Tag Archives: Family

Trauma Whirlwinds

I am in the midst of a trauma related whirlwind the details of which are not mine to share.

This moment has clearly revealed Hope’s true vulnerabilities out in the world, and it’s requiring an enormous amount of emotional restraint from me.

I am a mess of sadness, heartbreak and unmitigated rage. That rage is not directed at Hope, but a third party who also has peeped my daughter’s vulnerabilities. It is taking everything in me not to round up my squad and take matters into my own hands. I also know that If I shared what is happening with Hope with some folks in my life, things would get very, very out of hand very, very, very fast.

And trust, I am so tempted to let that ish play out.

Via Giphy

But Hope needs me, and I am acutely aware of how much she needs me in this moment. She needs me as a mom. She needs me as a woman who has lived through some things. She needs me to just love her and reassure her that it’s going to be ok.

I am committed to keeping a 30K foot view of what is happening to my daughter. I can clearly see what is driving the behavior and what is driving the emotion and the need. I know that this mess is trying to fill a hole that has existed for a long, long time; I know this has everything to do with her life before me and the pieces of life that are still missing.

I know that there is nothing that I can really do or say to fill that hole; it’s primal. I get it. It’s also breaking my heart.

During the last day, I have tried to reason with her. I listen to her without judgment. I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open. The only way to do that is to keep my own emotions in check.

Via Giphy

Last night I had to take a late evening walk just to call a friend to let out my own emotions. There I was out with goofy Yappy walking the neighborhood in the dark, in the rain with a headlamp letting it all out, so I could come back with my own emotional mask on to reengage.

I’m glad I had that chance because I walked back into a whole ‘nother bucket of bs.

There is a silver lining in this moment; this moment could be so worse. It could be so much more devastating, but Hope was already questioning her feelings about her choices. She wanted to talk to AbsurdlyHotTherapist about it but hasn’t been able to get an appointment. I’m encouraged that she was trying to figure out how to work through this mess on her own and in a healthy way. I’ve reached out to him to beg for an appointment and to give him a heads up on what’s happening. I need her to have that unbiased third party to help her.

Hope is a horrible liar; she also is horrible at keeping her own secrets, much less anyone else’s. She almost always tells me or AHT what’s up or creates a situation in which I find out (See stupid games from last month). She told me that her lies are more about wanting to avoid disappointing me than a fear of something like me putting her out.

On the one hand she trusts that I’m not going to threaten her physical wellbeing, but I do wonder if she thinks my expectations of her are too high? It’s got me wondering if expectations are too high for her? I need my own barometer check.

Ultimately, I know that we will get through this, but I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know what the collateral damage will be. I don’t know…what is around the corner.

I also know, that this could happen again and again.

Trauma stuff is hard.

Adoption stuff is hard.

There are very real wounds.

I know I am not capable of fully healing her; I can only support her, love her, be there for her in these moments. She is transitioning into adulthood, and I worry a bit about how much my protection can extend around her. Before it seemed like a nice little bubble, now it’s just this amorphous thing and I can’t control the environment for her. I know that is normal, that actually aspects of this is normal for kids her age. I also know that as a middle-aged woman, I’m still, *still* dealing with some bullshit from my own youth, and I didn’t any a fraction of the drama in my life that Hope’s had in hers. I worry about where that leaves her.

All I know is that I’m still her ride or die. I always will be, but whew…this phase of parenting is not easy.

via Giphy

Parenting a Young Adult

This last month of staying at home with Hope has been hard for me. She has been testing limits in ways that are new. It’s normal; it’s age appropriate, and I hate it.

Since the ‘stupid games’ episode, Hope seems to have forgotten a number of truths: I no longer trust her because she lied. I rarely forget. We are not roommates; I am her mother.

This week Hope announced her plans to me on a number of occasions. She was going to the outlet to shop for shoes (Ok, she really needed shoes). She was going on an all day date (Oh really? Did we forget we were supposed to be experiencing the consequences of stupid decisions?) She was taking the car to go out on Friday.

This is where I drew the bright line. Hella irritated by these declarations brought on by Hope’s trying on of adulthood, I said no. I initiated a conversation about how I’m trying to give her space to develop some independence, but I needed her to reframe her declarations to requests. We ain’t roommates; that’s my car and she needed to ask to use it. There are still expectations of a curfew and I fully expect to be told where she’s going.

That conversation was several days ago, and I’m still struggling with Hope. She is a good kid, but she is wildly immature. She recently ordered about $100 of slime.

SLIME, y’all. 🙄 A sophomore in college and binge spending on slime. Woooosawww. Ok.

When you see those kinds of purchases rolling into the house and then get *told* about how your car will be used without any consideration about any plans you might have… Well it’s triggering.

