Tag Archives: Single parent

Parenting While Exhausted

sadabmSo this week Hope is back in school.

A moment of joy silence for the end of summer vacation.

She’s fine, just anxious about band stuff, but getting on swimmingly.

Me?

Getting us back on schedule and committing to exercising daily and running Hope everywhere she needs to go has damn near killed me.

I had such hopes for the week. I was meal planning just 5 days ago. I was planning on making homemade ramen (she loves it), a Kraft chicken and broccoli braid thing (she loves that too) and maybe some more pulled pork bbq.

I was going to take Yappy to the dog park. I was going to crush my walking and stretching goals.

Sooooooo, yeah, then reality hit and I’m one step above drooling on the couch by 8pm.

I have kinda kept up with the walking, but the weather turned hot again.

Hot weather meant that Yappy’s park time got cut back.

Band practices and tutoring ran later than expected.

I needed to run some unexpected errands because *someone who is not me* keeps stepping on her earbuds.

And then there was dinner….poor dinner.

After a long day, I ask, “Hey Hope, you hungry?”

“Nah, not really. I don’t want anything.”

Me silently: thank you sweet baby Jesus, because all I was only going to suggest you make yourself a sandwich out of that Costco rotisserie chicken or that salami that you didn’t eat last week. Otherwise, I got nothing but like some cheese toast to offer you.

I have relied on my daughter’s low appetite all week justify not cooking dinner.

<hangs head in mock shame>

I figure, she’s a teenager, if she’s hungry, she’ll eat, right?  There’s food in the house; she’ll be fine. It’s only a few days and no ribs are showing.

I’ve been living on sandwiches, hummus and wine or cider all week, kinda like when I was a single, no kid-having person. Next stop will be cereal, so I figure, I haven’t hit rock bottom yet.

Note to self: buy some Lucky Charms in case of exhaustion emergency.

I’m so tired, like I’m “fantasizing about sleep” tired. I can’t wait until Saturday when I drop her off for an event and let Yappy run at the park for 45 minutes. I will then retire to my beloved couch. I’m there, so there. I pray nothing gets in my way of realizing this beautiful fantasy.

In the meantime, there’s a kid pickup to make, a podcast to record and a paltry chicken sandwich to make—with a side of chips.

Did you catch that shameless plug for Add Water and Stir?

#mustgetmoresleep


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.


Social Studies

School is about to start, and I am delighted that Hope and I will be back on a nice fixed schedule. The funny thing is, that I’ve just finished putting all of her band stuff on my calendar so that I can see how things track with my travel this fall, and I’ve come to the conclusion that life as I know it is really over until November.

Sweet, HeyZeus, I’ve pleasantly let myself wallow in denial about how consuming this marching band thing would be until the last few days.

Band kids and band mom-ing is, apparently, a lifestyle.

Yes, a lifestyle.

And I am kind of freaking out about how I’m supposed to navigate the schedule, the parental expectations and all of the nuance of social-band-parenting.

Hope just finished up two grueling weeks of band camp, which started at 7am and ended at 4:45pm. (BTW, she is now a dark chocolately shade that makes me swoon over her brown skin ala India Arie. She’s not thrilled about being dark, thanks to all the colorism she has internalized, but that’s a post for another day). Hope has made numerous friends, developed a few flutterby-life-cycle crushes and has inside jokes that only band kids know. She has developed a relationship with her new “people” for high school and I’m grateful that band has provided that for her.

Me? I have no effing idea where I belong.

This spring I wrote about my realization about being a ‘band mom’ and how I noticed that my own behavior was, shall we say…off at one of the last band parent concerts of 8th grade.

So, sadly, nothing about that has changed. I still have no idea what the heck is going on with this band lifestyle that I tripped into.

Last week the band parents’ association met before hosting a BBQ for the parents and the kids. I learned that I would need to come to a lot of meetings; I would need to raise a lot of money; I would need to volunteer a lot of time to this band thing.

