Tag Archives: Finalization Life

Four Years a Family

Hope and I marked our fourth year as a “legal” family this week.

We didn’t do much. I took her to school, which is a rarity these days. I did her hair for her. We shared a hug and said that we were happy to be a family.

That’s it. No big todoo.

We’ve come a long way since that date four years ago when we both peered into the screen of my iPad looking at the judge and social worker 3,000 miles away. My daughter has the permanence that she desperately needed. I could say that adoption plays a huge role in our life, but really, it’s all the stuff that led to the adoption that shapes and contours our life.

Hope was 12 when we met and when we finalized. She’d lived 12 years. She had 12 years of life experiences. Those experiences taught her a lot.

She learned a lot about love and family. She learned a lot about hurt and pain. She learned a lot about trust and how not to have it. She learned to be scared. She learned to also be a fierce advocate for herself. She learned how to survive some of the things that she experienced. She learned to survive the foster care system. She learned that bad things happen to good people.

She learned countless other things too.

Some of those lessons were hard for me to wrestle with in thinking about how to create a family with Hope. Hope also had to learn that some of what she experienced in her short life didn’t have to be her whole life. I had to learn patience (something I still am working on) and deeper levels of compassion and empathy than I ever knew.

We both had to change quite a bit to make this work, and we did. We’ve evolved a lot in a relatively short period of time.

As a parent, I often feel like I could always be doing so much more. The metrics along the way can be really challenging and I like metrics—but they aren’t easy in day to day parenting. On the one hand, I have managed to keep her alive, clothed, fed and a few extras–#winning. On the other hand, I’m not sure how to measure my parenting performance when it comes to some of the landmines that we’ve endured during these years: am I doing the right thing for her with school? Could I do more in helping her navigate her extended birth family relationship? What about her social interactions? Am I supporting her enough there?

Who knows.

What I do know is I’m committed to doing my best for Hope. I’m gaga for her. I look at her sometimes, like recently at the boarding school interview, and I’m like, damn, this kid is really going to be ok. I’m honored to be a part of that.

I don’t know what future observations of our finalization anniversary will bring. This was low key. I’ll never forget the day; I just know that I won’t. It’s significant for me. I probably won’t bring it up again for Hope though, even though she seems to enjoy the acknowledgement. Who knows.

I’m just grateful for the opportunity to parent her and to reflect on our journey.

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Caught Up

During a recent session with AbsurdlyHotTherapist, I got incredibly frustrated. All Hope wanted to discuss was band and her crush. For 18 minutes I sat there stewing in my increasing frustration.

Really? Is this what we’re doing today?

We aren’t going to talk about the fact that there were bugs in your room?

We aren’t going to talk about no chores?

I’m paying a co-pay for this ish?

AHT eventually got Hope to mention several things that were bothering her since school started.

I shot him some side eyes as I clearly didn’t think *those* things were nearly as important as the fact that she had a room that lured bugs to it.

Oh, I was righteous in my frustrated indignation.

AHT eventually asked Hope to give us some time to talk without her.

He asked me what I heard, had I listened? He told me what he heard. I acknowledged those things, but still wanted my drama to be acknowledged too.

I grabbed a tissue as I dropped a few tears.

He smiled and said, but you didn’t really hear her.  She is having a very hard time in school already, and she needs your help with that stuff more than you need her to tidy up.

Wait, what?

But what about *me?* #mynarcissismwasreal

Then he told me the good news. Hope is behaving like a ‘normal’ teenager. Her ability to communicate even about challenges is light years better than what it was months ago. She doesn’t practice avoidance and her confidence is up in spite of her lingering and new challenges. She can see a successful future even if she isn’t sure how to get there.

And oh yeah, she still wants to make me proud.

Well damn.

He’s right. Hope has grown emotionally so much this summer.

And I seemingly have regressed a bit.

How did I miss when she evolved into a kid who largely behaved like other kids her age? She hasn’t caught up on everything, but wow she has caught up a lot, given that she was emotionally about 5 when she was placed with me.

And me? I missed that what she really needed was for me to be responsive to her, to help her with her new problems, to just shut up and listen.

She spends so much time talking about band (and we know that I hate that) and what she’s fretting about ish that might happen a year from now. And she goes ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round, for hours.

