Tag Archives: New Adoptive Parents

Thoughts on Being a Newbie

In the last several months, I’ve had numerous hopeful and new adoptive parents reach out to me directly or through referral for some advice, guidance or new parenting wisdom.
Let me say this: I. Am. Not. A. Sage.
I am making this ish up as I go along.I also routinely reflect on my parenting and have resorted to a pass/fail grading system because too many choices always results in me self-grading at a C or below.
As I was reading something in my Twitter DMs recently, I thought, maybe I should write about this. So, here goes. It’s just a list, a random list of things–in no particular order–I did, wish I did or whatever. Keep in mind that these are all through the lens of older child adoption and may not be as applicable to other forms of adoption–though I imagine there may be numerous parallels in international situations.

  • Breathe. No seriously, thinking back to those first few weeks post placement, I swear I would find myself holding my breath sometimes. Your body needs oxygen, breathe, even if you have to do it intentionally because you aren’t naturally just breathing!
  • Make sure you have your favorite foods available to you. Yeah, yeah, for the emotional and physical health nuts who are like “don’t eat your feelings.” Eff, that; resolve to eat your feelings for a few weeks. I made a homemade cake with buttercream frosting every week for a while just so I could go to my happy place. Of course over time I packed on a good 40lbs, but I don’t regret the soothing process of cake baking and consumption.
  • Before the kid arrives, find a therapist and consider antidepressants, and for Holy Homeboy’s sake get a script for Ativan or some other situational anti-anxiety medication. There was a period where I was popping those things like Tic-Tacs. You think you won’t need a shrink; you maybe never have gone to a shrink; you may think shrinks are hokey. Whatever, get your fanny a shrink, and a good one who understands adoption and go, regularly. If for no other reason than to have a safe, private place to let all your emotions hang out because this journey will pull you, push you and make you reconsider/reframe everything you thought you knew about life. Get a shrink and possibly some drugs.
  • Learn about post-adoption depression before it happens to you. It’s a thing. It’s real. It’s hard.
  • Learn about secondary trauma. This is also a thing and it plays hella nasty with post-adoption depression. Take these last three bullets, do them, rinse and repeat.
  • Order a lock box for meds, valuables, important papers, anything you think is critical.
  • Keep an emergency bottle of wine or alcoholic beverage of your choice in said lockbox–I prefer a red that doesn’t need to be chilled and can be opened and consumed immediately. I like screw-tops because they are easy, but single-serve cans are next level too and constantly improving in quality. Wine—drink it.
  • Say no to welcoming social events–trust me you and your kiddo cannot, will not, be able to handle things for a while. They seem like a good idea and folks are eager to see your new “baby” but these events create expectations that likely are impossible for your kid to meet. You’ll go, the kid will have a meltdown; people won’t understand, graciousness will be in short supply, kid and you will be judged either in the moment or for days, weeks, months after. Protect you and your kid and just say no, not right now, maybe later.
  • Prep your family on what adoption is and what it isn’t. Try to educate them that while it might be a joyous occasion for welcoming a new family member, adopting an older child means that they’ve lost so much to be in a position to get to this place where adoption is even a necessity. It may not be a joyous occasion for your kid and folks need to respect that.
  • If you are friends or family of a newbie or hopeful adoptive parent of an older child–throw them a shower. Do it dammit. Newbies and HAPs ask for one. Don’t act like these parents and families of older child adoptees don’t need this kind of acknowledgment or prep for their “new arrival.” Do it before placement. Register. Do the stupid paper plate games. Party like you’re having or adopting a chronological baby since apparently everyone gets all excited about that life marker. You need that love and support too, even if you have to go MIA for a while after because the needs of your child/family are different than those with a newborn (see next bullet). I can’t say how many families I know of older child adoptees totally get shafted on this–it ain’t right. I’m super grateful to my childhood friends N & J for throwing me a shower. I created an Amazon wishlist, and family and friends gave us movie tickets, restaurant gift cards, spa gift cards (hello respite!) and more. This helped a lot with allowing me to provide Hope with some additional things she needed and take her on fun outings as we got to know each other better. I can never repay their kindness and support, but I have tried to pay it forward to families I’ve met online who did not get this kind of celebration before placement.
  • Prep your family and friends for the child’s arrival and that you might be MIA for months. This will likely be counter to everything they expect since they will be an older child. They will have expectations and misunderstandings that are just too high and flat out wrong. They may even guilt you for forgoing that arrival shindig. Disabuse them of these notions so that you can woo them into being the support system you need, not the one that they think you need or want.
  • After you’ve managed their expectations, be sure to have zero expectations of your own. None, or at least put them at floor level so you can claim achievement by opening your eyes every morning. That and actually getting up should count as a legit win in the beginning when the honeymoon is over.
  • Buy lots of Frebreeze or a knock-off; I’ve found that I and others with older kids experience funk at levels that rival what you might’ve imagined Vincent Price spoke of in Thriller (the funk of 40,000 years). It’s almost like the body emits noxious fumes in an effort to provide an added level of protection for the kiddo…keeping you away from them and from bonding. Add that many of our kids also have other challenges with maintaining hygiene and the funk gets beyond real. Spray some odor neutralizers, slather a little Vicks under your nose if necessary and get in there and SIT WITH THAT KID. They need to know the funk won’t keep you away. #realtalk
  • Get closed trash cans for bedrooms and bathrooms. No one, especially you, wants/needs to see that mess every day. And there will be mess. #blessit
  • Get a food delivery system. Yeah, kinda pricey, but one less thing do you have to do and older kids can follow the directions and help with dinner. Cooking=bonding.
  • Housekeeper as often as you can afford. One less thing for you to worry about, so you can focus on maintenance. It took a long time for Hope to do chores; she still struggles with them.
  • Breathe through the notion of putting Pandora back in the box. Hope had to learn how to be a kid again, which was hard for her, but necessary. It also meant that I had to have quite a few restrictions on what she watched and did. It was rough at first, but worth it in the long run.
  • Have planned respite. After the initial rough transition, I had someone come twice a week in the evening for months to just give me 2-3 hours to myself away. I wish I had done it sooner. By the time I did it, I was really lonely since most of my friends had kind of “moved” on since I wasn’t confident that Hope and I could be meltdown free during outings. I usually got take out and went to the park or sometimes even sat in my car, cried and napped. It was rough. If you’re in the DC area, I have used ASAP Sitters for years, and we’ve had several regular “minders” (<–phrasing from my very British educated ex) over the years who have made our world better. (Waves happily and most gratefully at P!)
  • Order a copy of your kids’ original birth certificate before the adoption is final. For so many states, getting the OBC is nearly impossible post-adoption. Ask the social worker to help you get it before finalization! Make it easier for your kid later, get it, put it in that lockbox and give it to them.
  • Any other legal docs pertaining to your kid–order them. I’ve ordered death certificates, military records, social security records and more for Hope. They have come in handy as she puts together the pieces of her life and constructs her own narrative. Knowing that I supported her having these documents and getting them for her have helped our trust bond.
  • Know that it’s ok to take moments to sit in your shower or on your toilet in your bathroom, fully clothed to cry, whisper a vent session to a listening ear, drink wine or whatever. I swear I spent a quite a bit of time hiding in my bathroom the first few weeks. I ate cake in my bathtub with no water on more than one occasion.
  • Figure out how you’re going to answer curious, yet overly intrusive questions about your child’s background. Folks you barely know and folks you grew up with, alike, will ask you *all* about your child’s business and their family’s business and truly think they are entitled to know this information. They aren’t, and it ain’t your business to share. Be careful about oversharing online and in person without your kid’s permission. I try to write from my lens and when folks ask questions of us, I follow Hope’s lead on what she chooses to share. This has been a progression in our relationship since when she was younger I fielded those questions more often alone. Sometimes I get my framing right; other times I realize maybe I should have framed things differently to protect my daughter’s privacy. I’m a work in progress.
  • Work on developing compassion for birth families. It’s very likely the child does NOT hate their first families; in fact, they likely love their parents immensely and even as older kids long to be with them. Whether that makes sense to you is inconsequential. It’s easy to have righteous indignation about their decisions, the effect of those decisions and choices on the kids. It takes a lot more personal work and stretching to understand sickness, addiction, how consuming poverty can be, and other surrounding sets of systemic circumstances that may have led to this child needing a home other than the one of their birth. Sure there are just a-holes who were a-holes to their kids, but for most families, I’ve learned to just embrace the “there but for God’s grace go I” belief. We are all really only one or two shitty decisions from a life collapse. Let the judgment and whatever possible sense of entitlement or deservedness you think you might have over their birth parents go–it ain’t healthy for you or your kid. Practice empathy and compassion for your child’s benefit; your relationships will be stronger because of it and you’ll model that for your kid.
  • Know that older pets may have a rough adjustment to newcomers. The Furry One experienced quite a bit of stress in his final year when Hope joined us. He was going on 15, deaf with eyesight failing. He was in the home stretch of life anyway, but the disruption was really hard for him and for Hope–he routinely chose her room to soil, when he had not previously had an issue with random incontinence. I wouldn’t have changed things; couldn’t have, but just know that it the humans in your home may not be the only ones struggling with change.
  • If you’re doing the transracial parenting thing–specifically white parents with kids of color; leave that colorblind parenting BS alone. It is a punt, a cop out and not even a good one. The goal should be to raise a healthy, well-adjusted kid who knows who they are, sees folks like them on the regular, has the vocabulary to talk about race and ethnicity personally and societally and to be raised in an anti-racist environment supported by behaviors that are anti-racist. Being colorblind is not a thing when raising kids of color. It’s not. Get your mind right about this. It’s not enough to be “not racist.” Your goal needs to be creating a loving environment that is “anti-racist” where your kids–kids of all colors–can talk about race, racism, how it shapes their life outside of the safeness of your home. Talking about race and racism is not racist behavior. The pretending that race isn’t a thing and that you are blind to skin color is inherently racist: full stop. It shuts down all conversation about the literal shell the kid walks around in day in and day out. It is oppressive: full stop. If you are doing the colorblind parenting thing, your home is not a safe place to have conversations about that experience. And in a world that is highly racialized, trust, it’s a thing. If your home isn’t safe to talk about skin color and how life is impacted by that color, then what else isn’t it safe to discuss in your home? I’m going to stop there, because like that pastor at Harry and Meghan’s wedding, I need to wrap this up. #abouttoreallygoin #separatepostoneofthesedays

These are just some of my reflections on being a new adoptive parent. Feel free to share other life lessons you’ve picked up along the way. Thanks to all my readers and followers for being with me and Hope on this journey. We still have miles and miles to go and we are learning more every day.

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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.


Adopting While Black

“Black folks – Is it insulting to think about raising a white child?”

Great question posed by Angela Tucker in a recent blogpost entitled, “Why didn’t any Black parents want to adopt me.

So, hmmm, what’s the answer? Well, I, at times, hate to speak on behalf of Black folks, so my responses are my own.

Nope, it’s not insulting to think about raising a White child. I just chose not to. I’ll admit that when I filled out my matching tool, I grappled with the decision to limit my match to children of color. I wondered what that said about me, not wanting to parent a White child.

Did it say I was bigoted? Did I think I could do it? Did I wonder what my friends and family would think if I was matched with and eventually adopted a White child? How did I really feel about it? On the edges, it was a messy thought process, to be honest. Especially since I am diversity professional and prattle on about inclusiveness day in and day out.

Honestly though, the emphasis of my thought process rested in the fact that I really wanted to parent a Black child. I wanted to enjoy the inherent privilege associated with same race adoption. I wanted to enjoy my daughter and not having prying eyes wonder what was up with our family construction. In short, I didn’t want to deal. I wanted my family to pass. If there’s an easy adoption path, I thought same race adoption would at least be on that path. Some days, I’m not sure if it is easier.

So, in answer to the main title question, I did want to adopt a child like Angela, and my beautiful daughter Hope was a perfect match. I’m not sure how many of us, parents of color, are in the hopper to formally adopt, though.  Sure there’s a high percentage of kinship adoption. For those of us who adopt through other channels, I would imagine that more of us are probably like me and just want to enjoy racial privilege in this area. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like there are lots of opportunities to enjoy racial privilege around these parts, goals of a post-racial society notwithstanding.

The numbers of kids also seems to work in our favor as well, as another blogger I recently engaged wrote—kids of color are available. White, non-Hispanic children make up 49% of adopted children in the US, according to the Census Bureau, and White households make up 78% of adoptive families. Transracial adoptions make up 40% of adoptions, and international adoptions make up 37% of transracial adoptions.

And still, Black children remain overrepresented in the foster care system.

So we see families of color adopting at a rate of just over 20%, and the availability and opportunity to adopt same race children is likely occurring at an even greater percentage than that of their White parental counterparts.

The math suggests that unless there is a deliberate desire to parent across race by people of color, it’s probably unlikely to happen in large numbers. I’m not sure what it will take for that deliberate desire to develop.

And we can all feel some kind of way about that…or not. I guess. I wasn’t willing to help out on getting past our racial issues in my own choice to parent. I am ok with that choice; building my family wasn’t about social commentary or saving the world, it was about me wanting to be a mom. It was kind of selfish to be honest.

I respect those who embrace transracial adoption because they too, just want to be moms and dads; like me, they simply wanted to be parents. The decision making process around being a parent, how to become a parent and how to then parent is so personalized. As I often say, it’s messy.

I’ve never thought that the concept of ‘transracial adoption’ was limited to White parents with children of color; I didn’t think that it excluded Black parents with White children. I disagree with the Black Social Workers Association’s language about genocide and transracial adoption, but I do agree with the group in that it feels like the system is quick to remove brown and black children from their homes permanently, thus contributing to their overrepresentation in the foster care system and setting up the numbers game that exists.

Sadly, in addition to the math, I do think that there remains a certain taboo of sorts around adoption in the Black community; it’s unfortunate. I think that the taboos are tied up in lots of things like, “don’t get in my business” (there’s a LOT of that in adoption process), “don’t judge me” (in a community that often feels judged), “it’s God’s will that I not be a parent” (religion can be spun so discouragingly sometimes).

I believe that Black parents can raise White children, and they may even be willing to do so at the same percentage rate as their White counterparts. I don’t know. But I think there are bridges to cross, and I think that the “step up” that Angela refers to in her essay is often seen through the lens of “stepping up” within group rather than across groups.

I strive to teach Hope about inclusivity. At her age, she dreams of having biological children with a husband; she eschews the idea of adopting herself one day. Who knows what will happen in her future with respect to parenting. Hope struggles with lots of racial identity issues, more along the lines of a concept that the world is a narrow one for Black folks—we don’t do this, we aren’t allowed to do that. They are probably similar to and different from struggles experienced in transracial adoptive families. It’s all hard sometimes whether you’re same race or transracial, I’m guessing.

If I choose to add to my family, I admit I probably would make the same decision again. I just would. I certainly could choose to expand my matching search but I don’t think I want to. I’m not trying to make a statement about anything. I just want to be a mom. I admit that the pull of color is a strong one. There’s also the pull of the numbers and availability. None of these choice limiting influences makes me a bad person, and I certainly am not suggesting that Angela’s essay claims that. But I do believe that I’m not an outlier, Black, wanting to parent and choosing to parent a Black child.

So, I would’ve wanted to adopt you, Angela.  I think you’re pretty darn awesome and that your family did an amazing job raising you.  Love your blog, by the way.

 


Being Gracious

This has been an absurdly painful week for me. I hate that. I don’t hate it just because I’m miserable or because I failed to avoid the discomfort. I hate it because my occasional sixth spidey sense warned me that I would be disappointed, and then I was still crushed even when I anticipated it.

On top of it I’m traveling and away from my Hope kid. I miss her. I can tell she misses me too. We google hangout everyday. It helps, but it’s not the same. I miss her.

googelehangout

This thing with my church is just icky. And I’m forcing myself to stay with the icky because there is a deeper something apparently meant by all of this emotional upheaval. So I’m fighting the urge to just drop out of the scene for a while; I have to think about Hope’s stability and how she has come to like it there. She’s finally starting to express an interest in going to some of the targeted programming; she’s beginning to feel safe there. I don’t want to have to find all of this somewhere else, so I have to grind this out even if I wear my teeth down.

