Tag Archives: New Adoptive Mom

Adoption Awareness Month Musings

About a year ago, during National Adoption Awareness Month 2013, I announced to the world that I was adopting Hope. We were already matched. I had been out to visit her, and I was anticipating her nearly two week visit later in the month. All things pointed to an imminent placement with the goal of eventually finalizing.

I was excited, elated, high off of joy. I was going to be a mom! I knew it would be challenging, but I thought hey, I can do this and I want the world to know.

To quote Lauryn Hill, “It was all so simple then…”

A year later, my daughter Hope has now been with me for 10 months, and we finalized our adoption 6 months ago.

And we have been through some ish.

A lot of I’ve written about or rather through, and a lot I haven’t written about at all. Some of it seems…unspeakable, and in those moments I felt as broken and as alone as I ever have and probably as much as Hope felt at the time.

Along the way, I’ve found a cool community of fellow adopters. Day to day support has been…tricky at times, but truthfully, even if I didn’t feel like it, someone was there. It wasn’t always the person I wanted, but someone was there.

I got some things right, but I’ve made colossal mistakes. I’ve triumphed. I’ve failed. I’ve cared, been accused of caring too much and have not cared so much as to give one more damn at times over the last year.
I’ve experienced so many emotions that I’m convinced I created some new ones along the way. I’ve experienced sadness and anger the most, to be honest. Happiness is something I often have to deliberately pursue because that emotion hasn’t taken up permanent residence here yet.

In all, it’s been some radical highs and some spirit crushing lows.

And if I’m really, really honest, I am not sure I would do it again. Oh, gosh I love my daughter fiercely—and she is MY daughter– but I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was still mourning the life I had or that the challenges of the year haven’t worn me down in multiple ways that give me pause about everything.

No regrets, just curious about what my alternative life would be like now (it’s nice to fantasize) and wondering what could I have possibly done to have been better prepared or to have done a better job along the way.

So there’s my broad stroke recap of the last year as I reflect on “adoption awareness.”

These awareness months can be odd things, you know? We celebrate different peoples, histories and cultures; we commemorate things, pledge to fight diseases by raising research money and walking and running various distances. We raise awareness about all sorts of stuff, including adoption.

Ok, so be “aware” of adoption this month. #yepstillasmartypants

I’ve been reading a lot of adoptee blogs lately.

Sometimes they make me feel absurdly self-absorbed in my thinking and writing about my trials on this journey. But then I remember this is a blog about my journey in my own voice, so there’s that.

That said, I’m learning from the blogs of adoptees that there is this clear call for voice, for agency over self, over their adoption narrative and about all the bits and pieces that make for unique experiences with uniquely framed challenges. And as I read these blogs, I wonder about Hope’s experiences—not just from the last year—but from her life. Naturally I think about these things a lot, but as I learn more I maybe see this journey much differently than I did before.

In the midst of my own joy in coming to motherhood, there sits such huge amounts of loss that at times it can be breathtaking.

I can’t enumerate all that Hope has lost, but in my nearly 42 years, I haven’t experienced a fraction of that kind of loss. And despite all this “adoption awareness” I must remind myself of that nearly hourly. When she is acting like a real pill, and it is a mixture of being 13 (plainly hell on earth) and having experienced so much in her few years, I have got to remember the role the latter really plays in the behaviors that push me to the brink. I don’t all ways do a good job of this; to be honest, I feel like I largely suck at it. This home probably isn’t as healing as it should be at times. And I imagine that it’s because I fail to be “adoption aware” in the moment.

”Adoption awareness” is largely narrated by adoptive parents. I didn’t appreciate that a year ago. But now, as I see new adoptive parents praying that God gets the birth mother to stop considering to parent her child so that they, the adoptive parents, get to keep their child, I get the pervasiveness of that framework. I see both sides of the story now, thanks to the voices of adoptees.

I hear it now as I went to the altar this weekend for prayer for me and Hope as the person praying to me said that my little family was predestined by God and isn’t it wonderful how things worked out. Well, yeah, it is, but really did Hope have to suffer for me to parent her? So, her loss was predestined. I struggle with that, even as I know how many times the Holy Homeboy has demonstrated his power in the midst of tragedy; I radically question the why must Hope suffer, even today as irritating middle schoolers tease her about even needing to be adopted and as we navigate integrating our lives together.

Adoption is rarely neat and tidy. Gosh we need more complicated people to jump into these complicated situations. But we also need to keep an ear to the ground and be ever mindful about how our children see themselves in the journey, how they reflect on the journey and how they narrate their own journey.

My journey is forever linked to Hope’s and this blog is about my story, not hers. It is just one side of the adoption story. I look forward to years from now, having tea (or something stronger) on a wraparound porch (my architectural fantasy) hearing her talk about her journey. If I really try hard to pay attention now, I won’t be as shocked by the emotions that come tumbling out then as I seem to be now.

So that’s my early month two cents, musings on National Adoption Awareness Month.


