Tag Archives: Single Adoptive Moms

Four Years Ago

Four years ago, Hope was here for a pre-placement visit. She spent two weeks with me, including Thanksgiving. I was a hot mess during that visit.  

I hadn’t got to a place where I really understood my soon-to-be daughter. In fact, I didn’t have an effiing clue. Looking back with clarity and a little rose-colored grace, I know that we were both trying our hardest to hold it together. It was scary as all get out to figure out how to be a family, but the alternative seemed like failure so the possibility of this visit being a disaster was a non-starter. We were doing this. 

But I hadn’t lived with anyone but the late, great Furry One for more than a decade. I lived all over my house. Hope’s room was still transitioning from a guest room. I was used to my mess, but no one else’s. I hardly ate meat at that time, so I had this super vegetarian friendly house. I didn’t buy snack foods; I didn’t buy ice cream (I was also about 30 lbs lighter, but who’s counting…). My house was not adolescent-friendly. It wasn’t even a little bit.  

But I was doing this thing. It was our second visit—the first one having been a month before and only about 4 days long. It was polite, hotel based and what I would probably call, more like kid-sitting than trying to start a mother daughter relationship. We had fun, but it wasn’t even parenting-adjacent.  

But during Hope’s trip to what has become our home, I felt like I was more in control. This was a home game. I would entertain Hope. I would introduce her to yummy, healthy foods. She would get to meet her new family for the first time. We would go visit what would end up being her school. We would pick out things for her room.  

We would bond and it would be glorious.  

But honestly, it wasn’t. I was bored senseless at the museum where Hope did her damndest to show me she was brilliant. She ate all of the gummy vitamins I bought her in one day. She showed her single digit emotional age more times than I care to remember. I fielded questions about why she did some of the things she did, which was hard since I didn’t have a clue why. I even managed to drop the Thanksgiving turkey all over the carpet right outside my front door in my condo building. It was a messy visit, literally, figuratively, emotionally. 

In the evenings I cried. The responsibility of caring for a kid was new and exhausting. I chugged a lot of wine after Hope’s bed time. I chronicled my experiences as a fledgling parent. I questioned if I was really cut out for mothering Hope. I doubted everything I knew about everything I thought I knew. I worried that backing out would be a shameful failure from which I would never recover. How could I reject this kid because I really wasn’t sure I wanted to give up my single carefree lifestyle? But as I cried and boozed myself to sleep during those two weeks, and as the day for Hope to return home drew closer, I found that my tears shifted to anticipating the pain of being separated from this scared kid who just wondered if I accepted and wanted her.  

It was all pretty humbling.   

Those two weeks, four years ago, Hope became my daughter. She was a scared, hot mess of a kid, who needed endless love, support, therapy, and permanence and an occasionally stern talking to. Even as we boarded the plane to take her back to her foster family, I couldn’t have known how I would come to love Hope. I loved her then, but my heart nearly hurts when I think about how much I adore her now. 

Four years later, I see so much growth in both of us. Lord knows we struggle on the daily. I mean, really, really struggle, but we’re so much farther than we were back then when we were trying to figure out if this family was even going to be a thing.  

As for me, specifically, I think I may have gotten the hang of this parenting thing; it’s still hella hard, but I think I’m doing ok. I’m not so secretly annoyed by how much food contraband has migrated into my house under the guise of being “teen friendly.” I bumbled along until I made a few parent friends. I got over my guilt about not going to PTA or band parent group meetings. I don’t like them; I’m not a joiner and as a single parent with a kid in multiple kinds of therapy, parent groups rank dead-arse last on every list. I made peace with only occasionally selling fundraiser crap (but also opting sometimes to just send a check because really, do any of us need a tub of pizza dough and ugly wrapping paper?). I also resumed my travel schedule, which I know puts a huge strain on us, but the experience has taught me a lot about Hope’s maturity and attachment to me. That girl loves her mommy, but doesn’t stress too much because as she says, “I know you’re coming home.”  

I have helped my daughter see places she never dreamed of—I’m currently trying to work out details for Spring Break in Greece, and I also get to see the world through her eyes. I’ve learned that I can still be selfish with my stuff and my time and that it’s ok. I have learned to say both yes and no when appropriate. I have new metrics by which to measure choices—what’s the impact on my family? Is it worth my time? Do I enjoy it? Do I really want to? I’ve also tried to create a framework for my daughter, who as far as I know, will be my only heir, to eventually experience financial freedom. I figure I’ll probably work until I keel over—partly because I enjoy working and partly because I’ll need to keep earning. But Hope? I’m doing my best to set her up to have a comfortable life filled with lots of choices, because choices equal freedom.  

