Tag Archives: Parenting

Thoughts on Charlottesville

When I was a young woman in undergrad, the animals men who nearly beat Rodney King to death were acquitted of using excessive force in that arrest and beating. A week of riots followed.

I could take a detour and talk about how little things have changed in the 25 years sinc except that these days kill shots have replaced physical beatings, but I won’t. I want to talk about what it was like those days and what it was like to go to a predominantly white institution as a young black woman.

The transition from high school to college is an important one. It’s exciting, and it’s scary. There are so many decisions to make, not just about school, but big life decisions. I now refer to the undergrad period as baby adulting. It was a crazy time.

I grew up in a place where white supremacy was visible. I could drive down a grand avenue with monuments to civil war losers. I remember the occasional detour on the way to church because the klan was marching in full regalia on Sunday morning. I remember going to see visit more plantations than I ever cared to, leading to a self-imposed moratorium on plantation visits since the early 90s.

As I started my applications to go to college, I knew that my family had limited resources. Scholarships were going to be essential to my success and to ensuring future college access for my younger sisters.

University of Virginia was near the top of my list as a Virginia resident. It’s a beautiful campus, steeped in history and tradition—even if that tradition purposefully excluded me. My grades were very good, but even back then UVA was very competitive. I worried about whether I would even get in.

I was floored during the application season when I received a handwritten note from the admissions dean about my essay. She asked to set up a time to talk, during which she strongly encouraged me to attend UVA.

I wrote about an event in pre-school that I still remember vividly. On a summer day on a playground, I became aware that being black was going to be problematic. I learned this at a incredibly young age, from another kid, who learned that being white was definitely better. She had learned that lesson at home from her parents. That story was the backbone for all of my college essays. To this day, the original essay written for a Black History Month contest, remains one of the most compelling things I’ve ever written. Occasionally, I’ll pull it out and it still breaks my heart.

For numerous reasons, not the least of which is that Charlottesville is gorgeous but racist #AF and that I got a full ride elsewhere, I chose to go further north to George Mason University. #patriot4life But the challenges of being one of about 1,000 black students of a campus of roughly 25,000 at the time were real.

There was the classmate whom I competed for the scholarship against who insinuated I bested her only because of the whole black thing.

There were the professors who talked down to me in from of my white classmates as I fought back anger and occasional mad, hot tears.

There was the dean of students who was visibly uncomfortable with black students in his office.

There was the isolation of being the only lonely in most classes over the course of four years.

And because I have a problem with perfectionism and self-pressure there was the challenge of being a model minority student always trying to prove that I belonged to be there.

That was layered on top of roommate squabbles, college boyfriend drama, daddy pop ups (he would visit unannounced—a major style cramp), a ravaging eating disorder and course work.

I loved and hated college.

When the LA riots broke out after the acquittal, I remember falling into an overwhelming sadness. It was consuming and distracting as it hit just before semester finals. I sometimes think back to what it was like for some of my classmates who weren’t plugged in. I was a student scholar and had access to the best of everything and everyone on campus—wonderful professors, additional resources, amazing mentors, 9 other black scholar classmates in my cohort. I actually had support systems during my undergrad years.

And it was still hard.

And exhausting.

And sometimes scary.

After the 1992 riots I found myself reaching out to acquaintances I barely knew at Howard University. Howard, an HBCU, was in DC proper, a fairly lengthy train ride into the city from cloistered Fairfax. It seemed to take forever to get there, but I was grateful it was accessible. I would go to hang out there some weekends. Eat a Happy Meal at the Black Mac—the McDonald’s near campus, post up at the library, just watch critical masses of other black folk roll by. It was…safe. I didn’t have to do anything there. I didn’t have to do anything but just be…just be black and be around other black folk. It was emotionally warm and fuzzy even if I didn’t really know that many people there.

It was safe. So safe that I entertained ideas of giving up my generous scholarship and transferring, just so I didn’t have to do the black thing at GMU anymore. Some days it was just too hard.  My parents got me together right quick on that. I graduated from GMU and ended up going there for grad school as well.

Tonight, though, as I watch the continuing drama unfold in Charlottesville, I’m wondering whether and hoping that the students of color at UVA have a safe place to go just be like I did. I’m so proud to see so many standing up for justice, but I know the toll it takes just wearing this skin and going to school. This burden is heavy. I hope they have one another to lean on, that they have a place to refill and recharge as they start their semester. I hope that UVA is prepared to support them properly and to make sure they are safe. I hope their professors offer mentoring and support. I hope professors choose to be bold and discuss these events and weave the lessons into their syllabi. As a mom, I just worry that these baby adults are in danger. If it’s one thing I’ve learned these last few years, it’s that parenting fears are the worst—you just want your kid to be ok in situations where you have zero ability to protect them.

That. Kind. Of. Fear. Is. The. Worst.

It’s not just that these lazy, ironic AF white supremacists are walking around carrying end-of-summer-sale torches named for a Polynesian creation story (Seriously, they can’t even make their own damn torches? Or did they just want a two-fer in repelling mosquitos AND intimidating people?). It’s that they are intentional and strategic in their intimidation efforts; that they are mowing down people with cars and that so many are sporting MAGA hats without a single word of chastisement from the dude in the White House who’s cool with cozying up to them.

Really who wants to go try to learn in the midst of that? And yet, that’s exactly what we’ve been expected to do for generations (even if Betsy DeVos likes to talk about our being leaders in school choice because of #racistsegregation #idiot).

This is all so exhausting. And sad. And Scary.

It’s undergrad all over again.

It seriously doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to end, which just brings the dark depression back.

It’s just hard.

So, tonight I’m offering my couch and floor to POC UVA students who just want to leave and go somewhere safe. I’m farther than a metro ride, but I’m happy to help you transfer and get settled somewhere else. Know that I and many others like me, feel your pain and stand with you. But I also want you to be as safe as you are strong. Reach out and Ill reach back.

I get it; I really get it.


The Elements

I grew up listening to Earth, Wind and Fire. My parents love music and exposed my siblings and me to some of the best disco, funk, and R&B out there as we grew up. Earth, Wind and Fire were special though with positive vibes, love songs and the sheer volume of hits they created. I loved them and continue to love them.

I went to my first EWF concert when I was a freshman in college. I took my mom. Maurice White was no longer touring with the group, though he occasionally would make a drop-in appearance. I remember rocking out with my mom and seeing the lights on her face from the show. I remember mom saying she hoped Maurice would drop into this show; it was like she was a young woman swooning over a famous crush. I remember it being such a fun time for us.

My daughter also loves EWF; her father loved the band and played their music often. Hearing an EWF song triggers happy memories of her time with her dad. When I heard the group was on tour with Nile Rodgers and Chic, and that they were coming to DC, I thought I’d invest in some floor seats and take Hope. It would be a good time for sure and also give us the good feel memories in the process.

So last night, my daughter and I met up for a yummy pre-concert dinner at a favorite restaurant of mine and headed out to boogie the night away.

If you are a fan of Earth, Wind and Fire and they are coming to your town on this tour—get your fanny to that arena and get your swerve on. Seriously, it was an amazing concert. The spectrum of people present was amazing. There was glitter, drunk folks, dandies, 70’s style headbands, whistles, ponchos—the people watching alone was worth the price of admission.

But the music…oh the music was EVERYTHING.

Hope and I rocked out. We screamed! We sang along. We smiled! We shimmied. We had an amazing time.

Hope was fast asleep before we could get out of the parking garage and in the bed before I could get back from walking the dog after we got home.

We boogied until we couldn’t boogie anymore.

Towards the end of the show the band did a lovely tribute to the late Maurice White. familyreunion

And the light hit Hope’s face the way it did with my mom 20+ years ago.

familyreunion

And…I got to thinking about my parents and Hope and her dad.

I reveled in my memories with my parents, dancing in the family room, turning the volume up in the car, looking at my dad’s army pictures when he was clearly grooving to good music. I found myself just oozing gratitude about having had them my whole life, how we shared these memories together, how The Elements were one of many parts of the soundtrack of our lives together.

I looked over at Hope who was swaying and singing. She smiled at me. I smiled back and thought about how much I wished she had had a longer time to build memories with her biological parents, how a whole series of episodes separated them, how at least she has these good memories that clearly bring her joy. I thought about how it just isn’t fair that my sisters and I have enjoyed our biological family having never known anything else, having never known the kind of upheaval Hope has, having taken for granted how easily things could have been different.

Life isn’t fair, and yet somehow Hope and I have been put together with a thread of music that helps us find common ground. We both get a chance to create these important memories. It doesn’t make up for the losses that Hope has experienced, but it does allow us to build from where we find ourselves.

“Ohhhh, this is one of my dad’s favorite songs.”

I smile and tell her it’s one of my dad’s favorites too.

There are only 3 original members still touring these days; they are all pushing 70 so I don’t know how many more tours there will be. I’m glad I took my daughter to see this one. I know that she will tell her friends and she will create legends about last night. I’ll look forward to reminiscing about last night with her 20 years from now as she tells her kids about last night. I hope we’ll both talk about our parents and what they loved about the music too.

That’s the way of the world.

 


I Used to be an ESTJ

Since I’ve been home recovering from my head injury, Hope and I have had a chance to spend some time together. Oddly, we haven’t gotten on each other’s nerves too much. We’ve enjoyed resting and lounging; of course, this is what Hope has been doing all summer, but I digress. I have a great kid.

Last week we threw on some sweats and hit the neighborhood IHOP while the housekeepers got the house together (how is it that I feel like I’m intruding in my own house when they are there???). Over pancakes and bacon, Hope and I got to talking about personality types. Hope mentioned that they did a Myers-Briggs test in school last year. Intrigued, I inquired what letters she got. Of course, my daughter and her short attention span and poor memory couldn’t remember.

Curious I did a quick Google search on my phone and pulled up a test for her to take over breakfast. She read the questions, occasionally asking me to clarify the questions for her. I mused over her answers, thinking for at least half of them that I wouldn’t answer the way she did based on how I observed how she moved through the world. She turned out to be an I/ESTP. She presents differently to me.

Um, way, way, way, way, way, way differently to me, but um, ok…if that’s how she sees herself.

I definitely pegged the Introvert/Extrovert borderline, but the rest of it was like no, these descriptions don’t describe my kid at all. I am intrigued by the way Hope sees herself. While I’m not totally going to change my parenting style based on a free version of the Myers-Briggs I found on the internet over breakfast, it does make me think about trying to see Hope as she sees herself.

Artistic, independent, adaptable, practical, self-directed and energetic. This sounds like a great kid too. I hope that one day everyone can see her this way, including and especially me.

After reading her results and chatting about them, I reset the test and started taking it myself. I know that we can change over time. I have been an ESTJ (Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) for as long as I can remember, and none of these indicators were even close to the borderlines all the previous times I’ve taken the test—both formally and informally. I hadn’t taken one of these tests since I became a mom, so, since we were chatting about our personalities, I jumped on the test train.

Low and behold, I have changed. The only thing that stayed the say was my tendency for extroversion. Every other indicator was firmly hugging the borderline. Apparently, I have become more Intuitive, more Feeling, and more Perceiving since I became a mom. Who is *this* chick???

I guess that’s a good thing, right? As I told Hope, none of these letters are particularly good or bad; they just are.

Still, I am fascinated by the changes. I suppose motherhood required me to develop and flex these aspects of my personality. I’d like to think that I’m more forward thinking as I dream about Hope’s future, and I certainly have added consideration of feelings along with my data in decision-making. I’ve had to let some of my judginess go and be more flexible and adaptable in this phase of my life.

So, I guess it all makes sense, but much like I thought I saw differently than she sees herself, what I thought I knew about myself turns out to be different than the possible reality.

It’s odd because there was some pride I’d long taken in being an ESTJ. I don’t know why; maybe it was how definitive the scoring suggested these letters represented me. As I mentioned earlier, I know that personalities can change over time, but um, that was *other* people…not me. Is it odd that my initial reaction was feeling a little grief and loss—I mean, here was another indicator of how motherhood has changed me and even though I traded in my cute Mini Cooper 18 months ago in favor of a “family” car, I’m still not-so-secretly mad about that. Did I really have to “lose” my STJ too?

I’m mildly comforted by the fact that my scores at least hug the borderline; maybe I’m still an ESTJ at work and just different at home.

Of course, I am glad that my personality has shifted to meet the need I have in my life now. Hope certainly benefits from me being less rules-oriented (Oh, we have rules though) and more emotionally in tune with things.

So here we are; Hope sees herself as radically different than I see her, and I have changed from the me I used to know.

This isn’t bad, but I can’t help pondering these pieces of information well past the bacon and pancakes. It’s interesting and I wonder what new surprises about our personalities will reveal in time.

Has your personality changed since becoming a parent?


Fear and Thirst

Last week I suffered a serious car accident. My car will be fine, but I sustained a concussion and the standard body blows that come with being rear ended. A trip to the ER suggested really nothing too serious since I wasn’t knocked out, but as the days waned on and I left for a business, my concussion symptoms began to emerge.

I’ve been dizzy, fatigued, headachey, having language and memory problems. For example, I hid my Tito’s vodka before leaving on my work trip (#becauseteenagers) and for the life of me I cannot remember where I put the damn bottle. It’s seriously like a black hole. I work with a lot of data, and so part of my job is crunching numbers. Normally my brain is like a mini computer; I can see data patterns sometimes just looking at a spreadsheet and can predict what SPSS is going to spit out. Presently, I’m not certain I could count to 50 without stopping. This is frustrating and humbling.

This may last a week. It could also last much longer. After ruling out anything more serious, my doc has said it’s just a game of wait and see.

Of course, Hope knows about the accident and was relieved that I was ok. So was I. But as more serious symptoms have emerged and I’ve needed to stop, rest, and take naps, I can see my daughter’s anxiety levels rising. I’ve tried to be low key about the whole thing.

“I’m fine really. I just need to take a little time out.”

I had to have an MRI, which made being low key kind of impossible. We were due to head out to the beach for our summer vacation (um, trip because a kid is involved), but we had to delay departure because of the MRI scheduling.

Soooo, the night before I figured we’d pack the car, assume that all will be fine and just depart directly from the testing center. Hey, I’m thinking positive here! Fortunately, everything turned out as planned but ugh, poor Hope.

Hope asked, “So, what happens if your brain is bleeding?”

Me: “Um, well…I’ll have to go to the hospital and stay for a day or two.”

“What about our trip?”

“Well, we wouldn’t be able to go, but I’m ok if you want to go be with your cousins that we’ll make sure you get there. Either way, I’m going to be ok.”

My daughter put on a brave face, told me she utterly refused to talk about it anymore and proceeded to spiral into thirsting for attention behavior.

“My leg hurts.”

“Do your stretches, and take some ibuprofen,” I reply.

“I think I need to go to that doctor for my leg…” Sure you do, the specialist that was $250 a visit because he didn’t take our insurance. He managed to get her together in two visits (he better had at that price) and he looked great in his khaki pants, so there’s that.

“No, you just need to get a little exercise, stretch and take some Motrin.”

I had a few girlfriends over for a girls’ night to catch up and have a little fun. #grownwomen Hope crashes the gathering and it becomes a replay of Look at Me! I finally send her off to watch TV and to get out of grown folks’ business. As she leaves I take note of the exaggerated limp and audible groans, which of course prompts inquiries and the requisite levels of sympathy from my friends.

Vent alert!

This parenting a kid of trauma is so…ugh! I seriously can’t even have a damn possible brain bleed by my damn self. I can’t just have a moment of respite in a sickbed without Hope practically laying on top of me so that the doctor can see her first.

I mean, I get that this health scare is scary; especially for a kid who isn’t living with her biological family. The feelings of fear of going through that kind of loss must be consuming. I know she is scared. But she is also jealous of any attention I may get as a result of being injured. That is really effed up, even with an explanation, it’s understandable, but effed up. The need to compete for attention and her lack of empathy just drives me up the wall. It’s all complicated, and even worse, I know that she’s not even really conscious of why her behavior is the way it is. And that lack of consciousness just makes my righteous indignation worthless because there is a huge awareness gap between us.

So I’m just left to either stew in my own juices or just find a way to let it go like I always do.

I want to call my own mama to take care of me, but I know that Hope will shoehorn in and make it about her. Sigh. Can I live?

No, really, can I live?

It’s in moments like these that I am forced to remember that my daughter still has so much emotional catching up to do. It’s also moments like these when my patience is a little thinner than normal.

I’ve tried to be upbeat and encouraging of my worried family and friends. The truth is…I’m increasingly hyper aware of my physical limitations. I’m still recovering from the blows my body sustained in the accident. I hurt and I effing can’t count to 50 without stopping. I don’t know how long that’s going to last. There are moments from the last two weeks that are just gone; it’s like a black hole. I’m scared, and I need some time to sit with that, just to figure out my way through it and ponder what I need to do and wrestle with if this takes a long time to resolve or if some parts of me just don’t come all the way back. I’ve got my own bucket of sadness and gief I’m picking through right now.

To balance that and soothe Hope’s fears…ironically, it’s almost more than my brain can handle right now.

So…I’ll just do what I can and figure out how to draw some boundaries with Hope as I recover. I love this kid, I do, but I just wish our collective emotional capacity was a bit bigger so getting through this was a wee bit easier.

 

 

 


Look at Me!!!

So this weekend I decided that I was finally going to break my promise to myself to never ever visit another plantation in this lifetime.

I grew up in central Virginia, and while growing up I visited numerous plantations. They creep me out. I swear I feel the ancestors, hear their cries and feel their anger about folks traipsing around still profiting off of their backs. I don’t care that some of these places now have some memorial placed to the enslaved or whatever—a profit is often still made. I just want them all to go away, but since they won’t I choose not to visit anymore.

Then Hope came along, and I remembered how much I learned from actually visiting historic places. I started feeling like maybe I should break this promise just once so she had the historic (and awful) experience and so I could teach her about these places and the irony that they are preserved and revered so. I’ve struggled with this for more than three years.