I’m committed to not yelling, to discussing things like adults and to coming to positive resolution. Yeah, all that. But real talk, I didn’t issue any ‘declarative statements’ to my parents until I was living completely independently with my own address in another zip code. This version of young adulting is foreign to me, and I. Don’t. Like. It.

I can’t even get Hope to do the chores I ask of her when I ask, so my emotional struggle these last few weeks has me hot under the collar. Lots of deep breaths.

I have tried explain my response to these shenanigans. I have attempted to articulate my communications needs. I have tried to find some grace, especially since I only have another month with my daughter before she heads back to campus. But, real talk, I’m seriously annoyed.

And what’s even more annoying? There only so much I can do. I’m super conscious of that. This is a gray area. I need to offer some rules and guidance— less of the former and more of the latter. I’m trying to grow the trust (super hard lately) and independence while insisting on respect for me, this home and my things. I’m also hyper aware that there are things I would never do to Hope, like threaten to put her out. I did tell her that if she wanted to do all the things she thinks she’s grown enough to do, she might make plans to get and finance her own apartment next summer since somethings just ain’t ever going down here. That said this will always be home, but it comes with some rules.

I’m struggling, and the more I struggle the more irritated I become. I worry that this conflict will engulf us. I need to avoid that, but I need Hope to find her emerging lane and promptly get in it.

I’m really worried about Hope going back to school next month, what with the pandemic and all. That said, I am looking forward to missing her a bit. I’m ready for a parenting-cation.


We’re Ok

Last week, when Hope exhibited some COVID-19 symptoms I had a complex moment of panic. Naturally I worried and ran through all of the possibilities that a parent goes through, fretted about how she caught it from me and praying that she would be ok.

I also thought about Hope’s family.

Her birth family.

And then I really spun out.

Should I tell them she might be sick? Should I tell them I was sick? What if she got really sick? Of course I would tell them; they should know.

Would they blame me? Gosh, they should blame me. I should’ve tried harder at really quarantining within the house. I should’ve stayed in my room and rode it out.

OMG, what if Hope endured all she did only for her mother by adoption to give her a deadly virus?

I took her temperature again and went back to my room to gather myself because I was falling apart.

I’d already struggled with being sick myself, causing Hope, my family and friends who knew a lot of worry. I felt stupid for catching it and terrified that I might die and leave Hope.

I’ve had a lot of really big feelings this last month.

When Hope showed some symptoms, I called my primary care doctor’s office and demanded that we be tested. I needed to know whether Hope had it. At that point, my doctor was convinced I had it, and with that we all kind of assumed Hope would have it as well. But I was three weeks into being sick; how come Hope’s symptoms fell out of the ‘two week’ window?

Well, we finally were tested late last week.

Negative!

thankful

My doctor called after we got the news from the clinic to discuss it. He’s still convinced that I had it and that Hope probably did as well. He thinks she was largely asymptomatic, and when the symptoms did emerge it was the virus’ last lap.

Essentially, if we had been tested the first or second week of my own illness, our results might’ve been different.

In any case, the hard core lockdown is over and we are back to regular “stay at home.”

Hope through this remained largely unfazed. She asked if she could still do some of the weekly errands. She also wanted to be sure that we would keep our recently developed habit of having chai tea lattes in the morning.

Having tea together is our new bonding time. She will drink coffee, but isn’t the biggest fan so earlier this month on a whim I made her a chai latte. She fell in love. Some days I don’t even see her unless we are having tea because she’s hold up in her room and I’m tied to my laptop.

I did tell Hope’s family this week. We are family, and I wanted them to know how she’s doing…how we are doing. I also wanted to be sure they were ok and to encourage them to stay put if possible. This virus is no joke. Hope had very little closure when she lost one of her parents and these days you can barely have a funeral–I can’t bear to think of Hope having to go through something like that again due to COVID-19.

So, that’s it. We’re ok. I’m still recovering, but feeling more like myself each day! Thanks for your kind words and support over the last few posts. I really appreciate it!


Pandemic Chronicles vol. 2

We are sliding into a full month of social distancing. It’s ok I guess. I was getting out twice a week to do grocery/supply shopping. I’ve been doing a lot of walking. Yappy has enjoyed the walks. And I am still walking with Hope, when I can coax her out of the house. 

Hope, for her part, seems to be ok. She mostly stays in her room, and other than going walking and watching an occasional show together, I’ve just let her be. I did round her up last week to talk about what would happen if one of us were to get sick. 

I essentially got a blank stare.