It has been easy for me to zone out after 20 minutes and take to my couch.

Instead this weekend, I stopped her and listened for that 20 minutes, and instead of zoning out and I asked her questions. I worked on redirecting her; I focused on solutions to current problems rather than imagined problems of 2017.

And I stopped the babbling and got some responsiveness.

She’s got some new limitations right now that we need to work through, and I’m going to have to chill. I’ve got to focus on being a cheerleader rather than a disciplinarian.

I’ve got to do the laundry. I need to meal plan so that I know she’s eating healthier, and I need to be sure she’s in bed at a decent hour whether homework is done or not.

I have a meeting with the counselor this week about additional support needs for Hope.

She’s finally catching up in some key areas, so it’s time for me to change strategy and catch up too.

This parenting is a constantly evolving game of come from behind and sprinting ahead.


So Much Love for Hope

This parenting thing is hard. It really is.

Parenting, in general, is tough.

Parenting a kid who has seen some things and gone through some stuff is especially tough.

There are days when it brings me to tears for so many sad, sad reasons.

And then sometimes, often when Hope isn’t even around when the rush of emotions warm me from the inside out.

I love my daughter.

Oh don’t get me wrong, not only is parenting tough, and this teen girl thing? Um, yeah, it’s a beeotch. The snarkiness, the attitude, the occasional defiance, the mood swings. It’s crazy with a capital C.

But this person, this soul for whom I’m responsible, I am totally in love with her. Madly in love with her.

Last night we sat on the couch and I watched her snarf down a Big Mac and fries after a very long day of school, band practice and tutoring. She was exhausted. I sat at one end of the couch, she at the other and Yappy in between us.

I studied her. I saw her tired, but relaxed, content, fully absorbed in this life we’ve created together.

I could never have imagined that this family of mine would exist.

This morning I got up early to do her hair for picture day. I fixed her breakfast. I ran a pair of hoop earrings up to the school after school started so she had them in time for her sitting.

As I was pulling into the parking lot, I just thought about how much I love this kid. My heart actually hurt with so much love and gratitude for her.

I also thought about how much her parents must have loved her; in spite of whatever problems they may have had. I just know that they loved her; they had to love her! I don’t know how they couldn’t; she’s just marvelous.

I drove her to school yesterday, and we immensely enjoyed the extra 20 minutes we had together. We joked and teased one another.

It is in these moments that I am just so overwhelmed with emotion.

I love her.

I love her even when I’m nagging her about her room and her homework and walking the dog.

I love her when I watch her sleep, covers strewn about.

I love her when she says, “Hey mom, we should…” which is her indirect way of asking if we can do something fun.

I love her when she is a total pain in my ass.

Love doesn’t really describe this emotion. Although I still grieve about the inability to conceive and carry a biological child, I can’t imagine loving such a child any more than I love Hope.

I adore her.


Histrionics on a Friday

There are few things in the world more heartbreaking than your kid, your adoptive kid, telling you that she moved here because she thought she would be happy and that she thought you would try to understand her but you don’t.

sadABM

Yeah, that got yelled at me today. #shetoldme

Sigh.

TGIF.

So, I’m still simmering over the early events of the week and what I feel like was the defiling of my house. And because I’m petty, my behavior has really been unpleasant this week. #regressive #notproudbuthonest

About a year ago, AbsurdlyHotTherapist had us imitate each other in the midst of a fight…yeah, Hope stomped around, hemmed, hawed, yelled and stomped some more. When she was done she added that I would do that for days at a time when I was mad.

Yeah, I do. When I have been wronged…I’m like a virus, you just gotta stay away and wait until I sputter out.

That, admittedly, is not conducive to consistently good parenting, and I’m working on it. I’ve gotten so much better talking myself into just letting it go, most days.

But I’m way more petty than just ordinary petty, and I’ve got a nasty temper, and sometimes it makes me wonder if I should’ve ever become a parent given my penchant for high strung emotion.

But, that’s neither here nor there, right? I just gotta keep pushing for improvement.

Normally when our conflicts have escalated to Hope’s screaming that she’s miserable or that she thought things would be different, I run to hug her. I feel guilt about triggering that kind of honesty from her (which as an aside, in those moments of high emotion she is an incredibly effective communicator about what she’s thinking and feeling). In those moments, I want to gather her up and dab her tears and tell her that it will be ok.