So, this past weekend I resolved to rip the band-aid off and take her to visit Mt. Vernon. It’s not far and well, there’s the whole first president, founding father narrative. So, we were getting ready to head out when my dad called and asked if he could come visit from a few hours away.

I took that as a sign that the Holy Homeboy was not ready for me to go back to a plantation.

Image result for look at god meme

Anyhoo, my dad comes to spend the afternoon with us, and Hope…well, she acted like an attention-starved little kid.

Dad and I are having our routine “cell phone with unlimited data plan” conversation.

“Mom, mom, mom!!”

“Yes Hope.”

“I’ve saved a lot of money from my allowance. I think we should put it in the bank.”

“That’s a good idea, Hope. We can talk about that tomorrow.” She hands me a wad of money.

WTH?

Dad and I are talking politics.

“Mom, mom, mom!!”

“Please say excuse me because we are taking, but yes Hope.”

“I don’t think I want to go to that Korean immersion camp.”

“Um, OK.” I attempt to draw her into our conversation about politics since we talk about that kind of stuff often, but no dice.

Image result for thirsty meme

Dad asks her about her activities and she does the mime thing.

This back and forth goes on for hours. My dad was patient while I was visibly patient but ready to wring Hope’s neck on the inside. I took a break and had them chatting while I fixed a light dinner for us all. I thought about why it all was going down like this.

I don’t get to see my parents as much as I used to, and they are getting older so having them drive up for a day is a rare thing. I don’t know how many times this will happen in my lifetime or his. This visit was especially precious, and I’m a daddy’s girl.

Hope is so jealous of anyone who takes my attention away from her. Although my dad was eager to spend time with her, and she genuinely is fond of him, it was like she was threatened because he showed me attention. She’s like this with almost anyone who comes across our threshold to visit us. If the scope of the visit is not entirely devoted to her then she is hell on wheels. She’s full of non-sequiturs, rude interruptions, and just level 10 annoyances. It’s exhausting, and I often wonder if she behaves this way with her peers. Like if she manages to develop a friendship, is anyone else who comes around a threat that triggers this antisocial behavior?

I did my best to be patient with her, gently correcting and redirecting her, but I was frustrated. I was trying to enjoy my dad’s visit, trying to portray solid parenting in front of my dad, not get rattled by this wacky behavior, get dinner on the table and search for some kind of understanding that would trigger some empathy for my daughter.

The long and short of is that Hope and I still have a long way to go on this journey. I hope one day she feels safe enough with me to not have to compete for my attention. It’s a reminder for me that she still feels like I might abandon her, even in the smallest way. It’s painful to think about that, and it’s tough to find away to address it without meeting full on resistance and denial.

I got so much more than I wanted this weekend, having time with my dad, but I was also reminded that my daughter is still a fragile little girl screaming “Look at me, mommy! Look at me!”

I see you, Hope.


Narrow Range of Emotions

During all of our quality time this past weekend, I asked Hope how she was feeling emotionally these days. I got the standard issue response, “Same.”

Every time I ask Hope how she’s doing/feeling, she lets me know that nothing has really changed. The only thing emotionally that seems to have changed much over the last year or so is that Hope can actually talk about her emotions and what they feel like and what the impact they have on her looks like. I’m proud of this evolution even if she says it hasn’t had any impact on managing her emotions.

Hope says she has a very narrow range of emotions: anger ←and →sadness. She’s said that she just plays the appropriate emotions on the outside for everyone else’s benefit.

My daughter is a marvelous actress.

I scrolled through some of my favorite pictures of her on my phone—surprise pics from good gifts or a great musical performance.

“These reactions aren’t real?”

Hope tried her best to explain that a small part of her feels the emotions, but really, she just amps the reaction that she knows folks want to see. She feels sadness and anger all the time.

Then I was sad and angry, and a wee bit hurt that all those great moments we’ve had are a little tarnished because she had to fake the appropriate response.

I was sad that despite finding a home with lots of loves and 1st world comforts she’s still so sad and angry, and angry that so many people hurt her and still control her ability to live a fulfilled life.

My daughter can’t live authentically because she’s so broken that she can’t feel the full range of emotions available to her. That’s a doozy.

Trauma is such a bitch.

It’s hard enough learning to connect your body and mind through emotions and learning to harness everything, especially as a teenager. But when everything is so disconnected? I found myself really wondering how she processes other people’s emotions? Does she read them correctly? I mean, I guess she does since she tries to respond accordingly. But I have to figure that this emotional stuff is connected with her social challenges.

I believe in time, Hope will enjoy a widened emotional range; I’m hopeful.

I’m wildly emotional. We watched A Dog’s Purpose this weekend and I cried all through the dang thing. I was hugging Yappy and about the go get The Furry One’s ashes to sit with them. I laughed hard during Despicable Me 3, and I was shocked that the South Park movie was more vulgar than I remembered. My heart felt shaky from missing my 6 month old nephew when pictures of his first time in a pool came via text. Worry furrowed my brow when I heard my mom wasn’t feeling well. Empathy spilled out when I heard about Sister M’s dog being terrified of fireworks on July 4th. I felt it all. I am a big emoter, and sometimes it annoys Hope.

With such a narrow emotional range, my wide range has caused Hope to call me overdramatic on more than one occasion.

I asked Hope was AbsurdlyHotTherapist helping her explore ways to help her allow herself to feel more. I already knew the answer: there’s so much rage that has to be dealt with first that prying open the emotional landmine is secondary. She did say that going to talk about it was really helpful in letting off some steam each appointment. I’m glad.

It often feels like there is so much to juggle with Hope’s recovery. The facets feel countless, and the need to shift coping strategies is never-ending. Some mornings I lay there looking at the ceiling fan wondering what will be expected of me in parenting my daughter that day. I whisper a prayer to keep the drama to a minimum.

Beyond making sure she feeling physically safe, it’s hard prioritizing what to deal with. It’s also hard to control my own range of emotional responses. It’s hard to admit that I wish I emoted less so that I could focus on strategic management of Hope’s healing—but I’m guessing that would make me a less effective mom to her. She needs my emotion—not only as a reminder of my love but as a model for expressing emotion.

It’s all so complicated and painful.

I just hope that one day Hope will be able to smile genuine smiles; laugh real laughs, sleep with the light off, feel confident, know she’s loved and can return love in a healthy way. Until then I’ll keep playing whack-a-mole trying to help her, and just relish those moments when she appears to be authentic in her emotional expression.


I Need Some Self-Care

I have really been struggling lately. My anxiety is at an all-time high. I’m overwhelmed and often feel like I’m on the verge of tears even though I don’t think I am.

These feelings are all familiar. They represent my unfortunate friends, depression and anxiety. Sigh.

This is the fourth end of school year season I’ve gone through with Hope, and despite my best efforts it’s always miserable. I feel like I’m pulling a broken train down the tracks. I’m realizing that this spring/summer period of the year is when I am most vulnerable to depression and anxiety. It’s hard. I’m nagging, reminding, coaching, cheering, trying not to yell, blowing steam from my ears and baking a stress cake with absurd regularity, right through the last bit of school.

This year, it seems the odds are even higher. Other than band camp, Hope’s got several weeks where we still don’t know what the plan will be. The decision to go to summer school is coming down to the wire. The idea of Hope sitting around watching K-dramas on the couch—in my spot no less—causes me great anxiety. She needs a break, but she also needs to be busy because I fear that either there will be a butt sag in my couch and/or she will find some trouble to get into.

I am physiologically freaking the hell out, (lethargic, but disrupted sleep, up and down appetite) and I realized today it was time for an intervention, so I made an appointment for just that.

Last week Hope’s doctor and I decided to give her a bit of rope with her meds—let her go off of them for a while and see what happens.  It has barely been a week and I’m a wreck. Her ability to follow directions with more than 2 steps is non-existent.

I. Cannot. Begin.To. Deal With. This!

So I’m going to my own doctor to see if I can get some help getting my physiological responses under control.

I’m exhausted, but just racing at the same time.

I’m looking forward to just taking care of my needs, getting some quality sleep and getting my emotions under control so that I can make sure that I’m trying to meet Hope’s needs.

So, I need some self-care. I do. I also need some meds…yeah, definitely, I need some meds.

And cake, I definitely need some cake


Independence

Hope and I try to ride our bikes together once a week, on the weekends, when I have time to recover. #ImOld. She seems to relish the time together. We’ve ridden along the river and over to a nearby military cemetery on Memorial Day. Even though I desperately need a nap afterwards, I enjoy riding with her and switching up my exercise routine.

When I bought the bikes, I envisioned that Hope would use it to stretch a little. I thought she could use it to go places like to the movies or to the store, the Starbucks, to a friend’s house. I thought at nearly 16, she would use the bike to gain some independence. That seemed, kind of normal right?

I thought so.

Hope did not agree.

Recently, Hope and I were enjoying dinner together. She asked me if we could go to a nearby store to get something she likes. I said, sure, but that she could walk or ride her bike there if she wanted. It is a store in the neighborhood.

She slowly replied, yeah, she could but she’d prefer if I just took her.

I paused and then pressed.

“I know I keep saying this, but you really can use your bike to go to a lot of places. I know you like riding it and you’ve got some freedom and independence with it.”

