capacity than she demonstrates in class” way. Hope is smart and where she has deficiencies, she’s balanced by a high curiosity and inquisitiveness.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I’ve harnessed so many resources for Hope only to be met with a blank stare. I have no idea how to handle that. We are incredibly fortunate that our school district is just leaning in to providing more support, all kinds of support. Every fight I thought I’d have with them proved unnecessary—they have been more than happy to help.

And then they get met with blank stares too.

I asked AbsurdlyHotTherapist for recommendations. He sent me articles about ‘underachievers’ and told me to keep making Hope accountable for her choices and her mental health. The art therapist said the same.

My sense is that there’s a huge, dramatic decision that has to be made and will be followed by hell breaking loose. People will tell me that it will be ok in the long run; yeah, maybe, but this sucks so hard that that response brings no comfort. I’m not excited about any of this. I hate it all. I just wish Hope had the capacity and was willing to work with me and with the school to create something positive for herself and her life.


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.  


The Thing about Grief

It lingers. Grief it doesn’t ever really go away. It just lingers.

I’ve lost all of my grandparents, a few close friends and some colleagues in this life. They are all missed; I think of them often. I remember defining moments big and small in our relationships. I talk to my grandmothers all the time; I often feel their presence too. I’m even fortunate enough to hear them in my head sometimes.

During those moments when I feel them, I smile, and as soon as they pass, I am reminded that they aren’t on this plane and I can’t see them, hug them, smell them, nothing. They aren’t here physically with me. I still grieve that. But I cope; I have learned to cope.

I am raising a child who has experienced grief on levels I didn’t know existed. Saying her grief lingers is an understatement. It’s woven into her like fabric, and now it’s also a part of my own daily life. But Hope’s coping muscle is still under construction. She was so very young when she experienced such profound loss. She barely understood what was happening to her, much less how to deal with it. Now, years later, she’s still figuring it out, and I do my best to help her. It’s hard on both of us.

It’s hard to watch your child hurt at all, and she hurts so deeply. Witnessing this kind of grief is hard; it takes its toll. I feel helpless, and sometimes hopeless. It’s like there is nothing I can do or say to make Hope feel better. I encourage Hope to emote, to cry, hoping that a good cry will be cleansing. She hates that suggestion because she loathes tears. And so…we sit, often quietly, together.

Sometimes I force a hug on her, and she buries her head in the crook of my neck, squeezes me and sighs. We both exhale and close our eyes. The grief just swirls around us. It’s just always there.

I email AburdlyHotTherapist about my observations, and encourage her to talk to him. I try to get her to practice talking to her therapist about her feelings.

I love on her. I love on her as hard as I can, hoping that I can will her strength enough to be able to wrestle with her grief and win.

Grief can take you to such dark, dark places. The desire to give up…the desire to be with folks you’ve lost…it can make you so very vulnerable to the unimaginable pain. I knew that before Hope, but I know it now on a deeper level. It’s one thing to read about it, to hear about it. It’s another thing entirely to live up close and personal with it.

I worry for my daughter. I fret for her. I wonder when her coping skills develop such that the pain that often feels unbearable becomes manageable and compartmentalized. I just want her to be ok.

I’m often afraid for my daughter. Fighting grief is one of the great fights of Hope’s life.

I just wish I knew how to help her; how to lead her to some kind of solace.

The thing about grief is…grief sucks.


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.


Thoughts on Discipline

I’ve been writing about how I’m trying to let natural consequences rule the day when it comes to discipline around these parts. In some ways it’s working; in others, not so much.

As I write this Hope is about to miss the bus again and make her way down to the bus stop. Of this three-day school week, she’s clocking two late days. It’s time for me to look and see if she will eventually get detention for her tardiness; maybe that will make a difference. I don’t know.

I am still struggling with letting it go and not intervening too much. The instinct is to protect one’s kid from consequences. You don’t want them to suffer or hurt, but they also need to understand that life requires some discipline.

I think my strengths are better applied to responding to clear rule breaking.  Recently Hope broke a pretty significant house rule. The funny thing is I wouldn’t have known about it if she didn’t insist on snitching on herself. Seriously, she is a leaky bucket when it comes to keeping a secret.

Anyhoo, I had to sit down after our initial calm confrontation and think about what to do. Over time I’ve come up with a bunch of questions that I ask myself as I think through discipline.

Ok, so, there is a broken rule.

Does this really require a response?

Am I angry?

Is there any humor in this situation?

Do I understand why she did it?

Is this a trauma thing?

Is this a dumb teen thing?

Is this an adoption thing?

Will certain kinds of discipline trigger more undesirable behaviors?

If yes, is it really worth it?

Is safety a concern?

Can I have a glass of wine?

How can I end this unpleasant experience with a relaxing glass of vino?

I’ve created a Venn diagram of my decision tree.

venndiagram

All decisions end with “Drink Wine.”

I try to be consistent, but I also try to be sure to avoid triggers. I also need to make sure that we stay connected throughout the experience; I don’t want to push her away.