About Face

So, a couple of days after sending a polite, but disappointing message to my church withdrawing my request for some kind of dedication ceremony I get an enthusiastic message from the children’s pastor.

Long story short, they finally get it. That’s the good, no, awesome news.

But you know, my feelings are so messy. I’m still mad, and I’m still hurt and Lord knows I hold a grudge like my life depends on it.

Yeah, I know, major personal flaw. Whatever… it’s learned behavior for me; get burned enough and the ease of forgiving wears away over time. #jadedandcynical

Anyhoo, I read the email and just felt…tired. Exhausted.  Furious. Why couldn’t this email have come during the last 3+ weeks? Why now, after I said I just didn’t want to pursue it anymore? Why do I feel like I had to fight so hard? Why do you now say you wished you had had this great idea at the beginning of the year?

I’m relieved, and yet I’m still angry. Pissed.

And then I feel guilty for feeling furious because well, I have broken through…We’re going to have some kind of ceremony, a public ritual. It will be open to other families like ours. It will be wonderful for me, for Hope, for our family, for all of the adoptive families who choose to participate.

I think the Holy Homeboy is pleased.

And I am happy, grateful…feeling vindicated, resentful—which doesn’t even feel right when I’m talking about my church. But there you go. I feel all of this stuff, no denying it.

So, I’m guessing the Holy Homeboy is probably not quite as pleased with me. I’m prayerful that this bitterness melts away quickly so that I can really enjoy this event; so that I can really absorb its meaning, so that Hope is able to be excited about all this too. As soon as I tell her.

This will be epic.


Add Water and Stir – Episode 10!!

It's our Tenth-a-versary!!

It’s our Tenth-a-versary!!

Join ComplicatedMelodi’s Mimi and AdoptiveBlackMom’s ABM on Thursday, Oct. 30th to celebrate their Tenth-a-versary!  That’s right, Add Water and Stir is celebrating it’s first 10 episodes with a look back at previous episodes of the podcast, their favorite blog posts and the evolution of their new families!

As usual the ladies will dish during the Wine Down, where they will officially try on Blackish as their new discussion show as well as other pop culture news items.

Join Mimi and ABM on Thursday night, October 30th at 10pm EST/9pm CST for the live podcast on Google+.  You can watch/listen to it later on Youtube, Itunes and Stitcher!

Tell us your favorite Add Water and Stir moments and topics via the comment submission box below and we’ll read them on Thursday night.  Feel free to also send us recommendations on future discussion topics!


Lessons from the Road

It seems we’ve turned a corner in Casa d’ABM. I am on my second business trip and a third is right around the corner. I’m tired and probably a bit irritable. My forced absence from my home for work has resulted in Hope really stepping up. She’s doing laundry and really hanging in there. I expect that she might go off the rails before it’s all over, but so far so good. I’m proud of her; I know that it’s all a challenge. It’s a challenge for both of us. We’ve got great help and we’ll make it through. This change in routine has resulted in some new lessons for me. Yeah, always learning; always reflecting.

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This teenage girl thing is a hot, flakey, buttered mess.  I’m so glad that Hope talks to me, and I’m trying to keep my mouth shut at key moments so that she will keep talking. I wish that I could make things easier for her, but what with hormones, talk of anorexic lunch mates, school fundraisers and bullies… it’s all a bit much. Some people have said I jumped into the deep end of the pool; some days I feel like I jumped off a cruise ship into the ocean.   But for now, she tells me things. I watch her watch me for even the most subtle facial expression as she decides what and how much to tell me. I watch her retreat into her room when things just get too much. Hours go by. She’s ok, but she just needs time. I watch her start to fret about her outfits; she’s evolving from a jeans and tee girl. The rough edges are smoothing ever so slightly. Hope is growing.

All this growth has resurfaced some old behaviors. Old habits die hard. Early on, Hope and I struggled with the lingering impact of her being put in caretaker roles. There were days when this kid thought she was all the way grown. #nomaam #haveseveralseats It was challenging to get her to trust that I was the sole adult in this relationship and that I took care of everything. At some point the pendulum swung all the way to the other end of the continuum with me engaging her with very childlike things. She was very much baby-like for some weeks there.

And now we’re back to trying to be grown. Lawd, this child. There are moments when I really just feel like saying, “Sit your $5 behind down before I make change!” Right now we are really struggling with some of her assessments about the adults in her life, particularly teachers. She fancies herself an educational expert and is quick to conclude that a teacher is not appropriately deploying the curriculum. #eyeroll It is a tedious process of Q&A to help her question her conclusions, focus on the learning, and considering what she might do differently to elicit a different, more positive response from folks. In the end, it’s always about whether she feels like she can trust the adult to take care of whatever it is that needs to be taken care of. We seem to be in a season when she isn’t as trustful. A lot has happened already this school year, and I know it’s resulted in some of this setback. It’s tough.

Adoption conversations occur all the dang time, and they require so much energy. Yesterday it was a question about why we call animal mutts and what that says about their parentage and hers (is she a mutt?). A few days before it was a chat about how to see her biological grandmother and an aunt without the rest of the family knowing she doesn’t want to see them. Days before that it was a desire to see her original birth certificate, then a conversation about her thoughts on ever seeing/talking to her biological mother. Then there was the confab last week about the upcoming holiday season and establishing traditions that are mindful of broken traditions before, of pleasant and horrible holiday memories, of how completely overwhelming it is to start over again.

Then there’s the movies (last week The Amazing Spiderman), the TV show (Grey’s Anatomy) and on and on. Sometimes I feel like I’m just always waiting for a shoe to drop on an adoption topic. Some days they spark lots of conversation; other days there is no noticeable impact, but I know it’s lurking.

I’m not afraid of these conversations. She is committed to establishing herself in this family, but she’s also trying to figure out who she is and how to reconcile it all. It’s a lot for 13, especially when 13 is already so messy.

And speaking of messy, we are going to work to expand the family connections. Hope has concluded that she wants to try to broker a relationship with two family members. Of course, it’s the ones who seem to respect boundaries. This is cool, though it’s all so very emotional. It means I have to work hard to manage my own assessments and learned experiences of the last few months in relating to members of the family. I am struggling to figure out how to protect her from the other family members who don’t respect established boundaries and who she is very adamant about not seeing, hearing from or having any contact with at all.   I’m learning a lot more from fellow blogger, Mimi (www.ComplicatedMelodi.com), on how to be empathetic towards Hope’s biological family. It’s tough though when my experiences haven’t been great and when her experiences haven’t been great and her expectations have been dashed before. Oy.

High expectations hurt people over and over and over. This journey changes you. It changes the people around you. It brings out the best in people. It brings out the worst in people.

There are always so many expectations, and they are so very high. Your own expectations are the worse. You are your own worst critic; especially when you are wrestling with some rough stuff going on at home. The expectations just never seem to let up whether they are internal or external. And there’s no way to meet all those expectations.

I find myself sometimes feeling furious and exasperated by all the expectations and my subsequent failure when I don’t live up to them. I don’t have too many confidants who aren’t other adoptive parents; sometimes other people just don’t understand. I found myself confronted by outrageous expectations this week. I was furious; I was hurt and I just wanted to lash out. And I did to some degree. I know I can’t do it all or the way other people want me to. I can’t live up to it all. I don’t even want to. But it hurts like hell when all you want to do is what’s best for your kid and folks muddy the waters with unreasonable expectations about ish they know little about.

Hell, it’s bad enough when I muddy my own waters. Everyone, including me, just needs to take a chill pill.

Technology is providing a great assist in this parenting thing. Hope is shady. Of course she’s shady, she’s developed extraordinary survival skills during her 13 years, and well, she’s 13, she is wired to be somewhat shady at this stage. I try to stay at least one step ahead of her and technology helps me do it. I use various apps to manage her online experience. I block pages, I monitor how much time she’s allowed to have online. Some of my faves are Screen Time (only $2.99 a month) and Blocksi (free), which is a browser add on that blocks certain content, including specific pages you enter. Hope whines a lot that I don’t trust her, and occasionally I’ll loosen the reigns to give her some space to show that she can handle some freedom. That usually lasts a week or two, and well, we find that some of the blocks come back online.

Since I’m traveling a bit at the moment, I needed to be able to continue sending her personalized notes first thing in the morning. Usually I hang these in the bathroom for her. Google Cloud Print has changed the game! I now just create my notes in Google Drive and print to the house so that the nanny picks it up and hangs it in the bathroom. Tonight I printed an updated chore list—Hope acted both amazed at my ability to print remotely AND blow up her chore duty spot at the same time. Ha! ABM’s tech game is strong!

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So, anyhoo, we’re doing. The travel separation is tough; I know I will have a different kid at the end of the month. It’s scary and exciting, though. She’s doing some real growth right now. I can’t wait to see what the next blossom entails!

 


The Grownup Toddler

Warning, this post is a whiny, epic vent. I’m ok with that. I’ve had a good stretch recently. That said, I also know it’s pretty pathetic. It is what it is. #shrug

I am selfish. Yeah, I can admit it. Don’t let all this adoption stuff about opening my home and heart fool you. I. am. Selfish. And I’m really struggling with both the selfishness and the guilt I’m saddling myself with for being so damn selfish. Despite the fact that I love my kid and my new life with her, I desperately miss my old, single, no kid having life. I have no regrets, but the truth of the matter is that today I’m not feeling it.

There I said it or typed it.

As Hope and I continue to settle into our life together, I can’t help but wrestle with the things I don’t want to share with her. I am actually hoarding parts of my life.

There are certain foods that I hide from her. I’ll even admit to just never saying that they are in the house—probably because I stash them under the seat of my car. I bought my favorite gourmet popcorn today. I’m leaving it at the office because I don’t want to have to share it. I would share it if I took it home. There’s a part of me that would be happy to share it. But I’m equally satiated just leaving it on my desk in my office so I don’t have to share it. I also hate sharing my gum with her. I order a very specific type of gum in bulk from Amazon with regular frequency (don’t judge me, it’s my thing!). I don’t like other gums. I don’t ask to bum other gum off of folks. I get my gum in large quantities so I always have my favorite stress manager. I just want to take my Extra Sugar-Free Bubble Gum and shove it in my mouth. My mouth. I buy Hope her own gum, but she wants my gum. Why the heck does she have to have *my* gum?

I do not want to share my gum. Yes, I am selfish and I am petty.

I am glad she thinks my homemade cookies are too sweet; I do not have to share them with her and I can enjoy them late at night with wine—not good for my waistline, but whatever.

I find myself struggling to share space sometimes. I want to watch something only for adults on the big TV during hours other than 11pm-5:30am. Of course Hope always wants to watch her shows on the big TV. This morning, she stood so close to me while I was buzzing around the kitchen that I wondered whether we were sharing shoes and underwear, I just had to stop and say get out of my way. The kitchen is mine.

I want to have Lucky Charms for dinner, with a rum and coke, and a giant piece of chocolate cake for dessert. But I can’t. I can’t because to do so would require me to snarf/imbibe all of it on a stool in my walk in closet, in the dark. Hiding. The side eye that Hope would serve me for my dinner of choice would shame me into eating broccoli without any seasoning at all…probably for a week.

I long to be selfish with my time again.  No, I don’t want to watch another Bruno Mars concert clip on YouTube. I don’t want to do hair—not even my own—I can probably stretch my afro puff another day. I don’t feel like walking The Furry One, especially since right now I have to carry him because he’s so wobbly. I just want to sit and watch this Redbox movie without one single question being asked about why Noah is building this dang ark again and why didn’t all the animals kill each other in the boat. I do not want to rouse myself early to do parent ish in the morning—the routine paperwork is alarming. And despite my exuberant extroverted-ness, I do not want to talk before 7am. Ok, sometimes before 8am. Please stop talking to me.

I also do not want to share my stuff. “What’s that?” Hope asks. “Nothing,” I reply. It’s my new headphones, or a glass of koolaid (ok, that’s a lie, it’s really a shiraz), or a piece of chocolate that I surreptitiously snuck into the house or my new eye shadow or a new hair product that I’m trying out or a book I got from the library when we went yesterday—you got your own books, go on, go on sit down somewhere. Stopppppppppp [insert excessive whining here]!

I feel like a toddler who is walking around touching stuff going, “Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.” I know it’s wrong. I feel really guilty about it all. But I’d really like to not find smudge marks on the mirror, see the laundry sorted, and have her volunteer to make Velveeta shells and cheese for dinner, even though I think it tastes like plastic…Yeah, not going to happen.

I am acutely aware that Hope has done not one thing wrong. Nothing at all. She’s just fine and acting age appropriate and everything. I really am the toddler in this relationship. Sigh.

There’s not a day that I don’t feel at least a little passing fancy of selfishness. I’ve gotten better at admitting it and letting it go and float on by as I choose to sacrifice bits and pieces of my life for Hope. It is worth it, but today I’m not feeling it one bit. I need to be like ComplicatedMelodi and “take to my bed” with my wine and cookies and some fancy cheese and Triscuits. I will spread them on my comforter and scream—Mine! Then I’ll close the door to the world.

Sigh. But I won’t do that. It’s soft taco night, and that is one of Hope’s favorite meals. I won’t disappoint her. So I’ll put my big girl undies on and be a grown up. Sigh.


Fear Still Rules the Day

Up until last evening, I wasn’t sure that we would finalize this week. We had one document that required my signature and the signature of some higher up in CPS. My attorney confirmed the date yesterday. Friday is Gotcha Day.

I told Hope last week that we would be finalizing soon. But I was nervous to tell Hope that it was happening this coming Friday. It will all be official in three short days. I just didn’t know how she would react.

I told her over dinner. She sat there stunned. Then she changed the subject and pretended like I never said anything about it.

She does this sometimes in therapy too. She was just avoidant. I decided to just let it go.

But of course it can’t be the simple. It’s never that simple.

Twenty minutes later she picked a mini-battle over a myriad of little dinner-related things. And then there’s the blow-up, followed by the stomping to the room, followed by the concert of badly sung Justin Bieber covers (done for the express purpose of annoying me), door slamming, muttering and other self-soothing behaviors.

I let her be, interrupting her only to tell her to ready herself for bed and to refill her water bottle.

She was still grumpy when I came in to tuck her in, hesitating about whether she wanted me to read her a story.

Of course she wanted a story, and I deliberately chose a longer one to read last night just to be close to her a few minutes longer.

Then when I kissed her good night, she huffed and she puffed, and she screeched at me to close her closet door. Then she bid me goodnight back.

Fear is wicked.

She’s been through this adoption thing before. It never got this far, but someone else tried to tell her that it was forever. It wasn’t. She’s been through this before. It’s terrifying to think that something awful could happen before Friday that would cancel forever. So, the best option is to try to trigger the worst possible scenario before it can happen on its own.

Finalization, for all its celebratory notions, is also a reminder of things that she doesn’t want to be reminded of: all the reasons why she even needs to be adopted at all. And that sucks. It really, really sucks. And when stuff sucks, everything around here sucks, at least or a while. It doesn’t suck quite as long as it used to, but yeah, it sucks for a while. Attitudes, short tempers, tantrums and tears, push/pull behaviors, fight picking, and sometimes, mercifully, the silent treatment. I don’t really like the silent treatment when she retreats into her own little world, but honestly of the choices, it’s the one that is easiest for me to face and for me to overcome.

And even though somewhere in there she’s happy, maybe even ecstatic, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter that I’m planning a family party. It doesn’t matter that there will be cake. It doesn’t matter that she’s been practicing signing her new name for the last week and a half. None of that really matters.

All that matters is whether Friday is really going to happen. Hell, she’s having a daily meltdown at school and having the school staff call me daily to see whether I’m really picking her up or whether I’m going to be home if she takes the bus because she swears I’m going to abandon her.

This is happening every day. She was telling me that they were making her call. When I met with the staff today to discuss how the calls were heightening her anxiety, I realized that it had nothing to do with the school at all. She just wanted to know if I was going to be there.

Right now, all that matters is whether or not Friday is really going to happen. Will Friday be the beginning of forever?

Yeah, and after it happens, the all that will matter is what happens after Friday.

It’s a new chapter, and neither of us knows what the hell we’re doing or what to expect next.

It will be fine. We will muddle through. Someday we might even thrive. Hopefully, we will do more than survive. We will be fine.

But right now, we are a slave to Hope’s fear right up until the court’s declaration. Sadly, fear will still rule the next few days. I’m praying that the chains of fear will be broken before Friday.

This is my reality of getting me and Hope to permanence, and it continues to be the other side of happy.


The Struggle is Real

Last week was challenging. It was challenging on so many levels. I’ve been snarfing up bad foods since Friday evening and I’d really kind of broken out of rudderless emotional eating in recent weeks. I must toss the rest of the Easter candy, I knew no good would come from having this mess in the house. I’m chocolate-wasted right this minute. But I digress…

There were some revelations that I’m still wrestling with on this Monday evening. I learned some new things that hurt. I continue to mourn old things that still are incredibly painful. I wrestle with the anxiety associated with…just everything. I rarely cried last week, which I’m not sure is a sign of some newfound pool of strength or just being so overwhelmed that I just can’t manage to wring out some tears. I’m not depressed (thank you anti-depressants) I’m just sad and wondering when will we get to the next stretch of better. So here’s the week’s recap.

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­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is just…ugh…hard. I know, I know, this is not new news. But it just bears repeating over and over and over again.

It’s either feast for famine. And while some of these challenges look normal, peel back the layers and just listen to some of the things the neglected child will tell you. She’ll over plate food because she’s worried there won’t be enough or any more for in case she gets hungry, but saying something that sets off her alarms will mean none of it gets consumed. She will say she’s not worthy of being loved. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is ever her fault because well to admit fault means that you might get shipped away, even though that’s kind of what you think you want (see below). The kid will read your body language and facial expressions for filth—you can hide nothing, not anything, not even a slow blink.

Consequences for undesirable behavior are only met with more defiance because, as Hope told me on Friday, when you’re not used to having nice things or being treated nicely, then having those things removed as a behavioral consequence is neither a punishment nor a motivator for behavioral change. It’s just a state of being. She never thought she would have those things or even deserved those things anyway [note, these are different from desiring these things, which she does]. The removal of these things which she desires just returns her to a state that she understands and accepts—having nothing.

A song, a drive past a cemetery, a passing bumble bee can trigger huge, sustained emotional reactions from somewhere deep inside.

I’ve come to think of her emotions on a circular continuum with no end, all underpinned by fear. The fear is so extraordinary and so deep that facing it seems impossible but not living with it is not possible either, so the option is to go with what you know and that’s living under constant fear that consumes everything in its wake.   It is hard to watch and live with; it seems so irrational and rational all the same. It’s hard to reassure that the fears are no longer warranted. It’s just hard in ways that I can’t really articulate.

Hope is waiting for me to give up. It was sad to hear her talk about how she has resigned herself to live with me, but she really believes that she’ll get sent back. She had a failed placement before, so she knows that it happens. She’s waiting for it to happen; it’s hard for her to believe that it won’t happen and that I’ll keep her. She doesn’t understand why I would want to. It’s not just that she’s testing me to see if I’ll cave, there’s a part of her that really wants me to cave so she can go back to what she knows. She doesn’t know how to live in a home with unconditional love. I wrote several weeks ago that she doesn’t know how to be happy. I realize now that she doesn’t know how to live without severe dysfunction; she has the skills to survive in that situation. But to live in a “functional” (I use the term loosely because we are all a bit dysfunctional) home? Well, she just doesn’t know how to live in that. She doesn’t have the skills for it. So there’s a part of her that is just committed to either causing the dysfunction that she understands and can survive in or just causing me to just roll over and give her back.

Reconciling this is hard for me.

It’s hard to feel like you’re doing anything right when everything seems to be going so wrong. Intellectually I know that we’re pushing forward. Going back to read my own posts shows me we’re moving forward. But being in the thick of things requires a level of vigilant consciousness that the world is not actually ending (as I constantly tell Hope that the world is not ending) takes a lot out of you. You just have keep reminding yourself not to get sucked into the emotional crap that’s being spun all around. It’s like mud wrestling in emotions all the time, but without the sexy wet t-shirt contest. It’s hard to not feel like a failure, even when you know you’re not failing. I’m sure most parents, no matter how they came to parenthood replay episodes at night, thinking about how they might have/should have done them differently, so that’s not unusual, but I’m finding that imposter syndrome: Parenting edition, is real y’all. It’s so real and it’s so serious.

I’ve got more parenting books than I can stand to read. I’ve binged purchased books. I’ve binge checked out books from the library. I’ve got regular parenting books, parenting the troubled child books, Christian parenting books, howl at the moon parenting books. Books for parents who are right handed with auto-kinesthetic dyslexia [that would be me, but no the book isn’t helpful]. Books for adoptive parents, black parenting books, books written by other parents, shrinks, pastors, social workers, educators, adoptees, other adopters…Tiger mom, single mom, black mom parenting books. Parenting without a father books.

If my Kindle app was an actual library of physical books, I think someone might call up Hoarders and recommend me for an episode. It’s all so absurd.

I know there isn’t a holy grail for parenting the adopted child, but sigh…I wish there was. Better yet, I wish there was a cliff notes version or just put it in a Powerpoint. I bought two new books today. I will skim them tonight.

I’ve read 5 books since I finished my dissertation on March 27th. Three were delicious, trashy beachy kind of reads. The other two were parenting books. I’ve done about half a dozen devotional reading plans. I’m sure I’ll binge devotional read this month too.

And there are still so many gaps. I find it’s not really about “knowing” kids; it’s about trying to figure out what’s going to work with your kid. It’s not about normal when normal is often only surface deep, and there’s a HAM (hot arse mess) just under the surface, it’s really just all about dealing with the HAM itself.

And yet tomorrow, I know I’ll be on the library’s website and Amazon continuing, to look for the elusive, key to everything text that doesn’t exist.

And then you get a sort of validation that maybe she’s reading something besides the non-existent poker face. After only earning half of what she normally gets in allowance last week, Hope is ALL over that chore spreadsheet so she can get the big money this week. She commented how she likes how I keep butter sitting out on the counter so it’s always soft and spreadable (thanks to all my Brit friends for that tidbit, it really doesn’t go bad!). She insists on wearing her natural hair because I wear mine. Tonight she copied something I do with my PJs and she asked how many times could she use the same towel when bathing because I shower morning and night she couldn’t figure out why I didn’t run out of towels. When she cleaned her room yesterday, she threw away two bags of trash that included papers of hers. She never throws anything away. Something about throwing away her papers is meaningful, she’s able to let somethings go. She asked me to read her a bedtime story tonight. My inside voice was like, “For reals? Bye Felicia.” Fortunately, my good sense kicked in and I rooted around on her shelf to find her Daddy Goose book that her father gave her. She told me how much she loved the book even though her father never read it to her. So I read her a story, and she giggled and laughed and wanted to see the pictures. And my daughter who is now several inches taller than me was tickled because at 12 someone finally read her a bedtime story. I’ll be reading one every night.

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So that’s the word, Big Bird. We are surviving. She nervous about heading to Chicago this weekend for my graduation, but we’re going to have a good time. I love her. I love her madly, even when she is annoying the hell out of me. I love her. And we will get up tomorrow to do it all over again.


Home and Hope

So my first business trip away from Hope was a bit stressful. There were lots of check in, some Skype sessions, and lots of texting. We were both anxious. I got a note from the math teacher and I had to make calls in the middle of a meeting.

I nearly had a meltdown when my flight from Des Moines to Chicago ran so late that I missed my connection home. I had to spend the night in Chicago. This would’ve been bad enough given that it was after 10pm; my corporate credit card expired on Monday and I didn’t have my luggage or fresh clothes at the ready. But now, such travel drama meant that I wouldn’t be home to see Hope off to school like I promised.

Damn, first trip and I’m breaking promises already.

FloridaGif

I was fit to be tied, as we say.

But I called; I skyped and I called again. Hope enjoyed time with her godmother. And Godmommie wasn’t leaving until this morning anyway. The truth is that she was fine. They were fine. We all were fine. Things were fine.

She was thrilled to see me this evening. Even more excited that I brought home high quality bacon from pig country-Iowa. Hope was happy that I was here tonight to take her to dinner at Panera, to pick up a few things for school at Target and to twist her hair.

I wish I hadn’t had to work so hard while I was on this trip and that I could’ve enjoyed the hotel time. But now that I know we can do this travel thing, I’ll be ready next time…which happens to be another overnight next week.

In the meantime, Hope’s hair continues to be gorgeous and some little girl at school wants to touch it all the time (such touchiness annoys me #donttouchthehair). She’s embraced her hair in a way that exceeded my expectations. We tried on ballet flats tonight—that didn’t take long! She’s made friends at school, even if some of those relationships were cemented over bug candy that I purchased for her.

This evening she blurted out a list of things that she was happy about being my daughter and the cool things she’s done since she’s been here.  Whoa!  These are the times when my heart sings. It is precious and everything I dreamed about as I thought about being a mom.

Tomorrow is therapy and we haven’t been in a couple of weeks and so much has happened and so much hasn’t happened. I wonder what will it will be like; I always assume the worst when we go. And I wonder how we will be and what our resiliency will look like tomorrow evening.

Stay tuned.


Turning Corners

So we’re sliding into week three of really lovely, relatively easy times with me and Hope. This respite from drama is so deeply appreciated that I can barely articulate how wonderful it feels. I cling to this time because I know that at any time the shoe can drop and we can be back in stormy times again. But for now, I’m grateful and basking in the light of mommyhood, family time and the ease of life. So, after such a monumental week for me, I’m happy to think about what happened, what didn’t happen and what was learned. Yep, time for the weekly recap!
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Watching my kid learn to let go and be a kid is a beautiful thing. Hope’s early years had her really being a caretaker for one of her parents; the experience robbed her of her childhood in so many ways. I find that she really has trouble sometimes learning to get in her lane (the kid lane) and stay there. There are times when she really thinks she is the boss of me. Um, no ma’am. Sit your $5 fanny down before I make change.

In recent weeks, especially since the Great Grammy Visit of March 2014, I’ve really limited her TV/movie watching to cartoons and encouraged all around goofiness. She’s dived into it, and I’ve watched her enjoy all of it immensely. She’s thrived with the restrictions. She’s eager to just not have to worry about ish that she’s really just too young to worry about. She’s learning to trust that I got it, and I’m learning to believe that I got this. too

Earning perks is better for Hope than all out punishments. Hope struggles with negative consequences. You want to really set her off after she’s already pissed, tell her you’re taking tablet time or some other thing that she inherently believes she is entitled to. Girlfriend will lose her ish in 15 seconds flat. Oh I still have to do that sometimes, but I’ve found that “big gets” acquired through earning is a much better way to get her to learn appropriate behavior.

Last week, Hope failed to earn her house key because she insisted that some school kid’s intel on the after school program was better than mine. She quickly realized that momma knows what’s up and you’d better be where I told you to be if you expect to show me that you’re responsible enough for a key. She was salty.

This week she gets her extraordinarily coveted cell phone. She managed to avoid earning the five points that would have prevented cell phone acquisition. She knows that there will be significant restrictions on this phone (so many in fact that I can’t imagine it’s going to be much fun having it), but she’s so proud to have earned it. I’m proud of her too.

Hope is beginning to trust me, like really, really trust me. She tells me things. She tells me how she feels. Sometimes I have to prompt her, but I’m getting better at reading her tells that I can inquire sooner and offer her comfort or safety or whatever it is that she needs to let me in. She looks for me in the house (Lawd, can’t even go to the bathroom by my damn self sometimes); she calls out for me. She asks me what I think.

I’m trusting her a little more too. She asks so many random questions sometimes that my stock answer has become, “I don’t know.” The more she lets me in the more I respond with the answer I really want to say without fear that I’m going to hit a trip wire and send up hurtling right into crazy time.

The amount of self-sacrifice necessary to be a parent and to specifically be a single adoptive parent is starting to get easier. It is really hard though sometimes. Sometimes I really just want to be alone; I’ve had a lot of years alone. I miss my solitude, a lot actually. I miss not having to wait on someone else to get ready to go anywhere and my ability to just pick up and do as I please. I miss sitting down to watch a rated R movie at 7pm on a Tuesday night because I just want to and I needn’t concern myself with exposing a kid to something like that—we’ve watched like 5 G or PG rated flicks this weekend; I really need a cuss word in my life right about now. No really, I do—filth, flarn, filth.  I miss being able to just have some pretzels and a cocktail for dinner because I am too lazy to fix real food. I miss cooking real mac and cheese because Hope actually prefers Velveeta shells and cheese (ick). #wheretheydothat? I miss having time, much less disposable funds, to just go buy myself something random. And yes, <hanging head in shame> I am annoyed that she now wants to keep my favorite headband for her hair. Sigh…I’ve been reduced to coveting my own ish from my 12 year old daughter. It was a loan (in my mind) dammit.

