Tag Archives: New Parent

Perfect Parenting

There isn’t such a thing, right?

Right.

And yet, many parents aspire to be perfect, or at least good. Before I became a parent to Hope, I was a hopeless perfectionist. My control freakdom tendencies lead me down some dark paths at times, but I also attribute my personal success to a mix of blessings, dumb luck, and hard work characterized by a need to control as many variables as I could manage.

I can’t say I like problems, but I like and pride my ability to solve them. For much of my life, I’ve been pretty good at it. A lot of my identity has been tied up in the pride of figuring stuff out and making things happen.

And then I became a parent.

Holy ish.

Oh, and I became an adoptive parent to a kid who had endured many more of life’s hardships than I care to think about.

My earliest parenting moves were scrutinized by social workers. They were also scrutinized by numerous people in my life, and all of these people had the best of intentions. And all of these people had opinions, and many of these people didn’t mind sharing them.

It was a lot to hear and a lot to absorb.

More than a few parents shared their thoughts, even though there was little experience about parenting a kid who had experienced the kinds of things my new daughter had. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to manage my own emotional response to what I perceived as folks “not getting it” and feeling strangely tiny. I felt small because all these experienced parents around me giving me advice seemed to have figured things out and yet I felt like no solutions worked for me. The lack of ability to problem solve and/or control anything was devastating.

Add in the wicked adjustment period for Hope that included some really tough behaviors, and I swear I wonder how either of us survived.

I wrote a lot during those early days and months. Some of the frustrations I expressed in my blog, well, I probably wouldn’t do the same way in retrospect, but it is what it is.  I own it in all its truth.

In those days, the parenting problems were endless, new, overwhelming, devastating…and I had no control over what had been a pretty carefully constructed life and well, persona.

The feelings were new, raw, scary, terrifying actually.  Not only did I feel like crap, I felt like I was actually crap, identity-wise.

I found that my problem solving skills worked, but instead of being able to create a way out, I had to choose from a set of options, none of which seemed appealing, and pray that something brought some kind—any kind—of peace.

It rarely seemed to bring peace.

I quickly learned in those days that perfection would forever be elusive. I would have to learn to just shoot for great, then it slid to good, then it flirted with just good enough and then there were some days that the goal was to just keep Hope alive (ha! Jesse Jackson pun unintended but apropos).

I did and said things that still offer consequential ripples across my life. Some moments I actually spend a lot of time pondering some of the challenges—real, imagined, and emotional—that dominated the first six months of my life with Hope. I have a few regrets, just a few things that I could’ve and should’ve handled differently, but I look at the foundation that I created for me and Hope and I can say that I got it right.  There isn’t much, given so many challenges, that I would’ve done differently.

Fast forward 18 months and I fear I criticize or second guess myself so much more than I did at the very beginning. I mean, I know I didn’t know what I was doing then; now it seems like I should have more of a clue.

I don’t.

Most days I feel like I’m failing more than usual. Not a day goes by when I go, “Well that didn’t go like I thought” or “Could I have done something different? Better” or “FML—that was the best I could come up with?’ I replay the days’ interactions like they are on a DVR. I rarely pat myself on the back. I rarely think I deserve it.

It’s super hard. I constantly have to remember that perfection is impossible. Like everyone else, I’m just trying to do the best I can.

I hope one day to be known for my many accomplishments. I know that Hope will be one of those; hopefully, not because I adopted her, but rather because I raised a triumphant, young warrior who was able to overcome her history and step into a healthy life.  If I can do that or even get really, really close to that, it will be my single greatest achievement.

And I hardly ever feel like it’s possible. It feels like a heavy lift that is often too much to bear.  It’s hard. It’s heavy. It’s lonely. It’s traumatic.

It’s…so very hard some days.

But I guess it doesn’t require perfection. It can’t, because perfection simply doesn’t exist, right?

Even though I intellectually know this, I, like so many other parents, will continue to chase it and fail to find it.

I think if I can truly learn to accept that, it will be my second greatest achievement.


Controlled Cry Breaks

While reveling in the knowledge that Hope is coming to visit in a month, Grammy triggered a meltdown. This sandwich generation stuff is some mess; I’ll tell you that.

I sent off a happy email to my immediate family about Hope being in town for Thanksgiving.  I knew Grammy would hit the roof since she’s traveling to see my younger sister, Sister M, for the holiday.  She called and wailed about how she was going to miss it, and she wanted to come on this day and that day and she could stay three days and do stuff and on and on and blah and blah and blah!

Whoooooooaaaaa!  Stop Grammy.  Slow your roll.

All I could think of was No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  Did I say no?  Did you hear me say no?  No, you can’t stay 3 days, and heck no you can’t stay here.

No.

And then the tears started on both sides.  I was so overwhelmed.  She was firing off questions that I either didn’t have an answer for or didn’t want to answer, and she just was out of control.  And my inability and unwillingness to answer some questions somehow got twisted around to make me feel like an inadequate mom.

Then she announced that I had two people to consider: the tween and the senior.

I grew a small backbone and replied, no I only have to look out for the tween; she is the highest priority.  Grammy, you are not the priority.  You are not a priority right now.  I love you but you are not the priority.  You are grown and can take care of yourself.

Sobbing.  Gnashing of teeth.

Grammy is so excited, so excited.  I’m so excited that she’s excited.  But I need a chill pill.  In the middle of the busy workday I was clearing my schedule for a two week vacation that will be great, but will not be restful, fielding text messages about a bridesmaid’s dress that I didn’t know about but that I need to go order in two weeks, feeling like crap because this week is turning out to be not dissertation productive, having a consulting opportunity fall in my lap that I know I can’t take because I’m stretched too thin as it is, scheduling painting quotes, and responding to sweet emails from friends and family who want to know what to get Hope as welcome gift… Grammy’s hissy fit about not being welcome to visit Hope in the first 24 hours of her arrival was too damn much for me to deal with.

And the answer was still no.

Holy hell.

The security shields went up, and I got snappy.  Then I felt guilty.  Then I apologized, because well, Grammy is my mom.  I adore my mom; I can’t disrespect my mom.  I want her to be excited, but I need someone to actually care about me at this very moment.

I am falling apart.   This week I feel like I’m barely functioning.  My emotions can run the gamut in the span of about 15 minutes.  I’m exhausted.  I’m getting over a sinus infection.  I feel like I can’t seem to do anything right and in the midst of all the joy, all the happiness, all the hulabaloo, only a handful of people are asking me how I’m doing, I mean, really doing and managing and coping.  The truth is that this week is not so great. People care and want to be so helpful, but I’m feeling like very few folks are looking past all the excitement and seeing me in what is really feeling like an incredibly fragile state.

Much like Hope, the emotion that I feel at the center of all of this is anger.  I’m angry about melting down.  I’m angry about not being productive.  I’m angry that this sinus infection is still bugging me.  I’m angry that I keep forgetting to schedule my mammogram.  I’m angry that The Furry One still needs a bath and I can’t manage to muster the energy to do it.  I’m angry that as a fixer I can’t fix one damn thing that’s going on right now.  I’m angry that Hope’s angry (that’s a doozy right there).  I’m angry that work is so demanding at the moment.  I’m angry that my dissertation director hasn’t emailed me back about the 10 pages I sent him nearly 3 weeks ago.  I’m angry that one of my dissertation subjects now thinks we’re buddies and keeps calling me on my cell phone.  I’m angry that the paint quotes are all pushing $600 for one measly room.  I’m angry that the stress has triggered a physical pain response that exhausts me more than all the other crap in this stupid paragraph.

I feel like the most productive thing I’ve managed to do this week is cry for about 2-3 minutes of every hour that I’m awake. Yeah, I’ve got the controlled cry (feel it, cry it out, wipe tears, get back to the grind) down to a science. I have no idea why I even bother with makeup in the morning.  I do at least wear waterproof mascara.

It is one of the happiest times of my life, and I am literally furious 98% of the time.   Oh there’s a bunch of other emotions in there too, but if I had to characterize the emotions by color, I’m seeing shades of red most of the time.  It almost feels primal.

After the second Grammy/ABM meltdown of the day, I told my mom, I don’t need Grammy right now.  I need my mommy.  I need a hug.  A there, there it’s going to be ok.  I need a chicken casserole, and a pedicure.  I need a day without questions that ultimately make me feel like an invisible, but somehow still schnitty, new parent. I need a day to watch Netflix and drink cocoa in my PJs.  I need some nurturing.  I need someone to plan things for me for the next couple of weeks so I can collect myself.  I need someone to ask me how I’m doing and really, really mean it and not judge me when I say I’m really, really not doing ok.

Maybe she heard me.  Probably not.  My attitude and outlook is not the best this week.

Sigh.

Time for a controlled cry break, a shower and some coffee.  Time to get this hump day going.


Betwixt and Between

Image

There is an overlook in St. Kitts and Nevis where you can see the small isthmus that connects these volcanic islands together.  Standing on this overlook, you can see both the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans.  One is choppy and violently crashes its surf; the other is nearly still with a surface barely broken by gentle waves.

I think I might be an isthmus between two islands.

My existence feels a little chaotic.  I am at times joyful and incredibly chill,  other times angry, often impatient, still other times depressed, withdrawn and incredibly anxious, and most of the time exhausted.

I am a bit of a mess.  My emotions are all over the place.

In the days since Match Day, I feel like I have had very little control.  Hope will not come to live with me for several months yet, despite the fact that I’d like to board a plane to fetch her immediately.  I mean stat!  Accepting the reality that neither of us is ready for the big move is hard.  Her room has been a guest room with extra storage for 12 years; I have a lot of sifting, sorting, packing and donating to do to be ready for her arrival.  I also have a plan to be finished drafting my dissertation by December; the completion of that draft on time is essential for me to stay on schedule to graduate next spring.  I’m anxious about possibly taking custody around the holidays because I am afraid Hope will be overwhelmed, resulting in my being overwhelmed.

I am also still enduring well-intended, but frankly stupid commentary.  “I can’t believe the agency is letting you adopt alone.  You really need a husband.”  “Why don’t you know things like X, Y and Z about your new daughter?”  How is it that silly comments can already make me feel inadequate as a mom when my mommy-dom is so new and in some ways doesn’t feel official yet?

It is more important than ever that I learn to guard myself against hurtful words and practice forgiveness and judgment-free living.  Forgiveness has never been something I have withheld in great amount, but I am finding that the need to practice it (with a side of grace) at this point in my life is more intense than ever.  I am also finding the old, more judgmental me is slipping away, which is a good thing.

At least two people have shared adoption horror stories with me in the last few days, though I’m not sure what the purpose of the story was supposed to be other than to scare me.   A year ago, I couldn’t believe that anyone’s adoption placement might fail, and I blamed those parents for not trying hard enough.  I don’t blame them anymore; I know better.  It happens, and it is devastating.  I have discovered a pool of compassion I didn’t know I had for all parties involved in a failed placement.    At this point, I find failed stories so painful, gossipy and non-supportive of adoptive families.  When I recently said no to a child, I know it was the right decision.  I knew such a placement looked good on paper, but would be ultimately be a disaster.  This is not an easy path.  I’m learning that forgiveness of all the people making comments that are not supportive of me or adoptive families in general is critical.   It is really the only way I can reduce whatever pain hurtful words inflict.  I have to let it go, not for them but for me and Hope.

At the other end of the continuum, there is peacefulness about moving forward with my new daughter.  It is odd that this calmness coexists with the madness swirling around me.  I went into the room that will be Hope’s room today.  I recently stripped the room of its old décor and had it painted white.  There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in there to prepare for her arrival.   I found the task of room prep (getting rid of things from Pre-Hope days) overwhelming until today when I went in and started pulling things down to send to the Goodwill tomorrow.  I realized that I will relish in tossing some things out and repurposing other things.  I am excited about creating some design concepts to send to Hope.  This transition is a beautiful thing and in some ways I’m running towards it.  Today the tasks brought me a sense of satisfaction; I’m preparing for this change and this young person in a very concrete way.  It isn’t hypothetical and it isn’t conceptual anymore.

I also realized that I need this time and that embracing this awkward period is a good thing.  Although I am eager for Hope to come home to me, I realize that the few months of waiting will give us both some time to prepare ourselves.  Again, this isn’t an easy path; preparation time is needed.  By my own reckoning I need at least 6 more weeks to get ready.  The reality is that this time will also allow me to get through the heavy lift of conducting my research and writing my dissertation this fall.  Besides it will only be a few weeks until we are Skyping regularly.  I’ll see her face, hear her voice, begin to learn how we will navigate this new path together.  Something about embracing this transition period brings me comfort.  I can take a deep breath, pick out paint, write and dream about our tomorrows.

And yet, both of these emotional states, anxiety and calm, wax and wane.  I can float from one side of narrow isthmus to the other in a matter of moments.  The triggers are difficult to manage and exhausting, but I figure I will get better at it during the next few weeks and months.  I will continue to learn to not take things personally and to forgive, forgive and forgive again.  I hope that my family and friends will be patient with me.  I’m a bit of a handful these days.

But it is all worth it.


K E Garland

Inspirational kwotes, stories and images

Riddle from the Middle

real life with a side of snark

Dmy Inspires

Changing The World, With My Story...

Learning to Mama

Never perfect, always learning.

The Boeskool

Jesus, Politics, and Bathroom Humor...

Erica Roman Blog

I write so that my healing may bring healing to others.

My Mind on Paper

The Inspired Writing of Kevin D. Hofmann

My Wonderfully Unexpected Journey

When Life Grabbed Me By The Ears

Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

These are the adventures of one family in foster care and adoption.

imashleymi.wordpress.com/

things are glam in mommyhood

wearefamily

an adoption support community

Fighting for Answers

Tales From an Adoption Journey

Transracialeyes

Because of course race and culture matter.

SJW - Stuck in the Middle

The Life of Biracial Transracial Adoptee

%d bloggers like this: