Tag Archives: parenting challenges

I’m Trying

Last weekend Hope turned the magical age of 21. We were supposed to go to NYC to celebrate, but sadly, she got really sick, and we had to cancel. I hope we can go later this summer.

The good news: she didn’t have COVID.

The bad news: we don’t exactly know what she has. I suspect it was a case of the flu.

I can say that it was super gross. And when Hope gets sick, she really gets sick and she really gets dramatic.

I wish I could say that I turn into this mushy mom figure when she is sick, but I do not. Don’t get me wrong, I do what I can—try to get her to eat, to shower, to rest, manage symptoms, etc. But that sit at the bedside, Flo Nightingale stuff…no.

I’ll even admit that I struggle with leaning into the mushy mom troupe. I’m not that chick. I go into non-emotional mode because it’s a problem to be managed and/or fixed.

My ability to compartmentalize emotion is a handy skill in my line of work where a DEI professional being hyper emotional is just not going to work.

That skill for momming is problematic because Hope thinks I don’t care.

Additionally, Hope’s penchant for dramatizing her ailments has me usually thinking she’s crying wolf. There were times when we were regulars at the Patient First (after several expensive trips to the ER where NOTHING WAS WRONG! Some of Hope’s emotional challenges manifest psychosomatically, which really complicates things).

I absolutely do care, and I’ve improved in doing mushy stuff over the years. Sadly I think I’ve lost some of that ground though.  

I think I’ve backslid recently because the last 2.5 years have been exhausting in dealing with some of Hope’s shenanigans. Without telling all of our business there was a whole host of bad 19-20-something decisions that resulted in some unfortunate entanglements, health issues, law enforcement engagement, and more.

It’s a wonder I have anyblack hair left on my head. I don’t have much, and I figure in the next year to 18 months I will be completely grey at this rate.

During the height of our COVID drama I had to put my emotions on the shelf to just get through it. I just put those mushy feelings away and went about navigating us out of the dark forest.

Now, I’m realizing some of those emotions are kind of stuck on the shelf.

I’m exhausted.

My sisters and I left home at 18 and never returned to live at home—this being 20+ living at home is foreign to me. Sister K also has a 20-something living at home, and frankly, she’s as baffled as I am, just with a lot more emotion.

I find myself frustrated that Hope is chronologically 21 and emotionally 14, 15 at most. Bridging all that goes between those numbers is…a lot. It’s like she wants to go clubbing and she wants me to fix her baby food all at the same time. It’s dizzying, and I worry often that I just can’t do it. I do not have any effing idea how to parent through this. It’s like an uncontrollable roller coaster.

I know that I have unrealistic expectations; I’ve been spending the last few weeks of therapy really trying to get my brain on the same page as my parenting realities. When Hope actually was 14 and 15, I felt like I could really manage things better. At 21 she has access to sooooooo much more than I think she’s ready for, and the stakes seem so much higher and riskier. More than anything I want to protect her.

I also want to protect me.

I really feel somewhat powerless, and I don’t like the feeling. It’s not that I want to control her every move. On the contrary, I want her to be autonomous, to be free, but the trouble that she can get into feels so much more dangerous and life altering at this point. I hate rules, but I had to institute some this year because of poor decision making. Poor decisions at 14 and at 21…both are unpleasant, and both can have long consequences. But the reality is that I made it through the age 14, emotionally 7 period of poor decisions. Living through age 21, but emotionally 14 poor decisions feel a lot different.

To be truthful, Hope is a “good” kid, but she has triggers that just make her spiral and reliably do dumb shit.

And I’m older now. I don’t feel quite so resilient. I’m tired and a bit worn down. Worrying feels different. It’s exhausting.

My therapist gave me some homework and good friends have suggested I need some respite. Both are right. I’m working hard and will be trying to make some plans to get away.

I know Hope is also struggling and it is painful to know that I am not currently able to meet her where she is.

I’m trying, but it’s really hard. I am trying and I’ll keep trying tho.


New Hope, Who Dis?

Yes, I know after being absent around these parts it’s rare to post twice in a week. Don’t get used to it! That said, this weekend Hope and I head to Cancun for some much-needed R&R, and I actually tend to post a bit when we are on vacation..soooo, who knows!

Anyhoo, I had to drop a quick post about Hope. I don’t know what version of Hope this is…maybe 3.0? 5? Whatever, the point is that Hope is changing right before my very eyes.

As much as I might grumble a bit about the challenges of parenting a young adult who is living at home doing the sometimes dumb things that young adults do, I am getting a close-up view of Hope really growing up and into the person she wants to be. That’s pretty cool.

I’m sure you’re like, Um, ok, what’s up with Hope?

So, this semester she is taking 2 courses at the local community college. I was clear that I expected her to not goof off and apply herself. Even though I didn’t really expect all As, I told her (and I actually do believe this) that she is capable of A quality work. Hope has struggled with school since we became a family. Everything seemed hard for her. The content. The deadlines. The teachers. The environment. When she withdrew from college a year and a half ago, she was already on academic probation. So, while I wanted to set an expectation, I’m going to be transparent and say I really wasn’t sure how this would pan out.

I ask her how classes are every week or so. A few weeks ago, I asked how she was doing with due dates. She noted that she hadn’t missed one yet.

Y’all my daughter has ADHD, and it’s been a devil to manage. Last year, her docs took her off of all meds; I worried but they said trust the process. Um, ok. So, she’s doing her assignments and turning them in on time. I was stunned.

Then I booked our vacation. I honestly only took my schedule into consideration when identifying dates to travel. I stay busy with work and next week was mostly free with no external engagements. Hope was excited when I told her where we were going; she frowned a bit when I told her when. Turns out that next week is midterms.

Ooops!

She’s been anxious about it for a few weeks, but the reality that we were finally getting back to some semblance of normal in resuming our vacation schedule (spring and late summer) kept her excited.

So today, I stop by her room to chat and check in about today’s work schedule. She announced that she had a B in math and that she was getting a jump on midterm things that are due next week so that she can maximize her time away.

Wait what? You have a B in math? You hate math! A B!!!

You’re planning ahead? You’re getting a jump on things? You’re maximizing?

Seriously, if you have a kid with ADHD or is otherwise neurodivergent, you KNOW that this is beyond a breakthrough, this is like an effing miracle! I can’t even really articulate how stunning this is.

I am so proud of her. I’m so proud of how she’s figuring out her way. I’m trying to push back all my new expectations. I don’t want to crowd her and I don’t want to upset the apple cart. But wow, what for some folks seem like tiny steps are just seismic shifts for us. I’m actually stunned.

I always have known that Hope is smart. I didn’t know how long it would take for things to catch up and work themselves out, but it seems like we are entering a phase where some of that is happening. I’m over the moon happy for her. I see her confidence is much higher. I see her figuring things out and not asking me to do it for her. It’s all happening right here, right now.

And as much as I hate having gone through a pandemic, new traumas and so many downs, this up, this high makes it worth it. I believe in Hope and can’t wait to see how she finishes out the semester and how she continues to move forward.

It’s the same Hope, but different, a bit more mature, settled and rooted. I’m so happy for and proud of her!

I see you Hope!


PTSD

It seems June is not only Pride but PTSD Awareness Month. I did not know that before today. It’s kind of hard to keep up with the multitude of awareness months and days.

In many ways, PTSD has ruled aspects of my life since Hope became my daughter. She was diagnosed years ago, and the events of the last year resulted in a fresh new round of targeted treatment.

Although I’ve certainly struggled with my own traumas throughout my life, I had never been diagnosed with PTSD or C-PTSD…until very recently. I remember the anxiety I felt the first time I drove through the tunnel where I had my accident and how long it took me to not avoid it or to feel panicky about it. It definitely took a while, but I was treated for anxiety and just kept working at it. That’s representative of how I navigated things.

That is until recently.

When Hope started working again last month, I was excited for her to get up and out of the house and to hopefully find purpose in being functional. I knew she was a great worker; her managers loved her last summer and even when she volunteers she always gets this amazing feedback. The girl works hard, is great with people (despite being somewhat of an introvert) and is a great employee. I knew that getting a job would help her turn the corner after the challenges of the year.

Now intellectually, I knew all of that. But my emotional self was triggered AF.

By the end of her first week, I was enduring mini panic attacks when she left for work. I tried really hard not to fret and worry about her when she wasn’t home within 20 minutes of her shift ending—but I worked myself into an emotional frenzy anyway. When she called out twice in two weeks for what didn’t seem to me like legit excuses, I lost my ish. I tried to offer care and concern, but I also came down hard on issues of work ethic and commitment. I hounded her about her schedule. I became deeply concerned about whether she was eating enough and the right things to keep her well and energy powered.

I tried to keep a lot of my panic to myself, but I failed. By last week, I was kind of a wreck on the inside. I was tired of being constantly on edge, consumed with worry and hounding Hope such that I could tell long term it would damage our relationship. I was miserable.

I convinced myself that it was because I didn’t trust Hope to make good decisions. Based on some of the decisions she made last summer, which precipitated the emotional mudslide of the year, the concern wasn’t completely unwarranted. But it just wasn’t healthy how much I was fretting about it. Five days a week, I was losing my ish on the inside.

By the time my weekly therapy appointment came around, my therapist, who was already trying to help me with my panic attacks noted things were worsening. That’s when she said, “ABM, I think we need to change course in working through this. This isn’t just panic attacks, you are being triggered by Hope going to work and your inability to prevent what happened last time from happening again. This isn’t really about trusting Hope, this is about being terrified that something bad will happen to her again and your inability to stop it. This is PTSD.”

I looked at the Zoom screen, bit my lip and began to cry. What? How? I mean, I’m worried about Hope, but is it really all that? Seriously. Won’t this just get better with time? Are you serious? She walked through my symptoms from the last few weeks, talked me through the diagnosis and made some recommendations on moving forward. It was so clear she was right.

I’m still processing what this means, but I know that naming it has helped. I also talked to Hope about being really afraid. My daughter continues to amaze me. She was gracious and understanding; and I’m a little less afraid now.

But, really I’m still terrified and that’s going to take some time to work through. Of all the things I thought would trip me up, Hope going to work ain’t it, but here we are. I’m going to get through this though; I will. Might take more than a minute, but I will. I’ve asked Hope to be patient with me and that I will do my best to try to avoid being an overbearing, overprotective troll.

She smiled and said we’ll get through it. She’s right; we will.


Transitions

Decisions are really hard for Hope; she’s easily overwhelmed when she has options. Early in my journey with Hope, I learned that I had to narrow her choices if I was ever going to get her to make decisions. She can’t have more than 3 choices and some days that’s a stretch.

And overwhelmed Hope is miserable, and so are the folks around her who are silently screaming

MAKE A DECISION ALREADY!

She gets anxious weighing the options, reviewing and re-reviewing, then she panics and guilt trips herself because she knows everyone is waiting until she’s just paralyzed.

Recently, Hope spent an hour sifting thru burger places on UberEats; I was shocked when the delivery gal knocked and Hope grabbed her McD’s bag.

Me: McD’s? Really?

Hope: I couldn’t make a decision and I was hungry so I just ordered McDonalds.

Even with McD’s she self limits for months at a time: She will order the same, exact order for 5 months and then change to something else for a season. She does this because she makes the decision one time and sticks with it to avoid just sitting there going “um” at the drive thru window.

With Hope now approaching the age of 20; there are more decisions than ever. We recently had a family appointment with a doc to talk about meds. Doc explains everything, lays out 3 options in rank order and asks Hope to say what option does she think is best.

Blank stare.

After confirming that she understood the options, and confirming that ultimately this was her decision alone, she balked. We eventually got through it with some coaching and patience; she made a decision. But I could tell that our super mild mannered, even tempered doc was a little undone by the inability to make a decision.

Over the years I’ve become a lot more patient when she hits decision-making snags. I’ve adapted, but I haven’t really seen her skills improve or her anxiety go down. I’m hopeful that we will hit a turning point sometime soon.

I’m realizing that while Hope complained about how strict the military school was, she seemed so much more grounded there. The structure, the limited choices, that environment is one that kind of gave her the structure her spirit seems to demand. Her senior year, I asked her if she wanted to consider military service; but for her hatred of any physical activity, I could see her doing well in service. It also would’ve been kinda cool seeing how so much of her bio family were at some time in the military. Hope shot down the military idea hard and fast, proving that the ability to decide was in there, but only when it was something she really had a strong opinion about.

Right now, it almost feels like we’re going backwards. If Hope can avoid any kind of decision, she will. This year at home with minimal structure has not been good for her development. I am incapable of providing the structure she needs to thrive. Tomorrow, she resumes her job hunt. I’m hoping something turns up. An occupied Hope is a happier Hope–the decision-making isn’t much better, but at least emotionally she’s more stable.

I know she will get there; it’s really going to take time and lots of confidence building practice, though.


The Fall Season

The fall season is typically my most challenging of the year. While I am usually ready for sweater and boot weather, I struggle with the diminishing day light hours, less outdoor time–which means less patio time–and the sense that we should all be nesting.

This year, I feel like we’ve been force nesting for the whole year. When quarantine started for me and Hope, it was the just the second week in March. Since then, we’ve only been out of town once to visit my parents.

I buy the groceries, typically over 2-3 quick outings a week. We see most of our doctors online, but we have had several in person visits, including more frequent visits as of late. We’ve “risk splurged” and gone to the beauty supply store and a recent trip to Ulta to just…browse. I’ve hit Michael’s a couple of times for yarn. I’ve gone out to happy hour/dinner (outside only) with my podmates maybe 7 times (roughly once a month) and I recently started seeing someone and because of concerns about risk, we mostly hang out at his place.

Now that I write it out, it seems maybe like a lot, but it really hasn’t felt like it. Hope has definitely had more time outside of the house than me. She’s worked two jobs during this time, and at one point was out of the house nearly everyday. Both jobs are in the rear view now and she has withdrawn from school for the rest of the semester.

Hope is the epitome of a homebody. She will stay in pjs for days, snacking in bed (and sleeping with the litter of wrappers), and happily go down Tik Tok/YouTube video rabbit holes if I let her. While she might genuinely want to be more social, she can be content chillaxing in her adult onsie.

I like having the choice of staying home, but I’m social. I appreciate being out and about. I’m frankly worried about my emotional health going into the fall. I don’t feel like I have that many choices, and zoom and MS Teams are just stand ins. It honestly feels like things are closing in.

I’ve pulled out my therapy light. I’ve got several craft projects, and I’ve finally logged into some of the free movie apps. I recently started the couch to 5K program to see if I can build up to more time outdoors during the winter and fall months. Hope and I are binge watching Lucifer on Netflix, and I’m sure I’ll find something else for us to watch when we’re done.

Hope needs a lot of attention and nurturing right now. It’s been a rough few months. She’s doing great, but I’m worried about what if I can’t be what she needs during the dark months ahead? What if I go down my own rabbit hole? It’s not like I can call family for back up because of the pandemic. I mean, sure they will come if things are really necessary, but at what point is that? I haven’t really developed comfort with going away for a weekend–I worry about COVID exposure. We probably will for the holidays, along with pre-travel testing.

I am also worried about the upcoming US election, the fall out, these whackadoodle “militia” groups and just chaos. There was a “proud boys” gathering less than 2 miles from my home this week. Should I, too, stock up on weapons? Can goods? Am I even crazy for thinking about this?

So the fall, it’s here and…I’m fretting.


A New Parenting Chapter

Hope is dating, and without spilling all her business, she has her first boyfriend.

I am emotionally all over the place about this. I am happy for her; she is delighted that someone outside of family is smitten with her. She is smitten, and it’s adorable.

I haven’t met dude, and Hope has indicated that my invitation to have dinner is premature. I have made sure that she has communicated that he could become a hood ornament on my car if he treats her poorly.

Yes, I threatened him. Hey, it’s on brand for me.

Anyway, I’m happy for her because she’s happy. As for me? I hate it.

Now I don’t hate it because I don’t want her to date or because I don’t think anyone will ever be good enough. I hate it because it is forcing me to grow and change parenting strategies during a period of great upheaval.

Yeah, I don’t want to deal with this right now.

Work is draining. Diversity work is head and heart work. It’s teaching, coaching, advising, holding accountable, brainstorming and strategizing and doing it over and over. In periods when there isn’t large scale social unrest, this work can be taxing. I’m good at walking away from it at the end of the day and resting my head and heart and diving back in. But in moments like the one we are in now, the push and pull of work feels unending even when I walk away from my desk at 5pm.

Since the video of police officers murdering George Floyd hit the internet at the end of May is has not been uncommon for folks to call me after hours or on weekends. The back to back zoom meetings are unending. The need for consultation has only expanded. Boundaries are sometimes hard to maintain.

I took the first week of July off, and I don’t even remember that I had time off a few weeks ago. I live for the weekends, when I just crash. The pandemic keeps me home, and exhaustion keeps me on the couch or the patio.

I am constantly feeling like I’m on E. I plan to take another week or so off this month, but honestly, I know it’s not enough time, especially since I’m trapped at home with no place to go. I could use an adventure right now.

So, the notion that I need to also adapt my parenting to accommodate Hope’s love life has me in my feelings.

I fret that they want to go out and spend time together—doing what where? It’s a gotdamn pandemic? Can’t go to the movies, many restaurants aren’t open. And what’s his COVID-19 prevention routine? His roommate doesn’t even want Hope to come to their house (and I don’t effing blame him). And is the curfew I’ve set ok for a 19-year-old in her first real relationship? And how about that I can barely make it to 10pm keeping my eyelids open, is she really making it home on time? When Yappy and I knock out for the evening we both can sleep through bombs.

What are the right questions to ask? What are the new privacy boundaries? How do I check in to make sure she’s ok?

She looked at me like I’d grown horns when I asked her to be sure to have the location feature activated on her phone; she asked why. I told her because if something happened to her with him, I want that phone to tell us where she is. She told me she would be fine. I said, I know, but just in case…

Like Hope, wrestling with this new phase has been on a slightly slower schedule than a lot of my contemporaries. I thought we would have covered some of this ground over the last few years. I was kind of shocked, but happy, that this didn’t happen her first year of college.

This summer has just been a whiplash of developments for Hope. They’ve mostly been good. She’s worked hard. She’s kept a schedule. She’s dating. She’s actively trying to figure out this chapter. I’ve been distracted with work and really in a reactionary posture related to parenting. I’m usually a step ahead of Hope, but I haven’t had my eye on the ball.

And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Hope needed a bit more autonomy and independence. That’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t.

But it makes me feel…neglectful somehow, and that raises all kinds of complicated feelings when I think about the situations Hope endured early in life. I know that it’s not a fair comparison on a lot of levels, but I do feel like she definitely hasn’t got the best of me since she’s been home due to the pandemic.

And now, she will be home at least until January since her college decided to go remote. Her being home means active dating and active parenting continues, right here, right now.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of this. I know this. My rational brain knows that all of this is normal, that things will be fine and that Hope will be fine and I will rise to the occasion, but real talk: I don’t want to deal with it.

It’s hard admitting that. I have so much guilt about that. So. Much. Guilt.

But really, I don’t wanna.

I’m glad Hope is home and safe. I’m glad she’s happy and learning what it is to be really be smitten and to learn about herself as she continues to blossom. I’m excited to see how I will change during this time. I’m looking forward to having her around through the end of the year.

But I do need people to stay at home, social distance and mask up so that she can go back to school in the spring and I can go through empty nest emotions again.

Sigh….


I’m a Mess Right Now

Before I even get into this post, I anticipate that it will be a hot mess of rants, rambles, emotional meltdowns and frustrations. It might resonate with your own hot mess of feelings. It might be just the thing you shouldn’t be reading if you are one of those cheery, obsessively positive people. So…gauge yourselves accordingly.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about trauma during this pandemic.

I’ve also been thinking about coping.

I feel like I’m experiencing a lot of the former and not doing terribly well on the latter.

Two weeks ago tomorrow I began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. For a week I dealt with irritating but mild symptoms. I was tired a lot, but unless there was a dramatic change in symptoms, I knew would be fine.

I turned the corner last weekend and physically felt great, despite still not having much of an appetite, all week. I dove back into work, which frankly is insane right now. Work has stressed me out, pissed me off, triggered so much anxiety, cursing and just full-blown emotional meltdowns that I just wash my face, put on my pjs and get in my bed shortly after I close my laptop. #depressionmuch?

And then, yesterday afternoon the sore throat returned. By 9pm I was coughing again and by 11pm my anxiety was in full bloom which only made me feel worse. I have no idea what this means other than abject terror about what’s next on this journey. I do know it probably means that my quarantine will get extended when I was so close to breaking free. I mean, I was just going to go to the Target, but still.

I’m a bit of a mess and overcome by constant waves of emotion.

Grief is a big one. I just keep cycling through the stages, sometimes even daily. Despite being externally low key these days, inside I’m at a level 10 just about 24/7. I’m probably tired from resisting the urge to populate every sentence I utter out loud with multiple f-bombs.

The quarantine has been especially challenging. I don’t always have the energy to connect outside of work hours with anyone—so no virtual happy hours these two weeks. Hope is hit or miss with her caretaking and engagement—she is ensconced in her room and only comes out for food or bio breaks. She will go to the store. She finally unpacked the rest of her college stuff from the car after I quietly, through gritted teeth raged that I’ve been asking her to do this for WEEKS. Yappy seems terrified to walk with her now. She grabs the leash and he runs to hide under the bed; I know there’s a story there. This has meant that despite my quarantine, I have had to suit up and take Yappy out ever so often to alleviate his anxiety and make sure he gets the opportunity to poop.

Cooking still falls to me.

Cleaning still falls to me.

I’m overwhelmed by everything and underwhelmed by the world’s response. I took off today because I was going to snap if I had to participate in one more Zoom call that should have been an email. I’m tired of expectations that I always be on camera. I’m tired that there isn’t a real, authentic acknowledgement that this ish is traumatic, and not just regular traumatic like “Do you remember where you were on 9-11?” No, this is like the year 2020 seems to be a never-ending cluster-f*ck…the whole gotdamn year. Yesterday I got up and took a walk (via YT video) because a series of back and forth emails in which I insisted that I could not help with a project (a boundary) resulted in a final passive aggressive email from my colleague. This was before 10am.

I’m over it.

I’m not motivated to do much of anything but find new cocktails to craft (I’ll be trying a Matcha Mule today). I bought yarn, I have downloaded patterns. I can’t even get myself to cast on stitches or to think about a project and I usually find knitting to be incredibly soothing. I have watched very little of the trending shows and movies everyone is writing about. I keep watching Law and Order, a couple of animal shows, and other stuff I’ve seen a million times. I just long to know what’s already coming—so I rewatch stuff I’ve already watched.

I’m a mess and I know it. I don’t even know how not to be a mess right now. I’m sad, mad, worried, sick, sick and tired, frustrated, confined, bored yet overextended at work and the thing that is seriously effing me up the most?

Some folks are trying to normalize this experience. This shit is not normal. And while I understand that it is the “new normal” and that normal as we once knew it is gone; I’m grieving *my* normal hard right now, so stop reframing this shit. I am not hearing it right now. STFU.

I’m beyond miserable, and there’s levels to my misery.

And then I feel guilty because, in the grand scheme of things I’m fine, Hope and Yappy are fine. My family is safe, sound and fine. There are so many people who are economically devastated in the midst of the mind f*ck this all is. I’m not experiencing that, thankfully, but I can’t even imagine having that burden too. It reminds me of the privilege I have despite everything.

So, yeah, just add woke guilt on top of the emotional dumpster fire that I am right now.

So this chilly Friday morning, I’m going to make me some coffee, put some Baileys in it, cut off several chunks of the bread I made yesterday, get in my favorite spot on the couch and sulk while watching L&O marathons on various channels and filling in with back episodes on Hulu for hours when I can’t find a broadcast episode. I will call my doctor to discuss the reappearance of symptoms and what it means for my quarantine, testing and over all health. I will snooze my work accounts—no I will not hop on your zoom for a few minutes. Let me lone!

Today will be for self-care in the form of tv watching, wallowing, carb loading, cannabis consumption and trying to get my mind right. I might even order takeout on a *Friday* (Thursday is takeout day at Casa d’ABM).

How are y’all?


Beyond the Mug Cakes

So, this is where we are with me at home and Hope off at college:

Yeah, so, I do in fact miss Hope, but not like when she went away to boarding school last year. I really was so sad after she left for the year. I fell into a bit of a depression and felt a little rudderless during the first couple of weeks.

I do not feel rudderless this go ‘round. I feel…different. Not sure I have a word for it yet. I miss Hope. We text every other day or so and talk on Sundays. She sounds happy, if a little anxious. She seems to be thriving socially. I do miss her, but, no I’m not crying over her departure. When folks ask me how I’m doing with my empty nest, and I reply “FINE!” they seem to be disappointed that I’m not falling to pieces.

One thing is the same as when I experienced my first empty nest last year: the fatigue. Active daily parenting is frigging exhausting and when your regular parenting involves a lot of anxiety and a major life change on the immediate horizon, it’s a wonder you can get up in the morning.

This past weekend I enjoyed the ridiculous luxury of taking 2-3 hour naps Saturday and Sunday. It was decadent, and with the break in the weather serving the smallest whiff of fall, this was prime napping weather. I was couch-drunk most of the weekend.

So, yeah, there’s that.

Now what?

Well, I’m back in the dating hunt, which is….challenging. Dating when you’re older feels different. Your priorities are different. You are forced to even see yourself differently. The rose-colored glasses come off pretty quickly. Trying to be intentional about getting out, meeting people and dating raises my insecurities about all kinds of things.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m a catch. I know I am, but for whom? Some standards have gone way up like I really want to be with someone with same or similar educational attainment and a solid career. But as we slide into the late forties, how I think about myself and others is morphing. I still see myself through youthful glasses, and then I see the pool of men and I think, “Oh, we are aging. I mean, we still look good (some more than others), but that glossy veneer has worn away.” It’s a sobering gut check.

But I’m still out here trying to foster a healthy and robust social life.

And then there’s my role in the adoption community. I mean, it hasn’t changed, but it kind of feels like it has. I’m pondering what things I will write about, how will express the feelings of watching Hope navigate this next chapter. I’m taking on some volunteer consulting around diversity and adoption agencies. I’m looking forward to that and hoping it might turn into some other opportunities since how people of color show up and engage in and around the adoption community is important to me.