Ok, intellectually I knew that; but I’m not much of a joiner and the non-conformist in me has an immediate knee-jerk rebelling reaction. I know I have to get over that and probably stop screaming on the inside, “Can’t I just, like, write you a check each month to cover some stuff?”

There are tons of activities; like for instance, there is a “Tag Day”(didn’t even know what it was, so I surreptitiously looked it up with my phone under the table) coming up and the organization is asking for volunteers for the all-day activity. You should know that any day that is promoted as an all-day event for Hope is considered a much needed day of respite for this single parent. I had no idea what a Tag Day was, but I immediately thought I needed to call a masseuse and book an appointment for Tag Day, which might just become a holiday of sorts for me.

Then the signup sheet came swishing by…and guilt set in. I eventually willed myself to stay with my massage plan, only because I knew I wouldn’t get out of something else later in the season.

There was gleeful talk about how the band got invited to Disney last year, and I panicked about what would be necessary to fund such an endeavor and the possible combination of three of my least favorite things: Disney, begging for money and chaperoning (I lost a kid in a museum last year, nearly triggering an Amber alert for a wayward, little deviant who ran off from my group).

Then there was the updates about meetings, purchasing spirit wear, and the need for more volunteers for everything and I just was so overwhelmed. The other freshmen parents were kind of scattered about in the room and I didn’t recognize most of the people. I was appalled that the parents have to raise money for things like having the band uniforms cleaned (budget cuts) and equipment repairs (budget cuts).

By the time the meeting wrapped I was feeling exhausted from the financial needs to support a band a public school, thinking about how I, as a single parent, would best use my time and skills to be supportive without being consumed and whether I could make some much needed friends with other band parents.

So, the band BBQ starts and parents who knew each other were chatty Cathy’s—but initially only with each other. I, again, thought I’d sidle over to the 3 other brown parents; nope no willingness to have benign chatter with me over baked beans. After checking my breath to make sure I wasn’t poopy breathed, I slid back into my seat from the meeting, hoping to chat up the folks dining at the table. I drop into the conversation about how the one family’s kid is just so far advanced and he’s taught himself like 7 instruments and how it’s just so difficult to find adequate music coaches for his talent and oh, by the way, they are buying him an SUV when he gets his license this fall.

Um, ok.

Shifts seat to the left to hear more about this other family’s daughter who is doing marching band for the first time so she can try something different given how she’s always played volleyball during band season. Scouts are looking at her, but she just wanted to try something different since she’s been in private lessons for flute and piccolo for YEARS. She’s really gifted at both instruments and sports.

Siigh. Ok.

I get the bragging on kids, I do, and I can brag on Hope, but our accomplishments are so different and don’t seem to fit the conversational paradigm.

And being braggarts is something for which metro DC folks are famous. We say, “Hi! So, what do you do?” when we first meet you to assess where you rank socially and whether a potential relationship can be advantageous to us. Socially the business card exchange in DC is akin to a hook up, and if it’s a high rank, it can be nearly orgasmic. (A couple of years ago the CEO of a major, major pharma company gave me his cell phone number; internally I did a dance of joy because this number was coveted! My boss didn’t even have it.).

Hope just recently got over the notion that she could grow up to be Beyonce, yet is still asking if she might be considered a musical prodigy. Talented: yes. Prodigy? No, dear heart.

So there I was, thinking to myself, well, I want to fit in but I loathe playing this game with my kid because it’s just a no win.

My contribution is that Hope is in private lessons with a pianist who can trace her training lineage back to Mozart. #eyeroll It must’ve worked because someone asked if she was taking on new students and if I could share her number (I didn’t mention that her house smells like cat pee).

The crazy thing is that it is perfectly ok for Hope to be at the level she’s at. I wish she would practice more because I do see her raw talent, but given what she’s endured, she’s just fine. For now this is a great school activity; I don’t know if it will turn into something more. I resent feeling like I have to do all this volunteer stuff and compete socially on Hope’s musicality.

