Tag Archives: Parenting Transitions

Thoughts on our Attachment Journey

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about attachment. I’ve read a lot. I’ve listened to a lot of experts—including adoptees, the ultimate experts. I’ve talked to our family therapist, AbsurdlyHotTherapist, and my personal therapist about attachment too.

There have been big questions and little questions. I’ve fretted about those moments when our conflict was especially hard whether I had damaged us, whether I had fractured the glue I was working so hard to make us stick together. More recently, I’ve worried about my and Hope’s attachment status and journey as she is away at school. I find myself wondering if I did the right thing by her with the school thing even though I left the decision to go away to her; every evening I come home to just Yappy, I wonder if she’s ok and if we’re ok. After 4 years together, is this distance thing ok?

I’ve felt times of distinct struggle in parenting Hope. Single parenting is hard. Single parenting a teen is hard. Single parenting a teen from a hard place is hard. This isn’t a complaint; it’s just my truth. I’ve shed a lot of tears. I’ve worried a lot about the present and the future. I’ve worked hard to be a good advocate for Hope, but I also know that I’ve worked hard to push her, and probably not always in the best or most healthy ways. Parenting in general is hard, and “knowing what you’re doing” is a myth even in the best of circumstances.

And yet, I have sat in on adoptive parenting support groups and heard my peers also shed tears for the kids they love going through far more challenging events than I have experienced with Hope. I’ve left some of those group meetings feeling like even though these people are my people and we have some shared experiences, that my experience in parenting Hope is less challenging than I may have thought. I don’t take credit for that; I think we’re lucky and Hope has a well of resilience that I still don’t quite fully appreciate the way I should.

The last few years, I’ve really tried to give Hope the quality time, love, care, and security she’s needed. She did go to band camp for a week or so for a couple of years. I saw that she loved that experience, maybe because she loves band more than anything. In pushing her to go to an academic program this summer, I wanted her to have a different kind of experience. I wanted her to have a different opportunity. I didn’t think it would turn into anything because surely, she needed to be home. We still needed to work on attachment. She still needed my security close by.

The changes we have experienced these last 5 months or so have been dramatic. I didn’t expect that we would be here, or rather that she would be there, much less that she would choose to be there. I also would not have anticipated how it affected our relationship. It has really given me a lot of peacefulness around how I think about our attachment journey.

During a recent visit home, I noticed how relaxed Hope seemed. I asked her how she was doing, she said she was good. I asked about the depression and anxiety that riddled her academic experience. Sure, she said, school was stressful, but she didn’t feel bad about it or about herself, she felt better than before. I asked her if she felt like she made the right decision going to this school. She looked at me like I’d grown goat horns; yeah, she said yeah, shrugged, put in her headphones signaling that this was the endpoint in this discussion.

Um, ok, so, yeah.

Here’s what our relationship looks like now. We text…a lot. We send pictures, jokes. She sends me funny videos; she sends me political videos, which I especially enjoy. Sometimes we just text to say we love each other. Her goodnight texts warm my heart almost as much as when she would come into my room to say good night at home when we would invariably chat about silly things and maybe watch some silly animal videos on YouTube. When things get rough, Hope calls me—which as any parent of an adolescent kid knows is huge. Hope went through some roommate challenges recently, she texted me first and then called me. My heart both broke and soared because she was sad, and because she called me. She didn’t want me to fix anything, she just wanted mom’s comfort. She just wanted me to comfort her, that’s it. Of course, I did make some moves to lessen her pain points, but she just wanted mom’s comfort. There was a time when she would not have sought that out, much less my intervention.

I’ve learned that Hope trusts me, and that feels…amazing. I’m learning to trust Hope more on this part of our journey too.

We also delight in the time we get to spend together. The moment we see one another it’s just joy (and a huge stack of laundry). She indulges me as I take dozens of pictures of her in her ROTC uniforms and then texts them to our extended family. She can’t wait to tell me about what she’s reading or how drama club is going. We have these great conversations, and we bicker about the college applications that need to be done. Before you know it, the visits are over, and we hug it out, and she skips off back to her dorm. I don’t know what happens for her after that. I wish I could be a fly on the wall. As for me, I leave campus, pull over and cry every time. I cry because I miss her. I cry because I’m grateful for the time we’ve had together during the visit. I’m grateful that I gave her a choice on the school thing and that she seems to be doing well there. I’m grateful that we seem rock solid as a family. I’m grateful that I have a date on the calendar for the next visit.

I’ve learned that we’re ok during this chapter of our journey. I’ve learned that I’ll always wonder if we’re solid, if our attachment is strong enough or sustainable. I’ll always wonder if I’ll screw it up. I’ll always wonder about it all. But I do know that it feels like we’re ok right now. I’m holding on to that and to Hope.

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The Threat of Desensitization

Over dinner tonight, Hope and I watched the evening news.  During the news, coverage on the murder of Terence Crutcher was shown.

If you haven’t heard of Mr. Crutcher, here’s the short version of how his life was cut short.

His car was stalled in the middle of a roadway. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma were apparently on the way to an unrelated police call when they saw him.

Crutcher apparently thought they were coming to help him; they didn’t help him.

Despite initially walking towards the police, likely believing they were there to assist him, he realized that he was in danger and raised his hands above his head.

Helicopter video is online, along with the narration about how Crutcher wasn’t following directions and that he looked like a “bad dude, to be honest.”

He was hit with the stun gun, and shot beside his car.

More than two minutes went by before any life-saving efforts were attempted.

He was unarmed.

It’s just not right. It’s just not right.

I closed my eyes as the nightly news showed the video clip of Crutcher’s body laying alongside his car; it’s bad enough that he was shot and killed but the incessant need to show the bodies of dead people by the media specifically and public in general is just too much for me.

It is difficult enough to know that there is little dignity in life, but to be reminded that there is none in death is just beyond heartbreaking.

As I looked down into my bowl of pasta holding back my emotions, listening to Crutcher’s sister repeatedly say that his life mattered, Hope said, “I wonder what excuse they’ll come up with this time for this killing.”

She then went back to babbling on about band drama.

She didn’t miss a beat.

I read the response as, “This is something that just happens to us.”

And some days, it does just feel like that; this trauma is a chronic experience we are just enduring as black folks.

It’s kind of like what life felt like after 9/11; we begin a life under threat of terror. You go on about your life, day to day, year to year. There will be events, and they will be dramatic and traumatic. Despite our best efforts to “fight terror,” there is an acceptance that to some degree, this is just our life now.

Terrorism can happen at any time, anywhere.

We know that, and we accept it.

Terrorism can happen even alongside your stalled car as you think someone who is supposed to be there to help you, ends your life.

But the thing is, it should not be happening. All of this, the various types of terrorism, should not be happening.

This, this life of feeling like I should be deathly afraid of people who are sworn to help me, is something I do not want to be used to; this is not something I want Hope to accept as normal.

This isn’t anti-police, this is about being pro-life. I do not want to die with the need for an investigation into how and why I died.

Actually, I don’t want to die at all.

How could state sanctioned murder of unarmed black men become normalized? How could the shock of seeing black bodies lying in the street ever wear off.

Sure, Hope could’ve just wanted to get back to her band conversation (with which she seems obsessed!), but it was so jarring for me to think that in the last couple of years, that she might be desensitized to the routine of police overreach, overreacting, not helping, not being the good guys. .

Certainly her own history may numbed her emotional response to these events; maybe it’s Hope’s age that influences her responses. Maybe I read all of this all wrong.

Hopefully, maybe?

In any case, I’ve become acutely aware of a new threat to black lives: the threat of desensitization towards the death of unarmed black folks.

This threat is dangerous; the acceptance of these events as somehow normative can lead to the abandonment of efforts to seek justice. That is tantamount to giving up on justice.

I can’t accept that. How can I teach my daughter that justice…isn’t just elusive, but that because of the normativity of it all, that justice isn’t for us?

I don’t want that for my family.

I won’t talk about it with Hope tonight, but I’ll save it for another day as I ruminate on it. It is a conversation that we’ll have, though. I don’t need for her to emote like me, but I want to be sure that the gravity of this loss of life is never lost on her. I want her to live her life fully, without fear and without ever being used to injustice.

 

 


Visitation Reflections

It’s hard to believe that two weeks have passed and Hope’s visit with me has ended.  We’ve both got mixed emotions about this next part of our journey—waiting for paperwork.   She needs time to say goodbye, and I need time to “dissertate” and get the rest of our support team set up.  It’s a lot.  The therapists I’ve reached out to haven’t returned my calls.  There’s some additional room decorating that needs to happen.  And let’s not forget that I’ve got a mess of work to catch up on—including one journal article that needs to be revised in less than a week so I can meet the next deadline.

Hope and I have finally, in the last few days, settled into a delightful kind of normal.  There’s a comfort with each other; there are really challenging moments but we’re in a good place as we head back to the West Coast.  The last 4 days have been delightfully—gasp!—fun.  They’ve been a mom and her daughter just kicking it.   So, here’s my lessons/observations/whatever as I reflect on the last couple of weeks.

10.  Lots of things are just not that serious.

Sometimes Hope plays in the floor like she is a 5 year old.  Truth be told, I hate it, but really, I love hearing her giggle more than I hate it.  She’s laying in the floor, playing with the dog, she’s giggling, she’s being a kid.  She’s being a kid.

I want her to be a kid.  So, I just need to chillax and let some things just go.  It’s really not that serious.

There are way more parking lots in this life than in my previous single with no kid life.  I realize that I have a lot of single girl hang ups about food and space and exercise and clothes and… you name it.  In two weeks, I’ve learned I need to go into parking lot rehab.  Most of it is really just not that serious.

9. Timing is everything.

I’m growing accustomed to living my life in 20-30 minute increments.  Hope does not do well with sudden changes.  Sudden change equals life upheaval; so we need to avoid all of that.  Having been childless the ability to change my mind at a moment’s notice never affected anyone else.  I can’t live like that now.  In fact, I need to announce what the next day’s schedule is, remind her and set timers.  I never thought that my adoption registry for my upcoming shower would include a timer, but yeah, I need timers all over the place.

I use them to have a timekeeper for electronic screen time (in addition to parental apps).  I use them to say we need to be dressed to leave by a certain time.  I use them for everything!  Life is much more manageable with the timers.  Thank you Jesus for timers.

8. Speaking of Jesus…

I am Christian, but I’m not, nor have I ever been particularly preachy or proselytizing of my faith.  I don’t hide it, but for the most part, it’s one of the areas of my life that I tend to not talk about with folks other than close family and friends.   I mentioned in an earlier post that one of my mountains with Hope is my insistence that we go to church.  I don’t have an expectation that she necessarily join or that she even get *saved.*  I hope she comes to those choices, but they are choices.  Despite becoming a believer at 7 and being raised in the Baptist church, I can’t say I took my faith as bedrock until the last 10, maybe 15 years of my life.  And even then, I identify as a progressive, liberal Christian and ideologically, I am increasingly finding it hard to fit and to find a place where I fit.  The current Christian landscape in the US is kinda creepy to me.

Anyhoo, Hope asked me about being saved and baptism and just some basic theological questions that at her age I took for granted because I had always been around the Christian church.  I was delighted by her questions because I could explain things with ease and confidence and the moment lived up to visions I’d had in my head about spending time with my daughter through this particular lens.

Church was great (you know when that message is really YOUR message—yeah, today was that sermon) and I cried because I was just so happy with my life—the ups, the downs, this amazing kid sitting next to me and the blind and nearly deaf dog we have at home.

I don’t know if Christianity is for everyone; I know that I do my own thing and have found a church that works for me.  I will say that whatever your faith, this adoption thing is a beast and I know that you have to lean into whatever it is you believe in.  You will need to lean in hard, dang near perpendicular!  The grounding in something beyond yourself, something supernatural, is necessary.   One of the things the speaker reminded the congregation about this morning:  faith is not grown on the best days; it’s grown on the worst.   If you’re traveling this path, you need to believe in something.   Jesus happens to be my homeboy; he might be a good homeboy for you too.

And that’s pretty much my annual quota of religious proselytizing.   <shrug>

7.  Mountains are worth the effort.

The great Dr. Seuss 10pm bedtime standoff from last week was clearly our turning point.  OMG!!  I am still so proud of myself for standing my ground, clicking the lights and hunkering down in that power struggle.  I’m most proud that once she caved and went to bed that I was able to go in, kiss her good night and tell her I loved her.  We haven’t had a serious bedtime issue or major meltdown since.

I’m a natural stubborn debater.  I like to be right.   I like to win.  I’m reminded with Hope that the need for humble grace after having won is really what makes you hit the summit of the mountain.  It’s not about winning the power struggle, it’s about loving after the struggle is over.

6. Physical touch is healing.

Hope has some issues with being touched in certain ways.  Fortunately she can’t seem to get enough of hugs.  I hug her and kiss her forehead 50 times during the course of a day, even when she is being a real pill.  Midweek she just really started spontaneously hugging me on her own.  We held hands in church.  She kisses my cheek.  This physical affection is so meaningful for both of us.  It heals what’s ailing us, even if it’s a temporary salvo right now.  I’m going to miss hugging her for the next couple of weeks.  The Furry One is going to get hugged a lot more as a result.   We humans need physical touch.

5.  I’m a little worried about going back to work. 

For the first time in years, my focus is completely devoted to something else in my life.  This new identity business is really a BFD!  I’ve got a mess of stuff going on and I know that people will have the same expectations of me as they did before, but 1) I don’t really have a desire to work the way I did pre-Hope, at least not right now; 2) I don’t care about being defined by my professional identity right now.  I know it will all shake out in time.  I’m near the top of my own personal professional game right now.  I have a job that I love; one that I thought I’d have a hard time walking away from ever.  Today, well, hmmmm, I could.

I guess like I have to figure out what Hope’s and my normal will be, normal will also have to be redefined in my professional life too.

4.  This culture undermines parents. 

I can only imagine and apologize for some of the utterly silly things I may have said to the folks around me who are parents over the years.  Please forgive me. It really is pervasive though.

In the last two weeks I have had folks attempt to shame me for some of the early decisions I’ve made concerning how I intend to raise my daughter.

Do you think it’s wise to force her to go to church?

She really should have a cell phone; I don’t think you’re being realistic, everyone’s doing it.

Oh hot chocolate?  You know, she would probably be fine with decaf coffee.

Oh, this is the light stuff.  Everyone has an opinion, but so few bother to filter them or think about how they affect conversations that should happen at home.  Most things are innocuous, but, ugh…let’s just say, I had no idea how challenging this culture is with respect to raising a kid.  In my happily single, childless haze, I just had no idea that my big mouthed ideas should probably be left to myself.

Noted.

3. Kathryn Purvis is changing my life.

About a month ago, I finally picked up Purvis’ book The Connected Child.  I’m still wondering why no one at my agency recommended this book to me as I was wading the paperwork.  A few chapters in and it just made sense.  I tried to use it to help educate my family about things to expect with Hope.  There’s a great website (http://empoweredtoconnect.org/) and a Youtube channel with short videos as well.  I’ve got to practice the techniques more diligently, but Purvis’ work is extraordinary and will have a meaningful impact on me and Hope.

I’ve read several books and scanned a dozen more on adoption and older child adoption topics; The Connected Child seemed to provide me one stop shopping for information and resources.

2. I’m still in paperwork hell.

All I want for Christmas is Hope.

Whether Hope and I get each other for Christmas is dependent on the ICPC paperwork being completed in the next 15 calendar days, 11 business days.

Waiting still sucks.

1. Happiness is a by-product.

Last week Hope told Grammy that my job was to make her happy.  Grammy corrected her and told her that my job was to make sure was safe, had what she needed and loved her in healthy affirming ways.  The result of my doing these things is her being happy.  This was a great lesson.  Lots of people chase happiness, but don’t chase given their life meaning.  The latter is what ultimately will bring you much closer to your desired state.

Hope coming into my life has made me very, very happy.

Tomorrow I head back East for a long day of travel and possibly several weeks of waiting.  It’s all good though, I’m happy!


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