This week, Emily H tweeted me a link to an NPR article about an adoption related ceremony at a local church. It was a short article, but gave just enough to say—look these families want and need support and acknowledgment within their church family. Ironically, I used to attend the church featured in the article years ago. I got up the gumption this Sunday morning to send the link to the pastor tasked with communicating with me. I also suggested that Adoption Awareness Month was coming up, as was Adoption Day, and mayhaps this was a time when they might consider doing something for adoptive families in the church who want some kind of ceremony. We’ve got thousands of people at our church, I’m guessing we’re not the only adoptive family.

We’ll see. I wish I could be more optimistic. I don’t like feeling like this. Hopefully it will pass soon, and we’ll be on to the next thing. In the meantime I’ll try to just focus on being gracious and brushing it off.

brush2


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.


What Happened and What Didn’t

I just did a lessons learned recap that covered more than a week so I thought I’d share some highlights of the last couple of days that just seems to be a good commentary on where were are on our journey.

Our Super Bowl trip has been booked! The end of June promises to be a time for big celebrations around these parts. My degree completion, the end of Hope’s school year, her birthday and finalization of our adoption. So what do folks do to celebrate so many events? Go to Disney World of course.

I actually hate Orlando (no offense to anyone who’s from there or currently reside there). But Disney is a bit of stimulation overload coupled with an outrageous mouse tax. Fortunately, we’re staying with a friend and we look forward to the days enjoying the sun, beach (Daytona) and the big rat’s park.

God has jokes. I know I mentioned on a previous blog that Hope recently asked me to read her a bedtime story at night. This is something that’s been integrated into our evening routine. This weekend we hit the library to check out a few things and I picked up some evening reading for us. At some point yesterday I found myself rooting around in a closet where I found this gem.

God's got jokes making me buy this book years before I needed it.

God’s got jokes making me buy this book years before I needed it.

I bought it years ago. Actually I bought 3 of them. I gave two away and have been searching for a kid to give this book to for several years now. Ha! Well, I don’t have to look any further since I read my lovely princess a story from it tonight. You just don’t know the plans God has for your life. He had me scoop up this book probably 4 or 5 years ago, only to have me trip over it after my 12 year old daughter asked me to read to her nightly. I have long believed that God is going to send an Isaac into my life since I am so aware of how he jokes me.

Hope’s hair is growing. So Hope’s hair has been out of the braids now for about two months. We’ve got a routine down now—full wash on Sunday evenings in preparation for the week. I’m a lazy naturalista. I don’t fret over products. I don’t put too much heat to my hair because I’m lazy not because I’m afraid of heat damage. I’ve taken increasingly to wearing fro’d out twist outs and when my hair is stretched scooping it back into a banana clip.

I have to blow Hope’s hair out for her twist outs. We’ve tried wet twists, and let’s just say no one is happy about the results—lots of sucky sighing. We’ve discovered that el cheapo ORS Smooth and Hold Pudding works well as a styler for both of us. It’s great; not too heavy and leaves her hair shiny. Not my favorite product on my hair, but it’s good.

Hope wants long hair. She’s is frustrated by shrinkage. I have to blow her hair out again mid-week just to loosen things up a bit. But I’ve been snapping pics along the way. Top left-first day post braids before I trimmed those see through ends off. Pink shirt about a month ago. White shirt is today.

So much hair!

So much hair!

I can’t wait to show her the progress, especially when every few days she’s stretching and saying, “I think it’s to my jaw line now.”

She wants to do a memory project with me. While standing in the Dollar Tree today, Hope describe a craft project in which we capture memories in a wooden box from this time and put them away to show to her future kids. It was so sweet. She has written out a plan and everything. Next weekend we’ll hit the Lowe’s to make this project a reality.

I put together an emergency anxiety kit. I should’ve done this ages ago. It’s got a silly putty, a stress ball, a backup external charger for electronic devices and a granola bar. Into a Ziploc and Into the purse it goes. We had a bit of a social meltdown on Friday and I thought to myself, “You’re a mom, you don’t even have baby wipes, what the hell is wrong with you???” Now I’ve got things that help her manage stress, which helps me manage my stress.

Movies in her bedroom are the gift that keeps giving. She really would prefer to watch things with me on the big tv but there is something decadent about watching a DVD in her room that is a special treat. It’s a treat that gave me 5 hours that included an adult beverage, 5 chapters of a trashy novel, several episodes of Will and Grace #justjack and several episodes of Designing Women #lightsoutinGA. She actually went to bed on her own and fell asleep watching Finding Nemo. It was awesome.

We had not one fight. Not one fight or bickering moment. I’m starting the week with such a positive outlook. I can’t wait to see her smile tomorrow.

In the words of Ice Cube, “Today was a good day.”


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.


I Know My Kid

So, last night I took Hope to a work event.  My little lady was poised, charming, conversational and gracious.  I am so ridiculously proud of her!  I knew there were moments when she was very overwhelmed with all the new people, the fancy-schmancy environment and food and just the overall new experience.  And yet, she positively rose to the occasion.  I was ready to leave at any moment to save her from the mayhem.  But the quick escape wasn’t necessary.  But she was just awesome.

Grammy decided to stay home last night, so Hope and I had some solo mother-daughter time, which was a good thing.

It also served as another validation moment for me and Grammy and our ongoing discussions.

So Hope and I jetted off for our little outing, and before we could get to the condo elevator good, Hope started confiding about some things that Grammy had done or said that upset her over the last few of days.  At the top of her list?

“I am NOT a baby.  I am a pre-teen.  I know that it’s awkward to call me that, but I’m not a baby.   It irritates me and I don’t know what to do.”

Ah yes, you see ,Hope has had so many things snatched from her that are a part of her identity; her chronological age is not “snatch-able,” and her identity as a soon to be teenager is so serious!   Now, she does like to be babied, but just don’t call her a baby.  She hated the idea of being tucked in every night until she came here and then begged me to do just that.

Hope’s list of Grammy-related irritants was lengthy, but she was adamant that she really likes Grammy a lot, but she just didn’t want to be upset by some things.  A lot of the little irritants may not seem like a big deal to other kids but they are a big deal to her.

So, her little vent session concluded after a few minutes, and I asked her to give me the top three things that really bothered her and she rattled them off.  I explained that I would talk to Grammy about it.

Ha!  Hope’s list?  Oh yeah, it mirrors my list of things to know that I repeatedly tried to explain to Grammy over the last few weeks.

You want to know why?

‘Cause I know my kid.   #yeahIdo #whatchoutnow

I get her; I know what upsets her.  I know what motivates her.  I know the limits of her coping skills right now.

And Hope didn’t feel like she was heard or ‘got’ or understood.  And she didn’t have a voice with Grammy, so she just pulled out her silly putty and tried to be patient, polite and gracious until I got home.

So then I had to talk to Grammy.  Oy vey…It went ok, but I know she didn’t like it and I’m not sure she got it either.  I know it was uncomfortable.  I know that getting her to understand that this wasn’t an ask, but rather this was an expectation that some of these little things just don’t happen again was hard for her.  Hope will grow into all her fantasies about grandkids, one day, but not this visit or even the next one.

It’s hard to have that talk with a new Grammy as a new mommy.  I could see and feel the sadness and frustration in knowing that her fantasy grandchild complained about her.  I could see and feel the hurt and defensiveness when she said it wasn’t that big of a deal, so why couldn’t she do blah, blah blah?  Well, um, because you can’t, it causes drama that we don’t need.

Today’s check in call, Grammy sounded a little tired and a wee bit frazzed.  Didn’t I say that Hope would be all the way live by Saturday?  Yeah…#Iknowmykid

This week has been a good experience for all of us.  Just a few bumps in the road with a lot of lessons learned.  It’s been a good week that included me being able to have my wine outside of the house, served in a glass instead of a tumbler with the benefit of adult conversation.  So glad Grammy is here!