I’d also be lying if I didn’t write that I resent having to be consumed with Hope’s activities, but I recognize that as my own personal adoptive parent of an older child growing pain. It’s an ongoing friction concerning my focus on what I feel like I have to give up in parenting, rather than focusing on what I get in parenting.

It sucks.

I’m hoping that I can sort a lot of this out in the coming weeks and that my study of the band parenting social ecosystem gets easier and that the learning curve gets shorter. I hope I can get over my own issues. I hope that, like Hope, I can find my people in the band parents’ organization. Most of all, I hope I can have fun with Hope during this band season; I can already see her growing and trying to figure out her own social stuff. I’m hopeful that this trend will continue.

For now though, I’ll order myself that overpriced band booster jacket that will match Hope’s overpriced band spirit wear and I’ll figure how best to leverage a good time out of this thing.


Weekend of Respite

As planned I booked the sitter and a hotel room less than 5 miles from the house and fled for some much needed respite this weekend. In fact by 8:30pm each night, I was sitting in my jammies, swigging wine from a bottle in my room, contemplating my bedtime.

I slept about 10 hours the first night. I walked 3 miles the next morning while shopping. I slept 3 hours this afternoon—like back in the bed, under the covers, knocked out napping. I hit the elliptical for 45 minutes that evening. I ate carry out from Whole Paycheck [Foods], and, yes, drank wine straight from the bottle.

Gosh I needed that. I called Grammy the first evening and when she heard I napped she exclaimed, “That’s not even in your nature? You don’t nap.”

Yeah, I know. I’m exhausted.

I’ve noticed a few things while on this mini getaway.

I eat horribly when I’m stressed and exhausted. No wonder I’m at my highest weight ever. Ugh! I actually listened to my twisted mind tell myself I deserved a bunch of fatty foods (tasted good though). Today I started the Couch to 5K program. Let’s go.

My carpal tunnel has progressed to the point where I need to seriously consider surgery. How did I ignore the weakening of my hand? I mean, it’s really, really bad! Calling my doc this week.

I am really tired, like really tired. Must go to bed earlier.

The moment I get away from Hope, I actually miss her. Not enough to run home, mind you, but I do miss her, and I miss Yappy too.

I miss her but I know she was fine. I know because she texted me like 18 times and called me once. She was irritated because I could not resolve her minor problem, and she sat in silence on the phone furious when she realized that I was not going to hurry home to find the key for the bike lock. Nope, Hope, not gonna do it.

I was proud of myself that I did not buy her anything while out shopping. Admittedly, I saw a bunch of stuff I wanted to scoop up for her. I mean, the 8th grade prom is coming up! But nope didn’t buy her one thing.

I took care of me this weekend. I need to do this more often. I really do.

I see how parents get so run down; parenting, working, and running a household is exhausting. I like to think I keep up with a lot of stuff, but I forget all kinds of things—like Hope’s sports physical this past week. It didn’t make the master calendar and thus in my mind did not exist.

Cooking, cleaning, running errands, paying bills, packing lunches, emailing teachers, figuring out birth family stuff, figuring out adoption stuff, therapy appointments, medication management appointments, puppy school, band concerts, and oh yeah, my job!

I swear I don’t know how it all gets done because this isn’t even close to being an exhaustive (ironic) list. I often think it probably isn’t that much easier with a partner, but it seems like it certainly would help.

It’s hard to believe I did a better job of having respite last year than I have done this year. I can only say it’s the curse of being post-finalization and having some belief that things are “fine” now.

They aren’t.

Weekly, when I’m mindful, I see the evidence of Hope’s challenges, and although we have come a long way; there is so much further we must go.

I’m going to have to take a better care of myself if I’m going to help her face her challenges.

Two broken wheels on a bike never makes sense.

So, I’m hoping to really care for myself this summer. I’m going to try.


A Journal

So I got started with a new therapist last month. Sadly she is not an Absurdly Hot Therapist like my and Hope’s family guy. But she is a nice, motherly/aunty-like, African American woman. She’s just what I need…for so many reasons, not the least of which is that she seems to be a good therapist.