I’m always hopeful that Hope’s ability to have difficult conversations has expanded and in many ways it has. But I know that she’s been keeping up with the news around COVID-19, not so much as to obsess over it, but staying informed. And the death toll, well, it’s triggering for everyone. When I brought it up and talked about planning a bit in the event one of us gets sick (namely me), I know it was hard to hear. Hope lost a parent; she knows what that’s like. All this talk about getting sick with a virus that can be deadly is not something she wants to think about on a personal level. 

It’s one thing to be home and watch the news about what’s happening out there, but what if “out there” comes inside, in your home?

So, I understand the blank stare and the reticence to have a discussion. My baby adult isn’t all that into adulting. 

Heck, half the time, neither am I. 

After a month, I’m a bit irritated that Hope continues to not help out around the house unless specifically asked, but what’s new? We still haven’t unloaded the car from bringing her home. The house feels cluttered with all of the things. It also feels homey. Cluttered and homey. 

Emotionally, I’m a bit better this week. I think I’ve hit acceptance in my grief about this new normal. My therapist is now doing telehealth, which helped enormously. And I’m trying to give myself some grace when it comes to eating. 

So, I’m ok, but I’m also really over it. 

I’m off to get a handful of Cadbury mini eggs from my stash.


Life in the Bubble

So, there’s this pandemic.

Holy ish, there’s an effing pandemic!

Ok, so as folks know, we are supposed to be social distancing in hopes of preventing the wildfire spread of COVID-19. The virus was first discovered in China, and despite the country putting folks on lock down weeks ago, the leadership of my country just waved it away. Seemingly no one told the folks in charge that every nasty thing in the world can be at your doorstep in a matter of hours.

So here we are. Schools are shuttering. Colleges are closing and some are kicking students off campus. Small business are struggling and the stock market? Dumpster fire. The latest guidance is don’t even be around more than 10 people at a time.

For those of y’all with big immediate families…well, dang!

Hope has been home from college for a little over a week. She will be here at least two more weeks, though my gut tells me that we will only be going back to clean out her dorm. Her classes are moving online; though one is stagecraft (which she got into last year at school), and I dunno how that’s going to transition. Whatever.

I didn’t initially panic shop. I bought a few extra groceries; after all Hope was home. I reasoned well, I have a few rolls of toilet paper and I’ve got a bidet in my bathroom, we’re good.

Then last Friday, Hope grabbed the last roll of toilet paper, and for those of you who have had the blessing of living with a teenage girl, you know that being down to the last roll of TP on a regular, degular day constitutes a household crisis. So, here we are on DAY 1 of social distancing, and I’m in a full scale panic trying to find TP for sale anywhere nearby. (Shout out to the Target app for accurately telling me what each store had in stock!).

The TP run to Target at opening turned into a panic shopping spree.

A few hundred dollars and a few stores later, I had enough food and coffee to last us a week. I had a new French press, some unnecessary makeup and several pints of low cal ice cream. Later that evening I had to resist the urge to do a run to the local wing place for takeout. Then on Saturday, DAY 3 of social distancing, and I panic scoot into DC buy some herbal medicinal products because I don’t know how long this distancing thing will last and I am not emotionally or hormonally equipped to deal with being home-bound long term, never mind any BS fantasies about such I might have previously uttered.

By DAY 4, Hope’s capacity for levels of lazy not yet seen with the human eye had already irritated me such that I declare that we will take a walk everyday of this distancing thing. There was a reaction.

giphy

via Giphy

And then we went walking. I ignored the incessant whining and gnashing of teeth. We walked 3 miles that day. We walked about 2.7 miles yesterday and another 2 today.

There was a brief moment when Hope attempted to bargain about walk length and frequency. I told her that her bargaining position was weak and reasserted that this is a benevolent monarchy with me the head chick in charge. We were walking daily. Length and time dictated by me.

Yappy is delighted to have his pack all together. Positively over the moon. He’s easy. I did panic shop for him as well. I was low on food and well, don’t we all need new toys and extra treats in times such as these?

I’m enjoying my time with Hope. She has matured a little (seriously it’s only a little but it is noticeable); her vocabulary is improving. She was telling me her thoughts on the movie Parasite, and I listened intently as she shared a pretty sophisticated and layered critique of the movie (she thinks its overrated by the way—by both Asian and American movie standards). She’s still as goofy as ever, but she is way cooler to be around these days. Honestly, she’s content to spend some time with me and retreat to her room, her space, her things. Life with her is different now.

Like everyone else, we are in this bubble. We’re kinda away from the world and kinda not. We video chat family daily. I do fret and fuss over my parents, who both have compromised immune systems. I get to turn off the alarms on my phone. I’m still productive. I’m cooking. There’s still laundry, and until this afternoon, I was working from home. For the next week, I’ll be a slug who walks a few miles a day with her daughter. Hardly anyone is out. We walked during what is normally rush hour; we might’ve seen 100 cars while we were out. Not much traffic at all. I’ve been curating my Netflix queue, knowing I’ll probably just rotate through my usual favorite shows on network TV.

