Tag Archives: Parenting support

Thoughts on Being Average

I hang out in a number of online spaces looking, listening and learning. I’ve tried to capture so much of what I’ve learned on my parenting journey in this space. I’ve tried to be transparent about the things I’ve done well and the things I’ve failed at miserably. Sometimes, I really sit and think about how naïve I was when I first started. I had read a few books and read a few blogs, but boy was I green.

I also remember people asking me was I ready to be a parent, as though choosing to adopt assumed greater preparation than having a biological child. I often responded, “Hell no, of course I have no idea what I’m getting into.” I mean, I took the PRIDE classes. I went to pre-adoptive support groups and listened to parents talk about their journeys. But, let’s be serious…are you ever really ready to be a parent?

I’ve learned a lot about therapeutic parenting and connected parenting and racially conscious parenting (the only one of which seemed intuitive to me). I’ve learned about adoptee voices. I’ve learned about other adoptive parents. I’ve sucked up a lot of info, and I’ve constructed a weird calculus to value each of the voices and info dependent on the situation.

And you know what? I’m still just an average bumbling parent. No better and no worse than any other average bumbling parent.

But it seems that the glare of observation and expectation seems so much brighter on adoptive parents. I don’t mean to pull out a mini-violin and whine or anything, but the parenting pedestals seem so much higher and the ravines we get dragged through seem so much lower. On one end of the spectrum, folks tell me I’m so awesome for *saving* Hope, insinuating that Hope should be grateful for our adoption. On the other end of the spectrum, the few vocal adoptees who mistake rudeness and toxicity with “reality” see and point out every parenting flaw I make and drive me into silence for fear of revealing just how average, or below average my parenting might be. There is no grace on either end.

There hardly ever seems to be a middle ground, despite the reality that Hope and I are getting closer to whatever normal is every day.

I work very hard to be a good parent to Hope, and most days I feel like I am doing just ok. My end game has been if I am able to do more than simply keep her alive and as functional as she was when she came to me then that would be a version of success. Of course, I hope for so much more than that, but parenting is absurdly hard. If it would make parenting easier, I would probably do a few more dissertations, and that was no walk in the park either.

I recently read a blog by an adoptee who wrote a pretty extensive list of things she wished her adoptive parents had done before choosing adoption. I felt really convicted because there seemed to be so little on that list that I had done; I just didn’t know. I was ignorant. And while I often don’t cut folks slack for their ignorance, I’m not sure how I could’ve ever known then what I know now. Even if I did know all that I know now back then, I’m not sure I would have applied it in the way my daughter would have appreciated.

Parenting is an evolutionary activity. We grow through it. We learn; we try to get it right. We often fall short. But my God, we try.

I remember in my early 20s rambling off a lengthy list of my parents flaws and foibles. Oh, they were true, and they probably served as barriers to their parenting perfection, a perfection that was and is elusive on a good day. I know better now. I see them as not just my parents but as people who, remarkably, had lives outside of me and my siblings. They did their best, and that was more than ok. They were and are amazing parents. I know that without any doubt; I see it so clearly.

I try to emulate them with a therapeutic spin. I try my best, and I hope that it is more than ok.

On the outside, adoption is rainbows and sparkles. On the inside, it can be very dark and tumultuous. Folks rarely gets to see what happens behind closed doors where everyone is fighting for survival. I do my best to fight with my daughter instead of against her. I fight for her. I try to apply every lesson I learn. I replay every family squabble to assess how I could handle it better. I try to provide every possible resource that I can access and afford. I problem solve as much as I can. I try my very best to be a good parent to Hope.

And if I’m lucky, I’m average. That’s real, and that’s ok.

So, whatever kind of parents we are, I hope that we can practice more grace with one another. I hope that Hope sees me as I am one day. I imagine that she will find that my parenting fell far short of what was needed or desired, but I also hope that as she continues to grow and evolve that she will know that I did my best not make things harder than they already were for her. I hope that as she lists the things I missed or failed that she will also see the things that I manage to get some kinda close to right. I hope that she will see me through lenses blessed with a bit of rosy grace. That would be nice.

If she doesn’t see me that way, it’s ok. It really is.

Average isn’t so bad.

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Sport Parenting

As a parent, I’ve learned a lot, but one of the many things with which I still struggle is the parent vs. parent struggle.

It’s the comparison game.

It’s funny because I thought I had a hard time responding to stuff like, “How’s your daughter doing in school?  “Joe” was honor roll last quarter!”

I did, I mean, I do still have a hard time responding to this kind of inquiry.

But that’s not it. I feel like what I’m struggling with is at the other end of the continuum.

I feel like I’m competing against other parents who are parenting children who have experienced trauma.

The good news is that I’m losing, or winning, depending on how you measure things.

I checked in with a number of adoptive parent friends recently and other parents online who are parenting children like Hope.

They’re struggles seem so much worse than mine.

Hope doesn’t have the same kind of tantrums.

She doesn’t really rage.

She doesn’t really lie much.

She doesn’t sneak out.

She doesn’t act out physically.

She’s got emotional issues, but they don’t trigger some of the dramatic behaviors I’ve heard about.

Comparatively speaking, I come away from some of these interactions thinking, what exactly is it that’s hard about raising Hope? I mean, why do I get upset? Hope is not doing any of those things.

Maybe I’m making mountains out of molehills.

I find myself minimizing the things Hope and I do struggle with.

So many kids have ADHD!

All teenagers pushback and go through phases where they don’t do what they are told.

Some kids are just so immature for their ages.

I began to think that in the game of therapeutic parenting I’m totally disqualified because we haven’t got the same problems as other parents. How dare I think our problems are comparable to other parents who are struggling to parent kids with profound grief and trauma!

Gosh this is silly, right?

Of course, sometimes I torture myself by thinking I’m lucky that Hope doesn’t act out the way other kids do. How great is it that we haven’t had to go through some of that stuff! Then I feel guilty because it minimizes what I know goes on in Hope’s head and heart, and how that affects us each and every day of our lives together.

In sport parenting, I don’t win or lose, and frankly, I’m not sure which one is which. The other things I often find myself wondering is: Why the devil am I trying to compare our experiences to that of other families anyway?

We’ve all got our own drama, and we all tend to have a lot of it.  Why would it all look the same?

And apparently, how I feel about what Hope and I endure seems to be similar to that of other parents…people tell me so. There’s an emotional similarity there. Even if the drama appears different the emotional upheaval is the same.

So, why do I still pull out a yard stick to assess how we’re doing compared to other families? Is this even natural behavior? Is sport parenting really a thing?

Are we always assessing how we measure up in our own parenting fantasy?

I don’t know.

I do know that I’m going to try to quit sport parenting in 2017.


Both And

I posted something on my FB page a few days ago that I’m sure was rather inflammatory towards adoptees. l hate that it was inflammatory. I appreciate a good pal on Twitter engaging me on the post. All that said, I’ve left it up, despite the fact that I think the author is a bit of a hack.

I’ve you’ve followed the blog for a while, or just dug into the archives, you’ll know that I’m a huge adoptee fan, almost groupie level sometimes (see FB posts about Angela Tucker and the goodies I recently received). They’ve given me so much insight into what must be going on inside Hope’s head. They are an invaluable voice in adoption, and I’m going to keep listening because I know they make me a better mom.

But I’m also an AP who’s often in her feelings about what brought her to adoption, how hard raising a kid is, how hard raising a kid with some issues is, how sad and depressed I get, how hard I fight to stay above water, how hard I have to suppress my own ‘stuff’, how I feel I’m failing at this parenting thing, much less this AP thing that seems to require more of my than I ever imagined and the list of feelings goes on and on.  I have this identity that goes beyond being Hope’s mom.

The truth is, I’ve had to make peace in my life that I’m probably not as happy as I thought I would be as a parent. Another truth?

I sometimes wish I had just left my life alone. I’ve said before it was a good life.  Uttering this truth is a scary, ugly thing.

Getting all the stuff you thought you wanted in life, is well, not all it’s cracked up to me. And it’s not that I want more stuff, it’s just everything is tinged with loss…like everything is tinged with loss.

I am a parent to a daughter whom I adore, but I am unable to birth children—a truth that pains me greatly. I can’t *fix* my daughter’s troubles—a truth that is so complicated it just sucks; I mean I can help her heal but…I don’t know where it will take us. Relationships with family and friends are so different—some have thrived but many are irrevocably changed and not necessarily for the better. I lost my church—I grieve this nearly as much as the loss of my fertility because it shook the foundation of what I believe spiritually. Dammit, even my dog The Furry One passed away; he was one of few constants that joined Before AP and After AP. I could go on, but why, right?

Since I wrote my last pissy post on the drama in adoption support groups, I’ve largely shied away from them. Many of them are simply not safe places. They aren’t healthy and they aren’t supportive because it feels like everyone is fighting to see who is hurt more, playing vocabulary police, lots of “if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t do XX,” lots of name calling and lots of power plays.

Frankly, I’m grateful that I didn’t join any groups before I adopted Hope; I probably would’ve dropped the whole adoption thing and that would’ve been awful.  I might be sad about parts of my life, but I love that Hope is my daughter.

My mother has told me for years that hurt people hurt people. This is probably one of the truest things she’s ever said.

I look at support groups, and I see a bunch of marginalized folks—APs, Birth Parents, Adoptees—squabbling over their experiences and the validity of their feelings in the adoption experience.

The things about feelings is that whether we externally get them validated or not, we feel what we feel—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And yes, we are all marginalized groups when it comes to the general public. Here’s my diversity breakdown: We’ve all got these images that we rally against—APs are “saviors”, Adoptees are the “lucky saved” and Birth Parents are the folks kids are “saved from.” This is a super simplified version, so work with me. That’s all the general public knows and sees of this community. And unless we are an obviously adoptive family, we move through the world like a duck—smooth on top, paddling like hell underwater. The world doesn’t understand our trials, and frankly they don’t want to hear about them because that breaks the spell of the do-gooder narrative.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us to build community among ourselves with a power structure that mimics our marginalization. Saviors on top, everyone else on the bottom. Is it really any wonder why folks get mad? Why comments go from pleasant to fury in a hurry? It shouldn’t shock us.

Add to the fact that everyone hurts in some way, and online support groups are a powder keg.

Now, the point of me writing this post is really about me working through my own feelings when I engage online. I recognize my privilege, I try to stand down and help amplify voice, I try to be a good ally, and I hope to get better at that as I grow. I also realize that with this privilege it’s tough—and not fair–to ask other marginalized people to give us APs a break sometimes, but well…the truth is we could use a kind word and a turned cheek sometimes too. I say and do stupid ish on an hourly basis, I’m sure other folks do to. Sometimes we all just need to give each other a break.

what it is2

Holistically, our experiences and feelings with other members of the adoption triad isn’t really either/or, it’s both/and. None of us in the triad seem to get the communication thing right a lot. All of us type through pain and muck. It’s easy to forget that our experiences are our own, they are anecdotal; they can’t always be generally applied. It’s easy to forget that we’re supposed to be on the same team. It’s easy to forget that we all just want to raise healthy families in supportive environments and that every engagement doesn’t have to be a PhD crash course what we’re all doing wrong—this goes for everyone in the triad; it’s true for us all.

It should be all about the both-and. Always the both-and.

It should be about compassion. It should be about hope and caring. It should also be about education, but also mindful of delivery and purpose for all of us.

It doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreements or even all out rows, but it doesn’t have to be nasty, it doesn’t have to be discouraging, it doesn’t have to be diminishing, it doesn’t have to be dismissive.

It can and should be supportive; it should be uplifting, it should be encouraging, it should be challenging in ways that improve not tear down.

try

So my call for the whole community, is to just try to do better. And since this is The Year of the Try, the success can simply be found in the attempt to meet each other where we are.

Just try.


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