Tag Archives: life changes

She Did It!

So, Hope is off at college. When I think about it, it’s pretty mind blowing. When I started this journey, of course I wanted my eventual son or daughter to go to college. Once Hope entered my life, I quickly realized that there were certainly way more realistic goals to have. College became a far away, almost abstract concept. I was hopeful, and I did whatever I could to still get her to college.

And I got a lot of feedback along the way.
“Maybe college isn’t for her.”

“It’s not for everyone.”

“She can have a good life without going to college.”

All of the feedback was true, but it didn’t get to the central issues about why I, ABM, was committed to getting her as close to college as I could—even if it was delayed.

Education is very much a central part of my own identity. It is one pathway to more choices, and I believe that choices lead to greater freedom. I want more than anything for Hope to feel free. Education, college, is a pathway to that.

So, fast forward 4 years to the end of Hope’s junior year of high school. We had long talks and agreed that she would start out at the local community college and work towards transferring to a 4 year school at a later date.

Then came the summer program, which also saw Hope do really well academically. That was followed by a year at the boarding school, where she still struggled academically, but had a lot more support.

That school required applications to 3 colleges. Hope ended up applying to 5. By the time it was over, we visited 3, 4 including the community college, aced her placement exam and fell in love with a small liberal arts college in the mountains of VA.

I get a little emotional when I think about the changes she has gone through this year. Last week as we were talking about the big move, I asked her what she thought this next year would bring given how this year took us in a completely different direction that we planned. She shrugged and smiled.

I imagine that next summer, Hope could be on the other side of world, living her dream in an Asian country soaking up the culture, the food and the language.

In the meantime, I’m reveling in the fact that my beautiful brown girl is a campus coed, a new Wildcat and finding her way in the world.

Here are some highlights from our journey this week, just in case you don’t follow my FB page (which you totally should)!

 

Totally turns out that we “weren’t” that family. We ended up being modest, as best. Someone even called Hope’s stuff “streamlined.” Kids bring a helluva lot of stuff to college with them.

One of the most disturbing revelations of the trip. I’m still so horribly embarrassed.

The roommate had a beanbag chair, so Hope needed a beanbag chair.

A rare Hope sighting! BTW, she’s still taking questions for Ask Hope! <<—Click the link to drop us an email!

I’ve already had to send her a package since she managed to forget her wallet in the car and flip flops. I also sent a few of those ultrasonic pest repellent doodads.

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Life Skills

Hope will be 18 in a few weeks and in 12 short weeks, she will be off to college. It’s all very exciting, and in some ways, I am a little surprised that she’s not pulling away from me a little.

But, no. She’s not pulling away at all. In fact, my lovely daughter is more attached to me than a barnacle. She wants to watch TV with me. She wants to go to the gym with me and use the machine right beside me. She has taken up residence in my spot on the couch—which low key annoys me because, like Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory, that spot is MY spot. There’s just a desire to have me nearby.

A lot of this is explainable of course. Hope has been away at boarding school for a year, and even though I saw her a couple of times a month, we were separated by many miles. So, I can see why she would be drawn to me after all this time.

And yet, it’s interesting to acknowledge how emotionally young Hope really is. I see a mix of maturity levels with Hope. There are some times where she rises to the occasion and nails it; and then there are other times and circumstances where I’m like, I might need to go back to laying out her clothes, socks sand shoes in the morning. I legit worry.

Hope has been home a couple  of weeks now, and given the looming birthday and the impending life change that coming in a couple of months, I’ve been setting up my own hidden curriculum of life skills building activities.

I made Hope start using public transit a couple of years ago, so she can figure out how to get to places if she really wants to go somewhere. I’ve been manipulating creating opportunities to go on more complex outings and showing her resources for how to navigate it.

Her college is nearly 4 hours away, but Amtrak runs right through the town and we have a stop 2 miles from our house. Once I discovered that, I announced that Hope would take the train for weekends home; she balked. So, last week, I bought her a train ticket to go see the Grands midway through my business trip. I did spring for a Lyft to take her to the train station. She realized that it was not scary, but comfy and something she can feel comfortable doing on her own.

Tomorrow, we’re going to DMV so she can take her road test for her license. She’s had her permit for nearly 18 months, and she’s still pestering me about how will she get 15 more hours of driving at night before taking the road test. Bless her heart. Um, yeah, that’s not going to happen, you can drive and I’m taking you to go take the test. You will pass, and you will do what we all do—do your best not to hit people and stuff. She is a competent driver who, like everyone else, will get better with time. It’s time she do that…without me in the car. #Igotstufftodo #canyouruntothestoreforme?

She is having a difficult time finding a summer job. The rejection has been difficult for her. I’m not sure why she’s not getting any callbacks, but she’s not. So, I announced that “we” will start looking at volunteer opportunities, for which I will pay her a salary. I explained that the volunteerism will be good for her emotionally and help build her resume a bit. I sent her 10 listings today with the directive that she needed to sign up for more info for all of them before I got home today. She wasn’t thrilled, but I’ve told her I love her but the human adults (baby adult included) need to have meaningful work—paid or unpaid—to do because Casa d’ABM does not run on watching K-Dramas all day. #getajob I hope to have her out of this house by late next week going to somebody’s volunteer orientation.

