Tag Archives: Education

Sneakers and Blue Hair

So, if you follow me on FB or Twitter, you know that Hope had an interview for a summer program this week. For a lot of reasons, I looked at programs that would offer Hope the opportunity to academically reset in a really structured environment. We chose a program together, I submitted the application and was delighted when she got an interview.

So, then I had to coach my daughter on presentation. I was a bit fussy about what she would wear and her hair. I ended up doing her hair in an updo and she chose to wear a pair of black slacks, blazer and white shirt. She tried to ditch the blazer, but I insisted that it be worn—it ended up raining buckets, so she easily bought into wearing it in the end.

Where we ended up having some drama?

Shoes?

Hope wears sneakers all the time. That’s her thing. She likes her sneakers, and she’s a creature of comfort. 99% of the time she will be spotted in jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers. I manage to get her into a dress a couple of times a year, namely Easter.

So, as she was walking around the house, I told her to put her shoes on because we needed to get on the road to drive the 75 miles to the school. She huffed and puffed.

“You don’t want to wear your flats?” She replied no, but that she didn’t feel like any of her other shoes went with her outfit.

I paused and then said, “Well…you could wear your black high tops.”

She just stared at me.

“You can, and you can wear some of your funky socks.”

“But they will see them when I sit down.”

“Yeah, so. Those socks are you, totally you. And you should be comfortable and authentic. Just be you. The black sneakers will go with your suit and the socks will be your pop of color.” I reminded her that I have this amazing colleague who collects Jordans and wears them with her business attire and how cool that is.

“I can do that?”

“Sweetie, your mom has blue hair….Yeah, you can do that.”

Yes, my hair is currently a pale blue. Last fall, I realized that my hair, which is mostly gray and resistant to being colored means that I could play with color! I can dye my hair lovely colors with no commitment. It’s been pink, purple, teal, and most recently blue—which has been my favorite, so it’s likely to stay around.

In the last 6 months or so, it’s been a big statement and has been received actually quite well in my professional life. I love it and it’s just the non-conformist thing that makes me happy.

So, yeah, if I can roll to the hoity-toity boarding school with my blue hair, my kid can sure as hell roll in with her uber cute socks and her black sneakers.

She looked great; more importantly, she looked comfortable and so she was more comfortable.

And later, on the drive home, after her stellar interview performance (that resulted in being offered admission before we left campus because she’s friggin awesome!), I asked her if she knew what it mean to be authentic. We had a nice chat about always being yourself. I took some time to remind her that she has NOTHING to be ashamed or worried about regarding her past in terms of how other people felt about it. She can and should always be herself.

I hope with my blue hair (today) that I’m modeling that for her. I know it’s been more and more important to me as I grow older and give fewer effs about what other people think about me and my life.

I’m so stinking proud of her. She’s really an amazing kid.

Advertisements

The Deal with Me & School

How do I explain this so the masses understand my fixation on school…ok here goes.

I love school; even when it was hard I loved school. I like learning. I’m curious. I watch historical shows, google subtopics and gobble up Wikipedia pages right down to the footnotes. I appreciated the challenge that school brought. When it came to my doctoral work, I actually liked the rhythm and pace of things even though it was grueling. The writing and rewriting…I was creating something, and it was and remains awesome.

I love school.

I’ve benefited greatly from my academic pursuits. Good job, buying a house, got a car, planning for retirement. Definitely enjoying the material trappings of hard work and earned accolades. I’m proud of my accomplishments. I had big aspirations when I was a little girl. I thought I would be an attorney someday. I realized early in college that I didn’t want to do that, but I also believed that I would earn a doctorate in something. I would one day be Dr. ABM. I have always been ambitious as hell. #heymomImadeit

Walking across that stage being hooded was an amazing feeling.

Graduation

Best Day Ever!

And then there’s there the reality of what it means to me to be educated.

One of the things I value most about all this schooling is that I feel like it gives me a little social privilege which can counterbalance the reality of living in black skin. I’m a little more welcome in white spaces. The education does not make me better than anyone, but it makes a lot of white people see me differently. And if white folks think I’m safe because I’m educated, well then, I might actually be a little safer while walking around in this skin. I move in circles that are sometimes uncomfortable, but I have the right letters, the right credentials, I “belong,” and so I’m safe.

It’s true what we tell our kids about working two or three times as hard to get half as far. I busted my ass, and loved it, to get *here* and one of the fruits of my labor is moving a little easier in white spaces.

Hope came along right as I was finishing my doctorate, and as helpful as being Dr. ABM at work has been these last few years, the real benefit of having $70K in educational debt comes when I step across the threshold off Hope’s school.  Hope’s first summer here, she got into trouble at her summer camp and they were planning to kick her out. I met with the camp director who immediately started berating me. I held my hand up, insisted that we start over with proper introductions because I’m not going out like that—“Let’s start over. Hi, I’m Dr. ABM and you are?” By the time it was over he was apologizing profusely, Hope was allowed to stay in camp and got a promotion to junior camp counselor and I didn’t have to pay for the rest of the summer. Maybe it was the Dr, maybe not, but I know everything changed when I introduced myself as Dr. ABM. That was a moment when my privilege was extended to Hope.

I’ve found that my educational privilege has played out in numerous ways shielding Hope and I from a lot of drama. It was a lot easier for me to be *that* parent with the Dr in front of my name. The conversations always change when meeting participants who initially see me as some kind of stereotype black mother progress to seeing me as an educated professional mom. It’s always clear when some kind of back story for me and Hope is challenged and somehow the acceptable version of us is welcomed …my education somehow makes us safe, different and sadly, respectable.

This is the reality of racism, and it’s so utterly apparent to me since I finished my degree. It’s nearly stunning. In my 45 years, 8 with a president who looks like me, I’ve never been as afraid for myself or my kid’s future. I dreamed of what having kids would be like. I worried a lot about countless things, but these last few years, my fear of racially motivated harm has escalated sharply. I feel like there’s a part of me that’s always unsettled and looking to avoid the inevitable hurt that racism brings.

So, when I wrestle with my emotions around Hope’s academic experiences it’s largely motivated by fear, not by any expectations of Hope in particular.  I am terrified that she won’t have this little buffer of safety that I feel like education can provide (even when it doesn’t, really). What happens when Hope isn’t covered by what little privilege I have amassed to buffer us from some of racism’s ugliness? I already worry about her various vulnerabilities. It’s not just that I want her to do well for the sake of doing well, I just worry myself sick that someone will read her wrong and she will end up in trouble or worse…dead. I don’t know if doing well on her SAT will protect her from being harmed, but my sense is that not trying will certainly not offer any protection.

I’ve started to see school as an avenue for self-protection.

So, when well-meaning, kind of shared experience having white parents urge me to let it go, to not worry about school, to let Hope handle it all and fail on her own…it’s not that I disagree, but I feel like there’s a huge part of the story of my worry that is completely unheard or not even considered.

Their stories are considered universal—everyone can and should relate because well, I’ll be frank, white is normative. Their kids fail and it’s heartbreaking. It is, but it’s not failing in a system that already doesn’t give two shits about you.

My worries about school are very different; this is about Hope’s survival in a racist world. This is about amassing elements of protection that can provide small buffers of the worst of a life routinely disrupted by racism. This is about being considered safe enough to be granted entrée into white spaces where more opportunities and resources await. This is about liberation and freedom.

The stakes feel so much higher and not just because I’m an absurd high achiever, but because I’m scared shitless. So, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely let the school thing go.

And Hope is starting to understand this. It isn’t really just about her performance; it’s about the long game. I know she struggles with her interpretation of my academic push; I also know that somewhere in there she wants to do well. I’m also keenly aware that there’s an additional layer of pressure on her because of what I’ve achieved. People see me and wonder why Hope isn’t doing better; they often assume she’s rebelling.

My desires for Hope are expansive, but honestly I just want to keep her safe. Education is one avenue to help do that. I don’t know how it will all work out. I have no idea.

I do know that being educated and working in academia doesn’t always offer the protection I wish it did. Even in my job, I feel it. I had hate mail too; I’ve had students say nasty things about me and to me. I’ve had professors say I was a “troublemaker.”

And yet, I still think it’s one of the best options we’ve got.

So, this is why I fixate on Hope and school. This is why it’s so important to me. This is why I can’t just let it go.


Hopeful for Hope

Hope is extraordinary. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it.

Ok, so some days, are much (seriously, so much) better than others. I and everyone around her has noticed the good days versus the bad days more than usual in the last year.

These last four years for Hope have been stable. I’d like to say that they’ve been good, great even, but I know that that’s probably not true, and I’m guessing that the benchmark for good might be fuzzy. On the outside looking in, it’s been great, on the inside looking out, it’s been…more good than not; it’s also been super challenging for her and for me.

Hope’s life before was hard. There was a lot of upheaval and a lot of safety issues. There was also a lot of love in her previous life; I never doubted that. I might side eye a lot of stuff that I know about her past, but I never doubted that her family of origin loved her so very much. There were just a lot of problems and barriers to probably being the type of parents they wanted to be.  All that stuff made Hope scared, distrustful, headstrong, and survival focused. That stuff also left Hope with some real developmental challenges that linger and make life harder for her. That love shaped her, and it made Hope have hope about her future life. I cling to that probably as much as she does.

We seem to be at a bit of a fork in the road in this journey.

My daughter has to make some choices about the type of future she wants. I’m not talking about 5 or 10 years down the road; I’m talking about the next year. To me, the choice for her is obvious, but it’s not. It seems that those extraordinary survival qualities Hope developed in times of need make it hard for her to see the range of choices clearly. It makes what feels like should be an obvious choice not so obvious for my daughter. As a mom, it’s so hard to see the struggle she endures trying to find her way through this maze. The skills that served her so well for so long don’t work as well in this chapter of her life, and the time hasn’t been long enough yet for her new survival skills to evolve.

It’s like taking an Olympic swimmer and putting her on a stage with a concert violin and demanding that she play as though she’s been playing professionally her whole life. She hasn’t and so she won’t.

And yet, she muddles a rocky rendition of Chopsticks and calls it a day. Hope is extraordinary.

Sometimes I find it so incredibly hard to understand how Hope sees and maneuvers through her world. I see immense talent, tenacity, courage and street smarts in her. I have wondered how to help her leverage her skills to her benefit. I’ve tried all kinds of things, but neither of us have found the magic sauce yet. It takes time. With a major life event (finishing high school) looming, it feels like we’re behind schedule.

We’re not, but it feels like it.

As a mom, all this feels so weird, awkward even to guide her though this—it’s a bit of the blind leading the blind. I mean, I went through traditional life events, but with none of the history or life experiences that Hope has had. Sometimes my life experience feels irrelevant and ill-suited for any kind of possible comparison. I can only imagine how it feels to Hope to know how to live a life only to be thrust into another one where everything, EVERYTHING was different. I chose this life to mother and parent her; she didn’t choose anything about this life. I try to remember that as we muddle through together.

These next 4 months will have a major impact on my daughter’s life for the next year. I’m not sure what she will choose; I’m starting to question what the “right” choice is for her. I thought I knew, but I’m also realizing that she and I have different views and different sets of choices ahead of us over the next few months. Things aren’t as obvious as they appeared, I suppose.

As we talk about the choices, I try to assure her that I love her, accept her, still think she’s an extraordinary kid and I will support her no matter what. I hope that Hope believes me. I hope that she does what she thinks is best for herself and that it sets her up for success.

I’m hopeful, and prayerful, and anxious, and worried, and committed and still more hopeful.


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.


Thoughts on Guns in School

In short, no. Just no.

I am a former gun owner. Yep, for friends and family, this will likely come as a bit of a surprise.

When I was in my 20s, I purchased a firearm. I took classes on how to properly fire it. I got it to help me feel safe after I very briefly dated a guy who turned out to be a stinking nut job.

After going out with him twice, he proceeded to stalk me. He sent letters, followed me, watched me. He called me nonstop. He sent flowers to my office every day for weeks at a time; I had to tell security repeatedly to refuse the deliveries.

After a couple of months, I called the police. They were dismissive, said he was probably a nice guy who was just clearly taken with me. I requested a temporary restraining order. He started back up shortly after it expired. More months went by and I took the police the letters, an affidavit from the office security, recordings from my answering machine. They finally pressed charges. He eventually did 30 days in jail. Got out, stalked me again. 30 more days.

I eventually purchased a 9mm because I didn’t think the cops were doing enough to keep me safe. I wanted to be prepared if things escalated. After more than a year, I moved when my lease expired and changed my phone number; he moved on and probably started stalking someone else. A year or two later, I legally sold my gun. I didn’t believe it was still a necessary part of my safety routine. I no longer needed it, and I divested myself of it.

I never really intended to own a gun and do not have any plans to buy another.

I don’t have an animus towards people who do. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why a sane someone outside of a war zone would want an assault rifle. Even in my What Would ABM Do in a Zombie Apocalypse dreams an AR probably would not make my list. I just don’t think we should have them.

But that’s me, and for whatever reason apparently, they figure prominently in other people’s lives beyond the zombie apocalypse.

Hearing about the Parkland shooting two weeks ago made my heart sink. I spilled tears thinking about all the death and trauma. I also spilled some tears for the shooter; knowing he was an adopted kid who had lost both parents and seemed to be lost made me think about how close my own daughter could come to disaster—either as a victim or a perpetrator. Trauma is a beotch.

Now, a couple of weeks later, the post-traumatic discourse about guns is in full swing. Do we get rid of all the guns? Do we get more guns and arm everyone? Do we just keep troubled, sick people from having guns? Shouldn’t the teachers have guns?

Sigh.

I’m an educator. My sister is an educator. My uncle was an educator. I know educators.

Education is amazing, inspiring work. Teaching kids and adults stuff is life-affirming. You get to watch minds grow. You get to see minds opening, skills developing and opportunities created.

I’m lucky. I exist outside of the actual ivory tower; I live in an organization where I’m well compensated. I don’t have to deal with the daily rigors of classroom life. I don’t need to personally buy supplies or call parents. I am a different kind of educator, and I’m routinely grateful for that since I still get the joys of seeing all the cool stuff with minimal exposure to the icky stuff.

I can’t imagine carrying a gun into a classroom. I just can’t. Clearly, I understand that there are people who would, but no. I can’t.

I also do not want Hope to be in a school where teachers are armed. No. Hard no.

I don’t think that armed faculty mitigates the risk of an armed gunmen entering the school, and if it does, show me the data because to date, I haven’t seen anything but hypothetical conjecture.

I don’t want Hope around guns, gunmen or teachers with guns. Just no.

I don’t want an arms race in education. Haven’t we seen what happens with nuclear weaponry and proliferation at the global level? You get a weapon, then your neighbor feels like they need to get a weapon to protect themselves from you. Then everyone gets more weapons. It only escalates and then we’re all more afraid that one leader who isn’t wrapped too tight gets pissy on Twitter, and the whole neighborhood is all dead.

Do we want that for our kids?

We are fortunate to live in a decent area with good schools. Hope doesn’t have any metal detectors; there’s no ‘wanding’ to go to school events. Kids get to be kids. Yes, there are worries, there are fears. The day after the Parkland shooting, there was a shooting threat at her school. It scared me. It scared her. My work with people convinces me that having armed teachers wouldn’t have prevented the fake threat, much less a real one.

I am locked in some an ongoing drama with a couple of Hope’s teachers and counselors at the moment. They are passionate about their work. They care about my daughter and her classmates. I think they would do what they could to keep them safe if necessary. I still don’t think they should be armed.

I do not expect Hope’s teacher to die saving her. I also do not expect them to shoot someone to save her. I expect them to teach her.

English.

History.

Physics.

Anatomy

Algebra.

Band.

That’s it. That what they are paid to do.

If they need tissues and hand sanitizer, I’ll buy tissues and hand sanitizer. If they need some extra notebooks, pens, and markers for kids whose families don’t have the ability to provide them, I am eager to help out. I advocate for higher pay; I know they are woefully underpaid and hardly get bathroom breaks to boot.

I will not lobby for them to have guns in the classroom. I won’t do that. I don’t believe that is the appropriate response to trauma. I don’t meet Hope’s trauma with more of it. I won’t do it at home and I will not advocate for it at her school.

No.

I will advocate for schools to embrace and infuse their teaching with trauma responsive techniques and tools for student management. I will advocate for more student service resources to help identify struggling kids who may be at greater risk for violence. I will advocate for more programs and resources for people who find themselves young, but of legal age, without family or resources, but with lots of emotional trouble and turmoil and at greater risk for violence because the pain is unbearable.

Hurt people, hurt people.

We don’t give hurt people guns—before or after they are hurt.

So no, I don’t want to see guns in Hope’s school.

Nope.


Battle with a Teacher

I’m an educator. My sister is an educator. I work for educators. My friends are educators.

Educators are my homies, and you can usually find me defending educators—especially K-12 teachers—hard!

My engagements with Hope’s school regarding her academic challenges have been far more positive than not. Of late, it’s been more challenging to get Hope to avail herself of the accommodations designed to help her be successful. Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins for good reason.

In any case, midway through this quarter I continued to monitor Hope’s grades. I didn’t put pressure on her, I just wanted to keep an eye on things. I reached out to several of her teachers; she seemed to be especially struggling in those courses and I wanted to know a bit about how she behaved in class, had she been to visit them about her work and whether she was regularly engaged.

One teacher was outright dismissive. I told her that her response was problematic and what I needed to know moving forward.

Hope managed to pull her grades up, but I knew it would be a long year with this teacher.

Fast forward to this morning when the teacher sends me a lengthy email about Hope’s lackluster performance, the fact that she has given her additional assignments and the fact that I was not holding up my end of the educational social contract.

Oh really?

I quickly wrote her back noting that this might’ve been avoided if she hadn’t been dismissive weeks ago, that Hope would absolutely NOT be doing additional assignments under any circumstances, and that she really had no clue what the details of my social contract were so she might want to get back in her lane.

We scheduled a call for after I arrived at the airport and things didn’t just go left. I was so damn furious after this call that we will be meeting with some administrators in the future.

I no longer disclose that Hope is an adoptee or that she has emotional struggles unless it’s necessary. She is entitled to some privacy; she is entitled to some normalcy. I disclosed a few weeks ago that my daughter struggles with ADHD.

Today, the instructor indicated she knew all about that because her son has it and he even had to go on anti-depressants briefly because he was down and really at his tween age, what could he possibly have to worry about? And what could Hope have to worry about?

I had to close my eyes and take a breath not to verbally stomp this woman.

Now, sometime this quarter the teacher disclosed that she was an adoptee, specifically a Korean adoptee. Hope was drawn to her because of both the adoptee identification and she still loves all things/people Korean. What I didn’t realize was that Hope had chosen not to disclose that she too was an adoptee.

Well, I began to explain that Hope’s struggles with ADHD are not organic; they are trauma based. She is struggling with many adoption-related issues and she is being monitored closely. She’s not “down” and only requiring a brief stint on drugs; medication is a part of her life and helps keeps her functional. And yes, she is an adoptee, an older adoptee who is struggling and who is exceptionally good at masking her struggle outside of our home.

I thought a brief moment of compassion and some level of shared experience might wash over us, but nah. Teacher lady proceeded to tell me that Hope needed to learn responsibility with this ‘punishment’ assignment, and I needed to learn how to properly offer positive reinforcement and incentives.

giphy-downsized

Say what now? Whoooosaaaaahhhhh….

Lady, I done took and told you she’s 👏🏾not 👏🏾doing👏🏾 your👏🏾 effing👏🏾 punishment 👏🏾assignment; you know nothing about Hope’s intrinsic or extrinsic motivation triggers so mind your beeswax and your adoption narrative is not the same as Hope’s so again, get in your lane.

She came again with how she would send me some incentive charts, and I just said, well, look at that, I’m at my airport gate, got to go. *Click*

Making me sing church spirituals, trying to get my mind right dealing with this teacher lady. Imma need the Holy Homeboy to show up and show out…cause for real…I am not the one.

giphy

At home, I told Hope she didn’t need to do any other assignments for this class this week; the grown folks have some stuff we need to work out and I need to to focus on getting her feeling safe, attached and functional.

The ONLY good thing is that I really do not have any more damns to give about Hope’s academic performance right now. My daughter’s well-being is everything. Sure, I want her to do her best, but not at the risk of her mental health.

Meanwhile, I feel like this teacher and I are going to butt heads for a while. She was downright offensive today. I’m hoping that with time she will have a better understanding of Hope’s struggle, but if she keeps pushing and academically punishing I’m going to have to be *that* mom.

She really, really doesn’t want to meet that chick.


My Triggers, Pt. 2

Ok, I can’t let the school thing go. I just can’t. I wish I could, but on the full real: I cannot.

I know that Hope struggles in school. It breaks my heart. I see how it affects her. Her self esteem is awful because she can’t perform at her full capacity. I know she’s bright, but the barriers to success…let’s just say they are more real than Trump’s wall will ever be.

But between the actual performance and the protective attitudes that Hope displays to downplay her performance issues…I. Just. Can’t.

This combo is the thing that I struggle with every single day.

crying

I try to only look at her grades occasionally. I ask her about assignments and if she needs help. I encourage her to use a timer to help her manage time. I try desperately to leave it alone.

And it all drives me mad.

I have advocated for so many accommodations. I have spent a fortune on tutoring. I’ve tried new organizational tools. I’ve identified the incredible anxiety we both have about school.

I’ve tried to just let it be and try to work itself out along with Hope experiencing the consequences of not doing her part in the areas where she can.

And still I am filled with a mess of emotions about Hope and school.

I’m realizing that education is such a core value for me, something so important that 1) I can’t let it go and 2) I might not be able to fix this. And being a natural born fixer…this is a problem for me.

It’s not *just* that education is important; it’s been my gateway to upward mobility. I want that for Hope. I still have dreams of my daughter doing better than me in this life. I want her to have the cloak of protection that education kind of provides us. I want it so badly for her that the idea that school would be a struggle for her seriously never occurred to me during the adoption process. Her previous performance had been quite good. Now it’s the thing we struggle with the most.

Even after 3 years, I’m not prepared. I have exhausted all of my “I can fix this” pep talks. I have practiced laying this burden down, only to pick it up again a few hours later. I have pushed, coaxed, pleaded, bribed, and lovingly reassured with no change in results. I have watched my daughter sink deeper into depression and I assume a lot of blame for that because I don’t think anything I’ve done has made her feel better. I have developed no new coping skills.

I do not know how to deal with this.

I just don’t know how any more.

I looked at a special school, but the $50K tuition made me suddenly remember the padlock code to the liquor cabinet without having to look it up.

Weekly I get so frustrated even though I know it’s not all Hope’s fault. I go to meetings only to quietly seethe when Hope refuses to participate in a semi-adult conversation because her emotional IQ is about age 5.

The whole thing makes me angry with the world.

The whole thing makes me wonder why I chose this path.

The whole thing makes Hope feel like a failure.

The whole thing makes me also feel like a failure.

We both are mad and ridiculously sad, and I can’t see any light in the tunnel we’re in.

I’m back to looking at tutors and special programs in hopes of helping Hope be successful. I’m also back to just trying to let it go so that she doesn’t think I also believe she’s a failure. She’s not.

So, the educationally dilemma is my true Achilles heel. It brings out both the best and absolutely worst in me and I have no idea what to do about it.


Case Managing as Parenting

I could really use a personal assistant. Of course at this point I couldn’t afford one, but that’s beside the point, really.

I could use a family case manager, scheduler, minder person, robot, something.

So, I’m at a professional meeting, but I’m in the back of a room, tethered to cords in a power plug.  I am paying attention at about a level of 37.4568%.

Work email responses are taking up about 15% of my attention.

Do you want to know where the rest of my attention for the last two hours has been spent?

Case managing me and Hope.

Let’s see, where did my adventures start?

Grade check in since several assignments were turned in. I needed to see if any had been graded and grades posted.

I responded to an email string about scheduling a meeting with the guidance counselor and the teacher for next week.

I updated the family calendar.

I checked the grades and progress in lower priority classes. Hmmm, assignments are missing.

Several emails to various teachers about missing assignments, class behavior, levels of engagement, what is salvageable.

Confirming medical appointments.

Emailing the family therapist about current concerns in advance of next appointment.

Responding to teacher emails, some good news, some bad news.

Making another medical appointment.

Updated my work “paid time off” account because clearly I’m going to be missing some time in the next few weeks.

Logging on to Blackboard to see what assignments are coming up.

Logging back on to the family calendar to put upcoming assignments on Hope’s part of the calendar.

Looking up how to control the family Chromebook remotely, so I can better supervise Hope’s online activity.

Looking up whether I want to waste money on getting a FitBark for Yappy, because #stressshopping and of course my dog needs an activity tracker…#nohedoesnt.

Confirming another medical appointment.

Researching silent migraines and teenagers.

A google scholar search on teenage neuroscience, because #nerd and #journalarticlesrelaxme

Check to see if Hope has updated her Amazon wishlist.

Contemplate whether I might be able to swing a holiday getaway.

Email Elihu to remind him to check the family calendar and update holiday availability.

Try to schedule time to baby shower gift shop for an event this weekend.

Email the tutor an updated schedule and confirm our assessment meeting for later this week.

Pay the nanny.

Check on Yappy through the wifi camera.

Send text to the housekeeper apologizing that the house is likely a hot mess more than usual.

Grab another grande iced coffee.

Some aspect of this happens nearly every day.

I know I’m not the only one. Managing a family is hard work. It’s consuming; it’s exhausting.

Managing a family with a member who has some unique concerns and/or special needs just sucks up time like a vacuum cleaner.

I could easily spend one full business day a week managing me and Hope. This is actually a light week because we only have one two or three appointments. Some weeks we have more like 4 or 5 appointments, not including regular tutor times, standing band practices, home games, other band performances or standing therapy appointments.

There is rarely a week that goes by that I don’t take a few hours off. I’m fortunate to have a super supportive office and I usually just make up the time somewhere else.

But there’s never a break. Even to take a break; it’s got to be scheduled. A lot of appointments have to be rescheduled or stack scheduled.

It helps that the tutor is in walking distance to the school, and the psychiatrist is next door to the tutor. The therapist is in the same building as the orthodontist. My therapist is near my office. The primary care doc is less than 3 miles from the dentist and therapist office. These are all great providers, but I’m not going to lie they were selected based on location, taking our insurance and specialization was frankly last on the list. It’s about managing and I can’t do that if I provider is outside of the 6 mile radius that I have created for us.

All support systems must be accessible if I were running a 10K. I don’t run, but that’s beside the point. If I might start running again, I should be able to hit every office during my run.

I gotta admit, that I was so naïve when I started this journey. I didn’t imagine that I would be a case manager as much as a parent. I see why some folks believe that kids should be in a two parent household—I don’t think it’s essential, obviously—but dang if I need a body double to help out.

The demands are unreal.

Are there services for this besides typical concierge/personal assistant services? I swear this is a money-making market opportunity for some enterprising person.

I need a family case manager.

 

 


Me, the Struggle, the Couch & Yappy

I have resisted tears all week long. Just willed them back up into my tear ducts and dared them to come out again.

My anxiety is high. I can feel cortisol secreting in my body.

I have fought to just exist this week, which is funny because last week I was doing my own personal systems check and wondering if I might be able to come off my anti-depressants.

This week though…ugh.

I have been having a rough time at work with some things, and home? In the words of Donald Trump, home feels like a DISASTER.

It’s not, but it feels like it.

Hope and school…is just an torturous experience.

There is a lot of work. There are higher expectations. There is are a lot of challenges, but there are also a lot of resources and support. There is a huge amount of pride.

I now understand why pride is one of the seven deadly sins. I totally get it now. And that proverb, “pride cometh before the fall?” Yeah, it should read, “Pride straight up triggereth the fall.”

We are two weeks before the end of the first quarter, and I weep because as to be expected we are not in a good place academically. And as usual, there’s all this anxiety to *finally* do the work that should’ve been done weeks ago.  Looking at grades might as well be looking at binary code—grade, zero, grade, zero, grade, zero.

Hope is stressed. I’m stressed. Yappy has now joined the rest of us with his Prozac prescription for his separation anxiety, so he’s also stressed.

It’s all so predictable, and yet, here we are. This is our 11th quarter together and it’s always the same.

I must be nuts to believe that my best attempts at putting up academic guard rails will change anything.

I’m so tired and dejected. And I’m feeling like a failure. Not just because some part of me takes it all so personally, but because I’m doing everything I can, everything I can think of  and the progress just isn’t happening.

I know that I have to get back to looking at the long game, but It’s hard to pull back up to the 30K level and assess the situation.

I can’t do that when Hope ate 32 yogurts in a secret 3 day binge, and left the empty box in the fridge, adding insult to injury. She’s currently trying to hide a granola bar binge; I’ll be surprised if the remaining box of 60 will last the weekend at this rate. Oh, and I finally had to search her room to find all the wrappers because you know…#secrecy.

This is sucks a$$.

And it’s really, really getting to me. While I have threatened my tear ducts not to betray me, my ability to pull myself off of the couch is almost non-existent. I mean, my brain is tired. My stomach is in roiling knots. I can barely keep it together. My face even feels tired.

I have another business trip on Sunday and I’m eager to go do something I’m good at and get some positive feedback from people who like or at least respect me. I’m not getting that at home with Hope.

So, I’m on the couch, clicking through Amazon TV, Hulu, Netflix. I’m drinking cheap wine from a can, and trying to decide if I can start the gigantic bottle of sangria that’s on the counter tonight. And woman’s best friend, Yappy is tucked beside me.

I’m sure this is not good for his separation anxiety, but I presently do not give one damn. His presence calms me. His unconditional adoration of me as his lord and master human is just what my soul needs…along with cake. I could really use some cake, the kind with the stiff butter cream/sugar frosting like on birthday cakes. (Gotta be specific since cake is my favorite food group, closely followed by all things carb.)

And this is what anxiety and depression look anf feel like. I just need this evening to practice emotional escapism, in an effort to gather my marbles together tomorrow and do it all again.

Next week we have an educational meeting and I’ve asked the counselor and social worker to invite Hope. She needs to hear what we are saying, what decisions must be made and be given an opportunity to say want she wants and what she can and will do to get it.

Last night we tried to have this conversation over dinner and I lost my ish because she seems defiant in her refusal to acknowledge that the options on the table for her next quarter do not include her desired option.  We didn’t have our food yet and I asked for the check and pushed us out to eat at home in angry silence.

It just feels like there is no way to get through this without emotionally feeling skinned just about every couple of weeks.

WHY??? Why do people do this?  It’s got me questioning why I became a parent; do I really feel fulfilled, if I made a mistake of sorts. Then the overwhelming guilt crushes me when I’m already sinking into my couch.

It just feels so no win; it feels hopeless.

I know it probably feels that way for Hope too, but dammit.

I’m over this.

And I’m back to willing the tears to stay in their place. My face is tired and my eyelids are heavy. I just want to curl up with Yappy on this couch and forget for a little while how hard it is.

The struggle is so real.


When They Don’t Listen: School Edition

Remember when I realized at the end of summer that we kinda hate school because of some of Hope’s challenges?

Yeah, that.

Yep, still hate it.

I thought that her counselor and I were on the same page in terms of what was in Hope’s best interest. Apparently, I was mistaken.

Hope does not like one of her teachers and has used this as an excuse to underperform.

After lots of back and forth with Hope and the school, I refused to offer Hope the opportunity to change teachers. I needed to see her apply herself, and knowing that she had a chance to get what she wanted would only cause manipulative behavior. After seeing her perform, we could all reevaluate whether a different teacher would be an appropriate move for her.

I know my kid. I know her.

I may have only known her for 3 years this month, by I know Hope.

Hope’s defiance typically comes in the form of showing me how badly she can perform rather than how well she can do the same. Although she hurts herself, she knows that her underperformance hurts me—it makes me worry for her, be a little stressed out, sometimes be angry at her willingness to self-sacrifice.

It took me awhile to figure this out.

I used to not believe in oppositional defiance, generally speaking, in some ways I still do. I think it’s a bunch of baloney in terms of a diagnosis. I was allowed to be openly defiant; the thought of behaving in such a way with my parents back in the day is just a completely foreign concept to me. I can’t wrap my head around it.

And yet, this defiance is supposed to be a thing. I’m supposed to give Hope lots of choices to help manage the defiance. Yeah, ok.

Of course, I know when Hope can handle choices and when she cannot. Often choices are hugely problematic for her.

So, anyhoo, new counselor lady meets with Hope and completely undermines the decision that I made about not switching teachers.

“Hope, sure we can talk about switching teachers; let’s make an appointment; there are 3 other classes you can be switched to.”

Thanks, lady, thanks a lot.

And once again, I get to be the bigger bad guy.

So, now, we’re looking at grades that are just not reflective of Hope’s capabilities with or without accommodations. For Hope, these grades are proof that it’s not working out with her teacher.

For me, they are reflective of self-sabotaging, manipulative behavior designed to get her way and use the naïve school counselor to get it.

Sigh.  Just great.

So, I send off a terse email to the counselor about how she got played and how my kid is in the dog house.

No answer.

I am clear with Hope’s school and with Hope that educational decisions are made by me, unless there is definitive evidence that my say should be overridden. I’m furious that I laid that ground work, and it was all destroyed during one meeting, and here we are with the first quarter jacked.

And Hope has created a legitimate appearing argument for getting her way and irritating me as a bonus.

I don’t care as much about Hope making honor roll these days, but I do know what she’s capable of and what her academically weakness are and how they manifest.

I hate that my knowledge of my daughter’s behaviors and capabilities weren’t treated as “expertise.” I hate that despite having 20 years of educational experience and an advanced degree in education that my knowledge of my kid or relevant content was discounted.

What’s the point of having some forms of privilege if I can’t leverage them? Isn’t that what privilege is about anyway?

With so many parents having to advocate for their kids, I see why it feels like we are rarely on the same team with our children’s educators. For adoptive parents, I could see how the “adoptive” part could be used to undermine what we know about our children throughout our advocacy efforts.

I see how we are marginalized.

I’m angry.

I’m so angry.

Why didn’t the counselor listen to me?

Why was it so hard to just listen to me and work with me to help my daughter be successful? I mean, we’re supposed to be on the same team right?

Why didn’t she listen to me? Why didn’t she trust that I know? Why did she undermine me?

I’m guessing that parents by birth go through this too, this feeling that their experiences as parents are devalued by educators as they advocate for their children.

I am pissed that I feel like I have to back down to that school next week and give them what for.

I’m pissed that my daughter has dug herself in an effort to manipulate her way into getting what she wants.

I hate setbacks.

I hate setbacks even when I learn from them; I always wish that learning didn’t require some form of suffering on this journey.

I hate setbacks that could be avoided if folks just listened and trusted me and my approach to parenting.

This is one of those few times when I have no doubts and no second guessing about my approach to this parenting issue. I knew and continue to know what needed to happen.

But it ends up just being another case of when they didn’t listen.


Blacker the Berry

Releasing the shackles of the mind

Riddle from the Middle

real life with a side of snark

Dmy Inspires

Changing The World, With My Story...

Learning to Mama

Never perfect, always learning.

Dadoptive

An adoptive father's story

The Boeskool

Jesus, Politics, and Bathroom Humor...

Erica Roman Blog

I write so that my healing may bring healing to others.

My Mind on Paper

The Inspired Writing of Kevin D. Hofmann

Mimi Robinson Online

One black woman's journey through infertility, adoption and now being a SAHM

My Wonderfully Unexpected Journey

When Life Grabbed Me By The Ears

Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

These are the adventures of one family in foster care and adoption.

imashleymi.wordpress.com/

finding the balance between being a mom and a marketing maven

Stephanie Rodda

Pondering Faith and Family

wearefamily

an adoption support community

Fighting for Answers

Tales From an Adoption Journey

Transracialeyes

Because of course race and culture matter.

%d bloggers like this: