Tag Archives: gratitude

Thoughts on Gratitude

When Hope and I first matched, I remember being so grateful that I’d such a great, smooth, and quick process heading towards adoption. It took me longer to gather all the paperwork and get my home study done than it did for me to get matched. Hope was the first profile I was ever sent. I looked at a few others as we were exploring whether she and I would be a good match, but it was like I knew from the moment I opened that email that she would eventually be my daughter.

I was naïve about a lot of adoption stuff back then, but I was eager to learn. I really leaned into my work skills to listen, read, learn, navigate and avoid some landmines (not all of them, but many). I got rightfully dragged a few times, and what I feel is wrongfully dragged others. All of it hopefully made me a better mom to Hope.

An early lesson was not to expect my daughter to be grateful for being adopted. Few moments have really crystalized this lesson for me more than one day when Hope and I were talking about what our fantasy lives would be like.  When I asked my daughter what her fantasy would be, she quickly responded that it would be to still be living with her dad. I was really struck by how easily she answered the question; it shouldn’t have been surprising. I should’ve known that she thought of continuing a life with him. The fantasy would’ve been never having even had to meet me.

That’s not to say that Hope isn’t grateful to have been adopted, but I’m a second choice. I get that and respect it. I think all APs should.

During the pandemic, Hope and I have had a lot of discussions about gratitude, and most of them have not been about adoption. But indeed, some have. We’re in this transitional space where Hope is going through big changes as a young adult, and ever so often she will openly talk about what her fears and feelings were about possibly aging out of foster care vs. having been adopted. She will talk about feeling fortunate for having been adopted so she didn’t have to age out. It’s less about me and more about the trajectory of her life is different and she’s still processing that.

To be honest, sometimes it makes me uncomfortable because she will be really specific about what could’ve been and what “I saved” her from (her language, not mine). I try to remind her of the joy she’s brought to my life and that I’m so fortunate that she agreed to the adoption and accepted me as a mom. I don’t like being on the receiving end of the expressions sometimes—she deserved a family, she deserved permanence and stability and she could have chosen someone else to parent her. I’m grateful she chose me. She doesn’t owe me anything.

There was a FB post recently where a new AP expressed a lot of frustration about her daughter’s behavior and overall lack of gratitude in general. She was looking for guidance on how to change that behavior. It made me really reflect on these 9 years with Hope, especially the early years. What did I expect from my daughter? What behaviors did I want to see vs. what I did see? Did I want to “change her” or accelerate her healing?

I’m not going to lie, I felt shades of all of it. I never vocalized it, but I did feel it. I learned to resist those urges and focus on getting her the support she needed. It wasn’t easy. I realize now that sometimes the frustration I felt was really about the lack of gratitude I felt from her. I had to do a lot of personal work to figure out where that came from. The short version is that as an adult in midlife I adore my parent more now than I probably did as I child. I see in retrospect the sacrifices they made for me and my siblings, how they did their very best in raising us even if it wasn’t perfect, and for those things I dwelled on as mistakes that I can see with a lot more grace than I did before.

But I’ve been adulting for over 30 years; I would hope that my relationship and view of my parent had evolved over that time. I realized that I wanted Hope to see me with the same rose-colored glasses but now instead of 30 years from now. Not ok, not fair, not appropriate. Why would I expect Hope to have understood me that deeply or extend the grace that I don’t deserve after this relatively short period of time? I shouldn’t and I don’t.

Hope and I are still evolving. We do regularly tell one another that we are grateful for the other, but not through an adoption lens, but that backdrop is always in the frame for me. I do hope that we will continue to work through this gratitude thing; it’s complicated. I just know that I’m glad she is in my life as my daughter. I recognize that this was not an ideal situation for either of us by a long shot. I also know that we’ve created a great life together.

And I’m grateful for that.


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.


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