Tag Archives: Single Moms

Parenting Dilemma

Sometimes parenting decisions are real rocks in hard places. You want to give your kid a chance. You want to give them some freedoms and some rewards. But you also want, nay need, to hold the line on your principles and standards. In the midst, you want to be reasonable and flexible.

And sometimes all of that is a bunch of hooey because you still have to make a decision.

Hope was invited to prom by a friend. She doesn’t have many friends, very, very few. I also know that this friendship teeters on more than friendship.

So here’s the deal: I have long had this lovely fantasy of my daughter going to a formal. She went to one in 8th grade and it was so much fun helping her get ready. My daughter is not girly; I manage to wrangle her into a dress once or twice a year. So, the selfish stage mom wannabe in me is like:

hellyeah

The more realistic part of me is like um, she’s in 10th grade, I know she’s feeling this kid, I said no dating until she’s 16 and she ain’t 16 yet, and she doesn’t even LIKE the girly rituals involved in prom.

Then I think about how hard it seems for Hope to make friends, how many Friday and Saturdays she just sits around watching K-dramas because there were no invitations to go anyway or do anything. I think about my hopes and dreams for her to be socially integrated and to be happy.

And I soften and try to imagine the scenarios that would allow me to still say yes. Get all the schoolwork done. Stick to the chore list. Stretch and go to the weekly Korean language meetups I found for her.

I start to wonder if she can legit do the things I ask. She doesn’t do them on a regular basis on a good day, so am I knowingly setting her up to fail? Her failure would make my life easier, but make her feel horrible.

So…I’m back to just saying no when I’m fighting so hard to say yes. Prom is a special occasion. It is meant for seniors; juniors get to go because they raise money to host the event. It is a rite of passage that marks the end of high school. Going with an upperclassman is a privilege, it’s not a right. Hope’s time will come, but that time is not now.

So, I need to put my fantasies about dress and shoe shopping and hair and makeup back in my emotional shoebox and put it back up in the closet. It is too early to allow those thoughts to bloom.

And even with a decision, my heart hurts. I know this will hurt; that it will enrage Hope and then I’ll have to deal with that. I know the rage will underscore the fact that she isn’t ready for such an event.

I’ll try to find something interesting for us to do that day; something fun and something distracting.

Sometimes parenting really sucks.


Stargazing

Hope has been having body issues lately. As if we needed more drama…but at least teen girl body issues is ‘normal’ right?

Right.

I’ve been cooking more. I pack Hope’s lunch daily. Hope supplements everything with junk food. This is also apparently normal for a lot of teens, but we cross over into snack binging when Hope is stressed, which is like, all the time.

After a long chat with AbsurdlyHotTherapist, I decided to phase out most of the snacks in the house and replace them with healthier options. Happily, this means I’m getting closer to my pre-Hope dietary regimen. I never used to have this crap in the house. I grew up thinking Crispix was a sugar cereal! #IDigress The house will soon be stocked with more fruits and veggies. Sure we’ll keep the granola bars, the hummus and pretzels, but the fruit snacks that she binges on are out of here as are the chips.

Hope put on a few pounds last year. She’s tall and the extra pounds fill her out; she looks good. She more or less agrees that she likes her body, but she is concerned about gaining more weight.

The relationship between weight gain, food and exercise are all lost on her.

I exercise regularly, nearly daily. I often invite Hope to join me. It always seems like a good idea to her at first, until she actually has to physically get up to join me.

A couple of weeks ago, I dragged her on a 3 mile walk with me. She dragged her feet, but eventually stopped complaining. It was clear that she enjoyed spending time with me. That night she fell asleep early; she was knocked out.

So, yesterday, on my way home from the office, I called Hope to inform her we were going for a walk when I got home.

She groaned. I told her it was not a request; she was going to walk with me.

I got home, changed and told her, “Let’s go.”

She groaned and put on her jacket. We hit the street and asked about each other’s day.

She told me about a sick friend. We talked about how I was phasing out some of the household snacks. She asked about nutrition. We talked about her problems in geometry and chemistry. She told me that she actually does a lot of reading about Korean culture besides the K-pop scene. I learned her hands really don’t warm up with exercise like mine do. We talked about the weather and pondered why it was so chilly when it was so warm at the beginning of the week. We talked about our hair and nails, and how I keep buying nail polish with the hopes of having time to sit down and paint my nails but never getting around to it.