I didn’t do that today, though.

Nope

I resisted the urge, not because I didn’t feel those things, but because I needed her to have a reality check. I needed her to understand that families have conflict, that happiness is not judged episodically but holistically, and that I still need her to take responsibility for the things that she utterly refuses to acknowledge. Like clean that gotdamn room of hers.

A hug was not going to get us to that space in that moment, even if I wanted to offer it. #lowkeyrealtalk I didn’t want to anyway.

This last week has been like watching my bank account spout like a geyser. Money has been flying out of the house like Elphaba on a broom, and flying out for some ridiculous ish. Yesterday morning, I just cut the cash tap abruptly amidst wails of poverty and starvation. The sense of irresponsibility and entitlement had pushed me to this point:

 

giphy

You would’ve thought she was in a Russian bread line with all that wailing.

 

Now I can afford an occasional oil spout, and once money is gone, it’s gone, but if it’s one thing I can’t stand it’s spending money that doesn’t need to be spent on things that could have been avoided.

So, instead of the immediate comfort, today I sat down and patiently waited for Hope to sit down with me. I talked about empathy—mine and hers. I talked about responsibility—ours to each other, but um mainly her responsibilities to me and to our home. I talked about communication efforts-ours-and how we need to continue to work on them. And we talked about choices—when she has them and when she simply doesn’t.  #eatthecake

She spoke; then I spoke some more. And then I walked away.

I often wonder what Hope thinks happiness looks like. I swear she thinks it’s like a nonstop carnival. It’s not. I know that happiness is a collection of experiences in which things are good, satisfying, fulfilling; they may be interspersed with disappointment, but not overwhelmed by them. I often feel like Hope needs every experience to be happy, happy, joy, joy to experience and acknowledge some kind of continuous happy; she doesn’t yet know how to be happy.

She simply doesn’t know how to be happy. I’m trying to teach her, but really how do you teach someone to embrace and experience happy?

The inability to recognize happiness and to choose it really hamstrings our relationship. I feel like I will always disappoint her because her expectations about being happy are so absurdly off-kilter that they are impossible to meet. Being unhappy is learned behavior; I don’t believe that its innate. Hope learned unhappiness.

Learned, pervasive unhappiness is a beeotch.  It is a smothering blanket.

I wish it were as easy to encourage her happiness as it is to for Yappy to be happy. This dog’s happiness hardly knows any bounds.

 “Hey boy, wanna go to the PARK????”

 

dancing.gif

Not Yappy, but Yappy-like!

 

“OMG! YES!!!!! I AM SO RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY!!!!”

Ah, but life with humans is so much more complicated and so much more dramatic than life with dogs.

And so, we just go on, trying to make a little progress at a time.

She just made me a grill cheese sandwich, so I guess we’re cool again. #anotherreasonIcantdropweight #apologyfood

Tonight we will host our first sleepover, and tomorrow I’ll drop off Hope and her friend at an amusement park before Yappy and I visit my parents for the day.

Tomorrow things will be happy, happy, joy, joy until the next hiccup that makes the world come histrionically crashing down. And I’ll be ready to have these conversations all over again.


Hitting the Skids

It’s weeks like this when I really have to sit back, take stock and remind myself that these problems are “normal folk” problems.

No sooner than I hit “post” on my “Hey, I’m living the dream with this whole family thing,” than we are careering into a one-sided fight.

I say one-sided because it’s increasingly clear that I’m the only one openly emoting and visibly reacting.

We still struggle with chores and motivation to do chores. Most of the month, Hope had done her chores, earned money and just relished in all that responsibility that she was displaying. And then she just stopped.

We went through this a few months ago—May to be exact. After I dramatically pulled the car over into a parking lot while I was wigging out on her, demanding to know what she couldn’t be bothered to do her chores, she told me very simply.

“I just don’t feel like it.”

Say what now?

I did not take this response well. In fact I told her that I didn’t feel like doing things like taking her places that she was supposed to go or to do things that she wanted to do, and I didn’t. Oh I was petty, and I have no shame.

Well several days of no chores meant chaos in the house; this chaos also included an infestation.

Saying I was furious…is a super understatement.

Then there were the limousine expectations re her band schedule.

Then the expectation of a new band jacket because she changed instruments.

And then…the unnecessary, dramatic and dramatically expensive medical appointment that was “out of network.”

And then…

And then…

And then…

Angry

And then I was cranky for the rest of the week. Seriously, most of this is just regular old dumb teen stuff. There *may* be tinges of adoption/trauma/childhood drama running through, but really, this is largely just dumb ish teens do.

Somehow that does not soothe my serious annoyance. It just doesn’t.

Sometimes I do wonder if when we have good blocks of time whether it prompts behavior to bring back big emotional responses from me since that’s a communication style she understands, even if she doesn’t like it. We’ve experienced that kind of self-sabotage before. It is hard to know.

And although I have gotten much better at managing my reactions to Hope’s shenanigans, she still knows what buttons to push to get a rise out of me.

Soooo, I dunno, I know it’s just an icky week. I’m glad that school starts again next week and we can get back to our routine. And I am glad that I’ve worked out hard enough to earn my evening cocktail.


Curious about Her

Earlier this year, Hope asked me how I would feel about her trying to find her birth mother. I immediately replied that I would help her any way I could and that if a healthy relationship was possible I would help facilitate it.

Then she never brought it up again.

I know it’s still in there somewhere. Hope has strong feelings about her mother; I’ll say they are complicated and leave it at that.

Having been found by her paternal extended family just after finalizing our adoption was emotionally challenging for both of us. It brought up a lot of resentment, a lot of grief, but also a lot of love and connectivity. Frankly, it remains a challenging relationship with our extended family, but families are complicated, right?

Right.

So Hope’s mom…I’ve always been curious. Not much is known about her. I know certain things about her and I know what Hope thinks she remembers, but was more likely told about her mother since they were separated at such a very young age. No one has pictures of her; I asked.

A few times I broached the subject with Hope about wanting to just know where she was, and Hope said no. She seemed intent on closing this door.

Given all that I’ve learned over the last few years, listening to adoptees, I figured it would come back around, probably more than a couple of times.  So, when she asked me about how I would feel about finding her; I wasn’t surprised by the inquiry. Actually I felt prepared for it.

Now that I look back on it and our growth through these last few months, I suspect that she was might have been curious  about*my* feelings on finding her mother than on her desire to actually find her mother.

But, even the most remote interest gave me permission to pull out my keyboard and start searching.

I had her mother’s name and not much else.

About two months ago, I thought I found her on Facebook. Some of the sketchy details matched up; not everything, but really close. I could not stop looking at her picture. I searched it for Hope’s features, her skin tone. I wondered what my daughter looked like as a newborn; did she look like this woman?

I was consumed by this profile for a good week or so, and then one day I convinced myself that this was not Hope’s mother.

I was disappointed.

I wondered why was I looking, would it be better if I waited for Hope to be ready? Clearly, this was more about my curiosity at this point than hers. What would I do if I actually found her? I wondered if she even wanted to be found. Most of all, having realized that I didn’t find her, I felt a little twinge of pain in thinking she was lost to me, to us, to Hope. I wondered what that twinge of discomfort felt and how exponentially magnified it must feel for my daughter…to be lost again.

I walked away from the search that day.

A few weeks later, one Sunday morning, while sipping coffee in my PJs and watching Law and Order, I found myself searching again.

I can only explain it as a deep, bottomless curiosity about my daughter’s background. I wanted to know her full story; I love her and want to know everything about her. I want to know or at least see the person who birthed her. I didn’t know what I would do if and when I found her, but I just wanted this information so badly. I’d like to say I wanted to have it for when Hope was ready and I could just give it to her, the truth would be that I desperately wanted to know for myself.  Who is Hope’s birth mother? What does that biological link look like?

I don’t know if it’s my own infertility grief or that I’m nosey, or if knowing would somehow bring me even closer to Hope. I still had no plan for what I would do with the information after finding it. Who would I tell? What would I tell Hope? Who would support me in this crazy wild goose chase?

I never doubted that searching was the right decision; I just couldn’t comprehend what I would do with information about Hope’s mother when I found it.

Well, thanks to the power of the internet, a big hint on a search string and $35 I found her in short order from the comfort of my couch that Sunday morning. It took me longer to get out my credit card and decide whether making the information purchase was the right thing to do than the actual search for the info.

Before I knew it, I had her address, her phone number, and a background check. Two minutes later I was looking at her face on Facebook.

When I saw this woman, I knew right away, this was Hope’s birth mother. I saw that as much as my daughter looked like her paternal family, she bears a striking resemblance to her birth mother: the shape of her face, her eyes, her hair, her long limbs. It was meaningful to see the woman who gave her life because so many people comment that Hope looks like me and I think that it’s just not true. Putting me side by side her birth mother and the blood relationship is apparent.

I read the report over and over, committing some of it to memory. I saved it to the external hard drive. I printed out a copy and put it in my file box.

And then I went back to Facebook stalking her. There wasn’t much to see, with us not being friends. I saw a few pictures, a few pictures of friends and relatives.  I would check ever so often in hopes that she was one of those folks who changed their profile picture frequently. She’s not.

I began talking myself into reaching out to her, but what on earth would I say? Was that the right thing? Who was I reaching for—me and my own curiosity? Or Hope? Was this contact in our immediate best interest? What if the contact was completely rejected? What if the contact prompted a lot of expectations?

The what ifs are endless.

I eventually discussed it with my therapist. She asked a lot of questions, a lot, over a couple of sessions. She convinced me to put the brakes on things. She also asked me to broach the subject with Hope and AbsurdlyHotTherapist.

I sat with it for a couple of weeks, worried about Hope’s reaction.

During a game of 20 questions I asked Hope how she would feel if I found her birth mother. She grimaced, and said very little. I let it go for a couple of weeks. I circled back around and reminded her of our conversations about finding her and how she reacted to the possibility of finding her. I told her I had found her, that I knew where she was and knew how to contact her. Hope thought quietly and said, “That’s ok, I don’t want to.”

And so, I dropped it. The file is away on the hard drive and the papers are in the box. I sense that we’ll revisit it when she’s ready. I’ll be with her every step of the way.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I thought of her birth mother often. I still have all of these questions. I still want to know if there are baby pictures, what Hope was like as an infant. I have a deep desire for answers about our daughter’s life. And I want to know about this woman who gave Hope life. I just want to know more about her, since she’s just such a mystery to me and to Hope.

But that’s all for another day. I may find out, I may never know. I’m not even sure I’m happy I found her since it feels like she’s kind of off limits. She’s like money burning a hole in my pocket, I want to spend by asking a million questions. But it really…all this curiosity is for another day.

I know that, for now, the status quo is what Hope needs to feel safe and secure. I don’t know what is behind her birth mother’s door, and I have to trust that Hope’s memories and stories are what they are. More than anything I want to support my daughter and her continued healing and development, and right now, it seems that she wants me and just me.

So, curiosity won’t be killing me this time.


On the Humble

Sometimes, it hurts to think about how my learning curve impacted Hope.  I mean, I think we’re doing great now that I finally got a clue and because I’m constantly working to learn how to parent her and meet her needs. I’m proud of my growth, but yeah, I get sad and a wee bit embarrassed to admit what a bit of a parenting shrew I was in the early days.

I also recognize that I may be hard on myself, and I have had folks tell me to go easy on myself. I guess because I know that a lot of people were hard on Hope and didn’t go easy on her that I won’t allow myself that grace in her name.

In either case, that learning curve remains steep.

We are sliding into our match anniversary soon; three years ago, some crazy professional people thought I would be a good match for Hope. Their decision changed our lives.  I remember so many people asking me if I was ready to parent a tween who had been in foster care for years.

Um, nope, but hey, I’m going to do it. We’ll get through it.

And we have, but not without so many struggles.

The transition was a dramatic struggle. At one point I thought that this would never work; she was having such a hard time.

Convincing her to buy into my idea of family life after having been in foster care was a struggle.

Food choices were a struggle.

School is a struggle.

Social interactions, yep, you guessed it, a struggle.

Therapies, medical care, medication compliance, all a struggle.

Understanding the full grasp of diagnoses and whether the labels help or hurt have been a struggle.

It hard. It’s all hard. And me and Hope, despite our narrative and this blog, we aren’t special. We’re just everyday folks trying to live from one moment to the next. I reject all the halos and angel wings folks try to foist on me; we’re just a family trying to make it.

One late night recently, I was catching up on reading some posts in an adoption support group. I was reading about a struggle a new parent was experiencing that Hope had endured and that, frankly we still kick around a bit: chores.

I reflected a lot as I was trying to type out my answer on my phone.

My biggest struggle in being Hope’s adoptive mom is checking my entire ego at the door. Admittedly I have a huge personality, I give off big energy, I like having a big voice and probably at some point in my life even demonstrated a few bully tendencies. Setting down my ego and keeping it in check is one of my life struggles as a mom.

Chores are a big flash point in my need to ego check.  Like many foster kids, Hope moved from place to place in trash bags. Valuing and caring for material things was a rare practice because things routinely disappear, are lost, stolen or otherwise just or go missing . The chaos in her room tends to reflect her emotional state. She loathes doing chores (who am I kidding, so do I). She wants to earn money, but she is so used to not having things over her short lifetime that she isn’t strongly motivated to do chores for money. Her ADHD typically means that unless the task is directly related to something she wants to do, is time bound, and personally beneficial, it really doesn’t ring her motivation bell.

It took me a year to realize that me telling Hope to clean her room actually jived with her desire to have a clean room but operationally she would try to clean every drawer, refold all the clothes and dig under the bed and the cleaning exercise would turn into a 10 hour, yell, cry-laden experience that made us both miserable. When my light bulb went on, I realized that I would have to be responsible for deep cleans and that Hope needed a short list that represented a tidy room daily.

My point really is that everything I thought I would do parenting Hope was, frankly, off course. My therapist sat me down one day and said:

“Do you want to be right? Do you want to give an ish about what other people thought about me and my parenting? Or do I want Hope to thrive? If it’s the last option, you’re going to have to put that ego of yours and those preconceived notions of yours in a box and put them on an emotional shelf in the back of the closet because they have no place here.”

Well, damn.

Part of checking my ego is about redefining success. I’m forced to constantly adjust myself and family assessment. I was away for nearly a week for work recently. What did success look like when I arrived home:

  • Hope took her meds every day.
  • Yappy didn’t poop in the house due to anxiety.
  • Some of the healthy food I left behind was consumed.
  • Chores while I’m gone? What are those?
  • Yappy got a bath while I was gone, not because I told Hope to bathe him but because she said he needed one (10 extra points for Hope).
  • I know that she bought school clothes that met my criteria for just one step outside of her jeans and tee comfort zone (30 extra points for Hope).
  • Her room was nearly spotless when I got home from my trip.

I treated her like she won the super bowl for Casa d’ABM because she showed initiative AND followed directions remotely.

The rest of the house was a mess. There were dishes in the sink that might have been there long enough to wave at me.

I made a short list of things for her to do the following day that began to get us re-regulated.

I used to be furious to have to do that. I used to get mad at the nanny for not taking care of more stuff around here. But then I realized that my absence was stressful; that the nanny’s job was to keep Hope and Yappy alive and entertained and that my job was to play my position—to love the kiddos, not judge them as they survived the stress of my absence and to get us back on our regulated journey.

The irony is that in fact, it was all about me. They missed me, and I missed them (note Yappy gets all zonky too, so yeah, it’s them). But my job is to help alleviate the stress and fear that I’m not coming back; in those moments, it’s not about me at all. It’s all about them.

Parenting is humbling, it really is. The decisions are tough, the expenses are crazy, the scheduling is consuming. It really is like just thinking of yourself as a cup and pouring it all out for the benefit of your kid. It is pretty selfless and pretty exhausting.

But ahhh, those moments when Hope tells me some parent-approved version of her secrets, smiles when we are in the kitchen together or just texts me that she loves me, those moments are everything. They are the greatest reward for learning to practice humility.

 


Help is a Dirty Word

Hope has been my daughter for going on 3 years. It’s amazing how time flies.

This summer, we have spent quite a bit of time working on attachment and academic help. I’ve realized that Hope really has blossomed in some ways this summer.

We have some pretty amazing talks these days. She is really opening up. She has been pretty compliant when it comes to going to tutoring. Her compliance in doing chores has improved a lot as well.

Recently, she dropped something on me that really stunned me into silence though.

We were sitting in the car talking. It was kind of heated. I was trying to understand why asking for help was so difficult for her. Why did she also always refuse help? Didn’t she realize I was killing myself trying to help her be successful, to be her personal best, not for me, but for her. Why on earth was it difficult to just say yes sometimes. Why was it hard to just say, “Hey mom, can you help me?”

We’ve had this conversation before.

We’ve had this conversation several times. Her response is always the same: nothing, silence.

The affect was flat; the emotional walls went up and I would eventually just drop it.

Until one day recently, she responded to my inquiry and I was silenced by the disclosure.

In a nutshell, Hope had been in the foster care system so long and been through so many families that even after two years in a forever home, she loathed even having conversations about needing to be helped and being helped. In Hope’s experience so many people in her life have wanted to help her and their “help” resulted in:

  • Experiencing emergency removals and placements.
  • Portraying her parents as horrible people.
  • Long term foster care.
  • Moving her stuff in trash bags to a new foster home that would be in a better position to “help her.”
  • Being made to take Tae Kwan Do because it would “help” her manage her anger even though she hated it.
  • Being medicated.
  • Being told her math skills were bad enough to qualify for a special math program that made her feel dumb.
  • Having to go to daily private tutoring all this summer.

And the list goes on.

Asking for, receiving or being forced to accept help has never made her feel good about herself, never. Why would she ask for help when her self-esteem was already so low? Why would she trust anyone, even me, to help her and that it actually would result in a better quality of life?

In her mind, help was and is associated with the breakup of her family, being shuttled around and not wanted, having no voice in her life and having her low self-esteem validated.

Help is a dirty trigger word for her.

That was a serious lesson for me to learn. It never, ever occurred to me that she would have such negative association with the concept of help. It silenced me. It broke my heart and just underscored how deeply hurt my daughter has been over her life. Efforts to keep her safe and to rebuild her life remain threatening to her.

We didn’t talk about it for a few days. I mean, what could I say to her at first?

We eventually sat in the car one evening and had a good talk about what help is supposed to be; what the potential for “help” could be in her life and how “help” is designed to make Hope the best Hope she can be—not for me, but for her.

I think this is turning point for us.

I am hopeful that her disclosure means she is feeling safer and willing to work with me to take advantage of all the opportunities in her life [note the word I DIDN’T use!].

So, for now, help is a dirty word in our house. It will come back into our vocabulary at some point, but using different language with Hope is an easy fix if it means increasing the likelihood that she will accept the things she needs to improve her life.

 


Time Ins

Thanks to good friend Mimi, I recently started really trying to practice time ins as a consequence for Hope’s behavior. With my recent travels and surgery, I noticed that Hope was really struggling with being separated from me. Her struggles were manifesting in crazy behavior that drove me nuts when I was home and/or lucid enough to pay attention.

Interestingly, I had missed a lot of the signs that she craved more attention. Aside from doing stupid things that garnered negative attention, she was also doing things like dragging all of her homework into the living room, spreading it all out of all over the place and just sitting with me, working on the homework. She didn’t want help, she seemed to just want to be in the same room with me.  Occasionally she’d asked me to look over an essay. Sometimes she would jokingly suggest that we watch a movie or a favorite show on Netflix. Other times she seemed to simply pick a fight just to engage me. Unfortunately,  I’ve been so overwhelmed that I just missed the point. I missed the fact that my daughter missed me, even when I was still in the house.

I was talking about this with Mimi not long ago, and she said “Hey have you thought about time ins?”

No I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about time ins.  Things have been so off the rails for the last couple of months, and all I’ve been able to manage is managing us and in an almost case-like way. Parenting hasn’t been fun; it hasn’t been fun for months. I imagine that being a kid hasn’t been fun for Hope for months either.  So I decided to give this time in thing a whirl.

We have a squabble,”Come sit next to me.”

She do something worthy of punishment: “Come let’s sit and watch a show.”

Freak out over homework?  “Hey look naked and afraid is on TV!”

Random spastic Behavior? “You know yeah Yappy loves to ride on your back; let me take video of him riding your back!”

Come here you know you want a hug; stop fighting it!