We’ve also been role playing asking for help. Hope’s room has returned to its pre-military boarding school state—mid-century apocalyptic. I have her pulling together a 1 bag of trash, goodwill or storage item a day this week after role playing questions about deciphering being overwhelmed, needing direction and asking for help. By the time Hope figured out the conversation I had backed us into, she was sheepish about her role and responses. I didn’t shame her, we were role playing, remember. I let it go and resolved to revisit it after this weekend’s business trip.

I’m trying to help Hope understand her banking. I’ve set up a number of accounts for her: checking, savings, investments. I’m dreaming up ways of helping her understand budgets better—money in money out. She gets that better, she’s just not grasping that after ‘money out’ it’s ‘money stop.’ I’m hoping that she will get the hang of it, pay attention to the details of her checking account. I know that there will come a day when she overdrafts or gets a credit card she shouldn’t have. I’m trying to teach her about natural consequences with respect to money. Like driving, sometimes you just have to do it and ride it out. I’m hopeful.

After Hope’s visit to the Grands, Grammy shared with me that Hope said she would be content to live with me forever. My mom said she wanted to talk to me about buying a larger house with a basement for Hope.

Oh how I laughed from the living room of my 2 bedroom condo. #condolifeforever #nextstopaseniorcentercondo

I’m not buying a bigger house for Hope to have a basement to move it. Is you crazy? No, no, no, no, no, ma’am. Not happening.

After wiping hysterical tears from my eyes, I told her that I know Hope will launch and it may be a little late, but I do not believe at this time that I need to make a life change to accommodate Hope living with me in until my dying days. Uhhhh, no, I do not believe that is necessary at this time.

Hope will gain the life skills she needs. She will gain the confidence she also needs. I will always be around to be guardrails and guideposts, but I firmly believe that she will launch and have a life of her own not living in her current bedroom. I do not need a basement.

I have not been obvious in my nudges and pushes; I don’t want to be the helicopter or bulldozer parent. I do need for Hope to gain some practical life skills and to learn them while I’m around. Each lesson boosts her confidence a little; she needs that.

I need that.

So, stay tuned for all the stuff Hope will do and felt good about by the end of summer.


Times are Hard

My holiday break has ended, and I’m dutifully back in the office. I could have telecommuted today, but if I had one more solid day with Hope I might snap.

These last couple of weeks with her have been great, but we learned quite some time ago that having breaks is a good thing for us.  My travel schedule has historically given us both the reprieves we’ve needed to maintain a health-ish mother/daughter relationship.  Since going to boarding school, we really seem to relish the time we spend together on the weekends.

During this break, we have had some good time to talk about 2019, about how graduation looms, about the college applications she’s sent off and how some decisions will soon have to be made about her future. When I initiated these chats, Hope talked about how fast it is all going and how anxiety provoking it is. I agreed; these last few years have flown by and knowing that graduation is only 130is days away has me reaching for the brown liquor bottle and a couple of cubes of ice. We are both really starting to get anxious.

Hope has made such great strides these last few months. I feel like she, and me by virtue of proximity, have backed away from the edge of the crazy cliff we were gripping to the last 18 months or so. During weekends home, Hope gives off a slightly more confident air. She’s not as anxious and doesn’t seem as depressed. I know it’s all still there, but it doesn’t feel as consuming as it used to. There was a time that I swear I feel like it was all I could do to just keep us…going, living, breathing.

The growth and stability has been encouraging to me as a parent. I began to allow myself to daydream about her life in college and beyond college. Of course, I have ridiculous hopes and dreams for my daughter, but honestly, I’d be thrilled if she was just ok, functional, independent, roaming out in the world as a regular Jane. Still the sprigs of growth gave me hope and allowed me to fantasize about Hope’s future. We visited a couple of colleges, and she submitted her college applications. We high fived even as all the activities were a little nerve provoking around the edges.

These two weeks are the longest that Hope has been home since before our vacation to Europe in August. The first few days were such a rush for both of us; it was Christmas after all. We traipsed around Virginia visiting family, doing some shopping and finally settling in back home for the second week of vacation. And…then I began to really see my beautiful Hope.

The trauma triggered behaviors began to peek out. The somatic anxiety ailments descended like a black, plague-filled cloud. The excuses for inability to function much became amplified. The failure to listen to full questions because she was more concerned about getting a chance to respond to questions that *weren’t* being asked increased exponentially. The attention seeking behavior—we just got back from our obligatory doctor’s visit which was wholly unnecessary and merely attention seeking, moving through unrelated phantom symptoms designed to elicit a surely deadly diagnosis, sympathy and a hopeful pass on all the homework she failed to do because she was watching K-dramas.