She replied that she was kind of afraid of all this independence I talked about. She said, first it’ll be the bike and then something else with more independence and then something else with even more independence and then one day, I would just put her out so she could be independent.

I had to sit down; the realization that Hope saw my efforts to give her some freedom and independence was seen as a set up for abandonment! It never occurred to me that she would think that. Never in a million years did I ever make that connection.

I had to reassure her that abandoning her was not the plan at all. I had to explain to her that learning how to do things for herself was just a part of growing up and those things included transporting herself places. My encouraging her to use her bike as a mode of transportation was not my way of pushing her out; I was just trying to help her grow.

I’ve spent the last week kicking this conversation around. I’m still stunned, but I guess it makes sense. I often tell people that Hope is a homebody, that she seems content to be home, watching videos, munching on chips. She rarely asks me if I can take her somewhere—to the movies, to the mall. I always have to drag her places. She’s learned to trust that whatever I have planned will be entertaining, but the onus is always on me to be the social planner.

She really doesn’t have a lot of friends, and the few she has often fail to keep their plans with her. She brushes it off, but I know it hurts…heck, it hurts me. In the end, Hope always seems content to just be home.

And that’s the point, but I didn’t make the connection. Hope needs to be safe. She doesn’t want independence yet. She needs me; she needs our home; she needs to feel safe. For her, the bike is only entertainment, not a way to be independent. She’s not ready for that. Even though I intellectually get it; it still a revelation to me.

A few days after our conversation about the bike, Hope told me that she was ready to retake the test for her learner’s permit. I chuckled that she didn’t want to ride her bike, but she still wanted to learn to drive.

Learning to drive is more time with me, teaching her, spending time with her. I was planning on taking her driving, but largely outsourcing the hardcore driving lessons because the way my nerves are set up…#scared I’m guessing I might have to rethink that plan.

Thinking back to our conversation about her independence, I have come to believe that her desire to get her permit is about fitting in. It’s a way for her to keep up with her peers, but she doesn’t really want to be independent at this point.

My Hope is still very much a little girl in a young woman’s body, and she’s still afraid of being abandoned. I just didn’t know, and it makes me so very sad for her.

For now, I’ll stop recommending that she go forth and be free. Instead, I’ll continue to focus on just making sure she still feels supported, loved and safe.


In What World

In my 44 years of circling the sun, I have always been subjected to some sort of bias. It hasn’t always been racism, sometimes it’s sexism and misogyny. Sometimes it’s been ageism.

I’ve been hurt. I’ve been angered. I’ve risen up, fallen down and risen again to fight my own oppression. Somehow, along the way, I tripped into a career devoted largely to advancing social justice in graduate education.

I just returned from a conference devoted to social justice in education. I met lots of people, shared lots of things, commiserated, learned, talked and pondered. I consider this meeting my annual professional development meeting, and I always come back with some new ideas and contacts.

For the last few years, I have felt a ratcheting up of racist (and other “ism” oriented) language in the atmosphere. I look forward to this conference in late May to hear the latest, to verify and validate that what I’m hearing, seeing and feeling is in fact what I’m hearing, seeing and feeling.

On the real…it’s getting hot in here.

For me the ominous foreshadowing has been brewing almost since Obama was first elected and birtherism emerged. During this last 18 months, and the last 6 in particular, the season has opened to say all the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, horrible things that are on one’s mind under the guise of free speech and with little expectation of consequences.

We already saw that it was increasingly dangerous for black folk to, well, breathe, and now it’s just getting progressively worse. Just days after the 2016, election I allowed Hope to come home early because she had been subjected to horribly racist language by some of her classmates. She just crumbled.

Grammy, my mom, integrated her high school many years ago. It pains me to hear her say that the current national discourse is increasingly reminiscent of her youth in rural central Virginia.

And if she’s having flashbacks; I’m having flash-forwards.

I believe I can take care of myself, but Hope…

My daughter is on the precipice of adulthood. In a few short years, she will finish high school. She will likely go to college locally as she continues to take time to emotionally and academically catch up. She is among a cohort of kids who know a different kind of world than the one even I grew up in.

Born after 9/11, she may have recognized Bush II, but really, more than half of her life, Obama was president, and while that did not prevent “isms” from touching her…it gave her a different outlook.

And now…I can say that it’s radically different.

It’s hard to teach a child to show respect when there are major demonstrations that respect is a passé construct. The conflated notions of “tell it like it is” and free speech make it difficult to help her navigate how to engage socially. It’s also hard to teach her to turn the other cheek when she comes from a background that has already taught her that such grace just means she’ll get that one hurt too.