It is nice to hear my sweet Hope giggle again.  It’s nice to see her smile.  It’s nice to build a small bridge back to trust and safety.

I gotta say though it’s hard as a single parent to have so little time for solitude. When I get home from work sometimes I just want to sit and enjoy the quiet for 20 minutes or so.

That seems to be against Hope and Yappy’s religion. They don’t seem to believe in my need to take that time. This makes practicing time ins on a nearly daily basis a bit exhausting because I get very little time to just breathe.

The flip side, though, is that I see a positive change in my daughter, one that she needs probably more than my need for brief moments of solitude.  And there’s something to be said for a teenager who actually wants to hang out with her mother. As annoying as it is sometimes, I’m choosing to look at that as a positive thing because it is. It speaks to our growth and evolving attachment. That really is the best outcome: that’s what we’re striving for, to be a connected family– one that loves and trusts and one that is safe.

So time ins are where it’s at for now at Casa d’ABM.

So, anyone else using this discipline method effectively?  Is it working for you? Any suggestions? Help! 🙂


Competition Pains

So this happened this week.

20160607_110919I had hand surgery on Monday, and I’m dictating this post (ain’t technology grand?). I’m in this pretty impressive bandage until next Tuesday. If you can’t see it, the bandage also covers my thumb, and as it goes, you actually do need your thumb for a lot of stuff, like a lot of stuff.

So, I’m laid up a good portion of this week.

The upside? I actually needed the downtime. There’s something wrong with your life force when you actually look forward to anesthesia sleep.  So I cancelled a few things on my calendar. Used dictation to remain somewhat productive and lowered my expectations of myself.

I actually took a nap today, and let me tell you, that ish was deeeeelicious! Yappy and I got back in bed and snoozed for a good hour and it almost briefly lived up to my fantasy of napping on white bedding with the perfect temperature and the ceiling fan whirling at mid-speed.

I’m wearing comfy, flowy clothes since I have time pulling up pants or clasping undies. So I’m just “free.”

So, aside from the hand/thumb situation (and the plastic bag I need to wear in the shower) I’m resting, snuggling with Yappy, and being nice and comfy.

And then there’s Hope.

You know, I proudly admit my petty, but seriously, Hope’s need for attention is just so extra sometimes that it really provokes my next level pettiness and that’s hard to manage. I’ve got a big arse cast and now she’s complaining about how her wrist hurts, how she can’t use her hands, how she’s suffering.

I swear, I can’t have a friggin few days to be the “catered to invalid.” She’s actually worse than she was 7 months ago with my last surgery. The narcissism is strong around these parts.

Hope hardly does chores, but my requests to walk Yappy are met with the usual teen “ugh’s” despite seeing how he jerks me on walks and how that not only causes me pain, but could mess up my surgical bandaging.

We ran into a neighbor this morning who asked me how my recovery was going; Hope jumped in and shared how her arm was greatly pained and that she really needed the offered prayers more than me. The neighbor gave me a WTH look and I just rolled my eyes.

At tutoring, she insisted that she was just in too much pain to hold a pencil.

Really girl?

Oh, I get it, I do. I get that she is a serious thirst trap for attention right now. I have finally realized that she really just wants to be around me—even if she insists on being a pain in the arse. I get that she can be a bottomless pit of need and that we are currently inhabiting the pit. But damn, can I get a few days? Can you bring me some damn beans and rice? Can you ask how I’m feeling?

Hey, how about you not compete with me on pain levels when I have on a frigging cast?

A CAST, GOSH DARN IT. A FRIGGING CAST!!!!

Seriously, I am in a fight for attention, and apparently sympathy, with my daughter…except that I’m not. She’s in this competition alone.

I finally get forced self-care; seriously, I let things get so crazy that the only way I will stop, drop and rest is to have a surgeon cut into and all around my effing wrist. Can I enjoy the lovely time to rest with a slight, but delightful medically-induced haze in peace?

Can you just walk the dog without me having to play along like I’m going to take you to the emergency room to have your wrist looked at?

Can I just live?

Damn.

I am so annoyed, and while I totally get why she is so self-centered and why it is hard for her to consistently demonstrate empathy, it doesn’t mean that I don’t get totally pissy and petty about it. I still love her like mad, but she can take her competition pains and shove it.


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