I’m diving into work and feeling like there are new challenges and opportunities ahead with my career. I see a shift in my work on the horizon. I’ll be getting a new colleague soon, launching new studies, debuting some new research. I’m passionate about my career, so I’m excited, but I’m also…already thinking about my exit strategy. I’m thinking about what my next chapter will be, when will I be able to retire and what will I need to do to make that happen. Even then, I’m eager to plan my retirement. I’m curious what and who I will be then. There have been a few evenings since Hope has been gone, when I just sat on the patio and dreamed about what that chapter might look like. With Hope in college, it seems like I can think about it for the first time in a long time.

And Hope…I do worry, maybe worry isn’t quite the right word. I’m concerned. It’s not eating at me yet, but it’s rambling around in the back of my head.

Is she overwhelmed?

Does she feel ready?

Is she ready?

A recent chat with AbsurdlyHotTherapist suggests that she’s really internalized the anxiety about being in college. She’s saying she’s fine to me, but being a bit of a pill in therapy.

How long is that sustainable?

And what plans should I put in place to guard against a meltdown or pick her up after one?

What would life be like if she isn’t successful on that path? As resilient as she is, would she recover from that?

Would I?

So, yeah, I’m concerned now that classes will officially start in 4 days. I’m going deep into the prayer closet this weekend.

I’m holding it all together and trying to map my next moves with and without Hope. I’m trying to be judicious with the mug cakes and get more exercise to compensate for this evening delight I’m currently digging.

But all in all, I’m good.


Kids Don’t Want to be A$$holes.

I was surfing around Facebook this past weekend and stumbled upon posts with parents venting about kids’ behavior. The “kids” may have had trauma backgrounds, may have neurocognitive challenges and some had both and more. I could practically hear the frustration through my phone and laptop screens. I empathized deeply.

I’ve certainly posted here about my frustrations around Hope’s more challenging behaviors, and how they were really, really difficult to cope with, so I get it. I have a love/hate relationship with online adoption support communities, but I do think that online support groups are important because we all need safe spaces to just release the big emotions we have in trying to cope with what inevitably feels like very personalized behavior designed to destroy us. It’s natural to feel that frustration. It’s natural to need to vent.

What struck me, though, is how easy it is to go down the rabbit hole of seriously thinking your kid is out to get you, to impose consequences that serve to push the kid further away and to really think there’s nothing going on but what you see on the surface.

Pro Tip: There’s always something going on below the surface.

I learned some time ago that Hope’s behaviors typically weren’t about me at all, but they were a form of communication with me. Parenting Hope through trauma and ADHD was and is…hard. Of the over 2,000 days Hope and I have been a family, I experienced some level of emotional upheaval for at least more than a good third of it.

Way more than a third of it if I’m brutally honest.

This has not been a walk in the park, nor has it lived up to the parenting experience I thought it would be. It’s been, in many ways, better than that notion and way underachieving in other ways.

It took me a long, long time to understand and appreciate that Hope’s most challenging behaviors were really her trying to tell me that she was struggling, that I needed to meet her where she was, not where I thought she should be. She was, and sometimes still is, scared and unsure of the circumstances and her place in those circumstances. She didn’t always have words, so she acted out. She still doesn’t have many words, but she will apologize for not being able to tell me what she needs. Sometimes it’s like we play out charades as I run though a list of potential challenges trying to guess what it is she needs and whether I can do something that will relieve her stress.

Hope was never out to get me in those moments when she was acting all spawn of satan and ish. She was calling for me to save her.

As we spend some time venting, we’ve got to remember that kiddos need us. That they are, in fact, often telling us what they want and need. They don’t want to be acting out. They don’t feel good about any of it. They aren’t trying to stay in those dark places.

According to the US CDC, nearly 10% of kids have an ADHD diagnosis. And although only about 3% of kids have depression and 7.1% of kids have anxiety, there is a high likelihood that if you have a diagnosis for one, you will have a diagnosis for another with a side dish of high incidence of behavioral problems too. For those of us parenting adopted children and/or children with trauma or ADHD, it might seem like these stats are low. They are relatively low; it’s just that we all hang out together, plugging into communities with other parents who are living the same experience. It ends up feeling like it’s a lot more people because we are plugged in.

There was a conversation I had with Hope one time when she was trying to explain what ADHD felt like without meds and what her depression feels like. It was heartbreaking for her to vocalize what it actually felt like, but it helped me understand that as frustrating it is, as much as I feel so personally attacked with some behaviors, as disrespectful as it feels, what Hope feels in those moments is so much worse. I pondered it for weeks.