It’s nice to have a super safe space to say the things I don’t dare utter anywhere else.

I’m still grieving the break with my old therapist. We’d been together for a really long time, so it was probably time for us to split anyway, and then there’s the fact that my insurance wouldn’t pay for my visits to him and paying out of pocket was getting kind of old. So, for the low co-pay of $10, I can see her as much as I like. I think I’ll call her Aunty Therapist.

So, Aunty Therapist told me that I need to keep a journal to lift the burden of the things I can’t talk about publicly, not even on the blog.

So, I got a new journal.

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“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together” ~~Liz Taylor

I bought fancy pens too. I like fancy pens a lot.

And I’m trying to figure out where to start. I used to journal all the time. I have decades worth of journals I’ve written over the years in my home. Provisions for them have even been made in my will. Decades of journaling and two years of blogging and I have no idea where to start.

Sigh.

I’m really, really struggling with Hope these days.

It really is exhausting; she is exhausting me.

I love my daughter, but every day I wonder what the hell I’m doing.

I’m just doing a lot of second guessing. And I’m plagued by all the emotions I typically write about. Low confidence, loneliness, anger, sadness, overwhelm…and so on. Sometimes the dark emotions feel and seem…unspeakable because they are just so awful. And then guilt about feeling any of it comes in to crush everything.

Confessing all this stuff in print is hard, but I suppose keeping it all in is harder. I know it doesn’t help.

So, I guess I’d better get to writing.


Thoughts on the Single Life

I am a single mom.

I’ve been giving this single adjective a lot of thought lately.

I have really been feeling the weight of being a single parent, certainly, all of Hope’s time with me, but it’s been especially so the last few weeks. I think because parenting Hope has been more challenging recently.
I have to do everything. Between Hope’s modest, but still present, emotional delays, and the typical teendom antics, it is an exhausting job keeping her out of trouble and keeping her on the path to healing. I know I’ve done a good job, I can see it, but good Lord, I’m so tired and alone.

When it’s tough, I’m drawn into thinking about not having someone to tag out or that I need to call the sitter for some respite time and fret about the costs since there’s only one income. It feels hard and lonely. At the end of the day, at the end of a long challenging day, it is just me. When I think about the depth of that toughness…that loneliness, I am drawn back to grieving about the life I thought I would have. Not that this one is bad, but it’s just…harder than I thought it would be.

And I know that it is ok. It has to be, right?

Oh, I appreciate the few upsides: I don’t have to consult with anyone on how best to raise Hope. I get to make all the decisions. I get to be the ultimate ride or die mom because it’s just me!

But it’s not easy. It isn’t at all easy.

Lately, I have been wondering what the devil I was thinking getting into this journey alone. I knew it would be challenging, but I never would have conceived that it would be this hard. I wonder what it would be like if I had husband when I started. What would it be like to have had a husband or just long time love to help me raise Hope? I wonder if Hope would have still been my kid if I was partnered; my being single was an important part of our match.

Of course I’ll never know.

But I do wonder.

I suppose ultimately I would prefer not to be a single mom. I don’t know if my status will ever change. Again, this journey is just not what I thought it would be. We’re surviving; we may even be on the path to thriving, but this single parenting thing is not what my plan was supposed to be. And sometimes that reality makes me sad.


Controlled Cry Breaks

While reveling in the knowledge that Hope is coming to visit in a month, Grammy triggered a meltdown. This sandwich generation stuff is some mess; I’ll tell you that.

I sent off a happy email to my immediate family about Hope being in town for Thanksgiving.  I knew Grammy would hit the roof since she’s traveling to see my younger sister, Sister M, for the holiday.  She called and wailed about how she was going to miss it, and she wanted to come on this day and that day and she could stay three days and do stuff and on and on and blah and blah and blah!

Whoooooooaaaaa!  Stop Grammy.  Slow your roll.

All I could think of was No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  Did I say no?  Did you hear me say no?  No, you can’t stay 3 days, and heck no you can’t stay here.