And despite all of that, I found myself on the way to work a few days this week grinning, just grinning because my heart was so full of love for this kid. The fact that my eyebrows look like fuzzy caterpillars didn’t bother me one bit. I really need to get them waxed this week; I can’t go on like this. But watching her heal, watching her learn to trust me and to begin to be happy is so achingly beautiful that if necessary I’ll go on looking like Sasquatch, if necessary (I guess).

Hope has an inner girly girl. Hope rocks hard with the tomboy front, but the truth is that there’s an inner girly girl peeking around the bend. Last month she preened hard in her cute little mint green dress at her godparents’ wedding. Now it’s all about the sparkly stuff. Yesterday at Charming Charlie’s she picked out a tangerine colored dress that she’ll wear for Easter. And then she had to look at all the sparkly stuff.

Hope tried on a tiara. #pagingDisneyprincesses

Ok, we *both* tried them on!  But you see mine is bigger right? #queenbee

Ok, we *both* tried them on! But you see mine is bigger right? #queenbee

 

And yes, she seems to have it in her mind that my favorite dressy headband belongs exclusively on her head.

I haven’t gotten her out of those gawd-awful sneakers, but I can see it’s only a matter of time before she’ll be asking for a pair of ballet flats.
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Hope and I cross new terrain this week as I begin traveling again for work. I know she’s anxious about it, but I’ve done a lot to try to soothe her and prepare her. She’s vocal about the fact that she doesn’t like that I have to go away sometimes, and I do wonder what this quick trip might trigger for her. Time will tell, I guess. I’m about to start interviewing for additional caregiver help for us this week as well. I’m optimistic!  And I’m even ready if stuff goes left this week. It’s all a part of the process, a part of the journey.

 


Hairy Times

So last night we took out Hope’s braids, and today she stepped out as a full blown naturalista! OMG, she’s so adorable I can barely stand it! It was another 5+ hour ordeal, taking out the braids, detangling, cleansing, conditioning, blowing drying, paddle brushing and dry twisting. Around hour 4, my back was killing me, and I must’ve started huffing a little when my girl said, “Thank you for doing my hair. No one has ever taken the time to take care of it like you. It feels so good when you do it, not like [former foster mom].”

I nearly started crying; then I woman’ed up and kept plowing through. The truth is, I love having my hands in her head; there’s a special bonding that happens when I do her hair.

Look at these lovely blown out locks…

Hope'sHair
As I began to twist her hair, I could tell she was getting anxious. We took a break so she could get her silly putty, which she uses to cope. After we were done, I sat down next to her on her bed and asked her why she was so anxious.

“Suppose I mess it up? Suppose it doesn’t look like yours? I can’t do anything right, so I’ll probably mess this up too.”

Oh dear, self-esteem, self-worth meltdowns before bed. My sweet Hope has so much healing to do. Good Lord chile, you can’t mess up the dry twist out!!

So we had another chat about it just being hair. #pagingIndiaArie #Iamnotmyhair It’s beautiful if for no other reason than it grows out of your lovely head. It will grow. It is and will be lovely. It will be coily and sometimes kinky and you’ll learn all about yourself through your hair.

“I don’t know what I really look like…you know without braid weave. I am excited about seeing what I look like. But supposed I don’t like it?”

Yeah, ok, so it took me a while to like my hair after I went natural. It made me see myself differently.

“I want my hair to be like yours…you know without the gray. #justalittleshade

I smile, yeah, I know…without the gray. #justalittlesideeye

It will be beautiful, I tell her before tucking her in.  So, fast forward to this morning with more anxiety.

“I’m sure I messed it up.”

Hope, how could you mess it up when all you did was sleep with your cap on?

“I dunno, but I know I messed it up.”

Sigh.  Of course her hair was lovely. I’m jealous actually. Her thick hair embraced those twists, gave off a shine, great definition and is super moist.

She scrunched her nose as she peered into the mirror, turning side to side. I got out the pick and fluffed and fluffed. I got a sparkly headband from my stash and popped it on her head. She smiled.

“It’s so short. Is it nappy? Is this an afro?”  It does appear shorter—shrinkage! No, it isn’t nappy, but there’s nothing wrong with it being nappy. No, this isn’t an afro.

“Hmmm. I like it!”

She didn’t just say it, she declared it. But then she said she looked plain, so I suggested that we style her for our trip to the bank and to the Peeps store. We pulled out all her little jewelry, picked some earrings, a necklace, a ring and some bracelets.

She was blinged out. #happyandyouknowitclapyourhands

“Yeah, I need to be sure to put on a few things when I wear my hair out.”

I smile.

It’s rainy here today, so I told her that it might look different in an hour (or 10 minutes..sigh!), but it will be fine. I told her that her hair would look different tomorrow too, as the hair stretches.

So we head out and bump into our neighbor who raved and the concierge who raved. We talked about how free her head and hair felt.  She enjoyed her hair, her new look.

I know we will have more anxiety about the hair, but today was a lovely hair day. Just awesome. Hope saw herself today and liked what she saw today. She didn’t “mess it up.” She felt good about herself.

Hope was successful today.  I love this kid.

ABM&Hope


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