As Hope’s usual struggles reemerged, I have battled my own demons. This is a challenging time of year for me. I don’t mind the cold, but darkness feels…emotionally dark. I struggle the most with my depression during the winter months. My motivation shrinks; I feel exhausted all the time. I am continent to just cozy under a blanket and do…the least. It feels so hard to propel myself to function. I just feel like sleeping all the time. But, well being functional and high achieving doesn’t leave much time for that, so I power through with some sarcastic self-talk. I try to date despite feeling like the whole dating ordeal is just trash. I go to therapy to talk about my fears more than my hopes, and I pop that blue and white pill every morning praying that it keeps me firmly on the ledge, while contemplating the need to get back on the prescription that features a little white pill when I need more pharmacological help.

And because I’m always looking forward, I’m thinking about what happens after the next 130-some odd days. Will we be planning for college or a job? Will she make it to graduation? Will I have a better idea of what her new needs might be and the ability to come up with a plan to meet them. What will success look like for Hope? Right now, it’s all a bit of a black hole, and honestly, my personality type does *not* do well with black holes. I’m working on my patience. I’m working on taking it as it comes. I’m working on meeting Hope where she is, but I’m feeling like I have no idea where that will be.

I am a good mother. I know that. I have worked, really, really hard at mothering Hope. I’m far from perfect. I’m failed and dusted myself off countless times. I try to be reflective and course correcting, but I am feeling lost as we fast approach the next chapter. I don’t know what’s next.

I imagine that this is overwhelming for Hope as well. It’s scary not knowing what’s next. Hope and I are facing the next chapter independently and together—we both have our stories on what we think comes next and how we’ll handle it. We both have hopes and dreams, some of which are not based on reality at all. We are both afraid of failure even though what that looks like is probably widely varied. And then there’s reality and decisions and things we’re experiencing together for the first time. It’s exciting and overwhelming and it’s own dream come true to get to the senior year. But we both are looking into the void to figure out what’s next.

It’s awful and awesome in its own way.

I just know that I’m probably a bit overwhelmed and depressed at the moment, and I need to get on top of that. I can’t lead in the darkness when my own reality is too dark. Sigh…

This. Is. Hard.

 


Thoughts on our Attachment Journey

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about attachment. I’ve read a lot. I’ve listened to a lot of experts—including adoptees, the ultimate experts. I’ve talked to our family therapist, AbsurdlyHotTherapist, and my personal therapist about attachment too.

There have been big questions and little questions. I’ve fretted about those moments when our conflict was especially hard whether I had damaged us, whether I had fractured the glue I was working so hard to make us stick together. More recently, I’ve worried about my and Hope’s attachment status and journey as she is away at school. I find myself wondering if I did the right thing by her with the school thing even though I left the decision to go away to her; every evening I come home to just Yappy, I wonder if she’s ok and if we’re ok. After 4 years together, is this distance thing ok?

I’ve felt times of distinct struggle in parenting Hope. Single parenting is hard. Single parenting a teen is hard. Single parenting a teen from a hard place is hard. This isn’t a complaint; it’s just my truth. I’ve shed a lot of tears. I’ve worried a lot about the present and the future. I’ve worked hard to be a good advocate for Hope, but I also know that I’ve worked hard to push her, and probably not always in the best or most healthy ways. Parenting in general is hard, and “knowing what you’re doing” is a myth even in the best of circumstances.

And yet, I have sat in on adoptive parenting support groups and heard my peers also shed tears for the kids they love going through far more challenging events than I have experienced with Hope. I’ve left some of those group meetings feeling like even though these people are my people and we have some shared experiences, that my experience in parenting Hope is less challenging than I may have thought. I don’t take credit for that; I think we’re lucky and Hope has a well of resilience that I still don’t quite fully appreciate the way I should.

The last few years, I’ve really tried to give Hope the quality time, love, care, and security she’s needed. She did go to band camp for a week or so for a couple of years. I saw that she loved that experience, maybe because she loves band more than anything. In pushing her to go to an academic program this summer, I wanted her to have a different kind of experience. I wanted her to have a different opportunity. I didn’t think it would turn into anything because surely, she needed to be home. We still needed to work on attachment. She still needed my security close by.

The changes we have experienced these last 5 months or so have been dramatic. I didn’t expect that we would be here, or rather that she would be there, much less that she would choose to be there. I also would not have anticipated how it affected our relationship. It has really given me a lot of peacefulness around how I think about our attachment journey.

During a recent visit home, I noticed how relaxed Hope seemed. I asked her how she was doing, she said she was good. I asked about the depression and anxiety that riddled her academic experience. Sure, she said, school was stressful, but she didn’t feel bad about it or about herself, she felt better than before. I asked her if she felt like she made the right decision going to this school. She looked at me like I’d grown goat horns; yeah, she said yeah, shrugged, put in her headphones signaling that this was the endpoint in this discussion.

Um, ok, so, yeah.

Here’s what our relationship looks like now. We text…a lot. We send pictures, jokes. She sends me funny videos; she sends me political videos, which I especially enjoy. Sometimes we just text to say we love each other. Her goodnight texts warm my heart almost as much as when she would come into my room to say good night at home when we would invariably chat about silly things and maybe watch some silly animal videos on YouTube. When things get rough, Hope calls me—which as any parent of an adolescent kid knows is huge. Hope went through some roommate challenges recently, she texted me first and then called me. My heart both broke and soared because she was sad, and because she called me. She didn’t want me to fix anything, she just wanted mom’s comfort. She just wanted me to comfort her, that’s it. Of course, I did make some moves to lessen her pain points, but she just wanted mom’s comfort. There was a time when she would not have sought that out, much less my intervention.

I’ve learned that Hope trusts me, and that feels…amazing. I’m learning to trust Hope more on this part of our journey too.

We also delight in the time we get to spend together. The moment we see one another it’s just joy (and a huge stack of laundry). She indulges me as I take dozens of pictures of her in her ROTC uniforms and then texts them to our extended family. She can’t wait to tell me about what she’s reading or how drama club is going. We have these great conversations, and we bicker about the college applications that need to be done. Before you know it, the visits are over, and we hug it out, and she skips off back to her dorm. I don’t know what happens for her after that. I wish I could be a fly on the wall. As for me, I leave campus, pull over and cry every time. I cry because I miss her. I cry because I’m grateful for the time we’ve had together during the visit. I’m grateful that I gave her a choice on the school thing and that she seems to be doing well there. I’m grateful that we seem rock solid as a family. I’m grateful that I have a date on the calendar for the next visit.

I’ve learned that we’re ok during this chapter of our journey. I’ve learned that I’ll always wonder if we’re solid, if our attachment is strong enough or sustainable. I’ll always wonder if I’ll screw it up. I’ll always wonder about it all. But I do know that it feels like we’re ok right now. I’m holding on to that and to Hope.


A Change of Plans?

So, the latest in this parenting from afar saga is getting Hope to embrace a change of plans for post-high school.

I’ve been putzing around the house wondering what this year at boarding school would mean for Hope’s future. Sure, I really wanted to create a situation where Hope would be successful in high school, making decent grades, figuring out the social stuff, getting mentored, all that good stuff.  But, really, all of that is supposed to lead to a college launch.

Some time ago, Hope and I concluded that she might do best staying home and attending the local community college. Then she did well on the PSAT, and then she went away for the summer and shined. Now she’s at the school for her senior year. In my mind, this represented a trajectory change. It was huge directional step away from that original post-high school plan. I mean, why go to a community college when you’ve graduated from a college prep school, right? I bore no illusions that Hope would go to some big university. Given what we’ve learned in the last year, it’s clear the smaller school the better and the most structured environment the better. Hey, she might even consider the military. In all the change in the last few months, I saw the widening of options for Hope and a change in plans.

Hope did not see things this way at all. With me, she hemmed and hawed about what she wanted to do after graduation. When her mentor started asking questions about the SAT and the ACT, Hope said they really weren’t necessary since she didn’t plan to go to a university. We’d talked about whether and how Hope saw the move to boarding school as a change in her trajectory. She said she did and then she didn’t say much. I would ask about how “the plan” might change and what should that look like? She would say she didn’t know.

It all seems like a ploy to avoid inevitable confrontation since this weekend I learned that maybe she didn’t see a change in plans in play at all.

My response? Well why not???

Her response? Why should it change anything?

My next response? Are you kidding me? I think it changes everything!

And so, I went inside my head and heart to wrestle with my expectations of Hope all over again. When given chances to change course, usually Hope doesn’t. The decision to go to boarding school was shocking, and I thought maybe it marked a big change. Of course, it did. It just didn’t mean what I thought it meant. The truth is I have no idea what it means. I don’t think she really knows what it means either.

So, we’ve been talking about it. Have you looked at any schools? Yeah, sure. Do you want to share the schools? I get the list, and applications to those schools will be met with rejection. I don’t say this; I don’t want this conversation to shut down and well, there’s a college counselor who will convey this message. Then, she announces maybe she will go to school in Seoul, South Korea. Um, have you looked into going to school abroad and what you need to do in order to do that? Do you have any idea how much money they want you to have in the bank in order to do that? OMG…

This is such a tumultuous, transitional time for kid’s her age. It’s a crazy times for parents too who are hoping, praying that their kids explore their choices and then make good informed choices. This is what I hope for Hope, but I know this kid and decision making isn’t a strong suit with this one. She avoids them. She doesn’t like change. She may still really need some time before launching, but I also know that that being the default position is not the best thing for her. She always needs a push or pull to stretch a bit, to trust herself and to trust her ability to stand on her own. I’m trying to give her some space to figure it out, but yeah, I’m a bit vexed because it’s so unknown for both of us.

I have no idea if she even has a clue what she wants to study? Does she even really still want to be a linguist? Who knows.

All I know right now is that I need to finish SAT and ACT registration and start work on the FAFSA so that we can keep options open.


Years Later, What Now?

This weekend I’m in a much different place than I was with this whole empty nest thing.

This weekend, I’m not as gracious with it. I’m a bit more reflective. I’m still pretty emotional about it but in a different way. I’ve got to figure out what to do with myself now.

Twelve years ago, it was just me and the Furry One. Life was fairly simple. Then eleven years ago, I was in a relationship that I knew from the start wasn’t really going to be sustainable. I stayed for three years. Doing my doctorate was as much a life goal as it was an exit strategy for that relationship. I reasoned, if I went to chase that dream I wouldn’t have time to sit around in a dead end relationship *and* study while working full time.

So, I ended my relationship and started school. I replaced one with the other. I stayed super busy. I found a rhythm and made it work.

Halfway through my program, I hit a major health event that scared me. Actually, it terrified me. My presence here is a testimony to great medical care and not having finished my purpose here. The event changed my life though. After I recovered, I learned that I would never have a biological child, and I accelerated my adoption plan.

It was an insane time. I was still finishing my coursework. I began juggling the adoption process and school. The month I defended my dissertation proposal was also the same month I received Hope’s adoption profile. I was writing my chapters when I went to visit for the first time. When Hope was placed with me, I still had two chapters to write. I wrote those chapters while we endured several of the roughest weeks of my life (and probably some of hers as well), even worse than when I thought I might die.

Around the same time, Elihu came into my life. We were happy for a long time, but I was juggling work, a long distance relationship and raising an amazing child with a trauma background. Eventually, I just got exhausted. It was too much, and one thing had to go. E and I said our sad goodbyes and I focused all my energy on Hope.

I feel like this last year of my life has been wholly devoted to Hope. There were days when I felt like I was dragging us to some imaginary line, probably graduation. I just wanted Hope to have the best opportunities I could give her. I was up at her school all the time. Emailing teachers, emailing counselors and therapists. I threw myself into parenting in a different way. As this spring rolled in I got it in my head that she needed a summer enrichment program to help her prep for her senior year. I started to research programs. I found a few; I presented them to Hope and we settled on this one. She applied, was accepted and thrived in the summer program.

As I prepped for those few weeks, I thought maybe I should think about doing something for myself during that month. A good friend suggested that I get back into the dating game.

Sigh, so I told myself that if Hope got into her program, I would, and I did. I went on a few dates, and I learned that if you are married, you had better make that ish work. These dating streets are rough; make it work. Anyway, I met someone; it didn’t seem serious at first, but then it might’ve been. I dunno. We had fun together, and the next thing you know a couple of months had passed. Hope was away at school, and I thought maybe…

And then it ended abruptly thanks to external circumstances.

The fact that it ended is sad, not full-on breakup sad, but just sad. It’s lovely when a courtship is new, and you’re getting to the point when you start trying to figure stuff out. It was lovely and sad and romantic and icky and then I realized something.

I was more emotional about the fact that I had to really, really, really sit with this empty nest thing. For the first time in 11 years, it’s just me and my dog, Yappy. There’s no school. There’s not a relationship to nurse or navigate. or buffer this emptiness. And Hope is 80 miles away finally stable and taking baby steps in the next chapter of her life. 

I mean, yes, I’m still parenting Hope, but not in the same intense way. In fact, there’s a major void. I’m single, I am parenting her from afar, but I went from our version of an 8 in intensity to a 1, and I feel a little lost.

These are the first steps of my next life chapter, and I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing. It’s all so strange. I didn’t expect to be here. I’m not sure where I expected to be, but it’s not here. Here’s not bad, it’s just unknown. 

I feel like I have to figure out how to do this life again. What exactly was I doing 12 years ago, when I was single with minimal responsibilities on a day to day basis? And surely, I can’t just recreate that life; I’m 12 years older now. I’m a different person now.

What do I do now?  

I’m not sure, and I feel like I have way too much time on my hands to figure it out.


I Used to be an ESTJ

Since I’ve been home recovering from my head injury, Hope and I have had a chance to spend some time together. Oddly, we haven’t gotten on each other’s nerves too much. We’ve enjoyed resting and lounging; of course, this is what Hope has been doing all summer, but I digress. I have a great kid.

Last week we threw on some sweats and hit the neighborhood IHOP while the housekeepers got the house together (how is it that I feel like I’m intruding in my own house when they are there???). Over pancakes and bacon, Hope and I got to talking about personality types. Hope mentioned that they did a Myers-Briggs test in school last year. Intrigued, I inquired what letters she got. Of course, my daughter and her short attention span and poor memory couldn’t remember.

Curious I did a quick Google search on my phone and pulled up a test for her to take over breakfast. She read the questions, occasionally asking me to clarify the questions for her. I mused over her answers, thinking for at least half of them that I wouldn’t answer the way she did based on how I observed how she moved through the world. She turned out to be an I/ESTP. She presents differently to me.

Um, way, way, way, way, way, way differently to me, but um, ok…if that’s how she sees herself.

I definitely pegged the Introvert/Extrovert borderline, but the rest of it was like no, these descriptions don’t describe my kid at all. I am intrigued by the way Hope sees herself. While I’m not totally going to change my parenting style based on a free version of the Myers-Briggs I found on the internet over breakfast, it does make me think about trying to see Hope as she sees herself.

Artistic, independent, adaptable, practical, self-directed and energetic. This sounds like a great kid too. I hope that one day everyone can see her this way, including and especially me.

After reading her results and chatting about them, I reset the test and started taking it myself. I know that we can change over time. I have been an ESTJ (Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) for as long as I can remember, and none of these indicators were even close to the borderlines all the previous times I’ve taken the test—both formally and informally. I hadn’t taken one of these tests since I became a mom, so, since we were chatting about our personalities, I jumped on the test train.

Low and behold, I have changed. The only thing that stayed the say was my tendency for extroversion. Every other indicator was firmly hugging the borderline. Apparently, I have become more Intuitive, more Feeling, and more Perceiving since I became a mom. Who is *this* chick???

I guess that’s a good thing, right? As I told Hope, none of these letters are particularly good or bad; they just are.

Still, I am fascinated by the changes. I suppose motherhood required me to develop and flex these aspects of my personality. I’d like to think that I’m more forward thinking as I dream about Hope’s future, and I certainly have added consideration of feelings along with my data in decision-making. I’ve had to let some of my judginess go and be more flexible and adaptable in this phase of my life.

So, I guess it all makes sense, but much like I thought I saw differently than she sees herself, what I thought I knew about myself turns out to be different than the possible reality.

It’s odd because there was some pride I’d long taken in being an ESTJ. I don’t know why; maybe it was how definitive the scoring suggested these letters represented me. As I mentioned earlier, I know that personalities can change over time, but um, that was *other* people…not me. Is it odd that my initial reaction was feeling a little grief and loss—I mean, here was another indicator of how motherhood has changed me and even though I traded in my cute Mini Cooper 18 months ago in favor of a “family” car, I’m still not-so-secretly mad about that. Did I really have to “lose” my STJ too?

I’m mildly comforted by the fact that my scores at least hug the borderline; maybe I’m still an ESTJ at work and just different at home.

Of course, I am glad that my personality has shifted to meet the need I have in my life now. Hope certainly benefits from me being less rules-oriented (Oh, we have rules though) and more emotionally in tune with things.

So here we are; Hope sees herself as radically different than I see her, and I have changed from the me I used to know.

This isn’t bad, but I can’t help pondering these pieces of information well past the bacon and pancakes. It’s interesting and I wonder what new surprises about our personalities will reveal in time.

Has your personality changed since becoming a parent?


New Skin

After spending all of 2016 trying to orchestrate Hope’s success, I slid into December exhausted and frustrated. My daughter was frustrated and exhausted. Our relationship felt no better than it did at the beginning of the year.

I feel like I threw out everything I knew and just said, “Eff it. How bad would it be if I just stopped?”

I wrote about that transition.

Here we are nearly 8 weeks later and a calm has fallen over our home. With the exception of the ongoing chatter about all things Kpop, Hope and I seem content, actually happy.

She’s a delight to be around most of the time.

I’m not angry much, so I’m guessing I’m easier to be around too.

We spend time together in the evenings and chat about all kinds of things including politics.

We started planning a grand trip abroad for spring break, and then she asked me if we could go visit family instead.

For three years, I have been trying to help her to build her confidence to ask for what she wants and needs—she’s doing that now.

Some of her trauma-related behaviors are well controlled. We have slid into a period of just regular 1st world teen problems. And you know what? That’s awesome! We’re both closer to normal, delightfully normal.

One day last week, she loaded the dishwasher and tidied the kitchen completely on her own. I was initially suspicious about this, but she said she knew I was tired and it wasn’t a big deal.

I give her a list of a few things to do, and for the most part they get done.

I was chatting with a neighbor this weekend and I just said so proudly, Hope is such a good kid.

I mean, I knew that she was of course, but it’s like she’s sloughed off some of that hurt and that anger.  She still hurts; she’s still angry, she’s still fearful, and sometimes she’s still stuck in the past. But it’s so much less than it was even 3 months ago.

It’s not just that she’s healing. It’s like when you’ve had that big injury and the scab falls off and you know that you’re on the other side of the mountain of healing. You’ve got a ways to go, but you know it’s going to be ok. I can see Hope’s new skin after some of the scabs I’ve nursed for 3 years have finally fallen off. That new “skin” is bright, soft and supple. It’s regaining its color too. She’s going to be ok.

As a parent to a kid who’s experienced so much trauma, I feel like I can breathe again.

It’s like a big inhale, and a lovely 8 count exhale.

I think she’s breathing easier too.

When your kid reaches that turning point in healing, it’s like a bit of freedom for both of you. I feel like maybe I can trust her more now not to freak out over innocuous things. Even her severe fear of bugs is easily managed now (which is great since I no longer fear being pushed out of the car).

I feel like she can trust me more too. She finally is comfortable enough to ask me to order her something or ask to go hang out with friends. She didn’t use to do that. Those are tangible things happening that tell me the trust is real.

The most amazing thing about where we are right now is that since the ongoing crises are over, we have time to really look to the future. Hope is beginning to seriously think about her future now. We’re exploring how she will define what success looks and feels like for her. We’re looking at her post high school options. These are such extraordinary things. It’s not that I didn’t think they would ever happen; it’s that I had no idea when they would.

Last week, she announced that maybe she might want to be a translator one day. She said she might want to move and live in a foreign country at some point to immerse herself in the language. She thought I might be sad.

I was thrilled. My daughter has gone from no dreams to big dreams.

I told her that I will make sure I keep my vacation savings account flush so that I can afford to see visit her and have her show me around.

Saying that it would be a dream come true for her to step into that kind of reality is an understatement.

It’s great when other people tell me that I’m a good mom. It feels weird though when people assume I’m a good mom because I “saved” Hope or that I get a pair of angel wings just because I adopted an adolescent. I politely rebuff those kind sentiments because I know that I just wanted to be a mom, and Hope just needed one and somehow the universe smushed us together.

But sitting down and taking a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are now, well, that makes me feel like I’m getting it mostly right. It builds my own confidence in my parenting. I’m hardly an expert, and I’m certain I’ve probably gotten more wrong than right on many, many, many days. But I love my daughter, and I’ve done everything I can to help her heal, tried to use whatever privilege I have to shield her from harm in any way necessary, and loved her with my whole heart.

Who knew? That recipe seems to work! So, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. I look forward to continuing this path and helping Hope blossom into whomever and whatever it is that she will become.

 


The Height of Frustration

I procrastinate.

In fact, I am procrastinating right now.

There are meal plans to execute, and I am sitting on the couch. I would rather write and emotionally work through my latest kerfuffle with Hope (which happens to be ongoing on text at the moment), than fix the marinate for those chicken thighs that have been defrosting this afternoon.

I procrastinate.

Hope? Hope does not procrastinate.

After some google searches ala “why does my child take 5 hours to accomplish three tasks that should take no more than 3 hours max?” I turned up on the term time blindness.

Apparently time blindness is when you think you can manage time, but you totally, totally can’t. Not only can you not manage time, it’s almost like clocks don’t work for you at all. You need stimuli to remind you want you need to do next.

You think you’re just going to spend 15 minutes on this task, but somehow 2 hours have gone by while you went down a KPop YouTube rabbit hole.

Just going to run in an change clothes really quick? And 4 hours later…

It’s not that it happens once in a blue moon; it’s that it happens all the time. It’s persistent.

IT’S ALSO DRIVING ME BATTY.

It is beyond frustrating. It is hard to get anything done in this house when it takes Hope 30 minutes to make her bed.

I’m constantly working with her to actually care about time. I am also feeling backed into a corner with being really restrictive and limiting stimuli to help her stay focused.

Naturally restrictions don’t go over well; and with a side of melodrama you would think I don’t let her do anything.

This leaves me feeling icky. I know she’s got a lot going on in that brain of hers. There are big emotions, dark thoughts, and tangled neurons.

I also know that all of that puts her at greater risk for so many things that could further devastate her.

I often wonder if I’m just piling on to the myriad of drama we experience.

I am constantly researching interventions. I’ve got a couple that are core to my being able to survive this. Hope buys into none of the interventions. And it’s beginning to dawn on me that the consequences don’t mean much to her. I mean, yes she will suffer, but when her depression and anxiety are already high and her self-esteem is already low, then what really does she have to lose but to actually embody all of the bad things she thinks about herself?

So what exactly am I doing and is there a way out of this?

I’ve come to accept that straight A’s aren’t in our future and that my beloved daughter needs some additional support. The goal is getting her to a place where she can launch into a future life that will be good for her and to her…a life where she can be self-sufficient and live the life she wants to live.

I want that for her.

But if I’m being totally honest, I want that for me.

There is a lot of emotion for me around whether and when Hope will launch into a self-sufficient adult.  I know it won’t be after high school. I know that it may or may not be right after college…if she goes to college. With every life skill that is missing or developing or is behind in develop, my own anxiety ratchets up.

I’m ashamed that this sounds like I just can’t wait for her to be off into the world. It’s so much more complicated than that. I know that I still want more for my daughter than she wants for herself and after these years together, I still have trouble wrapping my head around that. The regressions are exhausting and I wish they would end, but I know they won’t anytime soon.

I also worry about how all of my worry and fretfulness affects our relationship. I can’t say I feel like we’re in the best place right now. I can’t say that she feels like I’m the safest person in her life right now. I mean, she knows I’m ride or die on the “big stuff” but this is really just daily life stuff. I can’t say I’m the most patient or empathetic. I can’t say I’m doing any of this right to meet her most urgent needs.

I’m also starting to realize that her most urgent need is simply to lay off and just be with her…to just catch her when she stumbles instead of trying so desperately to remove all of the barriers. I think she just wants me to love her, and this feels like conditional love, like all I’m trying to do is fix a broken daughter. And that breaks my heart.

I want her to be successful, but I haven’t given a lot of thought about what Hope’s definition of success is. Maybe for now…this is it. Just getting up everyday, going to school, trying, coming home, having dinner, petting the dog and mustering the energy to do it tomorrow.

If this is true, then a lot of my frustration is of my own making. I mean, don’t get me wrong, that 5 hours ish is still frustrating as hell, but it’s just symptomatic of much larger emotional sludge we’re covered in. So maybe the appropriate response is to just love on her and step away from the interventions and just let nature happen, whatever happens, just let her be loved. Our respective levels of frustrations need a break—surely my cortisol levels have made me have more than one food baby.

Maybe I’ll just go back to love as being the only intervention. I mean, things can get worse, but maybe this way we can at least be more secure as a mom/daughter unit if things do get worse. I’m tired of being frustrated. I’m ready to take a break.


Never Have I Ever…

Needed to vacuum at 7:30am before becoming a mother.

Wanted band seasons to end so badly.

Been so excited that Hope wants to go *away* to band camp next summer—several band camps actually.

Thought I would restrict Hope’s primary cereal choices to Kellogg’s Special K with Red Berries or Raisin Brand Crunch.

Thought I’d make Yoda so proud with Jedi mind tricks, by my mind game is #strong.

Needed a grown up vacation so bad.

Wanted or needed to figure out how to cultivate new friendships with a bunch of cliquish band parents.

Thought finding Flavor-Ice plastics all over the house would annoy me so very much.

Thought I would deal with hoarding.

Thought I’d sleep with a dog under the covers again after The Furry One, but then there was #Yappy.

See diversity issues through new eyes as an adoptive parent.

Faced the idea of having a primary focus on social development rather than academic performance.

Read so many journal articles on parenting children of trauma.

Thought I’d be so dang tired.

Contemplated the convergence of my many identities—Black, woman, sliding in to middle age, educated, single mom, adoptive parent, professional.

Missed so many deadlines.

Gone this long without reading a book for pleasure.

Drank so much wine.

Spent so much time looking for good wines with screw tops because I simply can’t be bothered with finding the corkscrew.

Been told my blood pressure is elevating.

Bought *this size* clothing.

Worked so hard outside of work.

Tried so hard to find time for self-care.

Been so frustrated that I can come home from a day and a half business trip to find a sink full of dirty dishes spilling on to the counters and stove, a dog with a less than clean bottom, the new bottle of juice empty, a strange pile of tooth picks on the coffee table, dog chewed glue sticks on the floor, Chinese takeout condiment packets all over the kitchen, dining room and coffee table and a dog who seemed extraordinarily happy that I was home just before midnight.

Actually paid a nanny—one of our best nannies—for the previously described welcome home without being really pissed.

Thought I’d take my teenage daughter’s narcissism so personally.

Thought I’d have the wonderful relationship with my boo, Elihu, that I do as a single parent.

Believed that I had the capacity to grind out this life like I do.

Believed that I could love like I do.

Believed that I could be as angry as I get sometimes.

Believed that my life could be full of so many decisions where there were no apparent upsides, just rocks and hard places.

Learned so much about invisible disabilities.

Had so many epiphanies about life.

Realized just how privileged I was growing up.

Realized just how much I took for granted before adopting Hope.

Had to sneak away to buy things for myself.

Had to carefully curate my online persona like I do now.

Been so frustrated about racism and sexism as I am now that I have a daughter—I was always frustrated but on a scale of 1-10, I’m now on 50.

Been so annoyed by how teen magazines spend so much time coaching girls about how to get a boyfriend/love interest.

Spent so much time trying to figure out how blended/complicated family structures can thrive.

Wanted so much out of life for someone else the way that I do for Hope.

Spent so much time thinking about what the second half of my life will look like.

Spent so much time thinking about how Hope will shape what the second half of my life will be like-who will she evolve into? What will she choose to do academically? Professionally? Where will she live? Will I be a grandmother? Will I ever breakdown and start shopping at Chico’s because I associate it with grandmotherhood?

Considered thinking about the need to move from my beloved condo like I do now.

Daydreamed about what living in a larger space with a yard would be like before now.

Spent so much time thinking about my personal politics and how adoption from foster care and motherhood have shaped them.

Spent so much time thinking about my own religious beliefs and needs before feeling rejected by my former church.

Felt *this* frustrated trying to figure out what kind of house of worship will be the best fit for me and Hope.

Questioned organized religion as much as I do now after being told that Hope and I don’t fit the “motif” of a cute family seeking a public dedication to the Holy Homeboy.

Never have I ever felt like my body betrayed me like I did when I realized I would never birth a biological child.

Confessed just how deeply that revelation hurt me because there are simply no words that can describe it.

Believed that life was fair.

Believed that we all get the same, equitable shot at the life we really desire—some of us have to work doubly, infinitely harder to get there.

Believed that a good fight wasn’t worth it.

Envisioned that this would be the life that I would have.

Been disappointed with it in total—there are some episodes I would change, but it’s all pretty good when viewed holistically, I guess.

Not been thankful for what I have, what I pursue, what I have achieved.

Not acknowledged the folks who have pushed me along, even if their pushes have been painful or served motivation to simply prove them wrong.

Not been grateful for my haters. #theyseemerolling #theyhatin’

Not been without flaws.

Not done my absolute best, sometimes to my own detriment.

Not been brutally real.

Not been authentic.

Not been just me.

Your turn…sound off.


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