We talked about her band assessment this week. Her reed cracked during class this week, and she needed to make sure her new reeds were ready before the next performance. We talked about test anxiety and what that looks like and how we might have a little problem with it. We discussed going to the St. Patrick’s day parade this weekend and the need to pick up her glasses at Costco. I asked her if she had any special requests for dinner next week so that I could make the weekend shopping list.

As we were walking back, we talked about how the skyline looked. She pointed out what appeared to be the North Star. She asked about Halley’s Comet, and I told her about how I saw it when I was a young girl so she should see it in her lifetime, when she’s about 60. If I’m lucky, I might get to be around for it a second time too. We stopped walking to look at the sky so we could confirm if it was really the North Star.

It was dark, but just before 7pm. Rush hour was happening in the sky; planes were coming in for landing at the airport a few miles away. We perched on the side of the bridge we were on to count all the planes. I explained why some were low but flying in circles; they were waiting their turn to land. A few planes were taking off. A military helicopter flew by in the direction of the nearby base. We looked up and saw the planes that were maintaining their elevation; they were clearly headed north of the DC area.  We picked out the big and little dippers and a few other constellations. Hope clapped excitedly that she was able to pick out the constellations.  We noticed a few stars that appeared to be more yellow and a few that appeared more red.

Hope’s hands were very cold, her only complaint, so we started walking again. She asked if we could have cocoa, I said of course.

We walked and talked.

As we got close to the door of our building, I told her that I really enjoyed catching up and looking at the stars with her.

Hope replied, “Me too.”

We’ll be walking in the evenings more often.


On the Humble

Sometimes, it hurts to think about how my learning curve impacted Hope.  I mean, I think we’re doing great now that I finally got a clue and because I’m constantly working to learn how to parent her and meet her needs. I’m proud of my growth, but yeah, I get sad and a wee bit embarrassed to admit what a bit of a parenting shrew I was in the early days.

I also recognize that I may be hard on myself, and I have had folks tell me to go easy on myself. I guess because I know that a lot of people were hard on Hope and didn’t go easy on her that I won’t allow myself that grace in her name.

In either case, that learning curve remains steep.

We are sliding into our match anniversary soon; three years ago, some crazy professional people thought I would be a good match for Hope. Their decision changed our lives.  I remember so many people asking me if I was ready to parent a tween who had been in foster care for years.

Um, nope, but hey, I’m going to do it. We’ll get through it.

And we have, but not without so many struggles.

The transition was a dramatic struggle. At one point I thought that this would never work; she was having such a hard time.

Convincing her to buy into my idea of family life after having been in foster care was a struggle.

Food choices were a struggle.

School is a struggle.

Social interactions, yep, you guessed it, a struggle.

Therapies, medical care, medication compliance, all a struggle.

Understanding the full grasp of diagnoses and whether the labels help or hurt have been a struggle.

It hard. It’s all hard. And me and Hope, despite our narrative and this blog, we aren’t special. We’re just everyday folks trying to live from one moment to the next. I reject all the halos and angel wings folks try to foist on me; we’re just a family trying to make it.

One late night recently, I was catching up on reading some posts in an adoption support group. I was reading about a struggle a new parent was experiencing that Hope had endured and that, frankly we still kick around a bit: chores.

I reflected a lot as I was trying to type out my answer on my phone.

My biggest struggle in being Hope’s adoptive mom is checking my entire ego at the door. Admittedly I have a huge personality, I give off big energy, I like having a big voice and probably at some point in my life even demonstrated a few bully tendencies. Setting down my ego and keeping it in check is one of my life struggles as a mom.

Chores are a big flash point in my need to ego check.  Like many foster kids, Hope moved from place to place in trash bags. Valuing and caring for material things was a rare practice because things routinely disappear, are lost, stolen or otherwise just or go missing . The chaos in her room tends to reflect her emotional state. She loathes doing chores (who am I kidding, so do I). She wants to earn money, but she is so used to not having things over her short lifetime that she isn’t strongly motivated to do chores for money. Her ADHD typically means that unless the task is directly related to something she wants to do, is time bound, and personally beneficial, it really doesn’t ring her motivation bell.

It took me a year to realize that me telling Hope to clean her room actually jived with her desire to have a clean room but operationally she would try to clean every drawer, refold all the clothes and dig under the bed and the cleaning exercise would turn into a 10 hour, yell, cry-laden experience that made us both miserable. When my light bulb went on, I realized that I would have to be responsible for deep cleans and that Hope needed a short list that represented a tidy room daily.

My point really is that everything I thought I would do parenting Hope was, frankly, off course. My therapist sat me down one day and said:

“Do you want to be right? Do you want to give an ish about what other people thought about me and my parenting? Or do I want Hope to thrive? If it’s the last option, you’re going to have to put that ego of yours and those preconceived notions of yours in a box and put them on an emotional shelf in the back of the closet because they have no place here.”

Well, damn.

Part of checking my ego is about redefining success. I’m forced to constantly adjust myself and family assessment. I was away for nearly a week for work recently. What did success look like when I arrived home:

  • Hope took her meds every day.
  • Yappy didn’t poop in the house due to anxiety.
  • Some of the healthy food I left behind was consumed.
  • Chores while I’m gone? What are those?
  • Yappy got a bath while I was gone, not because I told Hope to bathe him but because she said he needed one (10 extra points for Hope).
  • I know that she bought school clothes that met my criteria for just one step outside of her jeans and tee comfort zone (30 extra points for Hope).
  • Her room was nearly spotless when I got home from my trip.

I treated her like she won the super bowl for Casa d’ABM because she showed initiative AND followed directions remotely.

The rest of the house was a mess. There were dishes in the sink that might have been there long enough to wave at me.

I made a short list of things for her to do the following day that began to get us re-regulated.

I used to be furious to have to do that. I used to get mad at the nanny for not taking care of more stuff around here. But then I realized that my absence was stressful; that the nanny’s job was to keep Hope and Yappy alive and entertained and that my job was to play my position—to love the kiddos, not judge them as they survived the stress of my absence and to get us back on our regulated journey.

The irony is that in fact, it was all about me. They missed me, and I missed them (note Yappy gets all zonky too, so yeah, it’s them). But my job is to help alleviate the stress and fear that I’m not coming back; in those moments, it’s not about me at all. It’s all about them.

Parenting is humbling, it really is. The decisions are tough, the expenses are crazy, the scheduling is consuming. It really is like just thinking of yourself as a cup and pouring it all out for the benefit of your kid. It is pretty selfless and pretty exhausting.

But ahhh, those moments when Hope tells me some parent-approved version of her secrets, smiles when we are in the kitchen together or just texts me that she loves me, those moments are everything. They are the greatest reward for learning to practice humility.

 


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.


Being an Oasis

I am still struggling with appropriate way of dealing with Hope’s various attitudes. Seriously, it is so dang hard to reconcile the way I was brought up with the way I’m raising Hope. I mean, I am still trying to inculcate the values and life lessons and such, but dealing with her attitudes and smart mouth remain a challenge for me.

My parents simply didn’t tolerate any of this and I didn’t expect to either. I kept my attitudes to myself, and my smart mouth was silenced until I was in my room with the door closed mouthing what I *wished* I could have said to my parents in the heat of the moment. #wishfactor

While Hope and I aren’t doing too many coordinated Year of the Try activities right now, I am plugging away at trying to parent Hope better. There is so much room to improve, so I continue to research and figure out what I can actually do consistently that will help us become closer, help her feel confident and help reduce the caustic emotions in our home.

So, here it is, here’s my latest attempt at improved parenting…Ready?

Silence.

Yeah, shutting my pie hole and ignoring the countless numerous things that annoy me. I am limiting my nagging to the barest of essentials that will keep us bug and rodent free. I am desperately ignoring outbursts that aren’t specifically directed at me or about me.  Those more personally targeted outbursts are met with an absurdly polite, quietly spoken “Please adjust your tone. I am not yelling, nor have I yelled at you. Please do not raise your voice to me. Speak to me with respect and I will do the same.”

It’s become a mantra, so to speak.

If I were to boil down this approach I would describe it largely as pretending I don’t see the crazy and if I do, I speak with my quiet “You must be crazy” voice.

Whenever I do this, Hope looks at me like I am speaking a foreign language. Seriously, her confused face is awesomely hilarious, but I don’t laugh. She has typically tightened things right up or just pulled back.

All of this has allowed me to place greater focus on speaking to her about positive things. She needs a lot of positive reinforcement; I mean about EVERYTHING. School, hair, eyeliner, toenails, boy stalking…She just needs lots of positive language.

Hope always demurs when I say nice things about her to her; she is a devotee of deflection. I know it’s because she doesn’t yet believe the nice things I say about her, so I have to say even more.

Shutting up about so much of the stuff that pisses me off has created some head space for me to focus on building her up.  And that’s a really good thing.

Oh, don’t be fooled, I am still in a state where I just stay secretly annoyed. Seriously, kids do some dumb ish and frankly, I am still a person who is easily vexed. I know it was pass though because I gotta focus on the bigger picture and that is building my kid up and showering her with positive reinforcement. I’m realizing that she’s just starving for it; she’s so thirsty that it’s killing her. When I put it like that, it’s easy for me to try to be a better oasis. She needs an oasis more than she needs anything else in the world.


Wiring My Jaw Shut

So as I wrestle with my emotions in trying to motivate Hope as well as provide her the support she needs to be successful, Absurdly Hot Therapist recently told me to really work on practicing “non-judgmental parenting.”

Point-And-Laugh-Reaction-Gif

So after I finished laughing and thinking about how hot he is in his shawl collared therapist sweaters and cute colorful socks, I was like “Dude….”

Aw-Hell-Naw-Kanye-West-Gif

Oh, don’t miss understand, I get it: Safe environment for Hope, protect Hope’s ego, support Hope, let her know I have reasonable expectations, but am totally cool with her working up to them…Yada, yada, yada.

Ohhh.Emmmm.Geeee.

Listen, I feel like I have the most amazing family in the universe. I also feel like despite our best efforts we can be a judgy bunch.

Like, PhD in judgy sometimes.

And oh, despite my best, dedicated, work hard efforts, I am soooooo a judging everything.

Startrek

Oh yeah, it’s a problem, I know.

So, I’ve been working on it. My version of working on it looks like this:

“Don’t say anything because you might lose it.”

“Keep your pie hole shut.”

“Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up.”

“Do NOT respond to that smart a$$ text message.”

“Whooooosaaaaaaa.”

“Nope, not falling for it, not gonna do it.”

*Heaving breathing*

“Get yourself a martini, like right now before you rip her head off.”

#realtalk

This, this is my internal monologue.

We were in to see our primary care physician for double appointments today; I was shocked that my blood pressure was normal. I swore it would be through the roof. I would’ve bet the farm on it.

Seriously, I’d like to just get my mouth wired shut for the next year or two, then I wouldn’t have to worry about my mouth popping off when Hope said/did something unbelievable.

I’m honestly not sure how people survive this. I feel like all this new fan-dangled parenting might just kill me. My parents see me interact with Hope and this, this is the face they give me.

simon-cowell-face-o

It’s all with so much love.


200_s

“You gonna just let that slide? You aren’t going to check her?”

You see, I try not to judge Hope and I feel even more judged.

Ain’t that some ish?

Now, I am not justifying my continued judgment of my daughter, but seriously, this feels like a no win situation for me, no way out. It is crushing my spirit right now.

Oh and my tongue has a bunch of chew marks on it from me biting it so hard.

I am staying the course though. I am working on letting Hope just fall into the natural consequences of doing or not doing whatever it is she’s supposed to do. She fed me a bunch of BS today about why she can’t/won’t do something to bring a grade up from a 28 to a 60.

I’ve bent over backwards like a yogi.

Her teacher has bent over backwards on a mat beside me.

back-bend-services

I finally just told the teacher to let that grade ride; seriously, why are we killing ourselves? We care about her, but we understand and know how to work these algebra problems. She’s the one who has an opportunity to raise her grade.

The choice, ultimately, just has to be hers.

Le Sigh.

I wish that letting it ride really gave me peace. It doesn’t. I am still scared for her, but I’m going to take a big step back and try to just breathe, let her breathe and let the chips fall.

I still might need to get my jaw wired shut, though. I’m wayyyyyy too hot tempered to keep repeating all the mantras.


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.


It’s Ok

The last couple of years have been an immense journey. I’ve learned so much; I’m sure knowledge is just spilling out of my ears. Each day, week, moment and month bring new lessons about myself, about Hope, about our life together, about parenting and well, about a bunch of other stuff.

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of befriending a number of other adoptive parents. We share our struggles. We cry together. We whisper on the phone while hiding from our kids and slurping wine on a stool in our showers with the curtain drawn. We’ve problem solved. We’ve pep talked. We’ve planned trips together.

I’m blessed to have these folks in my life.

I was thinking during a call this week about something I usually tell folks in the midst of crisis; it’s something that they tell me too.

It’s going to be ok.

We rarely know how it’s going to be ok, but we just know that somehow, hopefully, it will be ok.

And it usually ends up being ok.

Sometimes we all just need to know that our struggles are ok; they just are. So, this post is an open letter to parents of all stripes, but especially my fellow APs, foster parents and parents that are roughing it.