In some ways, this time is reminiscent of the first few weeks home with Hope. I was off on family leave to focus on her (and my) adjustment to this family life. We were in the same home, but gosh the tension, the nervous anxiety, the fear that it wasn’t going to work out, the all out fear about everything. It was exciting and terrifying. Yet, it was us and a dog (The Furry One) just like now. Only now, we are calm. We talk and it’s meaningful but mostly boring. We snuggle on the couch and bicker about what to watch on TV. There’s still a dog, a younger pooch with a big personality and a deep affection for his pack of people. It’s something to reflect on those months in light of our current situation. What we have now is what I dreamed that those months back then would be. It was a silly and misinformed dream back then; there’s a lot of work, living, learning and growing that got us here.

The boredom we experience now is what we always dreamed of…to just be a regular family.

That’s cool.

So far, life in the bubble is thought provoking and a bit of a dream—once I got over the momentary panic.

Sending you all lots of positive energy and good handwashing skills.


4 Things

What are 4 things I’m grateful for in the context of adoptive parenting?

One of the questions people tend to ask folks on the cusp of becoming parents is, “Are you ready?” Usually the question is surrounded by a bit of levity, maybe even said in a joking matter with a wagging of eyebrows for effect.

I remember folks asking me and my response was always deadpan: Hell no, but I’m doing it anyway.

Of course, stepping into parenthood is beautiful and all, but it’s hard. It’s exhausting and expensive and discombobulating.

And largely wonderful, even if it is punctuated by many less wonderful experiences.

In the grand scheme of things, my parenting journey has been good. Some would even say that it has been relatively easy for a family coping with the long-term effects of trauma and grief. I don’t disagree with that, but yes, it has been challenging.

And there have been times when I felt like parenting broke me.

Since becoming a parent, I have had to have several increases in anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications—so I’m now taking two meds at true therapeutic doses. I’ve had to resume intensive therapy to help deal with my own mental health during these years. I’ve survived but it’s taught me a lot about myself, my limits and my coping mechanisms.

There has been a lot of growth during these years for me and Hope.

So, what are the things I’m most grateful for in the context of parenting?

  • My primary care physician. Dr. G has been my doctor for 21 years. He’s rocked with me through major health challenges, weight gains and losses, cancer screenings, preventive health you name it. I remember when I had to take the form to him to give me a clean bill of health to share with my adoption agency, he was so kind to me. He and the entire staff have always been so supportive. He’s been fantastic with Hope. He’s patient and considerate. He gives sage advice and counsel without judgment.

I realized recently just how much I adore him and how he has supported Hope and I through this journey when he went out of medical leave and I legit panicked that he might not come back. Dr. G has been there rocking with us since the beginning and I’m so grateful.

  • I’m grateful for the grace Hope’s family has shown me. Every holiday we get two cards in the same envelope sent by Hope’s biological grandmother. The big card is for Hope and the little card is for me. It’s so thoughtful.

These last few years, Hope has not had a lot of contact with her family. This has been her choice. I encourage her reaching out, but I don’t push it. I understand why it hard for Hope, and I know that her reticence to maintain contact has been painful for her family. I’ve often worried that they thought it was me blocking contact; they have kindly reassured me that they know that I’m not. I try to send letters, lots of pictures and updates on how she’s doing. I feel a real pain in my heart knowing and seeing this estrangement and not being able to smooth it over. I’m a fixer, so I want it to work out.

I don’t know what the future of the relationship will be, but I’m so grateful that they have been kind to me and have welcomed me into their homes and hearts. They are wonderful people, and I’m grateful for them and what they’ve brought to my life.

  • I’m grateful for this this goofball, Yappy, and his predecessor, The Furry One.

Yappy

Image may contain: dog

The Furry One

When Hope moved in, I was doggy mom The Furry One. I’d had him since he was 8 weeks old and he was closing in on 15. Most of my truly adult life I’d had this dog.

The expansion of our dynamic duo to a trippy trio was very hard for The Furry One. He was old, delightfully grouchy and still forever my sweet baby. He passed away about 7 months after Hope’s arrival, and I was devastated.

My grief was overwhelming. For months I couldn’t look at another fluffy white dog without bursting into tears. I know my grief was magnified because Hope and I were headlong into beginning to really cope with challenging behaviors, mental health issues and more. I was also still trying to integrate my new realities with my career. I was a mess.

It took me a long time to realize that The Furry One had a long life and his last gift was his affection during a really hard transition.

About 4 months later, we got Yappy through a Craigslist ad and I’ve been hopelessly in love ever since. Yappy is seriously the cheeriest dog I’ve come across in a long time.

He is super social and affectionate. He loves people so much that I rarely take him to the dog park because all he does after his business is lap surf all the other dog owners sitting on benches. He is my constant companion, snuggle buddy and wordless cheerleader. He looks at me like I hung the moon and the stars.

Sure he has severe separation anxiety, but hey, he ADORES me unconditionally.

I’m grateful.

  • I’m grateful for my sisters. I have amazing siblings. We are close, very close. We love hard, and we try to show our love constantly in our support for one another. We each have our own ways and love languages, but we are always there for each other. My sisters have been unwavering in their support of me and Hope. They’ve listened to me cry. They’ve been there to celebrate. They’ve sent gifts. They hosted overnights. They shopped with us and for us. They’ve been the best aunties ever. We’ve always rode hard for each other, but during this chapter of our lives, it’s been amazing. And I’m grateful beyond measure.

Of course there are many, many other things for which I’m grateful. There have been so many people along the way who have touched my life, helped me be a better parent and helped me get myself together. It is more grace than I deserve. It is humbling and beautiful. So I’m sending a big thank you to the universe for so much on this journey.


Unlearning Things

Fall used to be my busiest time of the year, but these days have me gallivanting all over the place all dang year.

And you know what?

It is exhausting!

I haven’t been on this kind of grind in nearly 10 years, and I definitively know that I did not miss this pace. And did I mention I’m 10 years older now? I mean, I’m still fly, but it’s still a whole arse decade!

Anyhoo, I’m launching into a month of travel with a legit vacation wedged in there around week 3. #costarica

Because of this grueling schedule, I’m suffering from some major writer’s block, aka “productivity exhaustion.”

So, all of that to say, I’m using some writer’s prompts to help me keep writing through the layovers.

This post is about the things I had to unlearn on my parenting journey with Hope.

There were a lot of things I had to “unlearn.”

Like a lot.

A lot a lot.

Ok, here are the top 3 things I had to unlearn.

I had to unlearn my existing identity when I became a parent.

When I began my adoption journey, I was single and not even dating, about to be 40, entering my dissertation year, and about 6 months past one of the most serious health crises in my life. Up until those few months prior, I had focused primarily on my career. I enjoyed brunching with friends. I didn’t particularly enjoy dating, but I did enjoy the notion of finding my person. I had been traveling for a number of years, but still not yet to the real adventures I wanted to take on.

Life was good, but of course, something was missing.

Once I was parenting Hope, I learned quickly just how hard the self-sacrifice that parenting required was on one’s identity. Initially, it was like my life shrunk instead of expanded and I had no idea how to handle that.

I’m a contrarian by nature, and seriously sometimes I say no just because. No reason,  no rationale, for no possible reason that could make sense. There are times when saying no is so clearly not in my interest and I cannot stop myself from declining. I’ve been this way since I can remember.

This made sharing my life so stinking hard at first. I wanted Hope here, but having someone in the house after living alone for so long was super hard.

I am an overachiever. I constantly felt like a failure while parenting Hope. Initially it was when I inadvertently triggered her. Or when I felt like I made the wrong decision for her wellbeing. I thought I would make life worse for her.

I had to get to a place of really letting the old me go and rising up as something new. It was hard, but I think I finally got the hang of it. Now I’m realizing that I’m struggling to reintegrate my old identity and elements of what’s on the horizon.

I’m back into work hardcore in ways I wasn’t in recent years. It feels different. I’m reassessing what it means to have a kid in college and what does the next chapter looks like.

I’ll be 50 in a few years, and that’s a big year. I’m not immediately sure what’s on or in that horizon. It’s like I don’t even have a 5-year plan right now. I know I’ll still be working, quite probably at the same organization. I’ll be wondering what’s up with Hope. I don’t know academically or professionally what she might be doing. No idea. I don’t have a plan, but I probably should.

So now I’m learning that I’ve got to recreate myself again, somehow. I thought evolution was more linear, clearly, it’s not.

I had to unlearn my preexisting ideas about parenting.

I have loving parents who worked very hard to raise me and my sisters. I definitely do not always agree with them on many things, but I thought that they were a good parenting model.

The problem was that my parents created 3 overachieving, highly intrinsically motivated, bright, curious, minimally rebellious during the teen years women.

This meant that our standards are absurdly, and as many therapists have told me, sometimes unachievably high. We’ve surrounded ourselves with similar folks. Our friend circles are populated by some super cool, wicked smart and highly successful folks.

Hope came to me performing well in school. She’s bright. I marveled at how she had managed to endure her past and still make such good grades. I thought, “awesome, she’s bright and will continue to slay at school!”

But then the neurocognitive issues really emerged, and depression, anxiety, and PTSD all pushed their way to the front and center stage in her life.

Grades plummeted. Self-esteem plummeted.

I was flummoxed. It took me a while to figure things out, get the proper diagnoses and advocate for her. And yet with each grade…each one, I realized that nothing I was doing was actually resulting in improved academic performance.

Hope felt awful. There were definitely times when I didn’t appreciate her depression around this like I do now.

As for me, I felt disappointed on multiple levels. Why couldn’t I get Hope to do her work and do it well? I felt shame because I run with a crew who shares my love of high standards, so *of course,* they routinely asked how Hope was doing in school. I felt frustrated and low key mad all the time. Why couldn’t I fix this? Why didn’t she try harder?  Doesn’t she know what’s on the line here?

I had to unlearn all the scripts about what achievement looks like in childrearing. More than not, the achievement is raising a child who feels safe and confident. Sure, I tried to provide that for my daughter, but what that looks nothing like what I thought it would.

I knew it would be hard, but I thought it would be easier. Not looking for any credit or criticism; I thought my logical outlook would get me through parenting. Ha!

As I’ve unlearned my preconceived notions of parenting; I’d learned that there is nothing logical about 90% of parenting.

It is all magic though.

I had to unlearn a bunch of stuff I thought I knew about loss.

I realized through parenting Hope, that I needed to recalibrate how I thought about loss. I don’t mean to suggest that there’s a loss Olympics—there isn’t. Folks feel what they feel.

I definitely have had my struggles over the course of these 47 years. But real talk; the losses I’ve endured and the hurts I’ve survived though deeply impactful to me are radically different than what my daughter has experienced.

I thought I new loss and grief. I thought I understood the emotional burden therein. I thought I got it.

I wasn’t even close to getting it.

I’m very privileged when it comes to loss in the grand scheme of things. Meanwhile, Hope can practically tell me dates of those moments in her pre-adoptive life where she felt small, out of control, grief-stricken and more. I didn’t save her from those moments. She lives with those moments daily still.

Getting over and around loss and grief is enormously challenging. Of course, folks do it all the time, but it’s hard work for many of us. I had to realize that I had a lot of impractical mythology around loss. I had to set about to unlearning that stuff and replacing it with knowledge and strategies to help Hope and me work through huge emotional stuff on this journey.

I’m grateful for the notion of “unlearning.” I’m still learning and unlearning stuff. It’s a routine with no end in sight.


Morning Coffee

Hope and I only talk once a week or so via phone or video, usually on the weekends. All other times, we text. It works for us. I feel like it’s reasonable; I don’t want or need to talk to her daily. I don’t assume something is wrong if we don’t talk every day; instead I assume we are both off living our independent lives.

But the two times I’ve seen my daughter this semester, we get that quality time that really connects us and highlights our attachment.

And now Hope is home for Thanksgiving.

Earlier this week Hope texted me asking for some money to take an Uber to catch her bus home. Having just given Hope her allowance 10 days prior I blew a gasket that she had spent it all with no consideration that she needed to get to the bus station. We’ve been dealing with her spending for a few weeks now and I *lost* it. Texting furiously I reamed my daughter for her irresponsibility that she didn’t even have $10 to take an Uber. I sent her an email after checking in with the bank spending analysis. And then I said we would discuss once she got home.

And then she nearly missed the bus, and I lost my ish again.

Seriously, this kid ran my pressure way up this week.

And then she was home, and I tried to still be a bit pissy. Yeah, I did, because I’m so damn petty sometimes. But I picked her up from the station, brought her home, fed her, inspected her skin, assessed her demeanor and just hugged her. My anger melted away.

We still needed to talk, but I told her we would table things until the weekend so we could enjoy our holiday. Over dinner, Hope said grace and prayed that I didn’t rip her a new one when we talked. I tried not to laugh.

And the truce lasted about 12 hours. Over coffee we started our chat about school, money, health, friends, and life.

A_small_cup_of_coffee

via Google Images

We talked about her classes, challenges, depression, anxiety, and money. And we talked about medication compliance and things clicked into place. No meds for a few days, things slip, no meds for a week or more and things slide downhill fast. Not thinking you need your meds creates situations where it’s obvious that you need your meds.

I pointed this out to her, and she nodded her understanding.

I swear I can’t stay mad at her; annoyed and a little pissy, yeah, but all out mad? No. I just can’t. She needs me too much for me to stay mad and withhold love and affection from her.

We have more to discuss this weekend, but we made a lot of progress over coffee this morning.

I also learned my daughter takes her coffee black with a little sweetener and that her anxiety is probably driving her misconception that the dining hall food “makes her sick.”

We picked out some hair cuts for her to consider and I took her for a massive haircut this afternoon. I teased her as she sat in the chair having inches shaved off. I gushed as she rose from the chair; the new look becomes her.

Tomorrow we will call our family—her birth family—down south to catch up, and we will travel to visit our family in VA. She will see her grands, her cousins, and aunties. She will eat, laugh, play and eat some more, and I will watch her and marvel.

But first, we will have a cup of coffee together.

 


What Hope’s Graduation Taught Me

Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. Watching my daughter walk across the stage and graduate surrounded by family and friends was such a wonderful experience that really, it’s almost hard to explain. Family, friends and even colleagues drove a long way to join us for this event, and it was more than I could have dreamed.

During the processional, I gasped and choked up because it was so real. Getting to this day was a long hard slog through not just regular teen years, but through a history of trauma, anxiety, depression, placement, adoption, just so much stuff. Sooooo much. I just started to cry because it was a culmination of so much love and effort and dreams and prayers.

One thing that was especially special about Hope’s graduation day was the presence of her biological family. This day represented the full on merging of Hope’s family. Hope knew that her aunt would be coming, but as she descended the stage with her diploma to return to her seat she caught sight of her aunt and the delight on her face…my heart smiled.

Now I’m not going to lie, there were moments leading up to the graduation that were emotional. There were members of my family who didn’t want to share Hope, who still super side eyed her family, who just had feelings about them attending this event. I’m glad that I made my own declaration early on that this was our, my and Hope’s family, and that there would be space and love for them. On yesterday, the merging was seamless, and the excitement turned to talk about all the parties there will be when Hope graduates from college.

It was so much more than I could ever of hoped for and that’s because we all centered what was best for Hope.

There is so much discussion in adoption about the triad—birth family, adoptees and adoptive parents. We rarely highlight the ripple effect that adoption has throughout whole families. The removal, placement, adoption, whatever terms we use, of a child from their family of birth reverberate across a family like a skipped rock on a body of water. The absence of that child is a hole, and the trauma of it is far more widespread that we care to acknowledge.

Hope’s relationship with her paternal family is complicated and losing her to foster care…well in these 5 years, I’ve learned that everyone in her family has a story and big feelings about that. There is a lot of emotion; there’s a lot of sadness, a lot of pain about how it all went down. I have my views and opinions of the story, but real talk, I wasn’t there, so I have to listen. Hope has her version of what went down too, and I listen.

There is so much hurt.

And the only way to heal it is to pitch that big tent and constantly try to cultivate an environment of inclusion. Graduation was a big tent event, and as a parent in general, you don’t always get to sit back and say, hey, I got it right, but I got yesterday right. Yesterday was a healing day for Hope and this family.

There were so many tears. There were tears of joy, of grief, of loss, of pride, of happiness. My daughter sobbed for a good 10 minutes as she was feted by family and friends. In the moment, noting concern by some guests, I just said my daughter was overwhelmed—and she was— but it was more. As much as my own family was there to support and celebrate, the presence of biological ties was just so powerful in this moment.

Having an open adoptive relationship with my daughter’s biological family is critical. I believed it before, but yesterday, the confirmation of that belief was so strong and so true that it makes whatever criticisms I might’ve endured on this journey possible. They are members of our village; full stop.

The second big thing that I learned yesterday was just how much this achievement meant to Hope. I remember early on that Hope thought I was nuts for wanting her to dream about going to college. She quickly got on board with at least humoring me. I know that Hope has humored my pushing and prodding for years now. I also know that my pushing and prodding was not always a healthy thing for her. Upon reflection, I know that there are times when my pushing and prodding were directly contributing to her low self-esteem and depression around not living up to standards I’d set. I know I was less than flexible sometimes. I also know that even here in this space, readers encouraged me to pull back, to remember that college wasn’t for everyone.

I’ve heard you, and I’ve reflected on that a lot this year.

And yet, yesterday, after Hope, Sister M and I had packed up her dorm and we were making one last stop on campus to pick up something from the band room, Hope sat in my car, heaved a big sigh and said, I did it. I graduated from high school!

It was a record scratch moment for me since of course, it never occurred to me that she wouldn’t finish high school. I was always focused on what would happen beyond high school. Never in a million years did I ever think Hope would not finish high school.

But there was a time when Hope didn’t think she’d finish high school. I did not know this before that moment.

It was an assumption for me, but not for Hope.

I pressed her for why she didn’t think she’d graduate from high school. Well, the response was easy for her—look at all she had been through, why would she think she would graduate from high school? Look at the trauma, the loss, the hardship, the rejection, the lack of permanence and instability for years, why would she think she would be able to finish high school?

