Tag Archives: Teen Development

My Triggers

This morning, Hope and I snapped.

LGFacts

Ok, that’s not true. I snapped.

The morning routine is driving me up the wall. