Tag Archives: Education

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?


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.







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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


Thoughts on “Special Needs”

Yesterday I spent a rare Friday in my physical office so that I could enjoy lunch with a good friend and colleague.  She asked how Hope and I were doing, and I started my update with a heavy sigh and a weak smile.

As I gave her an abbreviated update, I realized that recently I’ve found myself really having to re-balance my world view and value system in order to parent appropriately. Sure, I think most parents have to do this, but I think that there’s probably something about adoption, and specifically adoption with older kids, that is a little bit different.

My and Hope’s backgrounds could not have been more different. In many ways, the only things we have in common are being black and some of the universality of what that means in terms of experience and culture.  I don’t mean to discount that, because it really is the foundation for a lot of our relationship, but really that’s it.

As we go through all of the diagnostics necessary to determine learning styles, brain processes, etc, etc, I am sensitive to Hope’s desire not to be labeled. I have to balance that with the reality that labels open the doors to more resources and help that she desperately needs.

I remember originally seeing her profile and the classification that she was “special needs.” I was told that, while there were some issues, the designation was more about race than anything else. I remember seeing it again after our finalization when I went to do my taxes and the paperwork for the adoption credit: “special needs.” Again, she fell into that label because of race, a black American adoptee.

In the last six months, I’ve been watching lots of symptoms emerge. I’ve been monitoring behavior, grades, performance, social interactions, all kinds of things. I’ve watched my daughter’s increasing anxiety trigger bad dreams, insomnia, stress word tics, nerve spasms…I’ve engaged all kinds of people: teachers, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists. I resisted pulling the “special needs” card. I struggled with my own quest for high performance and perfectionism and how Hope’s poor grades made me feel.

It’s taken me a long time to realize that my desire for Hope to perform well academically is rooted in my own need to have the “perfect” kid in the “perfect” adoption story. Neither is true or even attainable; though my Hope is wicked smart, more resilient than a rubber ball, and perfect in all the ways that really matter. Dealing with the impact of Hope’s past has been the first time in my life when I couldn’t really fix something. I’m a fixer. I have a problem; I find a solution or I create one. I thrive on making things happen. I have built my adult life on an identity that revolves around getting ish done, done well and taking it to the next level. This is who I am at home and at work. It is an identity that has rewarded me in countless ways and fosters a huge sense of pride in myself and my abilities.

Being mom to Hope is so challenging sometimes that not only can I not fix any of the issues that plague Hope; but most of the time, the last six months especially, I feel like we’ve just been regressing…just not moving forward. For her, it’s all finally starting to come into the focus that we’ve got a serious mess on our hands. For me, it’s like watching a slow crash finally make impact and not having been able to stop it or even minimize the devastating effects.

For both of us, the realization that Hope has (as opposed to is) special needs that are real and now visible has struck distressing blows to our self-esteem, individually and as a family. There isn’t an easy way to fix this and that shakes the identity I’ve created for myself. It provides Hope more evidence that she is broken in the identity that she’s created for herself. For us together, it feels like she’s stuck with a a mom who can’t fix it and I have a daughter who fears she’ll never make me proud of her (even though I am more than proud of her). Our relationship is rocky, right now—the push/pull dynamic coupled with normal teenage surliness is a bit of a powder keg at the moment with Hope being the one prone to fire flashes.

I found my mind wandering over coffee this morning how hard this would be even if I had birthed Hope. Would it be easier because I would have seen some issues as she hit developmental markers? Would I have been able to get her all the resources she needed earlier? Would she see her struggles as strengths by now? Before I knew it I was reminded of my infertility, how that fantasy didn’t consider Hope’s real life story, how that narrative was about my need and desire to fix this to prove that I could. It wasn’t really about Hope at all; it was about my need to shore up who and what I am and feel validated.

This storm we’re in won’t really allow me the luxury of seeing immediate results from my efforts or fill my need to be validated. I’m fighting against 12 years of messy dysfunction; it’ll likely take us twice as long to make sense of it all.

In the meantime, there’s this special needs thing. Hope does have special needs that must be met. She is both special and needy, but also amazing and, when the obnoxious teen part steps back, delightfully charming and funny and lovable. I still don’t know how I feel about labels; I guess I see them as a means to an end—they help me, help her—again, while she benefits, it’s about me tapping into resources to fix this. But I’m increasingly sensitive that for her the label is another crack in her armor, just more evidence that she is bad.  I still don’t know how to balance all that, and I desperately wish I could figure that out.

Gosh I love Hope. I love her so much. This challenge is so stressful on both of us, and although help is on the way, this is, like everything we endure, an ongoing thing. And in time, something else will just layer on top of it.

It sucks on so many levels. It just sucks on so many levels.


When the Team Works

Today I met with the team at Hope’s school for a local screening to begin the process of determining whether she qualified for a 504 or if I needed to pursue an IEP.

I’ve heard so many horror stories about this initial meeting and this process that I went in ready but anxious.

I am in constant contact with Hope’s teachers (to her utter dismay). I visit her guidance counselor ever so often. I’ve invested a schnitt-load of money on tutors and resources and help her. I drag her to the doctor and share copious notes on my observations and reasons for requesting a medication adjustment.

During all of this, Hope is usually initially pissed, but she knows I’m trying to help.

I felt like I was going into the meeting doing everything I could’ve possibly done prior to asking for external support.

I had been warned about how kind folks would be while they tried to deny services and accommodations.

I really, really didn’t know what to expect.

So, we met, I gave my narrative. There was a lot of documentation about my efforts and involvement thus far. Her teachers came and spoke so highly of her, and echoed my observations and my conclusions about what she needs.

I looked at everyone on the team. The guidance counselor was nodding; the psychologist was typing, nodding and occasionally grimacing. The SPED director was reading stuff that had to legally be read. The social worker looked at me in what looked like an impassive way.

I did my homework, but I just didn’t know how things would turn out.

At the end of our hour together, we had a 504, the paperwork was signed and meetings with individual teachers start at 7:45am tomorrow. When all of my private testing is complete, we’ll revisit the need for more support.

For now, Hope will have her most immediate needs met, and I nearly wept with relief.

As the meeting concluded, the stoic social worker asked to walk me out to the school lobby. He was so kind, so warm, so encouraging, reassuring…he turned out to be a cheerleader. He cheered for us.

Now, I’m not so naïve as to believe it’s really all that easy; I believe we benefitted from a lot of favor from the Holy Homeboy today. And I have no idea what the world will look like after we get the results of Hope’s comprehensive testing back. The team may turn into a frenzy of sharks if we need more support.

What I do know today is that there are good people working at my daughter’s school. I believe they genuinely want my daughter to be successful; I recognize that some of that comes from knowing a bit about her history, but I know it’s genuine. I feel like Hope and I have allies today.

And for today, that’s good enough.

When the team works, the dream works.


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