Our kids don’t want to have behavioral problems. Our kids would love nothing more to be “normal.” Our kids want to blend in. They don’t always have the capacity to keep it together. They don’t always have the skills to even perform normalcy. We have to support them and create space that will allow them to get as close to it as they are able.

It’s ok to vent. Really, it is absolutely ok to vent, just remember that they aren’t trying to be assholes. They aren’t.


The Mystery of Turning 18

Hope will be 18 in a few months.

I don’t even remember looking forward to 18; sure, I remember 21, but I don’t remember looking forward to 18. I mean, I was still in high school, getting ready for college. I was already illegally boozing at a local bar where one of my friends’ boyfriend’s older sister tended bar. I had a car and a after school job. I actually had a fair amount of freedom, earned by good grades and decent character.

Beyond that, I don’t remember looking forward to turning 18.

I might’ve been more into being a high school senior and all the traditions that go with that, final year of sports, the awards, homecoming and prom, banquets and convocations. I have quite a few snapshots from that time. I looked happy, content, like I was having fun. But I just don’t remember being all eager to be 18. I don’t even remember what I did that birthday; Google says it fell on a Saturday and knowing my besties from back in the day we were out and about doing something, even though I was the first of my closest friends to become a “legal adult.”

I knew that nothing would change at home. I chuckle at the thought of somehow asserting my newfound adulthood while still living at home and being in high school. The notion is straight up laughable. That said, I knew that things were stable, not much was going to change after my birthday and that I certainly was not going to be a real adult. I was ok with that.

At best, for me, 18 was like…being an adult preemie.

I don’t actually know that Hope is looking forward to her next birthday, but I know it’s one of those birthdays that is somehow significant.

Maybe depending on the circumstances it’s more significant for parents. Maybe that’s why it’s on my mind these days.

A friend’s son recently turned 18, and it was clear from my friend’s post that they were having some conversations about what it meant to be an “adult” still living at home with the parents. The comments on the post were funny and smart, and I got the sense that this father and son had some negotiating that would soon be taking place about all kinds of things. It was also clear that by negotiating, I mean that dad was going to tell him that many of the same rules still applied today as they did last week.

I’m mindful that my experience and the experience of my friend and his son are ones that folks take for granted. We grew up with our biological families. Stability was never an issue. The threat of separation never even brushed our lives. We knew that being 18 was a formality; we were still members of our families, still dependent on them, still loved by them and loving on them, and that nothing was going to really change. We were still firmly ensconced in the family nest.

Hope and I haven’t talked about her upcoming birthday at all. We’ve been so focused on the college application thing and the layers of anxiety around the process and what it meant to her and me that it didn’t even occur to me that there might be feelings about her 18th birthday. During out long drives to visit schools, I know that my daughter seems to feel a mix of excitement and anxiety. For the most part that is normal, but I know it’s not totally normal because she’s worried about being abandoned. Will I cut her loose when she goes to college? How will she manage? Can she function in a college environment on her own? What are the other options and how do you make decisions? There’s a lot of big feelings for both of us.

So, we’ve been consumed by the big life, landscape issues and not some of the more down to earth, daily drama that the late adolescence/early adulthood period brings with it.

That is until earlier this week, when I discovered that she had signed up for something that I *know* had a 18+ requirement. I promptly sent her a quick message to shut it down since she was underage. I reminded her that there are age limits for a reason and that I would not be relenting just because she was close to 18. She didn’t respond; she just shut it own.

Now that’s all great and everything, but the reality is that Hope will be 18 in just a few months, and I’m realizing that it opens up a whole new set of opportunities for bad decisions. Hope will be 18 chronologically, but emotionally? Not even…

I believe she feels attached and reasonably secure in this moment, but will she feel that in a few months? Have I done enough to nurture the confidence in our relationship, in my reliability as her mom? Does she trust me enough?  Does she trust me enough to still be a bit of a kid? I don’t think she wants to grow up, and I know she needs more time, so I’m hoping that we don’t get hung up on the imaginary trappings of adulthood that come with being 18.

Of course there are also things that I will need to evaluate in terms of my parenting. Will I still monitor online activity? I don’t heavy monitor anymore, but I have the ability to. Usually I just rely on my “mom’s spidey sense” to let me know that I need to check something out. Since Hope is away at school I know that the school blocks somethings on campus and I also think she’s just earned a higher degree of privacy than she did 5 years ago. Are there things that I will change in my parenting when Hope turns 18? Hmmmm…honesty, I just don’t know.

I’m hoping that in the grand scheme of things, 18 won’t be a big deal for us. I am looking forward to celebrating it with our family, but beyond that?

Well, that’s a mystery!


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