Hope desperately wants to be a “good” girl—her words not mine—but she already struggles with impulsiveness and many present public models are just fresh examples that impulsiveness rules the day.

Parenting is extraordinarily difficult. In what world are the current circumstances supposed to make us great (again) or even just a little easier?  And are these the circumstances that are supposed to create an environment and culture that helps me and my daughter feel safer, provide a good education, not feel pushed out due to our cocoa colored skin? Is this behavior supposed to make us, me and Hope, great or even just feel great??

Does this make you feel great??

pope

BLEND IN WITH WHITE PEOPLE?

Or this?

whitenational

Recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA

How about this?

Portand

Because speech shouldn’t have consequences.

Yeah, me neither. I could really, really go hard into the political, but really, I’m more worried about the crass culture war and what its long-term prognosis will be.  How long will it be before we’re all great? How long before some leadership says hey, this is not how we should treat each other? How long before we acknowledge our individual and collective humanities? Is it in my lifetime? Is it in Hope’s?

In what world can I believe that my daughter and her brown and black friends and families will be consistently treated as though they are great? In what world will I be assured that their humanity will be seen and acknowledged?

In what world?


Revelations, Chapter 472

I snapped at Hope this morning and immediately regretted it.

We were talking about hair care and whether she was doing her part to care for her hair with her nightly routine. My inquiry was met with, “Well, it needs to be washed anyway.”

It was an easy jump for me to reply, “That wasn’t my question. It’s also not a good excuse for skipping the routine.”

She replied sharply, “I didn’t say it was.”

“But that was implied.”

“But I didn’t actually say that.”

We glared at each other because the tones of our voices had changed. This was no longer a simple inquiry, it was on the brink of a fight.

And then I remembered.

I remembered that this isn’t just a cut and dry surly teen giving me a roundabout excuse. I remembered that Hope doesn’t pick up on conversational nuance very easily. I remembered that sometimes context is lost on her. I remembered that sometimes Hope’s responses are like bringing hedge clippers to a manicure when a nail file will do.

I might read her response as a PR pivot—answering the question that she wishes I’d asked, but that really isn’t what she was saying. She prefers a world with clearly defined edges of black and white. Unfortunately for Hope the world is mostly gray.

I recently found an online support group for parents of kids with ADHD/ODD/ADD. A few days in the “room” and I told a friend, wow, these are my people. These posts resonate with me. It was like when I finally joined some child trauma rooms; there are a lot of similarities between these two groups by the way.

I was also talking to some colleagues recently about diagnoses for autism now being on a spectrum and the high rates of comorbidity for conditions that we use to think were just free-standing conditions. The truth is a lot of stuff, brain and hormonal stuff, cluster in packs, making treating and/or learning to work with the pack of conditions and not against it, really, really hard.

I remembered all of this as we sat there glaring at each other this morning. It made me think of several things.

  • One, this is not how I want our day to start.
  • Two, the hair thing was not that important in the scheme of things.
  • Three, conversational nuance is often lost on Hope.
  • Four, she genuinely thought she was providing a reasonable answer to my question.
  • Five, she has no idea what she did or said that triggered me to accuse her of giving me an excuse.
  • Finally Six, my deeper reading of the exchange has pushed her away which both is not good for us and doesn’t result in the behavior I was originally seeking to promote.

And all of this went down before 8am. Joy! #notreally

It’s hard to remember these things in the moment. It’s hard to remember it’s only been three years and that with all of the progress, there is still so much healing necessary. It’s just hard to remember everything all the time.

I course corrected our conversation. I tried to explain how I came to my conclusion, but that now I understood what she meant. I asked her yes or no questions and explained that it wasn’t to ‘catch her in something’ but rather because I realized that they were easier for her to answer. She eyed me warily, but she answered my questions and we made a plan for dealing with her hair this evening.

I’d like to think before becoming a parent I was a good person. I was smart, capable, worldly, even. I grasped deep, complex concepts and was able to offer solutions to many difficult and intricate problems. And then Hope came along, and every complex thing I’d bumped up against in my lifetime seemed like I had really just solved the great dilemma of getting off the couch to get an ice pop from the freezer. I was in the land of real complex isht now. Sometimes I feel utterly stupid trying to figure out why we hit a wall. I felt stupid this morning because I know better; or at least I thought I did.

Tomorrow, I will try again. I will likely have another revelation about how to relate something I read somewhere to a situation we are experiencing in the moment. I’ll hopefully have another chance to not just know better but to do better. Hopefully, Hope will be patient with me as I am expected to be patient with her.  Kids expect us to know stuff, and parenting her has revealed that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought. #bigreveal


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