Forgiving and Forgetting

Grammy is here.

Hope is falling in love with her.

The last couple of days have been an interesting mini-trip on this adoption journey.  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I had some anxiety about what life would be like in my house with Grammy staying.  We’ve just had a rough go of it.

The truth is she’s been wonderful.  She’s in love with her granddaughter.  She wants to be helpful, even offering to do laundry and cook.  She’s told me I need support, especially for respite.  She’s observed all the things I need to take care of in a day to help Hope and to manage this huge transitional phase in our lives.  She realizes how different my experience is from her own parenting experience and is gaining a better understanding of why I need to do things differently.

I realized during the last few days that it wasn’t just that I was terrified of being judged, but that my overall confidence about being a new parent was in the crapper.  Having Grammy say she gets it, as she watched me try to navigate various systems and engage with Hope during the last few days, has greatly improved my confidence.  It is hard, but I got it under control.  I do need help, but let me be the one that decides what help I need; I’m best positioned to do that.

I got this.

For all of the rosiness, Grammy still feels some kind of way about how I’ve handled the last couple of months with Hope—mainly my need to cloister us a bit so that we have time to just attach and be mom and daughter.  She still disagrees with that choice, and she’s made mention of it repeatedly during her stay.

Sigh.  #cantwealljustmoveon

I finally just told her that I needed to not have this conversation again; I made a choice, I made the right choice for my family—MY FAMILY—and I would do it again.  And it’s done, why are we still talking about it?  I get that you would do it differently, but you aren’t me and you’re not dealing with what I’m dealing with, and it’s easy to pontificate about how you would handle someone else’s life without any skin  in the game.  Can you just drop it?

Grammy just looked at me, kind of stunned.

Then she simply said, “Ok.”

I found my voice, and I had to use it.  Funny, Grammy gave me the confidence to defend my parenting decisions and to defend them to her.  #nowcanwemoveon?

I’m glad she’s here.  I love Grammy. I laid my head in her lap for 5 minutes yesterday.  I hugged her.  I do need her; I always knew I did.  But I need her on my terms.  We’re forgiving each other.  I just want to move forward.  You can’t really change the past, and forgetting it can be challenging too, but you can choose to change your future.   I’m learning to let some things go with Hope; I think I’ve got to learn to let some things go with Grammy too.

I love her, and I’m hopeful about us navigating all these new roles, emotions and ideas in meaningful ways moving forward

Grammy’s here.


Still So Much to Learn

The last few days have been nearly dream-like.  I’ve loved on Hope hard and just focused on allowing her to just be.  We watched movies; we shopped; she talked and I listened.  I learned…a lot.  So this brings me to my weekly recap of what I’m learning on this journey.

Hope is a kid and despite all the parentification she’s experienced, she wants to be a kid.  My daughter is two inches taller than me and has a shoe size that’s significantly bigger than mine.  My little girl could easily pass for older than her 12 years…that is until she opens her mouth and kiddie words start spilling out.  It’s easy to forget her age and aspects of her naiveté and to have unreasonable expectations of her when I have to tilt my head slightly up to talk to her.

But as I learn to let her be the kid she is and hasn’t had a chance to be, I find that she just blossoms overnight.  We’ve been consumed with boobs lately, triggering the need to go bra shopping.  Trying not to giggle when I’m having Beavis and Butthead flashbacks (boobies, heh heh heh, bobbies!) as she jumps her long legs around and grabs her boobs like she just discovered them is to see her comfortable, trusting and enjoying herself.  She’s really delightful.

Emotional growth requires a lot of patience and energy, but boy is the payoff worth it.   Hope and I have been stretched beyond what I personally thought was my own hard limit recently; apparently I was wrong.  Last night, after an epic trip to the mall for some shopping, Hope was reflective about her life.  She started to share things before we even left the mall, like how the last time we went shopping she was jealous about having to share the attention of a favorite cousin with said cousin’s friend.  She admitted how she felt about it and why it triggered a meltdown.  It was insightful.

