Tag Archives: Holiday Stress

More Thoughts on Holidays and Adoption

While laying on my parents’ couch earlier today, I was listening to Hope tell me some random story about something or other. I was only half listening, scrolling through my Instagram feed.

I suddenly stopped and interrupted her.

“Do you want to call your grandmother today?”

Hope was mid-sentence and her voice just trailed off. She just looked at me. I wasn’t looking at her, but I could feel her staring at me. I finally looked over at her.

“There isn’t a right answer, you know that right? Whatever you feel or decide is cool. I just…felt like I should ask. I’m sorry I interrupted you.”

About two minutes of silence passed; one of my sisters was sitting in a chair in the room with us. As those seconds continued to pass, it kind of felt like we were all holding her breath.

“Ok,” I said, and resumed scrolling through Instagram.

Hope never responded; instead she picked up where she left off with the story she was previously telling me.

I mailed Hope’s grandmother a framed copy of her senior ROTC portrait and a letter. I wrote that I know she would rather hear directly from Hope, but that for whatever reason it was left to me to provide updates.

As the months stretch into what will soon be two years since Hope had direct contact, I find myself wondering how things will play out for Hope and her biological family. In moments like today, I feel like I can genuinely feel Hope’s and her family’s pain in this rift. I think about how I talk to a member of my immediate family nearly daily, and how gleeful my parents seem on those occasions when I am able to drive down to visit them. I think about how it must feel to not have those feelings, or those expectations or any of that. It is honestly hard for me to conceptualize, and I’m acutely aware of how fortunate I am since the absence of all of that is experienced by many people throughout their lives and especially during the holiday season.

While I do not badger Hope about connection, I do try to bring it up during times that seem appropriate or advantageous. I make myself available to all parties to facilitate contact. I work out the logistics for possible phone calls, letters, social media interactions, whatever. One of the college’s Hope has applied to is about 50 miles away from her biological family; I’m planning a campus visit for us next month. My offer to set up a visit while we’re close by was again me with chilly silence. I’ve learned to just leave those responses there. Ultimately, I do not believe I can or should force Hope to have contact that she doesn’t want. I do not want her to engage in things she feels are unhealthy for her. Her feelings and well-being are paramount.

And yet, my heart strings wish desperately there was something I could do to help them bridge this gap.

I’m glad that I have provided Hope a beautiful extended family. I chuckled to see her and her cousins holed up in a funky teenager room (why do they smell so bad???), shooting the breeze, playing video games, talking trash and making plans to hang out together tomorrow. I smiled inwardly as I grimaced outwardly when I had to tell her “let’s go” for the 6th time because she really didn’t want to come with me to check into the beach hotel. I’m glad she has this family.

But she does have more family; she just doesn’t know if she wants them, if they fit, if she can have a good, healthy relationship with them. And there’s lots of legit reasons to ask so many questions why. I respect my daughter’s inclination for sell-preservation. But it still hurts to watch from the sidelines. But as Hope slides into her 18 year, that’s my position on all of this—the sidelines.

So I will continue to point out or provide opportunities and follow her lead. Somehow, it will work out, right?

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Holiday Anxiety

Ok, first off, I wish I wasn’t anxious and I wish I wasn’t feeling whiny.  But I am and I do feel anxious and whiny.  My shoulders hurt from stress and anxiety.  I feel prickly and irritable.  I would really prefer to withdraw and just hide in my house for a few more days.  But it’s Christmas and that would be sad and somehow just wrong.

In an hour or two I’ll head a hundred miles south to visit my parents for the holiday.  Grammy and I are tender with each other; we love each other very much, but I know we both are still hurt from our drama from the last few months.  My new/refurbished cell phone doesn’t give off its own wifi signal so I can’t just hide in my old room and work on my dissertation.  Going all the way there just to retreat to the Panera to practice overt avoidance doesn’t feel right.   Maybe I’ll go visit a few friends.

Oy vey, I just realized that I didn’t get my godson a Christmas gift.  Sigh…

Christmas afternoon I’ll head west to go visit Hope for all of one day (Thursday).  I’ve spent the last week and a half trying to manage Christmas expectations.  Interestingly, Hope asked for two sets of books and an Ipod Touch.  Originally she asked for Beats by Dre headphones; I quickly explained that new mama didn’t believe in spending more than $10 on headphones, so $50-$200 were wholly out of the question.  The Touch is really a no go at this point; although Hope will have internet access here I’ve found her not ready for it quite at the tip of her fingertips, especially if its portable.   I’ve decided to bring her a pair of sneakers, the Bieber perfume and some gift cards that we can use when we go shopping that day.

She’s excited that I’m coming to visit.   I’m anxious about her reaction when I get there; she’s been fickle since she’s returned.   It’s probably good news; she goes monosyllabic on me like any other kid her age.  She’s being normal in a most abnormal situation.  Her behavior has been stellar since I took her home; no detentions, no suspensions; no visits to the principal’s office or notes home from teachers.   I’m so proud of her.  Of course, she’s highly motivated because of a deal I made about her getting a cellphone this spring if she could stay out of trouble.  This brings me to my anxiety about this trip.  I don’t want to do too much too soon, so I’ve kept the gifting light (especially since I have to carry this stuff).  My family gifts but we tend to do just one or two gifts and that’s it.  Of course we’ve not had a kid in the family for many years, so all of this is new.  I also know that I need leverage and motivational points with Hope; this works with her in helping her be less impulsive.

I have to realize that I can’t control how Hope will react to the gifts I bring.  I just need to spend time with my girl and try to have the best time I can with her for this expensive but short visit.   I’ve got a house full of stuff for her, but I just want to mete it out over time on my terms rather than this huge explosion of gifts just because it’s Christmas.

I’m hopeful and prayerful that she will be home for good soon.

For now, I just want to get there, see her and give her a hug.  That’s all I want for Christmas.


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