High school graduation should be a momentous occasion, but when your life was such an unstable mess for so long, you stop dreaming about it.

I realized in this moment that graduation was even more pivotal for Hope. It was more than just a personal achievement, but it also represented that she was on track and that maybe she really could start dreaming. The uncertainty of the college search took a lot out of Hope this year; it marked another transition that made her questioned herself. It marked another thing she had to go through the motions on, but still tried for a while to remain somewhat detached from in order to protect her fragile emotions. Graduation is freeing; she did it! She can do it. If she did it once, she can do it again. That is real for Hope.

The revelation is real for me. She is now so excited about going to college. Graduation is the ultimate confidence booster!

And finally, the last lesson for me, the Holy Homeboy still has jokes for me. I have had lifelong issues with a lack of patience; I thought that it was the ultimate joke that he fated me to jump into parenting a 12-year-old as I stretched into middle age. He pushed and pulled me, stretched me in ways I didn’t know possible, especially challenging my own notions of morality, personal values, parenting, family, education and health. One of my biggest personal values struggles was how Hope didn’t fit into my ideals about academic performance.

Of course, at the time, I didn’t appreciate how she never saw herself making it this far. I do now, which makes my revelation all the more meaningful.

Hope’s academic performance, her struggles, were sadly an ongoing challenge for me. I value education so strongly, I found it personally offensive. I know it wasn’t right. I know that lengths I went to try to “help” Hope improve were not helpful to her mental and emotional health. I know that my dreams for her were a source of stress.

I have never not felt so strongly about education. I do believe it is key to social mobility and financial freedom. It is all I’ve ever known. The ongoing confrontation to that belief system has been difficult.

And then yesterday, I realized a couple of things. Hope spent two years in honors classes where she did reasonably well in before things went downhill. Those grades are weighted, which set a solid base for her overall GPA. She graduated with a reasonable GPA. She lettered in her freshman year thanks to band. I didn’t realize when she entered her senior year that she only needed a couple of credits, really like two required courses, all other requirements had been completed. She went to a college prep school, and yeah, she struggled, but the curriculum was rigorous. Her squadron earned honor status among all the school squadrons for their overall adherence to all the important things in JROTC.

In the end, Hope graduated from a tough college prep school with an advanced diploma because she had way more credits than necessary; she has a special ROTC designation, and is college bound. Things I figured were just beyond us, and yet it is right where we ended up. Better than fine.

And the Holy Homeboy laughs at me (again) for trying to muck up his plans for me and my family.

So, yeah, yesterday was a big, effing deal for me and Hope. It was also full of life lessons for me. Family, all family, is important. Our kids can dream and can achieve. I gotta trust the process and my faith that things will end up just they way they are supposed to.

Yesterday was a good day.


It’s Almost Here

It’s hard to believe that Hope will graduate in less than 48 hours. I remember when I started this adoption thing that I could hardly imagine getting to this major life event. Then when Hope arrived at what is now our home, I knew it would happen, but I really didn’t, no couldn’t, focus on it. There were so many hurdles to get over that I wouldn’t really let myself think about it too much.

And then this year, Hope moved to the new school and we launched into this senior year. The events, the applications, the essays, the FAFSA, the college visits, the waiting, the anxiety, the drama, the joys, the sadness, the decision about what to do next. Each thing seemed to take so much out of us, separately and together.

As a parent, I fretted endlessly. I still worried about her grades and social interactions. I had to try to stay on top of the growing calendar of events. I had to check in about deadlines. I navigated figuring out how Hope dealt with money. I had to find the right balance of being a supportive yet firm parent. I decided a long time ago I wouldn’t exactly be a helicopter parent, but I definitely am not one of these new bulldozer parents. I like to think that I am a coaching parent. I want Hope to find her way, and I’ll clear a few things, but I will coach her through as much as I can.

This year, Hope and I have grown much closer, despite the miles between us. We don’t necessarily talk every day, but we do connect. Over breakfast this weekend, we chuckled at how much more alike we’ve become. Hope said something like we were destined to be, and it made me smile inside.

And here we are, at graduation with plans for college in the fall. It is really amazing how far we’ve come in these 5 years.

Saturday Hope’s family will come together to attend the ceremony. A small group of Hope’s extended biological family will be there too. I know there will be tears. There will be joy and celebration.

And I am beside myself with emotions.

My sweet girl came to me so hurt. Our plans consisted of getting through the day, the week, maybe the month. Now look her. #startedatthebottom #nowwehere

She has worked so hard. I know she doesn’t see herself the way I see her; I wish she could, and maybe one day she will. She is funny, charming, strong, capable and increasingly brave. I know she will set the world ablaze, and I’m so blessed to have had a chance to parent her.

Our journey is not over, stay tuned.


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