Recently the kind folks over at America Adopts invited me to compose a guest blog for their site. Super, super cool! I’m touched by the invite to offer another voice and perspective on adoption, particularly older child adoption. Thanks for the opportunity to share!
Tag Archives: New Single Adoptive Parents
I struggle with Sundays. To some degree I have always struggled with them because I get anxious about starting the new week. A good chunk of the day is usually spent in church; another chunk on grocery shopping. In recent years I would be stressing about finishing a paper for school. Earlier this year it was one of the two days a week I felt like I was winning the battle through Hope’s transition.
I’m not exactly sure why I struggle with Sunday’s now. I am short tempered; easily triggered. I almost feel twitchy; like I’ve had too much caffeine, though I tend to lay off the stuff a bit on the weekends. I can be short with Hope. I really just want to be left alone. Over the months, Hope has kind of learned to migrate to her room to veg on TV, puzzles and other games on Sundays, leaving me in quiet solitude.
Yeah, it doesn’t help. Then I feel guilty because I should be spending time with her.
I wonder if I have too much time to think. During the week I just move from task to task, event to event. Saturdays are our bonding/adventure days. Sundays are slow. I do much more reflecting on Sundays. I dissect the good, the bad and the ugly.
On Sundays I think I have time to miss my pre-Hope life. I have time to fret about how my parenting is perceived. I have time to reflect on criticisms and perceived slights. I have time to ponder what it means to parent a child who has experienced deep trauma. I have time pick at emotional wounds. I have time to extrapolate them into things much bigger than they probably should be. I have time to allow anger to bloom. I have time to miss spending time with Elihu.
Sundays are the days when I get to feel the full weight of being a parent, a single parent, a single adoptive parent, a single adoptive parent of a child who has experienced what Hope has experienced. Sundays are the days when I allow myself to feel the full weight of just being overwhelmed.
I also feel pretty alone on Sundays.
I don’t know why I don’t spend more time considering the wins of week or the growth I see in my daughter on Sundays. I’m really good at that Monday through Saturday. I can’t seem to do it on Sunday. I don’t know if my mind and my body just needs to feel it all on Sundays or what.
I don’t really know why I’m so crabby on Sundays, but trust that my struggle is super real on Sundays.
I hope a time will come when Sundays just don’t suck so much.
It’s odd to not do my weekly rundown, just because it’s my own way of reflecting and figuring out my improvement metrics (I like data!). So, this week I’m getting it done midweek.
Things are ok around here; we have little lightening rod things that drive us both nuts. But overall, we are doing better. Here’s what’s going down.
Mom needs some attention. So, Hope has some issues with attention. When she’s doing something she really dives deep into the focus; it’s so deep that it’s like nothing else exists and she’s in a trance. The living room TV has become a hot point for several issues. 1) It’s a distraction that makes her late in the morning—on average she’s missing the bus twice a week. 2) The TV a distraction at dinner. We can’t have a decent conversation because I might as well be talking to a napkin. Also she won’t eat because she’s so into the TV. 3) Multiple episodes of Adventure Time, Anthony Zimmerman and Big Bang Theory drive me nuts. 4) I can’t watch grown folks TV on my couch anymore.
So I’ve made a plan to restrict the time the main TV is on and will be moving cable boxes this weekend and downgrading the cable. Cool, right?
Ah but then an external voice of reason, let’s call him Elihu, says, “Hmmmm, ABM, so can we talk about reason number 2 a bit more? Sounds like you were peeved she didn’t want to kick it with you? Were you?” #ihateitwhenhesright
Ummm, there are perfectly legitimate reasons for me making TV changes, but ultimately, yeah, I was so looking forward to enjoying dinner with my girl and she totally dissed me. There’s some part of me that was crushed because I really, really wanted to kick with her that evening. So, some part of me is taking it out on the TV.
But I’m still right about the TV.
When Hope wants to talk, it mentally exhausts me. Oh it’s cool that she wants to talk, but Hope’s attention issues also head to the other end of the continuum where we can change conversation topics, like every 3-5 sentences. In the span of twenty minutes we’ve touched on the following: Bieber, Bruno Mars, has her Seventeen magazine arrived? What’s transgender? Why are people trippin’ about Michael Sam kissing his man when he finally got drafted? When am I going to wash her hair? There are probably another 5 topics that I missed. Ohmygosh.