No.

And then the tears started on both sides.  I was so overwhelmed.  She was firing off questions that I either didn’t have an answer for or didn’t want to answer, and she just was out of control.  And my inability and unwillingness to answer some questions somehow got twisted around to make me feel like an inadequate mom.

Then she announced that I had two people to consider: the tween and the senior.

I grew a small backbone and replied, no I only have to look out for the tween; she is the highest priority.  Grammy, you are not the priority.  You are not a priority right now.  I love you but you are not the priority.  You are grown and can take care of yourself.

Sobbing.  Gnashing of teeth.

Grammy is so excited, so excited.  I’m so excited that she’s excited.  But I need a chill pill.  In the middle of the busy workday I was clearing my schedule for a two week vacation that will be great, but will not be restful, fielding text messages about a bridesmaid’s dress that I didn’t know about but that I need to go order in two weeks, feeling like crap because this week is turning out to be not dissertation productive, having a consulting opportunity fall in my lap that I know I can’t take because I’m stretched too thin as it is, scheduling painting quotes, and responding to sweet emails from friends and family who want to know what to get Hope as welcome gift… Grammy’s hissy fit about not being welcome to visit Hope in the first 24 hours of her arrival was too damn much for me to deal with.

And the answer was still no.

Holy hell.

The security shields went up, and I got snappy.  Then I felt guilty.  Then I apologized, because well, Grammy is my mom.  I adore my mom; I can’t disrespect my mom.  I want her to be excited, but I need someone to actually care about me at this very moment.

I am falling apart.   This week I feel like I’m barely functioning.  My emotions can run the gamut in the span of about 15 minutes.  I’m exhausted.  I’m getting over a sinus infection.  I feel like I can’t seem to do anything right and in the midst of all the joy, all the happiness, all the hulabaloo, only a handful of people are asking me how I’m doing, I mean, really doing and managing and coping.  The truth is that this week is not so great. People care and want to be so helpful, but I’m feeling like very few folks are looking past all the excitement and seeing me in what is really feeling like an incredibly fragile state.

Much like Hope, the emotion that I feel at the center of all of this is anger.  I’m angry about melting down.  I’m angry about not being productive.  I’m angry that this sinus infection is still bugging me.  I’m angry that I keep forgetting to schedule my mammogram.  I’m angry that The Furry One still needs a bath and I can’t manage to muster the energy to do it.  I’m angry that as a fixer I can’t fix one damn thing that’s going on right now.  I’m angry that Hope’s angry (that’s a doozy right there).  I’m angry that work is so demanding at the moment.  I’m angry that my dissertation director hasn’t emailed me back about the 10 pages I sent him nearly 3 weeks ago.  I’m angry that one of my dissertation subjects now thinks we’re buddies and keeps calling me on my cell phone.  I’m angry that the paint quotes are all pushing $600 for one measly room.  I’m angry that the stress has triggered a physical pain response that exhausts me more than all the other crap in this stupid paragraph.

I feel like the most productive thing I’ve managed to do this week is cry for about 2-3 minutes of every hour that I’m awake. Yeah, I’ve got the controlled cry (feel it, cry it out, wipe tears, get back to the grind) down to a science. I have no idea why I even bother with makeup in the morning.  I do at least wear waterproof mascara.

It is one of the happiest times of my life, and I am literally furious 98% of the time.   Oh there’s a bunch of other emotions in there too, but if I had to characterize the emotions by color, I’m seeing shades of red most of the time.  It almost feels primal.

After the second Grammy/ABM meltdown of the day, I told my mom, I don’t need Grammy right now.  I need my mommy.  I need a hug.  A there, there it’s going to be ok.  I need a chicken casserole, and a pedicure.  I need a day without questions that ultimately make me feel like an invisible, but somehow still schnitty, new parent. I need a day to watch Netflix and drink cocoa in my PJs.  I need some nurturing.  I need someone to plan things for me for the next couple of weeks so I can collect myself.  I need someone to ask me how I’m doing and really, really mean it and not judge me when I say I’m really, really not doing ok.

Maybe she heard me.  Probably not.  My attitude and outlook is not the best this week.

Sigh.

Time for a controlled cry break, a shower and some coffee.  Time to get this hump day going.


Betwixt and Between

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There is an overlook in St. Kitts and Nevis where you can see the small isthmus that connects these volcanic islands together.  Standing on this overlook, you can see both the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans.  One is choppy and violently crashes its surf; the other is nearly still with a surface barely broken by gentle waves.

I think I might be an isthmus between two islands.

My existence feels a little chaotic.  I am at times joyful and incredibly chill,  other times angry, often impatient, still other times depressed, withdrawn and incredibly anxious, and most of the time exhausted.

I am a bit of a mess.  My emotions are all over the place.

In the days since Match Day, I feel like I have had very little control.  Hope will not come to live with me for several months yet, despite the fact that I’d like to board a plane to fetch her immediately.  I mean stat!  Accepting the reality that neither of us is ready for the big move is hard.  Her room has been a guest room with extra storage for 12 years; I have a lot of sifting, sorting, packing and donating to do to be ready for her arrival.  I also have a plan to be finished drafting my dissertation by December; the completion of that draft on time is essential for me to stay on schedule to graduate next spring.  I’m anxious about possibly taking custody around the holidays because I am afraid Hope will be overwhelmed, resulting in my being overwhelmed.

I am also still enduring well-intended, but frankly stupid commentary.  “I can’t believe the agency is letting you adopt alone.  You really need a husband.”  “Why don’t you know things like X, Y and Z about your new daughter?”  How is it that silly comments can already make me feel inadequate as a mom when my mommy-dom is so new and in some ways doesn’t feel official yet?

It is more important than ever that I learn to guard myself against hurtful words and practice forgiveness and judgment-free living.  Forgiveness has never been something I have withheld in great amount, but I am finding that the need to practice it (with a side of grace) at this point in my life is more intense than ever.  I am also finding the old, more judgmental me is slipping away, which is a good thing.

At least two people have shared adoption horror stories with me in the last few days, though I’m not sure what the purpose of the story was supposed to be other than to scare me.   A year ago, I couldn’t believe that anyone’s adoption placement might fail, and I blamed those parents for not trying hard enough.  I don’t blame them anymore; I know better.  It happens, and it is devastating.  I have discovered a pool of compassion I didn’t know I had for all parties involved in a failed placement.    At this point, I find failed stories so painful, gossipy and non-supportive of adoptive families.  When I recently said no to a child, I know it was the right decision.  I knew such a placement looked good on paper, but would be ultimately be a disaster.  This is not an easy path.  I’m learning that forgiveness of all the people making comments that are not supportive of me or adoptive families in general is critical.   It is really the only way I can reduce whatever pain hurtful words inflict.  I have to let it go, not for them but for me and Hope.

At the other end of the continuum, there is peacefulness about moving forward with my new daughter.  It is odd that this calmness coexists with the madness swirling around me.  I went into the room that will be Hope’s room today.  I recently stripped the room of its old décor and had it painted white.  There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in there to prepare for her arrival.   I found the task of room prep (getting rid of things from Pre-Hope days) overwhelming until today when I went in and started pulling things down to send to the Goodwill tomorrow.  I realized that I will relish in tossing some things out and repurposing other things.  I am excited about creating some design concepts to send to Hope.  This transition is a beautiful thing and in some ways I’m running towards it.  Today the tasks brought me a sense of satisfaction; I’m preparing for this change and this young person in a very concrete way.  It isn’t hypothetical and it isn’t conceptual anymore.