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It’s ok to be mad.

It’s ok to not understand what the heck is going on in your house.

It’s ok, to have that glass of wine in the evening (unless there’s a medical/emotional reason not to).

It is ok to occasionally drink wine from a tumbler.

It’s ok to plan and practice self-care.

It’s ok to believe that eating tater tots and lucky charms with wine in your bedroom counts as self-care.

It’s ok to be tired, nay, exhausted.

It’s ok to be annoyed by all the activities.

It’s ok to foster the puppy’s affection for you because you need some unconditional love too.

It’s ok to go shopping alone so you don’t have to share.

It’s ok to feel like maybe you can’t do parenting.

It’s ok to feel ambivalent about parenting all together.

It’s ok to totally give up on parenting and then change your mind 15 minutes later.

It’s ok to cry.

It’s ok to cry daily.

It’s ok to ask your doctor if there’s something that might help you stop crying all the time.

It’s ok to call in sick after the kids have gone to school that you can have a mental health day.

It’s ok to think parenting books are full of it.

It’s ok for your foster care/adoption halo to be tarnished or missing because it fell of the pedestal you got put on.

It’s ok to feel sorry/not sorry about pulling away from friends and family who don’t understand why your family would be experiencing challenges.

It’s ok to find new friends who “get” what you’re experiencing.

It’s ok to mourn the loss of those previous relationships even if you think those people sometimes acted like buttheads.

It’s ok to cry for your child.

It’s ok to cry for everything they’ve loss.

It’s ok to cry for every reason why adoption ended up being their path.

It’s ok to cry for every reason why adoption ended up being your path.

It’s ok to cry because it comes with challenges that you feel ill equipped to manage.

It’s ok to go back to your doctor for a medication adjustment for all the crying.

It’s ok when you make unpopular decisions that are right for your family, even if they are hard for you.

It’s ok to momentarily admit that the challenges seem so insurmountable that you consider just turning back and giving up.

It’s ok to not celebrate the fact that you trudged on and worked through it because you simply don’t have time to get yourself a cupcake for doing what you were going to do anyway.

It’s ok to be mad at God for even allowing the need for you to be in this kid’s life like this.

It’s ok to be mad at God because it’s so hard.

It’s ok to recognize that anger masks sadness.

It’s ok to be mad when the people around you who are verbally supportive aren’t really supportive.

It’s ok to hate lip service and its best friend hypocrisy.

It’s ok to leave spaces that aren’t healthy or safe or supportive of and for your family, and this includes churches and other family members.

It’s ok to get help for secondary trauma.

It’s ok to get help for coping with everything.

It’s ok if you find one day that you go to therapy alone just to have a safe place to cry and vent and *then* you go to family therapy or trot your kids to their appointments.

It’s ok if your version of therapy is occasionally eating a double chocolate iced donut in your tub with the shower curtain pulled closed—alone.

It’s ok to wonder if you’ll get your life back.

It’s ok to think about the need to forgive yourself for inviting unique challenges into your life.

It’s ok to recognize that your family’s triumphs look different.

It’s ok, more than ok, to celebrate all of your family’s triumphs whether anyone else believes they are noteworthy or not.

It’s ok to beg off the comparisons against “normal” families.

It’s ok to sigh and roll your eyes a lot in your head because people say dumb ish.

It’s ok to be pissed when you are subjected to foster care and adoption related microaggressions.

It’s ok to be happy with a C, when your child worked so hard and was below grade level when he came to live with you.

It’s ok to be frustrated about all sorts of foster/adoptive kid things like hoarding, executive function, night terrors, defiance, RAD and feel like you can’t breathe a word of it to your friends because they just wouldn’t understand.

It’s ok to lean into an online community of similarly situated parents who “get your struggle.”

It’s ok, despite what your tell your kids about online relationships, to know that *your* online folks are great cheerleaders and, over time, friends.

It’s ok to feel like it will take forever to find your parenting “tribe.”

It’s ok to mourn with like-minded folks, to celebrate with them, to ask for advice, to just shoot the breeze.

It’s ok to see the world differently once you become a parent, and to be both happy and disappointed.

It’s ok to look forward to work travel as an opportunity to peek back at your old life.

It’s ok to look forward to the end of a trip because you miss your family and can’t wait to get home to your personal brand of crazy.

It’s ok to feel disillusioned by all the boogeymen in the world that take the shapes of gun violence, police brutality, racism, sexism, homophobia…and the list goes on.

It’s ok to listen to adoptees, to hear their voices.

It’s ok to allow the adoptee voice to shape how you approach meeting your kids’ needs and how you decide to help them shape their life experiences.

It’s ok to believe that adoptees have something incredibly meaningful to contribute to foster care and adoption conversations.

It’s ok to believe that everyone’s feelings in the adoption triad are legit and not be threatened by that.

It’s ok to feel joy in parenting.

It’s ok to see how much everyone in your family evolves and changes.

It’s ok to celebrate every little and big achievement.

It’s ok.

It’s ok, really, to just try your best, to be…ok.


A Traditional Feminist

So, I am the eldest daughter of three girls. We are a dynamic threesome. We are educated; independent, firery, sweet, and super thoughtful. We are also big believers in girl power!! We all own power tools and do home repairs too.

Our father is a retired mechanic. I think his biggest hope for us was that he and our mother would raise us to be independent women who could take care of ourselves who would in turn meet men who would do it for us. Gosh I love my daddy.

In my “capital F” feminist days I was a bit offended when I came to this realization, but now, years later, I kinda dig it. I mean, I can and do take care of myself, but the notion of having a partner who could shoulder the burden and do a lot of stuff, is more and more appealing as I age. Ok, not just for doing stuff, but you know…<smile>.

Anyhoo, at one point I was a Feminist—capital F—and I asked dudes out, I was ready to burn my bras, Gloria Steinem was my homegirl. I raged against the patriarchy! I pushed my way into a corner office and tried to find ways to bring women with me and thank the women who mentored me.

Then I got tired, because, well, being Black and a Feminist is hard work. Don’t believe me, peep #FeminismIsForWhiteWomen on Twitter.

The movement doesn’t really have a good, solid, inclusive space for women of color and the narrative of seeking equality on multiple fronts.

So, then I just kinda lived my own brand of feminism—little f.

I do what I want, when I want and I pursue equality and justice the best ways I know how.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Well, as a 14 year old girl, Hope is boy crazy. There are hearts on notebooks. Mr. &; Mrs. So and So scrawled here and there. It’s adorbs! But, it’s usually accompanied by Hope chasing a boy to exhaustion to go steady. Love comes and goes in epic fanfare in a 7-10 days.

The thirst is real. We’ve talked about it in therapy and without breeching too much of her confidence; the need to be loved by someone other than me is really serious and specifically by a man/boy is essential.

So we’ve been working on social cues, particularly from crushes and learning to just lay low and be the pursued instead of the pursuer.

Let the crush express his interest.

Consider his true worthiness of your time.

Let the crush ask for your number.

Let the crush text you first.

Let the crush wait a bit for your response.

Don’t be so accessible.

Cultivate your sista friendships instead.

Let him ask you out.

Breathe.

This is the whole reason why the Holy Homeboy gave the male species all the pretty colors and stuff–think birds–peacocks, mallards, robins, cardinals…amiright? Of course I feel some kinda way that he made the girlie birds all bland and homely looking, but that’s another discussion for another day. #idigress

Now, none of this really stands in opposition of feminism for me—big or little f. But coaching Hope in this way feels like I’m taking a step back in time and teaching her those silly “rules” about dating. It feels traditional in a way that feels throwback, in a way that feels like I’m somehow cheating on my own brand of feminism.

It’s just weird that the anecdote to Hope’s social issues is to teach her a very traditional view of what courting is supposed to be like.

And yet, of course I want her to be courted. Dammit, she deserves to be courted and she should dang well be taught what it should look like so she doesn’t get shafted by some dork who isn’t worth her time and who I might have to chase away with a broom like my mom did with one of my sister’s suitors (that was EPIC!). Let’s face it, no one will be good enough and I’ll be using my $5 Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon for a fancy new broom this weekend.  Oh, and let me be clear, the desire to be courted has nothing to do with the desire to be treated as an equal in a relationship.

It’s especially weird because I feel like I’ve come full circle—this is what daddy taught me, what I moved away from a bit as I explored my own world, what I’ve returned to with my sweet Elihu (he’s a serious courtier in word and deed) and now what I’m teaching Hope.

Am I still a feminist? Um, yeah, of course, I am!

More importantly, with this whole full circle thing, am I old?

What the hell????

It just feels like I’ve fallen down some weird rabbit hole in which my adult lived experience is colliding with the values I hope to instill in my daughter about her own worthiness.

They aren’t really that different. I think they are just different chapters in the same story…at least that my story and I’m sticking with it.


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