But here’s the thing, as exhausting as some of this chatter can be and as irritating as the Bieber conversations can be, I LOVE the fact that she wants to talk and that she feels comfortable enough with me that she’ll ask me about all the touchy topics. I do wish that she had an “inside voice” and asked some questions at home or in the car or somewhere where we had some privacy. I totally wasn’t fazed by the content of LGBT questions—I’m committed to raising an inclusive-minded kiddo. What did trip me out was the fact that she asked the questions about Conchita Wurst and Michael Sam at Gate K19 at O’Hare on Sunday morning at 5:30am on volume 37 of 50. The surrounding ear hustlers were so serious, and it was too early for all that.
Someone is always doing worse than you. This is a recurring life lesson, but it’s something that I keep coming back to on this adoption journey as well. I hit up my agency support group last night where other waiting parents were bemoaning waits of 4 months to 2 years for a match and other parents struggling with the demands of new parenting and specifically parenting their child’s specific challenges, while still other parents wondering if they are really going to jump in and do this thing. Then another parent I met through social media posted a link to this Tumblr page: Parenting Confessional.
Hope was the first profile I received and we were formally matched about a month later. I managed to write a dissertation during this process, finishing the last chapter during one of the darkest weeks of my life while trying to survive an event that threatened to disrupt our placement. Family drama. Drama of varying sorts. And yet, I’m actually ok. Hope is actually ok. I’m not sure we’re thriving (yet) but we’re stable or at least as stable as a 3.5 month adoptive placement is probably going to be.
I mean I think about how the parent of a friend of Hope’s responded when I asked if it was ok if I took her daughter to the movies with Hope a few weeks ago. That woman sounded like she was going through IT and I don’t know her from a can of paint. All God’s children got problems. I would say that my and Hope’s problems are probably not all that bad all things considered. I’m finding folks doing way worse than me; heck I see them in the blogosphere all the time.
Sometimes emotions really, really suck. I’m reading Beyond Consequences right now, and it’s all about how our kids have not developed an ability to self-regulate their emotional states through appropriate behavior. In a super condensed nutshell, kids who’ve experienced trauma will flip out when their emotions are overwhelming; parents are more likely to focus on the inappropriate behavior that drives us up the effing wall rather than the deep-seeded emotional baggage that underpins it even when it isn’t apparent. We’re more likely to use a punishment paradigm than to emphasize a “You’re safe, let me help you be more safe” paradigm. Yeah, ok, got it. Makes sense, right?
Yeah, until your kid is going the hell off on some random ish that you have no effin idea what triggered it. You’re saying safety crap and “There, there, let mom hug” you while you’re ducking blows and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. When this happens for us, sometimes it’s days before Hope can get herself together to say what’s really going on. Hell, we just deconstructed the whole Don King episode from two weeks ago last night.
It’s heartbreaking to find that your kid really, really doesn’t have the regulatory skills to just not go the hell off or be reduced to tears because you said no to getting a Slurpee on a Tuesday. It’s also guilt ridden, especially with the older kids who just by virtue of their age and size, you expect have some crap together. They don’t; not even close.
Emotions can just be like a really, really bad storm when they take over. Bless Hope’s heart; she has improved this skill area so much, but ugh…I have no idea when or how or if she’s really going to get to be able to master/muster the emotional –behavioral thing. Time will tell.
Adoption related judgment fear notwithstanding, I really don’t give two damns about what other people think. Hope and I’ve been talking a lot about friends, bullies, the whole relationship milieu. I only somewhat recall how much I fretted about what other people thought and the possibility of being talked about, judged or bullied. But it’s a constant life issue these days around these parts. I am trying to work on building Hope’s self-esteem, but ugh, these little bad arse school kids are wrecking her flow. There’s lots of soothing hugs and internal desires for me to go up to that school and end up doing something that will end up having me go viral on YouTube before getting arrested.
But, I’m learning that my general self-esteem is pretty solid. I understand my flaws but they’re mine. I can fret about my body, but it’s mine. I don’t really care much about what other people think or have to say about me. That’s a liberating realization.
A liberating realization until I think about how awful I feel when Hope is doing something publicly that draws negative attention and reckless, shady looks in my direction that say, “Aren’t you going to check your kid? Aren’t you going to snatch her up? Why haven’t you “fixed” that yet? Are you going to *do* something because she’s ruining it for everyone?” Fear of parenting judgment is my current “thing” that I just get nervous about. I know in time it will pass. So much has happened that it’s hard to remember that it’s only been 3.5 months since Hope moved here. I’ll get better at not caring about what people have to say at some point.
We’ve got a busy weekend planned, but I hope to enjoy a bit of rest. Now that things are done with school, I long to just enjoy an hour or two just chillaxing on the balcony on my lawn chair snoozing with The Furry One. Let’s bow our heads and cross our fingers that it happens this weekend.
I’m not exactly who spring break is a break for, but it doesn’t really seem to be a break for me. I know Hope is happy to be out of school but here it is pushing midnight heading into Thursday and I’m exhausted physically and emotionally. Hope and I have covered a lot of ground in the last few days and frankly, I’d appreciate acting like she does in our therapy sessions—avoidant.
But alas, I’m the grown up and thus am in the position to actually be required to act as such on a semi-regular basis. So there’s the road trip to Philly.
“Is there anything here besides historical sites?” Hope says while standing waiting to go see the Liberty Bell.
Sigh. I found our spring break trip to the City of Brotherly Love an exercise in reminding me just how selfish I really enjoy being, but can’t actually be anymore. Oh and I’m petty too. It’s ok, admitting it is the first step to recovery.
Case in point: Hope had a hypothesis that Subway cheese steaks would taste better than an actual Philly cheese steak (on what planet??). So we skipped on over to a shop near our hotel that came highly recommended by the concierge. We get to the front of the line, and Hope chokes on her sub order: “Well, I don’t know what I want…how is it normally served?”
Dude taking our order is looking at me like, “For reals? It’s a cheese steak!”
After putzing back and forth for what seemed like an eternity of indecision but was really only about 45 seconds, I ordered two cheese steaks, one with onions and one without, since she managed to pantomime that she didn’t want onions. Once back at the hotel she, was insistent that she have half of my sandwich to taste test the difference between onions and non-onions. Wait…what??? But you didn’t want onions!?!?! I complied, but I seethed. I wanted my damn sandwich intact. I gave up the radio station. When we switched to my Google Play, I let her favorite song go on repeat. I listened to her read Teen Beat and learned about people who I didn’t know existed who were supposed to be famous. I endured Big Bad Wolf style huffing and puffing about seeing historical sites. Got dang, can I have my whole onion filled sandwich???
Apparently not, for half of my sautéed filled onion sandwich made its way over to her plate—where it lay untouched and eventually discarded.
UGH! Yeah, just ugh. I wonder what will trigger a deeper level of selflessness in me and when…clearly it didn’t happen on this trip. I was really in my feelings about only having half of my delicious sandwich; Hope’s half was ok, just bland. Booo.
After a long drive home in a wicked spring monsoon, I was grouchy, tired, sore from stress and just really needed a hour of recharge in my room. An hour I didn’t get because she wanted to watch Believe (the Justin Bieber movie) on Amazon. Awesome. #notreally
By bedtime, I was a mess and totally botched a talking to about picking clothes off of the floor and putting them in the hamper. Not even sure why I picked that fight at that time. Things deteriorated fast, and in my head I saw the reproachful glare of our hot family therapist, who I telepathically told to kiss my ass in the moment, even as I KNEW I was botching this corrective action and going down in flames. #ifyourepissyandyouknowitclapyourhands,
Awesome. And this morning the saltiness simmered as we got ready for another road trip. We recovered.
Instead of bickering, we covered emotional sinkholes. After the giant eff up of the night before I was actually impressed by my ability to navigate confabs about the spiritual presence of her dad, the introduction of new extended family, fleeting memories of how her biological mom smelled, the loss of a puppy pre-foster care days, how foster parents didn’t keep their promises regarding countless things and on and on and on. There really seems to be no end to the emotional sinkholes, none. But I’m conscious that her ability to talk to me about this stuff is evidence of our growth. At the end of the day trip I was again, exhausted, and we spent the evening untangling a skein of yarn and putting it into a ball.
I swear this yarn thing is going to be my new adoption metaphor. Trying to help a kid untangle the mess around them and make sense of it by reorganizing it.
As we were going through the nightly ritual of twisting her hair before bed, I came across a letter she wrote to me during a fury filled moment this morning. It was a cogent, expletive filled essay on how to introduce new ideas and corrections to her—ie not in the way I had done the night before. It was impressive in its thoughtful argument and colorful use of language (I appreciate a well-placed, well-used curse word every now and again, though not from 12 year olds). I was somehow both amused and hurt when I flipped it over and read, “Yeah, I hope you read this you son of a b*tch!!!!!” scrawled in huge letters. In short, the gist of her letter had me dead to rights—it was good parenting advice for her. I’ll be sure to follow it in the future
So much ground we covered today.
But she was horrified because well, she wrote it more than 12 hours ago, and it hardly seemed relevant anymore. It was a coping strategy to deal with her anger. And well, was I snooping (if it’s in plain view, addressed to me as “Mom-B*tch” then I don’t consider it snooping)? She wouldn’t even show me her face to me this evening. And again, I felt sad for my sweet girl who struggles with her emotions. It must be so hard to feel so deeply and strongly and also feel like you’re dragging the world around with you. She actually refused to look at me anymore out of I dunno, shame? Embarrassment? Worry? Anger? I tried to soothe her. I told her that her advice was good, and I would follow it from here on out, but hey, um, could you not call me out my name?
Tomorrow the trampoline park, where I will pray I don’t break anything.
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!
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
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.
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.
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!
So if you’re an old school, hip hop head like I am, you might’ve come across the delightful knowledge that De La Soul decided to give away their entire catalog for free on Valentine’s Day. Now I had most of the music, but there’s nothing like getting something free, and there’s nothing like getting good music for free. Double Yes, Yes!!! So I’m on the couch with my noise-cancelling headphones bumping to the extended remix of Buddy while re-writing a paragraph of my dissertation. #grooving
Why mention De La Soul and the headphones, you ask? Because I’m also in a noisy power struggle with Hope, who is doing her damnedest to play her saxophone as schnittily as possible right now. I’m making her practice daily in preparation for a graded concert later this week. Girlfriend thought that the agreement we made during our family meeting yesterday would be sated with a half-arsed 10 minute practice session. I don’t think so.
Had the nerve to yell at me when I politely told her she needed to pull another 30 minutes out of a hat.
So now my house sounds like a flock of geese are being tortured.
Oh wait…Queen Latifah is dropping her verse…Me, Myself and I is up on the rotation next. #stilljamming
Oh, she’s mad, but she’s playing though. And I can barely hear her. #winning #sorryneighbors #TheFurryOneisNearlyDeafandDoesn’tCare
Just a minor bump in the road on this nearly perfect Monday. That’s right, nearly perfect!
I had an epic meltdown yesterday when she effectively made us so late to church that I couldn’t find a parking spot. This after I baked the blue cake! I secluded myself in my room for about 90 minutes while binge watching House of Cards on Netflix. Yeah, I should’ve hit a bedside Baptist service online or on the tube, but I was all about gluttonous self-medicating in those moments.
Despite my cake and self-sequestration, our first home-visit went smoothly enough yesterday afternoon. I often read how some folks deep clean the house and such before a visit. I tidied. Look lady, we live here—emphasis on the live. Laundry isn’t fully done. I did load the dishwasher, the puzzle we are working on is still on the table and I just noticed the jam stain on the front of my dress after I offered her some water and blue cake. Get over it. Fortunately, Ms. E is cool. She gave us both some good coaching and reassured me that I’m going to survive and that we are doing just fine. She’s actually very excited for us.
Yeah, still feels like schnitt, but ok. I’m starting to believe it will get better.
I’ve been to the gym for the last three days. I had a nice holiday today while Hope went to school. I’m starting to feel a little more like my sassy self.
For the first Monday in about two weeks I feel like I might have a grip on things.
She has now been practicing 17 minutes longer than I required. She’s also playing rather well, seeing as it took a lot of effort to play all mad and crappy and I can tell she is getting tired.
Well, look at that (grinning), ABM won that struggle, didn’t cry, didn’t break a sweat or a nail and jammed the whole time. #stillwinning #stilljamming
Just maybe I can do this. 🙂
It’s Friday and things are better. Today is the second snow day this week and I’m wondering will the kids get any summer break around these parts.
Hope was delighted by the snow day; she’s a hard core nester/homebody. She never got dressed, never bathed (I let it go for yesterday), and just was happy as a clam.
I was still sick with a racking cough. I still have the racking cough, actually; I imagine it will be with me for a week or so. I was kind of miserable. I gave her lots of tablet time, made her practice her sax (Hey, it actually sounds like music now!) and lay in bed. I fretted bit about how the house felt filthy to me, how I just wanted to sleep unencumbered and how I needed to go dig the car out so that it wasn’t so bad when the second storm hit later in the day.
I started to think about what I’m learning during this process. I have been blogging more about my emotions in the moment and straying from the learning part. It’s just been so overwhelming. So here goes my current list of observations and learned gems.
- I know we’re improving even if it feels like walking across hot coals in hell. She comes to me, she wants to be with me, and she gets frustrated when I say no but she is increasingly less likely to push me on things. She’s never again asked to be taken back to WA.
- There is a difference in when she decides to be straight up oppositional and when she is just being a typical annoying teen. My dissertation research is, in part, about how personal values shape viewpoints on a particular issue. There is a personal value called “face” that really is much like the desire to protect and preserve our public identities. Anything that threatens what Hope perceives to be as personal identity space she digs in and digs in hard. So teacher notes invade a space in which she is constructing her public persona. School incidents are particularly threatening to how she sees herself and she will go down swinging to preserve her “face.”
Typical annoying teen stuff, she’s more likely to come to me later and tell me that her feelings were hurt by something I said or did—like when I told her “Fine, don’t wear your coat in 22 degree weather when you have a sinus infection. Catch pneumonia <shrug>.” Later she politely told me that hurt her feelings because she could die from pneumonia and surely I didn’t want her to die. (I reminded her, no I didn’t want her to die, which is why I insisted on the damn coat #girlbye!) Glad this dissertation is worth something more to me.
- There so many things, like boundaries, that she wasn’t taught and must learn. My biggest peeve is her traipsing into my room. Yesterday she got into my bed. Yeah, yeah, snuggling and all that, whatever. I am desperate for some sanctuary and personal space, and my bedroom is IT. I still tiptoe into my parents’ room back home. Bedrooms are sacred space for me. And despite several polite conversations, she just traipses in whenever she gets ready. She’s walked in on me in my bathroom, getting dressed, you name it. Drives me nuts and when I say something it’s all, “You don’t want me in your room,” with lots of attitude. Yeah, you’re right, I don’t. There I admit it. It’s the only safe space I have.
While doing a puzzle in the living room yesterday during the storm, I also realized that she didn’t really know how to work on a puzzle with someone else. She sucks up the table space by leaning all the way over such that her hands hang over my side of the table and will actually pick up pieces I am working on. I had to take several breaks because it was almost invasive in a way that ruined the experience for me. Yesterday was not the day to teach more about personal space, but clearly that’s something I need to work on with her.
- There is a kindness of spirit in her. She has made me tea every day that I’ve been sick. She knows her skills of caring for me are limited so she focuses on what she can do. At her core, she is such a sweetie.
- A trip to the veterinarian determined that The Furry One is in the very early stages of kidney failure. At 14 and 3 months, it is a normal sign of old age. Given his overall health though, the vet confirmed that yeah, the rug pee fiasco of last week was indeed an declaration of war. He’s actually engaging Hope more appropriately this week. Had he been sicker I would’ve asked the vet to duct tape and paperclip this dog together, I’m way to unstable to lose The Furry One right now. That would send me right on over the edge.
- The weather is effing up my best efforts to get us on a consistent schedule. I mean really, I can’t win for losing! Two days off this week. No band practice. I’m increasingly behind at work. It’s all a mess, I tell you. And I know that the scheduling thing is going to be the way to glory for us. I really need to have a talk with Mother Nature.
- Prayer works. Hope and I pray together twice a day. She is responsible for one of the prayers. I notice how her prayers have changed over the weeks. The things she prays about are changing, she prays for our family. She prays for The Furry One even though he peed on her rug. She prays that she’ll have a better day at school. I can’t honestly say that I’m deep in meditation when she’s praying because I’m trying to tune into what she’s saying and maybe not saying. But her prayers are changing and I’m encouraged by that.
- Hope is finally getting the concept of salvation. She told me early on that she had been saved twice but it didn’t work; it didn’t “take” because she is so bad. Lots of distilled theological conversations up in Casa de ABM. She’s now talking about baptism and salvation and such. She had a mini-meltdown this week when contemplating a lost family member and whether they were in heaven or hell; she didn’t know if they were saved. It was a heartbreaking moment, but it revealed a few things to me: She’s thinking about our talks, she’s applying those discussions, and she’s still grappling with grief. I was sad for her, but I was also happy to know that I’m getting through that tough candy shell of hers.
- She enjoys a little decadence, like we all do. She gets excited to try new things, do things with me that foster families had previously promised but didn’t do and is thoughtful about each experience as it bonds us. I’m the one who’s following through, who’s showing her something more. She appreciates that. One night a week is pizza night; during previous weeks we got take out. This week I needed a fabric napkin experience as a Maslow’s Hierarchy element in my life (I loathe fast food) so I decided we would go out to eat. She was almost overwhelmed by the local restaurant; she relished having a small appetizer and dessert. She was tickled by the whole experience. I was getting terribly ill during the dinner but I found such pleasure in watching her take it all in.
- I had no idea 12 year old asked so many why questions. Oh. My. God. Why? Why? Why? Why to random stuff that I’ve never heard about that happened when she was 8? Why to random stuff that happened last week? Why to something that happened on a random show she watched but I didn’t? I thought in going with an older kid, I would bypass a lot of the “why” stuff. No, not really. I can see how stunted in some areas she maybe. She wasn’t in environments when she could ask why; she is now. I can see that I’ve created a safe space for her to do that. I’m increasingly comfortable with say, “Sweetie, I don’t know. Can we Google it?” By the 18th time I try to recite that without sounding annoyed and exasperated.
So, it’s Friday, one of the days when I can be a bit more reflective. Hope is still snoozing and I’ve tidied the house, taken out the trash, opened a window and let some cool air in to air out the sickie germs, and written this here post. If I hurry, I probably can get to the grocery store to pick up a few things and GASP—get some Starbucks and some Valentine’s chocolates that I don’t have to share!!! OMG, OMG so exciting!!
OMG—Hallelujah! Peace out!
Well, we managed to make it one whole week in school before I started getting the emails about behavioral problems. Five notes in two days.
Yeah, the last few days have been tough. Wednesdays are usually our turn around day; things improve so I’m optimistic about today. By Friday we’re great and then it starts all over again on Mondays. It’s an awful cycle. And even though I can tell it’s a cycle, it’s just relentless and the severity is always surprising and I’m getting so freaked out about Monday’s that there’s a cloud over the weekend for me.
The teachers asked me how they can help Hope.
I gave what I believe to be what I would do—try to be gracious but consistent and please be patient with us.
Yeah, the truth of the matter is I have no effing idea what they should do. I’m barely holding it together around here.
I sat her down and gently talked to her. She was shocked that teachers would just email me. Naw girl, no one is checking for your little “note sent home but never really gets here” game. No boo, teachers just email the parents now. Her defensive shields went up slowly, but when they were up, they were really up. You see, Hope never does anything wrong. She is always the victim. How dare they send me emails full of lies about her!
This oppositional defiance thing is so dang serious. And it’s so exhausting, especially when the denials and lies fly in the face of obvious fact and reason. There’s nothing reasonable about oppositional defiance.
This week I had to start doing some consequences; she seems stunned. I actually am stunned. I’m always feeling stunned.
<whisper> I kinda hate my life right now.
<whispers even more softly> I feel awful and guilty that I hate my life right now.
Amongst the rudeness, the belligerence, the lies and the shutdowns, the clinginess and everything else I can’t be bothered to list here, I’m really feeling like a failure. I know I’m not, but it sure feels sucky. I never imagined that I would fly in with a cape and save Hope; I thought I had realistic expectations, but it’s just really hard. I cannot remember the last time when I felt so emotionally stretched. I feel awful that I can’t muster the umph to comfort her for every little thing. I wonder when she pushed a boundary by showing me a “funny” video laced with F-bombs, was my reaction ok? Does she think I’m mad and frustrated all the time? I’m usually frustrated and I try not to show it, but more than mad, I’m usually aghast by just how crazy this life is at the moment.
I’m really sick with a sinus infection this morning. So she started complaining about her ailments to see if she can one up me and if I would let her stay home with me. She didn’t have a fever, but I did this morning. So her little narrow butt was dispatched to the bus stop, but not before we had to have another head butt about the need for her to wear a real coat in 22 degree weather with snow storm expected to start later today. #icant
Nothing about any of this even feels rational. I just feel like I’m riding the same roller coaster day after day, walking on egg shells, trying to keep things moving. Cooking, cleaning, laundry…I loathe too much clutter when I’m sick. I like things tidy when I’m sick. I needed her to go to school so I could have time to wipe down things with my Clorox wipes, change my sheets, make some chili and homemade bread and nurse myself and my mind. I’m praying that the storm is delayed so that she stays after for her band practice so that I can relish two additional hours of peacefulness. The storm means all kinds of bonding time tomorrow…Sigh. I’m planning to run and get a couple of puzzles.
I’m hoping this Wednesday turnaround gives me the emotional break I need through the end of the week.