I also realized that I need this time and that embracing this awkward period is a good thing.  Although I am eager for Hope to come home to me, I realize that the few months of waiting will give us both some time to prepare ourselves.  Again, this isn’t an easy path; preparation time is needed.  By my own reckoning I need at least 6 more weeks to get ready.  The reality is that this time will also allow me to get through the heavy lift of conducting my research and writing my dissertation this fall.  Besides it will only be a few weeks until we are Skyping regularly.  I’ll see her face, hear her voice, begin to learn how we will navigate this new path together.  Something about embracing this transition period brings me comfort.  I can take a deep breath, pick out paint, write and dream about our tomorrows.

And yet, both of these emotional states, anxiety and calm, wax and wane.  I can float from one side of narrow isthmus to the other in a matter of moments.  The triggers are difficult to manage and exhausting, but I figure I will get better at it during the next few weeks and months.  I will continue to learn to not take things personally and to forgive, forgive and forgive again.  I hope that my family and friends will be patient with me.  I’m a bit of a handful these days.

But it is all worth it.


The Cult of the Support Group

So recently, I lay awake one night fretting about the lack of folks to talk to about the adoption process.  I’ve read books and found them to be useful, but pretty dry.  My agency is really, really into promoting what I call the Cult of the Support Group.  Ok, ok, I got it, and I needed something a bit more interactive than the books, so in the wee hours of the night, I booted up the laptop in search of a web-based source of support.

Search terms….

  • Adoption support
  • Older child adoption support
  • Single parent adoption support

And so the searches went.  I discovered a few pretty vibrant support communities.  With a few keystrokes, I registered for sites and asked for permission to join other sites.  Current anxiety attack sated, I drifted back off to sleep.

The next morning I found acceptance into one group on a social media site.  Awesome!  Grabbing some java, I settled in to read posts and blogs for a while.  All good stuff, until I slammed into some major points of difference that left me feeling some kind of way.

  • No one on these sites looked like me (where are the other People of Color (POCs) who are adopting?).
  • So very few adoptive parents adopted domestically.  I’m sure there are lots of similar issues but there are a lot of different issues as well.
  • Most of the posters were very religiously conservative in ways that don’t align with my own world view.

I felt like I shared part of the experience but was still left out of the group on a number of levels.  Oh it wasn’t them.  It was me.

Was my major contribution to the support group conversation really going to be serving as some kinda expert about hair care for their adoptive girls from African countries with curly, tightly coiled hair?  Where are the threads about nurturing whole-self-identity, inclusive of racial identity of our children?  What am I supposed to say on this site about being perfectly fine if my kid comes to the realization that he/she is gay or believes they are a gender that is different than their biological sex when clearly that position is not going to be tolerated in this support group?  Is this a space where I can safely ask about parenting for progressive, left leaning Christians, like myself?  Is this a space where I can talk about my fears of raising my would-be Black son in a world where he will be viewed as threatening while walking home from the 7-11 with a Slurpee and some candy because he doesn’t have the privilege of just being where he is, doing what he’s doing?

I’m not really feeling like it’s that kinda space.  And I’m not an online hair consultant, though my hair always looks good! (You betta werk!)

Image <<Click for full effect!>

Now I work on diversity issues as a part of my day job, so yeah, issues of race, racial identity and culture have deep meaning for me.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t participate in other realms; frankly I LIVE in all other realms, but I bring this part of me to that space.  It’s a part of who I am.

My adoption agency has encouraged me to plug into support groups and get connected with people who are sharing this experience.  I’m trying.  And I know that this post highlights my dilemma with just one group I stumbled over in the middle of the night.  But I haven’t found a group (on ground or online) where I don’t feel limited or silent  or even invisible because I hardly see anyone who looks like me and shares some critical experiences with me.  So, I’m diving back into other group searches that will hopefully produce what I need or at least more than the group I excitedly stumbled upon.  I realize I’m also going to have to moderate my expectations (seemingly an ongoing theme in the adoption process)  I’m not quitting the group that I found, but it is only meeting a slice of my need as a parent-in-waiting, and I anticipate that it will only address a slice of my actual parenting life.

New search terms….

  • Progressive Christian parenting
  • African Americans for adoption
  • POCs and adoption
  • Adoptive parents who are ok with maybe one day joining PFLAG

 


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