Four years later, I’m an ok mother. I’m learning to be happy with being an ok mother. Mothering/parenting is hard work. Maintaining multiple identities is hard work. Centering my daughters needs in my life is still hard work. I’m doing ok at it all. There is always room for improvement. During the next four years, Hope will hopefully enroll in college, maybe even finish an associates degree. She will vote in her first election. She will get her driver’s license. She might move out into her own place. She probably will have finally visited South Korea (if we’re all not blown off the map yet). She’ll have many more passport stamps. She will continue to grow, continue to heal and thrive. And I get to watch from the front row. It’s the best reality TV show ever. It’s amazing.  

As Thanksgiving approaches, I needed to sit and just ponder that first visit to our home and how we’ve changed. I am incredibly grateful, and super proud of the hard work we’ve put in.  

Here’s to four more years.  

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A Day in the Life-Travel Edition

This post should be called, Why ABM can’t get several half written posts finished and why her pre-production work for Add Water and Stir lays waste in her email box or even Single AdoptiveBlackMom Chronicles But, um, those are kinda long and we’ve already established that things are crazy.  I’m on a layover for a 4.5 day work trip and things today were best characterized as mayhem.

5:30am           Get up to do hair.

6:30am           Wake Hope up because she keeps psyching me out by uninstalling the obnoxious alarm app on her phone and turns down the alarm clock alarm so she can claim it doesn’t work.

6:45am           Put on workout clothes and walk Yappy.

7:00am           Hope announces that she has been invited to a recent HS grads house to watch movies and inquires if she can go, but has no details—like not a one and drops an attitude because I am like—you now want to crash at a friends when I have to pay a nanny to stay here with you and Yappy tonight?????

7:01am           ABM loses ish for the first time of the day.

7:02am           Hope slams a door in ABM’s house.

7:02.5am        “Don’t slam doors in my house!” While slamming the door to my bedroom.

7:03am           Takes a deep breath. Begins to change bedding, organizes all ensembles to be packed in stacks on freshly made bed.

7:30am           Starts getting breakfast together and continues organizing, mumbles random list of things to be done.

8:00am           Snaps at Hope because she is dragging arse and we need to get out of the house for the day.

8:30am           Drops Hope off and heads to Starbucks for café-crack and to the bank for nanny money.

9:00am           Starts tidying the house, laundry and getting the nanny stuff together for the weekend. Begins to work out with today’s nanny that Hope wants to hang out with a friend, but nah she can’t stay and yeah, I still have to pay. At least she can take Yappy to the park; he’ll be delighted.

10:00am         Starts getting anxious because things are behind schedule and Hope has to be picked up at noon. My flight leaves at 2:30pm so I need to transition to shower, closing the suit case, etc.

10:05AM        Work underling keeps calling and asking me to read drafts of things his UPenn-masters-degree-having-arse should be able to send without me laying eyes on the documents; I mean, why is he here if he can’t do that with confidence???

10:08am         ABM’s second meltdown of the day.

10:15am         There’s a bathroom leak and not really time for another meltdown.

10:30am         Sits down to respond to a couple of emails and check in for her flight.

10:35am         Wait, does that say my flight LANDS  in TX at 2:30pm?

10:35.30am    Realizes that flight actually departs in less than 2 hours.

10:35.45am    ABM’s quickest meltdown in the history of meltdowns. Strings together impressive array of foul language in a short period of time.

10:36am         Things are blurry.

11:11am         Showered, stuff shoved into suitcase and briefcase and purse, makeup splashed on, Yappy kissed and tricked into the bathroom, calls made from shower to Hope, nannies and Grammy, I Mario Andretti into a parking space at the airport.

DO NOT ASK ABOUT SPEEDS, EYELINER ACCURACY OR THE VERY QUESTIONABLE DECISION TO PUT BLUSH ON.

11:40am         Having flirted shamelessly with anyone who can help me I check in, upgrade and get beyond security, and with chicken shwarma to go in hand, I finally take a breath.

And it’s only 3:30pm.

Dear Holy Homeboy help me.


The Throes of Frustration

So, moving heaven and earth to help your kid is hard work. This weekend I took to my couch like I haven’t done in nearly a decade. It was delicious.

Sunday evening rolled around, and the weekly drama of getting back on schedule begins to unfold. I do laundry and wash hair and cook, all the while Hope begins to get spastic about homework she neglected all weekend…sometimes homework that was due last week sometime.

And my internal kettle begins to simmer.

By Monday morning, she has a rotten attitude because as usual she didn’t finish much homework because she was “tired,” and my endless nagging about being on time and moving through the morning routine begins. By the time she saunters into the kitchen for breakfast, I’m nearly undone and throwing my lunch in my briefcase and ready to give Yappy his calming drops.

Then we go through the morning ritual of playing chicken with catching the bus.

Have I mentioned yet that my internal kettle is thisclose to whistling? #imalittleteapot

Now, intellectually I really am learning how the ADHD brain works, but from a practical perspective, dammit, why the hell won’t she just do what the eff I tell her to do when the eff I tell her to do it???

Seriously, we would all be in such a much better place if She. Just. Did. What. I. Told. Her.

OMG.

I fantasize about one day not having to nag her because she will be able to do things in a timely matter, thoroughly.

I also won’t lie, I also fantasize about popping her one good time in that smart mouth. #dontjudgeme

Each week there is a snarky “What” or eye roll or bold face untruth that forces me to use herculean strength keeping my hand at my side. Oh, I do buy into the whole don’t use corporal punishment, but the truth is, that my sisters and I turned out great with it. Now, we probably could write some righteous country songs about skinny belts just getting out of the shower, but the point is that we would ne’er have dreamed of talking to my parents like any of this. I know that this isn’t the best way to parent Hope; I know that, but #realtalk my palm is a little itchy.

The waves of frustration with Hope overwhelm me sometimes. The times when we have just nice tranquility are so amazing…and so rare.

It’s hard to tell how much of this is just routine teenager stuff (in part because I was *not* allowed to do some of the things I feel like she gets away with), how much of it is trauma related, how much of it is ADHD related and how much of it is just a reaction to my own parenting.

I just don’t know, and it probably doesn’t matter.

I think what is really the hardest part is knowing that I’m doing everything, everything I can. I’m constantly researching “solutions.” I’m constantly kicking over rocks and finding nuggets of information that help me get to a new level of understanding or to gain a new tool to help us. In the end, I have a lot of information and a lot of tools and in my own way I’m throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks and nothing does.

I hope that years from now something I’ve done will make a difference in Hope’s life, but right now, it’s not even guilt or failure that I feel; it’s just utter, unrelenting frustration. The frustration that hardly anything ever seems to go right is just hard to sit with for so long with no end in sight. I’m frustrated that I can’t fix this right now.

But raising a kid is a long haul kinda situation, so immediate feedback in the form of her behavior, her desire to achieve, her desire to be whole and more…well all of that is always elusive. I’m realizing that ultimately it’s this kind of feedback that is all that matters to me. It is a nod that things are going well. A tell that Hope has bought into my vision and value for her. It’s the recognition that she wants something for herself besides a bag of Taki’s.

There is guilt though. I’m aware enough to know that it’s still much too soon to expect this of her. She’s lived a harder life in her few years than I have in my 43. And we’ve only had a little over two years to course correct. It’s not fair to expect her to be *there* yet.

So, in the end; I am always feeling…off. I am working so hard and the one person who I want to chase the gold ring, still could not care less, not even a little. I’m still not sure after two years what to do with these feelings. It is hard to balance them. It’s hard to push them behind all the feelings I’m supposed to be feeling about how awesome motherhood is supposed to be.

Well, Hope actually caught the bus this morning. I suppose that’s one less thing for me to be frustrated by or about today. But it’s only 8am; I’m sure the day won’t disappoint.


Grown Lady Chats

So, Hope and I have been talking a lot this last week. And by a lot I mean, so much that I could kill a bottle of wine each night after our chats.

As I’ve mentioned on occasion the Constitution of the Sovereign Queendom ABM provides Hope limited privacy rights.  I mean, clearly, she has a door on her bedroom and bathroom and I don’t routinely rifle through her things. That said, if something is fishy, I maintain a benevolent monarch’s right to have all the tech passwords and access to all messages without question. I have only needed to exercise my right to invade on one or two occasions prior to last week.

This most recent episode was triggered by super shady behavior by Hope, and her dying need to tell me about what was going on but knowing that she probably shouldn’t.  So, at dinner one night, Hope rambled on for 30 minutes some disjointed story that included no names, some “friends,” lots of giggle and teen angst and just all kinds of boring yet fishy details. It was hard to follow, but I picked up enough to know that I needed to exercise my rights to start logging into some accounts for some late night reading.

And so I did.

And then I needed to lay down, so it was good that I was already in bed because what I read would make any good Southern woman need to take to her bed.

It was super clear that me and Hope were in serious need of a chat about grown lady issues.

I reached out to a few close friends, worked through some of my emotions and gathered some useful advice and steeled myself for what I hoped would be a casual, non-confrontational, supportive chat about sex. A chat that would be followed by me taking several shots of whiskey in the privacy of my bathroom as a part of my recovery plan. This wouldn’t be our first chat about sex, but it would be the first time that we needed to talk with a lot more detail about choices, values, self-worth, self-esteem, so-called friends, emotions and behavioral patterns.

When I finally got up the nerve to talk to my daughter about sex, she was mortified.

ostrich

Hope tried to bury her head in the couch.

I persisted, and we had our first real grown lady talk. I kept my composure, there was no yelling, little emoting beyond trying to be empathetic and patient. I was firm about certain things, but acknowledged that some choices aren’t mine to make. I insisted on making an appointment with a health care professional to answer some questions—I mean, I could answer them, but I know the value of having a 3rd party say what should be said and that’s worth the $10 co-pay.

I wanted her to know that while I’m not her friend, I am the safest person to talk to and share things this deep with. That’s what I’m here for.

Afterwards, she retreated to her room and I grabbed a few shots and leaned into my couch.

In the aftermath, I wasn’t really sure what she thought about the talk. I mean, I high fived myself, because I thought I did pretty well. I kinda wished my mom was willing to talk to me like I talked to Hope about grown lady stuff. I thought to myself, “Self, you *might* be on the road to being that cool mom you aspire to be!”

ladyg

And then, just when I thought I’d cracked the door to our grown lady chats, the flood gates opened. #IWASNTREADY

Last night on the way home from an outing Hope resurfaced the conversation with way more details and an offer to read a series of messages that I hadn’t read during my privacy invasion.

Oh dear…I don’t want to read those messages. Nope, nope, I don’t wanna. You can’t make me.

Nah, I’m good.

Distewwwmuch! Distewwwmuchtoosoon!

We stayed in the car for 30 minutes talking about grown lady things, with me genuinely happy she feels safe talking to me and asking questions, while also really needing to take to my bed immediately because I was…done for.

Oh yeah, we are all into the grown lady chats now.  I know this means I’m totally slaying this mother game this week, but the loss of my own parenting innocence is kinda sad. I mean, I’m not naïve; I knew Hope was having all these thoughts and feelings; I remember what kinds of things I wanted to know and experience in high school, and I only imagined that it was like that and worse now. I just didn’t count on finding out so much so quickly. I know that we will establish some kind of boundaries with time, and so I’ll treasure this time of knowing so much and being able to parent, coach and mentor her into womanhood.

Sometimes I really sit down and think about how Hope is already in high school and this chapter will be over so soon, but we just found each other. We’re having all these experiences, and we’re cramming all this life into what feels like tiny chunks of time. Before you know it, we’ll be on to the next mother-daughter crisis.

Two years ago, I knew Hope and I would someday have to have grown lady chats, but it seemed so far off into the future.

And now we’re here.  I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made and how quickly it has happened, but I’m also like, wow, it’s all flying by so damn fast. I know it’s a mess of confusion and hormones and emotions for Hope right now, but it is also a mess of emotions (and probably some wretched hormones) for me too.

So, for now, I’m open to listening to every hair raising, slow-blink inducing grown lady chat that Hope wants to have with me.

I’m also stopping by the liquor store on the way home, you know, for my private after party.


Frustrating Attachments

I’m a a bit grumpy this week.  I’m trying not to be. I’m tired and feeling…fluffy (one of my polite words for chubby). Work has been uber busy, and Hope…well, Hope is being 14.

I’d like to say I understood this behavior because I indulged in some of it during my teen years, but the reality is that momma and daddy ABM did not tolerate some of this foolery. I wouldn’t dream of being so snarky or thinking that to-do lists created by my parents were optional.

But alas, I’m still reprogramming Hope, so a lot of this mess rolls strong at Casa d’ABM.

I’ve really focused on attachment parenting over the last 6 weeks which means that Hope and have spent A LOT of time together focusing on building our relationship through fun activities. It’s largely been good, and I’ll even admit that there have been more moments than not where I felt like I was seeing the type of mother/daughter relationship I’d dreamt of when I started the adoption process.

But it hasn’t been easy.

I’m tired.

Even as an extrovert, a major extrovert, I’m desperate for alone time.  I want to be left alone.

Being pleasant is exhausting.

I’m annoyed by how much I’ve had to yield.

I’m constantly working to make sure my tone is soothing, even when offering correction or criticism.

I’m using “I feel” statements when communicating.

I’m doing most of the chores.

And I’m resentful that I feel like I’m doing all the work.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know it’s my job to do the work, but I wish that things were different. I wish Hope had more capacity than she does, but, well, she doesn’t.

Fostering a healthy attachment is wearing me out.

My frustration is just below the surface and I’m constantly trying to deal with it or push it out of the way.

How is it that I’m jealous of my daughter? I feel like her life is so much easier, but it is supposed to be in some ways. I also acknowledge that she doesn’t have it easier—she’s still unpacking 12 years of drama and dealing with the drama of being 14. It’s not easy.

It’s not easy for either of us; it’s just different.

As of today we’ve got a four day weekend ahead of us, thanks to snowstorm Jonas. I’m hoping that I can stay lighter than a feather during this time, and that Hope and I will continue to grow closer and that we’ll get more glimpses of what our relationship can become as a result of our continued hard work.


Pushing & Pulling

One of the toughest parts of adopting an adolescent kiddo is figuring out how to balance the need and desire to establish attachment by pulling the child close and the need to facilitate and foster the independence associated with being a teen and drop kicking kiddo out(ish). It’s a tough balance.

I’ve been spending a lot of time and effort really trying to do the attachment parenting thing, and I can say that it’s made life at Casa d’ABM better. Lots of time together, lots of patience, lots of deliberate effort to meet Hope right where she is. I’m really trying to pull her close, ensure her safety, and strengthen our relationship. I can see the fruits of this labor; less grumpiness, more willingness to be agreeable, less general upheaval in the house.

As I do this pulling, Hope’s friends are getting dropped off at the movies, at the mall, at the ice skating rink and anywhere else teens get dropped these days. Hope doesn’t get invited—like ever, but I try to make it happen with the few friends she has. It is normal for her to try to kick me to the curb sometimes. But she doesn’t; in fact she begs me to stay. Then I am on the spot to be present but invisible, but somehow cool all at the same time. I worry about when she will develop some independence and be on par developmentally with her peers. And when will I be able to just drop her off and come home and enjoy a glass of something until time to fetch her. (*Not so secretly hoping to regain control of my couch and remote on Friday nights…..)

I know it’s not a competition, but it’s hard not to compare Hope to other kids so that I can have a sense of what she might be doing if we had always been together, if she had been my biological daughter. I find it makes me sad that her life has been such that she’s stunted. I mean, what I’m dealing with here is a bit more than just “late bloomer” stuff. I find myself wishing her classmates would genuinely befriend her, that they would just invite her to hang out, that they would give her a chance to learn how to be a good friend. Watching Hope wrestle with this developmental hurdle has been hard; I know she’s lonely. I also know that she can occasionally wallow.

I also feel like there is a lot of feelings between both of us with me being both mom and proxy for a bestie. I mean, there have been seasons of my life when, without question, my mom was my bestie, but this is different. I always knew my mom and the privilege of having grown up with her allowed me the freedom to reclassify her as my friend as well as my mom. I know that Hope and I will hopefully get there one day, but for now, I am not sure how I feel about being both mom and best friend. I just want to be a space holder for a bestie, until she can develop the capacity to really nurture a friendship along such that evolves into a bestie situation.

Welcome to Crazy Town: I'm not your friend , I am your MOTHER!!!!

I never thought about how much effort goes into being a friend until I watched Hope navigate these waters. It is another thing that I’ve spent a lifetime taking for granted—I am very social and I make friends easily. Over the years, my job has had me on the road a lot, I went back to school and I became a mom. All of these things made me assess friendships and either work hard to maintain them or realize that the friend season was over with certain folks. But it was a luxury to just make those calls. I see my daughter so thirsty for genuine relationships. I try to teach Hope good skills so that she can be a good friend, but we are really behind the 8 ball—Hope’s emotional age is simply not the same as her peers and the capacity for the level of friend sophistication of high schoolers is pretty far above her head. It’s like watching a 4th grader hang out with some high schoolers. Cute for the first couple of minutes, painful for the remaining 58 minutes of an hour.

So for now, all I can do is pull her closer and try to help her feel safe enough and loved enough to let herself learn how to be appropriately social with her peers. I’m hopeful that we will work at this and succeed such that I don’t have to go to her senior prom with her.

Been there, done that…got the flamingo colored (I called it ‘coral’ back then) dress and dyed pumps to prove it. (You *know* you want to see that lovely one-shouldered confection with the drop waist…because 90s!)


The Privilege of Attachment

I never once thought about my attachment to my family. It never occurred to me that there was a word for the inherent trust I felt that they would take care of me. It never occurred to me that there was a word for our mutual affection. It never once occurred to me that the unspoken elements of our relationship even needed a descriptive word.

I know now how privileged I was, and am, to have that experience.

Wikipedia defines privilege as “the sociological concept that some groups of people have advantages relative to other groups. The term is commonly used in the context of social inequality, particularly with regards to social class, race, age, sexual orientation, gender, and disability.”

I’ve written about social privilege before, as well as other social diversity dimensions I’ve tripped over on my adoption journey. Chalk attachment up as another privilege of intact biological families that are, at least, reasonably functional.

I now know what it is like to not have the privilege of attachment with my daughter. I mean, we’re working on it and I would say we are more attached than not. But oy, it is tough.

I can’t and wouldn’t speak for Hope, but the range of emotions I feel as I try to form a healthy attachment with my daughter are powerful, overwhelming and, honestly, often unpleasant. When it gets rough, which it has been lately, I spend a lot of time willing myself not to miss my pre-Hope life, willing myself not to be resentful, willing myself not to just practice avoidance. I often have to force myself to spend even more time with my daughter because I know that’s what she needs even though none of my emotional needs will be met…not one.  I have to swallow my feelings when my feelings are hurt because our attachments are weak and because, as a teen, Hope’s narcissism game is real. A lot of the time, I feel emotionally starved.

Dang. Yappy and I have a stronger attachment, I think. Well, I know he does…#separationanxiety.

I cry. A lot. I go for walks. A lot. I cuddle with Yappy. I go to therapy…more frequently than we go to family therapy.

I try to check my emotions. I try to curb my anger. I try to hold back my tears, because well, when my emotions betray me and Hope sees the outburst, it only serves to push her further away. I actually find that honest emotion from me that is not anything but sparkles and rainbows is detrimental to our relationship. That is an enormous burden to shoulder; it’s heavy and it’s painful.

At nearly 43, I can still sit on the couch with my mom or dad and curl up and put my head on their shoulders or lap and feel loved and safe. Hope doesn’t and won’t do that. It is like she can’t, not just that she won’t. It is so painfully rare for her to just run up and hug me, a long, lingering hug. Those moments are so incredibly precious. I don’t want them to end because at least for that moment, I’m really mom and I can save her world. I feel like my mothering is making a difference. Those moments are rare.

Don’t get me wrong, we have come so very far on our journey. The reality though is that we struggle with attachment. We don’t enjoy that privilege. It is something we are fighting for; something I know we both want even if we can’t always articulate it. But it really is something that we don’t have in large supply.

I am hopeful that we’ll get there. In the grand scheme we haven’t been at this mom-daughter thing very long. We’re not even 2 years old yet. We’re barely toddlers. It is a journey. Wishing for a speedier process is like being 7 and wishing I could get a driver’s license. Not going to happen.

I am thankful for how far we have come, but I can’t help wishing that we were able to move things along and that both of us, me and Hope, could make and sustain the emotional connection that we both desperately long for. I think that is probably my greatest wish as I begin considering my wishes for 2016.


Too Much

 

Sometimes this mothering thing is just too damn much.

There is a lot of shame around saying that. So many women are unable to have biological children and some hoops to clear for fostering and adopting can be tough. Saying that mothering can involve misery feels rather taboo.

I’m actually not supposed to say that, right? Because I wanted to be a mother. I’m not supposed to not love every effing minute of it, right?

And yet, this week I’m pretty miserable.

As the holidays approach, expectations seem to rise. My dear Hope seems to struggle as we get further in the school year, but her pride prevents any kind of help from cracking her protective casing. Yappy has developed separation anxiety. Work is…well, busy is an understatement.

The mental energy and gymnastics to parent a traumatized kiddo while being on top of things in the other areas of my life has driven me back to white knuckling it and popping anxiety meds reserved for….

breakglass

Well, this is that time.

I melted down this week. I hadn’t had one of my meltdowns in some time, and when I crumble it’s like…

falling-rocks1

The exhaustion and frustration and anger were and are just so real and too much. I hit my limit, my hard limit. And somewhere along the way I took all the things that Hope won’t/can’t do personally. No good can ever come from that, and yet it is a rabbit hole that I fall into ever so often. Hurts like hell to to fall into and climb to get out of.

I am struggling with parenting. It requires me to toss out 99% of everything I learned from my parents. If my parents gave me a list, I got that list done because they told me to do it and not doing the list would be considered disrespectful and disobedient.That combination didn’t go over well with them.

I give Hope a list and it will be balled up on the floor in minutes. And I can’t reconcile that with the narcissism that is simple teendom and the narcissism that is trauma teendom. My reserves are so low at the moment that it quite seriously causes me lots of anxiety as I attempt to keep my anger and frustration in check.

I’m singed

Last night I failed.

So, I lost my ish…royally.

I didn’t yell at her. I just yelled at the universe on the other side of the house. It was all just too much. The truth is that it’s always too much. Parenting my daughter is really is about how much I can I manage me; it’s clear I can only do so much in managing her. This control freak has nearly no control, and it’s driving me nuts.

After about 30 minutes, I went to talk to Hope, only to find her packing. The dresser drawers had been emptied, and she was working on the closet. She screamed at me that I could just put her back in the system so that I could get my life back and not be miserable anymore.

Oy, Great, now both of us feel like ish.

We talked after I quietly unpacked all her stuff. I reminded her that families fight, but no one is supposed to leave. I’m entitled to my feelings just like she is, and sometimes my feelings boil over and those feelingd aren’t fair to anyone around me either.

These last two years have been hard. Really hard. They’ve been traumatic in ways I never imagined. We’ve been through the ringer. But we’re still here, even when it feels like it’s all too much, and last night it really was too damn much.

I apologized for scaring her, but I didn’t apologize for my feelings. They are real. They are mine, and I’m entitled to feel some kind of way. I honor her feelings.

It’s hard have so few folks around for whom I can drop the veil, reveal my true feelings and have them honored as true and authentic.

So on top of everything else, I’m realizing that I’m lonely too.

Single parenting is both awesome and sucky at the same time.

This week, I’m just surfing until Friday because it really does feel like too much.

 


Perfect Parenting

There isn’t such a thing, right?

Right.

And yet, many parents aspire to be perfect, or at least good. Before I became a parent to Hope, I was a hopeless perfectionist. My control freakdom tendencies lead me down some dark paths at times, but I also attribute my personal success to a mix of blessings, dumb luck, and hard work characterized by a need to control as many variables as I could manage.

I can’t say I like problems, but I like and pride my ability to solve them. For much of my life, I’ve been pretty good at it. A lot of my identity has been tied up in the pride of figuring stuff out and making things happen.

And then I became a parent.

Holy ish.

Oh, and I became an adoptive parent to a kid who had endured many more of life’s hardships than I care to think about.

My earliest parenting moves were scrutinized by social workers. They were also scrutinized by numerous people in my life, and all of these people had the best of intentions. And all of these people had opinions, and many of these people didn’t mind sharing them.

It was a lot to hear and a lot to absorb.

More than a few parents shared their thoughts, even though there was little experience about parenting a kid who had experienced the kinds of things my new daughter had. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to manage my own emotional response to what I perceived as folks “not getting it” and feeling strangely tiny. I felt small because all these experienced parents around me giving me advice seemed to have figured things out and yet I felt like no solutions worked for me. The lack of ability to problem solve and/or control anything was devastating.

Add in the wicked adjustment period for Hope that included some really tough behaviors, and I swear I wonder how either of us survived.

I wrote a lot during those early days and months. Some of the frustrations I expressed in my blog, well, I probably wouldn’t do the same way in retrospect, but it is what it is.  I own it in all its truth.

In those days, the parenting problems were endless, new, overwhelming, devastating…and I had no control over what had been a pretty carefully constructed life and well, persona.

The feelings were new, raw, scary, terrifying actually.  Not only did I feel like crap, I felt like I was actually crap, identity-wise.

I found that my problem solving skills worked, but instead of being able to create a way out, I had to choose from a set of options, none of which seemed appealing, and pray that something brought some kind—any kind—of peace.

It rarely seemed to bring peace.

I quickly learned in those days that perfection would forever be elusive. I would have to learn to just shoot for great, then it slid to good, then it flirted with just good enough and then there were some days that the goal was to just keep Hope alive (ha! Jesse Jackson pun unintended but apropos).

I did and said things that still offer consequential ripples across my life. Some moments I actually spend a lot of time pondering some of the challenges—real, imagined, and emotional—that dominated the first six months of my life with Hope. I have a few regrets, just a few things that I could’ve and should’ve handled differently, but I look at the foundation that I created for me and Hope and I can say that I got it right.  There isn’t much, given so many challenges, that I would’ve done differently.

Fast forward 18 months and I fear I criticize or second guess myself so much more than I did at the very beginning. I mean, I know I didn’t know what I was doing then; now it seems like I should have more of a clue.

I don’t.

Most days I feel like I’m failing more than usual. Not a day goes by when I go, “Well that didn’t go like I thought” or “Could I have done something different? Better” or “FML—that was the best I could come up with?’ I replay the days’ interactions like they are on a DVR. I rarely pat myself on the back. I rarely think I deserve it.

It’s super hard. I constantly have to remember that perfection is impossible. Like everyone else, I’m just trying to do the best I can.

I hope one day to be known for my many accomplishments. I know that Hope will be one of those; hopefully, not because I adopted her, but rather because I raised a triumphant, young warrior who was able to overcome her history and step into a healthy life.  If I can do that or even get really, really close to that, it will be my single greatest achievement.

And I hardly ever feel like it’s possible. It feels like a heavy lift that is often too much to bear.  It’s hard. It’s heavy. It’s lonely. It’s traumatic.

It’s…so very hard some days.

But I guess it doesn’t require perfection. It can’t, because perfection simply doesn’t exist, right?

Even though I intellectually know this, I, like so many other parents, will continue to chase it and fail to find it.

I think if I can truly learn to accept that, it will be my second greatest achievement.


Lonely Single Mom

Yesterday was rough.  I am traveling for the first time in months, and none of our regular sitters were available this weekend.  I was pinched and had to go with someone new.

This woman has spent the week driving me nuts.

We talked, we negotiated a 4 day/3 night job, I promised to follow up with an email outline and texts.

I thought it was all good.  Until this cuckoo bird called me yesterday, saying she had not received any of my communications and that because I apparently hadn’t sent anything, I had failed to confirm.

Oh, and her rate was her “live in” nanny rate—basically I’m paying her like Hope is an infant, needing 24 hour care, which roughly came to about $2K

Say what now?

She said, well what if Hope get sick at school and needs me to pick her up? Ok, right, but 1) we have a contact for that, 2) Hope would rather shave her head than go home from school sick and miss seeing her crush in gym class–the last class of the day and 3) unless she is projectile vomiting, I’m going to tell that nurse to put some ‘Tussin on it and send her behind back to class.

Lady, you have got to be kidding me. I cannot.

So, we renegotiate because clearly she did not understand my needs. I resend the email and text messages.

I think we’re cool.

3:34am, in all CAPS: MISS ABM, MY INTERNET HAS BEEN OUT FOR DAYS BUT NOW I GET YOUR EMAILS. I WILL BE THERE. I UNDERSTAND. THANK YOU.

Um, ok. Yes, in all caps. She yelled at me in the middle of the night.

Sigh.

Sooooo, you accused me of not sending emails, but you weren’t able to access the internet.  Yeah, this is just peachy.

At 9am, I have a conference call with the new tutor, while I’m out getting some exercise. Never mind that I think I’m going to do three loads of laundry and I haven’t started packing and my flight leaves at 1:10pm.

10am, sitter calls again because there is a discrepancy between the time I originally requested with the sitter service and the time I asked her to come.

OMG. I calmly tell her that the time I have told her, texted her, emailed her repeatedly is the only time she needs to be concerned with. Somehow she gets riled up, then I get riled up, then she threatens to quit, and I lose my ish since I’m supposed to be on a plane in a couple of hours. I start sobbing. She now claims to quit because I am crying; I just hang up because I’ve got to come up with a plan, and I don’t have another moment to spare with this bird.

She calls me back, I tear her a new one; she apologizes for like 20 minutes; I can’t get her to hang up.

Sigh.

Trip’s back on, though I’m stressed to the max and making a mental note that it’s time to hire someone privately.

She calls me and texts me twice more, including the text of a beautiful forest fire, that I guess is supposed to be inspirational…I guess.

She picks up Hope and I eventually get to Chicago.

I call Hope, and she politely tip toes around the fact that the new sitter is a cuckoo bird. I’d done everything I could all week to chat the sitter up and to seem optimistic about it, but come on…Hope is 14 if the sitter is a crackpot, then she’s going to know that the sitter is a crackpot.

Finding help and support can be so challenging for me.  I don’t have much family around anymore.  I haven’t been good about nurturing some of my pre-Hope friendships; life is so different now.  Sometimes Hope’s anxiety behaviors clearly turned folks off, and I just took steps away.  A great deal of my support comes from “staff.” The housekeeper every two weeks, the dog walker that helps to manage some of Yappy’s puppy energy and the sitter service that helps me be able to travel for work and have an evening or two a weekend a month to myself.

When I first started using the sitter service, things were great.  I was able to find some really kind, patient and compassionate young women to help me look after Hope.  I wouldn’t say they babied her, but she got a lot of attention and had fun when the sitters came.  These days, those awesome women have moved on to other things and this has resulted in us being a bit rudderless without consistent sitters. And please know, we need help.  No, make that *I* need help. It’s really crazy out here all by my lonesome.  This single mom situation is serious!

I’m also finding that our needs have dramatically changed.  For all the problems Hope and I may have, we are remarkably stable, these days. I think it time for us to look for someone who can meet our new needs, which means shuttling Hope to activities, making sure she goes to bed and takes care of the dog and brushes her teeth.  I need someone responsible, but I don’t need a live-nanny who treats Hope like an infant or a toddler.

I think the most striking thing about this episode is how limited my options feel in securing help with child care so that I can continue to do things that are required for my job. Family isn’t really an option.  Friends aren’t really an option. The sitter service is a great option, but a bit of a personality crap shoot.

This single mom feels pretty alone and kind of unsupported.  Not that the people around me are mean or intentionally unsupportive, but there aren’t people close enough to me to ask that they watch Hope for 3 or 4 days without costing me a grip.

I don’t have a village to raise this kid and that sucks.

I guess there might be some kinda village but it is nothing like I envisioned what it would be or what I now know I need for my family.

No village = mo problems.  At least it feels that way. It feels hard.

I can see how the lack of village affects me.  I wonder how the lack of a village affects Hope. I dunno.

I’m beginning to be somewhat withdrawn like Hope socially, despite my constant efforts to stay connected. I feel the sting of rejection when a band parent just ignores me, or worse, turns her shoulder to signal my exclusion from participating in a conversation. I’m actually starting to wonder if band parents are talking about me—I have no idea what they’d say?  Do I volunteer enough?  How come I don’t always sit with the parents during games (because they ignore my very presence). I also feel the lonely when I talk to my sisters over many cities and several states.  I feel it talking to my parents 100 miles away.

Single parenting a kid from a hard place is great, but my own journey has some really lonely spots. This feels like one.

Lonely parenting only adds to the stress of parenting in general.  This is tough job; you really need people around you, to lean on, to sob with, to take deep breaths with.  You need a village.

I’m hoping that I can try to build a suitable village, one that will give Hope and I the support we need.


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