Interested in seeing how my vacation with Hope and Grammy in Europe is going? Be sure to check out my FB feed and visit my Wakelet story for aggregated snippets as well!
Interested in seeing how my vacation with Hope and Grammy in Europe is going? Be sure to check out my FB feed and visit my Wakelet story for aggregated snippets as well!
I went into Mother’s Day with some complicated feelings. I find that it helps to simply acknowledge them, make a plan and keep it moving. I’m glad I did; it made for a nice low bar that set us up for a really lovely, lovely day.
I took Yappy on a three mile walk; he was super worn out afterwards and slept most of the day as a result.
Hope and I started our day at the local UU church we’ve been attending. Rather than go hang out with the other teens, my daughter chose to sit by my side. She even wore a dress—gasp! It was flower communion, and after some gentle coaxing, she even came with me to get a blossom. I lit a candle and said a prayer for Hope’s first mother. I prayed that she was as happy and healthy and that hopefully she knows that Hope found a permanent home as is no longer without permanence. I prayed that one day a healthy reunion would be in their future.
We headed to brunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We have celebrated all major family events here—my successful dissertation defense, our finalization, and her completion of middle school, just to name a few. We both love the food choices, and I especially love the wide range of beverage offerings. She suggested we order the usual—I reminded her that it was mom’s choice and I wanted to shake things up. I have a particular fancy for fries; I ordered up truffle-Parmesan fries to start, with a yummy coffee laced, chocolaty stout for me.
I think I opened Hope’s eyes to a whole new world related to quality French fries. She raved, danced in her seat and marveled at how yummy they were. I still smile to myself about how fries made her so happy. I actually have video of her; it was awesome.
We ordered our entrees, and bickered to the enjoyment of our waitress.
I told her that I was proud to be her mother; that even in the rough times I loved her so very much. I told her that being her mom has hopefully made me a better person all together. She smiled. She thanked me for giving her a permanent home that allowed her to call a place home, allowed her to not have to start over and over, that allowed her to just have a chance. I smiled and we went back to grubbing.
Yep, I used her account to pay, because…Mother’s Day. #noshame
We headed to the bakery across the street to find something for dessert. We selected individual key lime pies with beautiful meringues to go.
We took a few hours apart. I did some shopping and hit the hookah bar for a while.
Once home, we ate our desserts, and watched TV on the couch with Yappy, who incidentally, loves when his people are together on the couch. We have a huge couch, but he loves when we are huddled up so that he can sit between us and snuggle. I love that our dog wants his family close.
She gave me her homemade Mother’s Day gifts; a beautiful friendship bracelet that I immediately put on, and a beautifully decorated sheet that required me to pull off some cotton clouds to reveal the message underneath.
It was a far more detailed expression of gratitude for adopting her, for loving her unconditionally and for giving her a good life even when she’s a pain in the butt. She apologized for not getting me something fancy, but her message reduced me to a puddle of loving tears. She complained and eventually wriggled out of the vice grip hug I enveloped her in after reading her message.
It was perfect.
I have never wanted Hope to be grateful about her adoption; I hate thinking of the things that necessitated her adoption. That said, I got her meaning—it was about us being a family, about stability, about permanence, about unconditional love, about parenting, or in our case mothering, and about normalcy.
And I am grateful for those things too.
She didn’t say thanks for being her mom; instead she thanked me for meeting her needs. I know that meeting her needs is what I do as her mother. The language is different, but the meeting of the minds is there, and to hear that from her—I’m so proud and blessed to have been chosen for this gig.
Those moments were a beautiful capstone for the day. I could not have planned it. I could not have anticipated it.
It was a beautiful day, and I will treasure it forever.
I love you, Hope.
This weekend marks my 4th observance of Mothers Day. Thinking about that makes me smile, and then I remember how complicated this holiday is for my daughter and I and my smile fades a bit.
I know that I adore Hope. I know that Hope loves me very much.
In a perfect world, we would never know each other. Hope would be feting her biological mother this weekend 3,000 miles away. They might go to their favorite restaurant. There might be a card; there would be lots of hugs and “thank you mom, you’re awesome” statements.
I would be at my own brunch with my biological children, smiling, laughing with them marveling at these little miracles that came through my body.
But this isn’t a perfect world, and Hope and I have each other, each with all our imperfections and challenges.
I think we both ponder that, even unconsciously, during this holiday. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t a solid family. It does mean that we still have to make time and space for grief.
I know that I won’t have a card waiting for me in the morning when I wake up. I made my own brunch reservation at one of our favorite restaurants. I plan to make her use her debit card (which I finance) to pay for said dinner so that at least I have the illusion of being “treated to brunch.” I figure it will also help her learn what she’s supposed to do—not necessarily for me, but in general regarding these kinds of things.
And then, I will post up at a local hookah bar, order a glass of something yummy and puff away the afternoon. This will give me some time to enjoy myself with no drama (join me if you’re in the DMV area, just drop me an email!). It will also give Hope some time with her own thoughts, which, I’m finding she needs.
During our recent trip to see some family, we acquired some pictures of her mother. I recall just watching Hope look at the pictures. During our time as a family, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading her emotions, but I couldn’t read Hope’s reaction. It was almost vacant; but I know it wasn’t vacant at all. There were and are a lot of tangled up, complicated emotions going on just under the surface. She had no desire to process it with me either. In a nutshell, Hope’s emotional connection/reaction towards her mother is complicated and it’s very much exclusively hers at this point.
I imagine that one day Mother’s Days will be different me and Hope. That we will have a different kind of balance between grief and celebration. We will have fun brunches and lots of smiles and lots of love. This weekend we will have those things, just tempered a bit. It’s ok. Monday will be a new day and we will have gotten through another year of this day, together.
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 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.
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:
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.
So, Hope and I have been talking a lot this last week. And by a lot I mean, so much that I could kill a bottle of wine each night after our chats.
As I’ve mentioned on occasion the Constitution of the Sovereign Queendom ABM provides Hope limited privacy rights. I mean, clearly, she has a door on her bedroom and bathroom and I don’t routinely rifle through her things. That said, if something is fishy, I maintain a benevolent monarch’s right to have all the tech passwords and access to all messages without question. I have only needed to exercise my right to invade on one or two occasions prior to last week.
This most recent episode was triggered by super shady behavior by Hope, and her dying need to tell me about what was going on but knowing that she probably shouldn’t. So, at dinner one night, Hope rambled on for 30 minutes some disjointed story that included no names, some “friends,” lots of giggle and teen angst and just all kinds of boring yet fishy details. It was hard to follow, but I picked up enough to know that I needed to exercise my rights to start logging into some accounts for some late night reading.
And so I did.
And then I needed to lay down, so it was good that I was already in bed because what I read would make any good Southern woman need to take to her bed.
It was super clear that me and Hope were in serious need of a chat about grown lady issues.
I reached out to a few close friends, worked through some of my emotions and gathered some useful advice and steeled myself for what I hoped would be a casual, non-confrontational, supportive chat about sex. A chat that would be followed by me taking several shots of whiskey in the privacy of my bathroom as a part of my recovery plan. This wouldn’t be our first chat about sex, but it would be the first time that we needed to talk with a lot more detail about choices, values, self-worth, self-esteem, so-called friends, emotions and behavioral patterns.
When I finally got up the nerve to talk to my daughter about sex, she was mortified.
I persisted, and we had our first real grown lady talk. I kept my composure, there was no yelling, little emoting beyond trying to be empathetic and patient. I was firm about certain things, but acknowledged that some choices aren’t mine to make. I insisted on making an appointment with a health care professional to answer some questions—I mean, I could answer them, but I know the value of having a 3rd party say what should be said and that’s worth the $10 co-pay.
I wanted her to know that while I’m not her friend, I am the safest person to talk to and share things this deep with. That’s what I’m here for.
Afterwards, she retreated to her room and I grabbed a few shots and leaned into my couch.
In the aftermath, I wasn’t really sure what she thought about the talk. I mean, I high fived myself, because I thought I did pretty well. I kinda wished my mom was willing to talk to me like I talked to Hope about grown lady stuff. I thought to myself, “Self, you *might* be on the road to being that cool mom you aspire to be!”
And then, just when I thought I’d cracked the door to our grown lady chats, the flood gates opened. #IWASNTREADY
Last night on the way home from an outing Hope resurfaced the conversation with way more details and an offer to read a series of messages that I hadn’t read during my privacy invasion.
Oh dear…I don’t want to read those messages. Nope, nope, I don’t wanna. You can’t make me.
We stayed in the car for 30 minutes talking about grown lady things, with me genuinely happy she feels safe talking to me and asking questions, while also really needing to take to my bed immediately because I was…done for.
Oh yeah, we are all into the grown lady chats now. I know this means I’m totally slaying this mother game this week, but the loss of my own parenting innocence is kinda sad. I mean, I’m not naïve; I knew Hope was having all these thoughts and feelings; I remember what kinds of things I wanted to know and experience in high school, and I only imagined that it was like that and worse now. I just didn’t count on finding out so much so quickly. I know that we will establish some kind of boundaries with time, and so I’ll treasure this time of knowing so much and being able to parent, coach and mentor her into womanhood.
Sometimes I really sit down and think about how Hope is already in high school and this chapter will be over so soon, but we just found each other. We’re having all these experiences, and we’re cramming all this life into what feels like tiny chunks of time. Before you know it, we’ll be on to the next mother-daughter crisis.
Two years ago, I knew Hope and I would someday have to have grown lady chats, but it seemed so far off into the future.
And now we’re here. I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made and how quickly it has happened, but I’m also like, wow, it’s all flying by so damn fast. I know it’s a mess of confusion and hormones and emotions for Hope right now, but it is also a mess of emotions (and probably some wretched hormones) for me too.
So, for now, I’m open to listening to every hair raising, slow-blink inducing grown lady chat that Hope wants to have with me.
I’m also stopping by the liquor store on the way home, you know, for my private after party.
So, I’ve made an appointment for Hope to get her hair braided this weekend, but first we had to take out her current braids, wash, condition and blow out her hair to prep it. I’ve been eager to do this since she got here. I wear my hair in its natural state: curly, kinky, coily; so does Hope, but most of the time her hair is hidden away in braids. I wanted to learn more about Hope by doing her hair. I also wanted to have the little girl/mommy time that comes with doing hair.
When I was a child, my mom washed my hair in the kitchen sink while I stood on a small chair. Then she painstakingly blew out my hair with a hair dryer, followed by getting it straight using a comb heated on an eye of the stove. She would then either braid our hair or put it up in ponies. The whole process took about 2 hours—I had a lot of hair. Then she’d tackle my two younger sisters’ heads, both of whom, at various times, had hair down to their waists. Grammy was tired after it was all over, but she loved to see us with our hair all fresh and styled up.
There was an intimacy in those moments that I now more deeply appreciate. I always trusted Grammy to make me pretty. We would sometimes talk or even sit in silence, but getting my hair done on that small chair in the kitchen with Grammy was my time with her during hectic weekends. I had her undivided attention. She would fret over the health of my scalp and hair. She would cluck if she used too much heat on my hair or nicked my ear with the hot comb (long before flat irons). She would wail when I took scissors to it mid-week to cut crooked, too short bangs because she had to figure out how to help me hide them until they grew out. Even though it was a chore, it was something so selfless that Grammy did to care for me and to make me pretty. Looking back it was a special thing we shared.
I wanted to share that with Hope. I had to use a dining room chair in the living room instead of a tiny kiddie chair in the kitchen, but I got it done.
It took an hour to take Hope’s braids out, and more than 30 minutes to detangle it and get all the shed hair out (which incidentally was a lot, like think yeti).
I explained why I don’t use shampoo to cleanse (I find it too drying for my curly tresses), and yes, Hope, I go through large quantities of conditioner.
I explained that I don’t use towels on my hair because my hair can catch in the terry loops and break; instead I buy t-shirt fabric since the nap is gentler on my hair.
Yes, Hope, I use olive oil and coconut oil at various stages of the ‘hair-doing’ process. No, coconut oil does not smell like a pina colada, like you might think; it used to though. No, I don’t know why that old coconut oil grease used to smell like that.
I listen when she says she has “bad” hair (meaning it’s very kinky or coily, not straight), and I try to educate her that there is no such thing as “bad” hair. Her dark brown and black curly hair is lovely. And it’s so very thick. It lies down at the first sign of heat, though.
I listen when she feeds me the line, “When my hair is blown out, it’s down my back.” She has a lot of shrinkage, but it is not down her back. It takes me back to the short haired girls who used to tell me that same line, when I arrived at school on Mondays with my long ponies swinging. I remember how I couldn’t understand that science of how their hair could be longer than mine. It wasn’t. It never really mattered, but I see it for the self-esteem/self-identity issue it really is now. I see Hope struggling with long hair desires, too. She asked me for a weave earlier this week. I said no. I’m not anti-weave, I just don’t think she needs a weave at 12.
Yes, you need to try to learn what your hair likes and what it needs to make it thrive. I have gone through many products; we’ll figure out what your hair likes.
‘Oh, so the scalp massage feels good?”
She almost fell asleep, cooing how good it felt.
“Oh you like the paddle brush too?”
Hope begs me to keep brushing her strands after her blowout.
I explain why I need to trim her broken ends. I don’t have to cut as much as I thought.
I explain what a twist out is, and how it’s usually how I style my hair. I set her hair similarly.
Please, hold your head up. #phraseinheavyrotation
I am sad that her lovely tresses will be hidden in braids again by this time tomorrow. She can keep them for 3 weeks, but then I want to have this experience again. I need to experience this with her again.
I want to coach my little naturalista to love herself and her hair.
That was five hours (yes, Lawd—FIVE!!!) of near bliss.
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