Tag Archives: Single Adoptive Moms

More Thoughts for Newbies

Recently I stumbled over a new show Mahogany Momology, a podcast about Black motherhood!

Awww Yeah. I’m down for that.

AND these sistas had already dedicated an episode to adoption.

Super yay! New fan for sure!

MObama

via Giphy

I settled onto my elliptical this morning and listened. The show has a cool vibe. This episode on adoption left me with a lot of feels. Like, a lot of feels about all kinds of adoption stuff.

MObama

Via Giphy

I’m totally looking forward to hearing more from the show, but I found myself thinking that maybe there’s some more I could add to my own post from May, Thoughts on Being a Newbie  based on the narrative I heard and didn’t hear on the show.  Now of course, one show can’t be everything to everyone, so I respect that the episode focused on one family’s adoption story. So…yeah.

MObama

Via Giphy

Again, I’m hardly a sage, so take all of this for what it’s worth! Here’s my latest two cents to add to your considerations on the newbie experience.

  • When choosing an agency, be sure that they engage in ethical adoption practices—this is for all kinds of adoption. Research them, feel good about how they treat you, how they view the child and how they view and treat that child’s family of origin. If this feels more transactional than family building, run, don’t walk to the next agency to check them out.

Another thing to consider is whether that agency is religiously affiliated and how that shapes they way they treat members of the adoption triad. Does the agency only work with couples? Do the couples have to be straight? Do the folks like me, single parenting by choice, also have to be straight? Is there a religious litmus test as a part of the process? How do they advocate for LGBT+ older kids who need homes who are invariably harder to place (because folks don’t want to be bothered with “other”)?

What about how much time do they give birth families to make their decisions about placement? Do they apply any pressure to birth families to decide early? How are birth families treated immediately following the birth? Is there different pricing fees for children of color? Why and how do you feel about that? How are families of color treated? How are children of color treated? Do they respect the dignity of children in need of homes?

Also, does the agency offer pre/post-adoption support? Are there opportunities for counseling referrals? Support groups? Help hotlines?

Choosing an agency is one of the most important decisions that you will make in this process. Ask lots of questions and try to get as close to right as you can.

  • Learn about interstate adoption before you get deep in the process. The rules are different state by state. The delays in placement and ability to travel with a child immediately after placement are governed by these rules, or Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). These compacts also dictate the relationships between states when you adopt from foster care. For example, my daughter’s home state reimburses our state for her Medicaid coverage. We never saw a break in coverage, and it’s a financial negotiation between the states. She could not move from her state to mine until that and other things were all ironed out. Our paperwork was submitted right before Christmas, so things were delayed a few weeks; right after the new year, our ICPC went through and we could begin to plan for her permanent transition to my home. This step is really important so take some time to learn about it before you are waiting on it to happen.
  • Think long and hard about an open versus closed adoption and put the child at the center of that decision. You and your feelings really shouldn’t be the priority. There I said it. You will have big feelings, super big feelings. HUGE feelings about this. Take some time to work through that and figure out what’s best for your child. Same advice goes for the birth family. Everyone needs to be on the same page here! Open adoption can look a million different ways, but please know that it is not simply a legal thing pertaining to original birth records, names, etc. I consider that a separate issue actually and actually mention it in my original newbies post.

The open vs. close question is about whether you are open to and willing to facilitate a relationship between your child and their biological family. There’s a lot of research on this (most of it pro-open), go Google it. Do your due diligence, not just for your comfort but for your child’s well-being.

Sure, it can be messy sometimes, negotiating boundaries, who gets called what, the various stages your child will experience as they grow in these relationships. I wrote about my own experience parenting Hope through an open adoption recently in The Gap. It has been challenging for numerous reasons, but I know having an open adoption is the right thing for us. We have access to medical history, which this year became exceptionally helpful, there has been reconnections that were important. Even in the challenging part, it has been an important way of Hope to have agency over how she wants to be in reunion.

I worry when the default decision is a closed adoption. There are numerous reasons for that choice, though, including safety and security of the child. But if you’ve chosen this path, be sure to center the decision on the child, not just what will be “easier” for you. It’s not about you.

  • Spend some time really learning about trauma and attachment. A lot of domestic infant adoptive parents don’t think this is an issue for their kiddos. It may not always be, but I listen to a LOT of adoptees who often talk about that missing piece. They know things even when we think they (infants) don’t. Learn about trauma, learn about attachment. Learn what kinds of things you should be doing to facilitate attachment, learn that it might not look like what you think it ought to. There are lots of great resources out there on these topics. Check out The Primal Wound and Kathryn Purvis’ work on attachment and connected parentin Don’t assume that because your baby was placed with you a few days after birth that their mother’s essence isn’t imprinted in their senses. Come one, we learn about imprinting in nature in grade school; this shouldn’t be a foreign concept. Learn about this stuff and marinate on it. You may find down the road that it explains a lot that you just couldn’t figure out.

Hope wants me to add that that the wound can heal or at least find some resolution. It doesn’t have to remain painful and that every case is unique. She also notes that if you’re honest every step of the way with your kids that it makes it easier for everyone. #sheswise #thatsmykiddo

  • Think about how you will talk about adoption (and foster care) with your child. I’ve made it a point to have an open policy on all topics in our home (which has led to some stunningly embarrassing moments, but seriously impactful moments). I want Hope to feel comfortable talking about her parents, her life experience before me, her feelings about her current relationship with her biological family, everything. If she had been an infant, I hope that I would have wanted to talk about her origin story, that adoption wouldn’t be a secret, that we would still have the open policy. I struggle when I hear about parents whose kids are beyond infant age, and they haven’t told them they were adopted. Um, what are you waiting for? #tryingnottojudge #effit #imjudging #sorrynotsorry Think about how you will share your child’s story with them and when (as early as possible).

So, I enjoyed the new podcast and I’m looking forward to checking out the previous episodes while Hope and I are on vacation this week! In the meantime, what other kinds of things do *you* think newbies should consider, know, learn? Share below and keep the discussion going!

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I’m Spent

I intellectually understand why Hope engages in self-sabotage. I totally get it on an intellectual level. There’s the need to actually be the failure she sees herself as. There’s the need to create a situation where she is not increasingly independent as she moves to adulthood. There’s the reality that her brain, having been subjected to early and multiple traumas just doesn’t make the same kind of connections that neurotypical kids do.

I have read the articles. I’ve listened to adult adoptees. I chat with other adoptive parents. I totally get it.

And then there’s the reality of living with it.

And the reality is that I don’t get it at all. Like not even a little bit. Not even the smallest fraction.

The emotional roller coaster is like being on one of those obnoxious carnival spinner rides that makes you feel kind of nauseous halfway through. The kind of ride where you just close your eyes, take long, slow breaths as you try not to hurl while the ride is still going.

This was an especially trying weekend with Hope. She broke a rule on Thursday night that required immediate and meaningful consequences. Of course, this meant that essentially my first weekend home in a month *we* were grounded. The tearful, depressive “woe is me” episodes were authentic if brought on by her own behavior. I tried to be connected. I had her drive me around on my weekend errands most of the morning. I tried to bond over shopping for Mother’s Day gifts for the grandmothers. I insisted that she come with me and Yappy for a couple mile walk out in the glorious sunshine.

I finished the application for the summer boarding program I hope she will attend this summer this weekend. The application prompted a difficult conversation about the academic reckoning that Hope is facing as she looks to start her senior year of high school. Despite multiple meetings, lots of conferences and long, painful conversations with Hope before today, there’s still remains a core of denial that graduation may not happen as scheduled. We are rolling headlong into some real natural consequences that have been 4 years in the making, and I’m in a state of nausea waiting for Hope to act like none of us tried to tell her that the situation was this serious.

And I’m trying to figure out how to balance a possible delayed graduation with the fact that my daughter has zero desire to grow up anyway. Hope deserves a childhood, but Hope also needs to be doing a few more things independently than she is. I’m not kicking her out, but I do wonder what the long game is for her, for us, for me. Will she ever want to be independent? Will she continue to self-sabotage to see if I’ll come save her? When will it be too much for me? As I’ve been working on updating my estate planning recently, I’m really thinking about my own mortality and how I want to spend the next 30-40 years, assuming I have that long.

And why the fuq will she not just fold her laundry and take out her trash like I tell her to? This on top of all the really serious stuff just is the most triggering because it’s stuff completely within her control which is probably why it’s not getting done. URGH!

I adore Hope. She has added so much to my life. But despite really working hard this year to practice self-care and trying my best to be a more emotionally regulated parent (I’m not even yelling anymore) I’m just exhausted.

In fact, I think I’m not yelling because I’m just spent.

It seems nothing I do motivates Hope. This last year has felt like we’re on emotional eggshells. Family members have suggested that maybe I’ve spoiled her. I would LOVE to spoil my daughter, but I don’t know if that’s a thing for her. I know there are things she enjoys about this life, but after four years, she still struggles to ask for things she wants/needs. I know that her trust for me only goes so far.

And so we just go round and round with me nudging, pushing, pulling, cheering, encouraging, and loving and Hope sitting, stalling, denying, avoiding, and sabotaging.

I’m accepting that this is our life and that she’s undoubtedly having a hard time. I honestly am a little tapped out though. I don’t know what to do or say other than a hug and a pat and a “there, there it will be ok, I promise.”

This weekend has been hard. I’m proud that I didn’t barf—figuratively, emotionally or literally. But I’m going into the next week feeling like I’ve been through an emotional ringer, and it almost always feels that way these days.

I’m not sure when this part of our ride will change, but I hope it’s soon.


Defiance & Regression

Of all the parenting struggles, and the trauma struggles, and the struggles that exist apparently just for existence’s sake, the one I struggle with the most is defiance.

We are apparently in the midst of period where Hope has decided to be defiant. #ohhellno

I honestly do not, nay cannot, deal with this in a positive way. It is a serious trigger for me. Defiance burns my house to the ground, leaving just ash and anger in its wake. I can take a lot in my little queendom, but open defiance is that thing that will get me all the way gassed up. #tothegallowswithyou

While I don’t think kids should fear their parents, I do think there should be a healthy respect for place in the family, authority and all of that. There is a certain deference that should just…be. To this day, there’s a line that I simply do not cross with my parents. The line might’ve moved with some time. I might even bump up against it as a now middle aged woman, but there’s just some ish I won’t do and if I do it, I apologize and take my lumps.

The defiance that Hope displays isn’t rooted in any of that. It’s trauma related, attachment related and then just sprinkle some moody teenager on top for bad measure.

The roaring that my parents may have engaged in, and the occasional righteous and well deserved-smack, were enough to get me back in line with a quickness, but these approaches are ill-advised and useless at best in my own parenting of Hope (but lawd…my palm is twitching something terrible #realtalk #mytruth)

This weekend we’ve had a quiet rage in the house.

I don’t even know why she’s pissy; I have my suspicions, but really, who knows. I know why I’m pissy. Hope’s antics killed my #BlackPanker, #WakandaForever high. I was feeling all good and hype after going to the movies. (That movie was everything I needed and more in a movie—go see it!) She woke up yesterday, and it’s been drama ever since.

I haven’t dealt with it well. I *might* have told her how I really felt in a fit of anger. That just made things worse; I knew that, but in the moment, ALL of my buttons were pushed and engaged.

For the love of everything holy, just do what I ask you to do, when I ask you to do it. It’s not a suggestion; I didn’t say, “when you get a chance.” Just get up, go do said task or ask me can you do it at a different designated time. But the blank state accompanied by a subtle, but still noticeable eye roll. When I tell you that it sends my pressure up…smh. #rollyoureyesonemoredamntime #doit #idareyou

She is really, really, really doing it right now.

Capture

I am not here for any of it.

We are in an especially challenging time and I know it underpins this weekend’s behaviors. Hope wants to launch after graduation; we both know that she isn’t really ready but we’re kind of going through the motions like she is. I’m encouraging her to get an after-school job. Her grades are already iffy, so having a job isn’t a particularly big threat to academics and in my cost-benefit analysis, she’ll get some job experience and hopefully some more social interaction that will help her more than aspiring to get a C in algebra 2 will. Hope has career fantasies that are doable, but she’s going to have a few more rungs on the ladder due to academics, trauma, and a general lack of intrinsic motivation.

When we bump up against these truths, things get ugly. The walls go up, the lids go down and the lights go out. If I try to revisit the fact that I will be here to support every step, whatever the step—but there do have to be steps—no lights come on; no one is home in there.

I know this is all fear. I get it, I do. Theoretically, I get the push/pull, be an asshole so that you can just precipitate failure and abandonment dynamic, but really, can’t we skip this part?

Have we done enough of this?

Doesn’t it get old for you? I mean I feel like it’s gotten a lot of airplay and it feels old as hell to me.

Do we always have to regress into sh*tty behaviors? Can’t we see some of those other coping skills we’ve learned? Can we try a different tack since we *know* this one doesn’t work? Please?

Oh and I get that it’s not supposed to be personal—but when you’re single parenting and there are no other humans engaged in this back and forth, ish gets personal quick. Sigh.

Even Yappy is like, “she’s giving off icky energy, so I’m just going to post up over here…away from the fracas.”

I’m doing my best here and this weekend is one where it just doesn’t feel like it’s good enough.

Sigh…Just wash the dang dishes now…Dammit.

Yes, NOW.

Ugh!


The Single Life

I rarely mention my dating life in this space. Elihu and I split last year after over three years together.

It was, and is, sad. E is an amazing man; our time together will be a highlight of my life.

That said, the end of a nice relationship is never a happy occasion. Sometimes it feels worse than an awful end to a relationship; saying goodbye just hurts.

Since our split, I’ve taken some time to mourn and reflect on being a mom, being a woman, and being a partner. It’s all kind of hard. There’s the stuff you envision about all of those roles, and then there’s reality and never do those all those things ever match up. There’s always a level of dissonance; sometimes it works in your favor, but most of the time it doesn’t.

So here I am, right around what would’ve been our fourth year together, single again.

When E and I got together, I had just become a mom. How I fell into a relationship at the same time I became a mom, I’ll never know. In retrospect, it was lovely, but I look back at myself through the multiple lenses of my life, and I hardly know who that frantic, overstressed, exhausted woman was. I was trying to figure this mom thing out with a traumatized tween who was nearly emotionally a toddler. My partner grounded me in ways that I desperately needed. As steady as a compass, E helped me get to a point where I really understood that I had to make arrangements for self-care. I had someone coming in twice a week for a few hours, so I could just go breathe. Some of those days I never left the condo property. I sat in my car and cried. Sometimes I slept. A few times I managed to pick up takeout and go eat in the park. I remember being excited to go out, exhilarated by a new relationship and the need to flee from the stresses of ‘connected mothering.’

And then I got the hang of parenting—as much as one can get the hang of parenting. Things eased. I got better at managing Hope’s challenges. I got better at helping her heal. I got myself together. I just seemed to get my footing.

I continued to evolve. Oh, I still think my mothering is a hot mess, but I’m confident about my mess. I don’t fret so much about whether I’m messing Hope up. I have space to think about me and my life before and what things I want to get back to.

Maybe I’ll finally get back to taking Portuguese language lessons. Maybe I’ll start back with hot yoga or at least studio yoga classes again. I feel like I’ve aged a lot, but I am finally getting back hitting the gym at 5am.

I stretched, reaching forward to the new me and reaching back to pull bits and pieces of the old me back into the fold. Sadly with all this stretching, reaching and pulling, it made the work of my partnership a lower priority and consequently, my season with E ended. I’m still trying to figure out where all that relationship stuff is supposed to fit, so sadly, for the time being, it doesn’t.  (I don’t know how you partnered people balance it all!)

Hope probably won’t be out of the house right after graduation, but really, she’s finished high school in less than two years. Time is marching on, and I can see a different kind of future for both of us with these experiences in my back pocket. I’m but a lot wiser now. I understand myself a lot more than I use to. I get whatever my version of “it” is now.

If it’s one thing I know I’ve learned in these four years, it’s what I want and what I don’t.

For now, I want to be single. Not because I don’t want to be partnered, not really. I love being partnered. Rather my current embrace of singleness is really because I just want to have time to focus on me. I miss the luxury of just worrying about myself. I miss having fewer responsibilities. I actually miss being completely and utterly untethered. I miss the ability and luxury of seriously epic levels of selfishness.

I’m up to date (maybe, possibly, I dunno), but I don’t think I could handle much of a major emotional connection and all that demands.

Actually, that’s not true; I could handle it, I just don’t want to. #true #realtalk

But I’m so incredibly smitten by the idea of having some level of freedom to focus on me as an individual that I just want to relish these moments, compartmentalize them and protect them so they stay just mine.

I am committed to giving Hope everything she needs to be whomever and whatever it is she will be, but I’m so fortunate to be carving out some time just for me again. I know we both will ultimately benefit from a healthier, happier me.

What are you doing to find yourself again?


Making Life Safe

Hope is in the second semester of her junior year of high school.  Soon enough, she’ll be a senior and we’ll be doing all those ‘senior’ things that families do–senior nights, college visits, planning, spending, more planning.

As Hope and I face this future the other thing that has emerged as a major issue is anxiety.

My “normal” parent friends chuckle and joke about this time as they begin to plan what to do with their impending empty nest time. Their kids get teased a bit about moving out, launching and being dropped off at college while parents RUN to the car and into their less intensive period of parenting.

This seemed so natural and Hope wants and plans to go to college, so I joked a bit with her about how she was going to grow up, move away and live her life. Occasionally she would respond that she just got here, did she have to go so soon?

It’s taken me some time to realize that was a real question for Hope, that maybe she felt like I didn’t want her around and that I was eager for her to graduate and move on and move out.

Oy. Sigh.

Parenting is intense and while I look forward to that period of life that is a little empty nested; I went into this gig knowing that Hope was probably not going to fly the coop, so to speak, when other kids did. I figured that she would need more time. I figured that she would need more time academically and emotionally.

What I didn’t understand was that my joking about this next big rite of passage would scare the ish out of her. I didn’t get it.

I’m not beating myself up about it; I’m sad though that Hope is not able to enjoy this season of her life. I’m sad that she was robbed of so much and that what she’s endured haunts her such that she is still so deeply affected by it. I’m sad that my baby girl wonders if I would really just kick her out of our home after she graduates.

It breaks my heart.

During one of our car chats recently, I found myself in a parking lot, asking Hope to look me in the eye, as I told her that she was safe, that she was home, that I wasn’t abandoning her, that I would always support her and that I hoped one day she would feel safe and secure enough to flirt with having some independence but that I wasn’t pushing her out.

She only nodded, and I hoped that I would only have to say this speech 10,000 more times instead of a million.

Just when I think I’ve dealt with my own emotional baggage about Hope and school, this realization that Hope isn’t all that jazzed about

Will next year just be one anxiety ladened episode after another? Will every ‘senior’ event be a trigger about independence and attachment? Will graduation be a celebratory event at all or will it just represent an independence that is not being asked of my daughter?

It all sound misery inducing. It also makes me wonder how much self-sabotaging is going on with Hope’s school performance. I swear the last two years it has often felt like she was gunning to fail.

It’s also makes me second guess my long ago decision not to hold her back a year academically. Four years ago, when Hope was placed with me, I seriously entertained demanding that the school system place her in one lower year grade. I thought it would suit her emotional needs and given that the schools in her home state weren’t that great, she could gain some academic confidence by repeating some content. When I mentioned this possibility to the social workers and with Hope everyone rained hell-fired down on me. I backed off and hoped that at least Hope and I would have a better start without that type of conflict.

While I’ll never know what our relationship would be like now if I had held her back, and I know that we experienced a really rough transition anyway, I think I regret the decision to give her another year to just feel safe.

I’ll never know if it would have made a difference, so I guess I’ll just have to keep pressing forward, but I definitely wonder what impact that decision had on her.

And even though she has seemed hellbent on failing important classes, I’m not sure she’s conscious of it. I’m not sure how much of this is ADHD or trauma/attachment related. I know that she feels awful in failing and that she knows it’s makes her appear to be something she’s not: dumb. Even knowing that, I’m not sure she knows what her psyche is really doing to protect her.

She’s scared, and I have got to spend the next year trying to make her feel safe about this next chapter.

All while trying to make her feels safe for another dozen issues we have.

I wonder how I’m supposed to do that. How do I make life feel safe for Hope?

Sigh.


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.  


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.


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