On the way home she started telling me about her life and specific experiences.  There’s something about talking in the car, when we can’t really have a lot of eye contact because I’m driving that makes it safe to talk.  She told me more details about her bio-parents, what she knew, what she didn’t know, what she’d seen, what had happened.  When we got home she was still talking, so I just put the car in neutral and let her keep talking.  She was poised, thoughtful, and reflective.  At times I could hear how she was still trying to reconcile some of the more painful experiences with our talks about God’s love for everyone.

There was a sudden emotional maturity that I saw in her that made me so proud.   I reassured her that I would take care of her and that she was safe now.  It’s hard to remember how much work she has to put into this adoption thing and into getting healthy. Sometimes I can’t see that work; it’s been really hard to see her put in work these last couple of weeks.  Last night I saw all of the work she’s put in for the last few months, likely the last few years.  She amazed me.

I almost want to schedule a road trip so we have hours to talk.  All in due time.

Modeling desired behaviors works.  I’d seen hints of this lesson since she arrived, but I see Hope watching me and wanting to emulate me.  #whoknew?

During the last couple of weeks I’ve had her therapist, my therapist, my agency, my social worker, my friends and my new in-home parenting coach tell me I needed to carve out time for me to take care of myself.  So, for Lent I decided that I would work out in the living room everyday.  I told Hope that I would commandeer the living room for 30-40 minutes every evening and she would need to watch TV in her room or she could read or something in the living room with me.  I didn’t invite her to workout with me.    I’ve been working out since she’s been here, but with all of the schedule snafus it’s been inconsistent, but she knows I work out and that it’s important to me.  My Lenten commitment has upped the ante.

While I’m puffing away, she’s asking questions and offering commentary:  Why do I need to work out?  Oh it relieves stress?  Will it help me with my TMJ?  Core muscles make your back hurt less?  Cardio strengthens your lungs so your asthma is manageable in the spring?  Hmmm.

Today she did the warm up with me.  This from the girl who would have a tele-transporter in the house to get from the bedroom to the dining room if she could.

She’s also wants to take out her braids and embrace her natural hair.   This fab blown out fro of mine pushed her over the edge today.

BlownFro

Three weeks with the braids and $200 later, we’ll probably take them out in another week or so, so she can get her twist out on.

Sometimes you don’t get answers.    Nope, you just don’t get them.

I mentioned last week that my favorite book of the Good Book is Job.  Seriously, I just love the book of Job.  Job wasn’t patient, Job was pissed, really, really pissed and wanted God to tell him why all that crap happened to him.  He wanted to know why???  God was all like, “Um, and just who do you think you are talking to?  I mean, I love you little dude, but um, no, you are not the boss of me and I ain’t gotta answer none of your questions.  Stand down.”  #ABMBibleStories

Grandpa came to visit today, and like we have many times, we discussed Job. Grandpa reminded me that God never really does answer Job.  Job has to reconcile this with his faith and righteousness and just move on.

I kicked this around after Grandpa left today.  Admittedly, I was rather peeved with the Holy Homeboy in recent weeks.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  He delivered but I just was pissed to even find Hope and I in this crisis at all.  Why???  Well there are certainly terrestrial reasons that explain why we suffered a crisis; but I wasn’t trying to hear any rationale about spiritual reasons.  Turns out God wasn’t trying to give me any anyway.  #dealwithit #shrug

And that’s the topline for this week.  Up next, Grammy comes for a four day stay, because you know, when I go in, I go hard.  Should be nothing short of revelational. #atouchofsarcasm  No really, I need help with drop offs and pick ups this week because of a big meeting, and well, Grammy’s been itching to be in the crib and in the mix.   Despite all of our drama I love my mom dearly, but I’d be sho-nuff lying if I didn’t expect (and delight) to see her a bit worn the heck out by Saturday evening; cause Hope is sure to be all the way live by then.

I defend my dissertation in 18 days.  #letsdothis  When I explained what the defense meant to Hope yesterday, she proceeded to announce to passersby in the store that her mom was going to be a doctor while hugging me and pointing.

And *that* is a moment that I’ll treasure forever.


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