I often think about how when I was punished as a kid I was sent to my room or grounded. I was restricted. With Hope…I can’t do that. I need to find ways of applying a consequence while still drawing her close to me to continue to foster attachment.

It’s confusing, especially when I am annoyed. I don’t want to be close when I’m pissy.

I’ve had to learn how to let things go and let them go quickly. That’s not my nature, but I have to for Hope’s sake.

The evening of our leaky bucket conversation, I sat her down and told her what she was going to have to do because she broke the rules.

Hope was angry. She raised her voice. I kept mine even. I explained my reasoning.

And then I dropped it.

I’d like to think I got it right, because she proceeded to spend the next two hours hanging out with me, being goofy. We laughed. We fixed dinner.

I finally had to send her off to finish her homework.

This isn’t how I was disciplined. I don’t remember wanting to hang out after getting a consequence. I don’t think my parents did anything wrong. But this is super different than what I understood it to be. It feels foreign, but not bad.

Hey, I did get my glass of wine at the end of the evening!

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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.


Perfect Parenting

There isn’t such a thing, right?

Right.

And yet, many parents aspire to be perfect, or at least good. Before I became a parent to Hope, I was a hopeless perfectionist. My control freakdom tendencies lead me down some dark paths at times, but I also attribute my personal success to a mix of blessings, dumb luck, and hard work characterized by a need to control as many variables as I could manage.

I can’t say I like problems, but I like and pride my ability to solve them. For much of my life, I’ve been pretty good at it. A lot of my identity has been tied up in the pride of figuring stuff out and making things happen.

And then I became a parent.

Holy ish.

Oh, and I became an adoptive parent to a kid who had endured many more of life’s hardships than I care to think about.

My earliest parenting moves were scrutinized by social workers. They were also scrutinized by numerous people in my life, and all of these people had the best of intentions. And all of these people had opinions, and many of these people didn’t mind sharing them.

It was a lot to hear and a lot to absorb.

More than a few parents shared their thoughts, even though there was little experience about parenting a kid who had experienced the kinds of things my new daughter had. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to manage my own emotional response to what I perceived as folks “not getting it” and feeling strangely tiny. I felt small because all these experienced parents around me giving me advice seemed to have figured things out and yet I felt like no solutions worked for me. The lack of ability to problem solve and/or control anything was devastating.

Add in the wicked adjustment period for Hope that included some really tough behaviors, and I swear I wonder how either of us survived.

I wrote a lot during those early days and months. Some of the frustrations I expressed in my blog, well, I probably wouldn’t do the same way in retrospect, but it is what it is.  I own it in all its truth.

In those days, the parenting problems were endless, new, overwhelming, devastating…and I had no control over what had been a pretty carefully constructed life and well, persona.

The feelings were new, raw, scary, terrifying actually.  Not only did I feel like crap, I felt like I was actually crap, identity-wise.

I found that my problem solving skills worked, but instead of being able to create a way out, I had to choose from a set of options, none of which seemed appealing, and pray that something brought some kind—any kind—of peace.

It rarely seemed to bring peace.

I quickly learned in those days that perfection would forever be elusive. I would have to learn to just shoot for great, then it slid to good, then it flirted with just good enough and then there were some days that the goal was to just keep Hope alive (ha! Jesse Jackson pun unintended but apropos).

I did and said things that still offer consequential ripples across my life. Some moments I actually spend a lot of time pondering some of the challenges—real, imagined, and emotional—that dominated the first six months of my life with Hope. I have a few regrets, just a few things that I could’ve and should’ve handled differently, but I look at the foundation that I created for me and Hope and I can say that I got it right.  There isn’t much, given so many challenges, that I would’ve done differently.

Fast forward 18 months and I fear I criticize or second guess myself so much more than I did at the very beginning. I mean, I know I didn’t know what I was doing then; now it seems like I should have more of a clue.

I don’t.

Most days I feel like I’m failing more than usual. Not a day goes by when I go, “Well that didn’t go like I thought” or “Could I have done something different? Better” or “FML—that was the best I could come up with?’ I replay the days’ interactions like they are on a DVR. I rarely pat myself on the back. I rarely think I deserve it.

It’s super hard. I constantly have to remember that perfection is impossible. Like everyone else, I’m just trying to do the best I can.

I hope one day to be known for my many accomplishments. I know that Hope will be one of those; hopefully, not because I adopted her, but rather because I raised a triumphant, young warrior who was able to overcome her history and step into a healthy life.  If I can do that or even get really, really close to that, it will be my single greatest achievement.

And I hardly ever feel like it’s possible. It feels like a heavy lift that is often too much to bear.  It’s hard. It’s heavy. It’s lonely. It’s traumatic.

It’s…so very hard some days.

But I guess it doesn’t require perfection. It can’t, because perfection simply doesn’t exist, right?

Even though I intellectually know this, I, like so many other parents, will continue to chase it and fail to find it.

I think if I can truly learn to accept that, it will be my second greatest achievement.


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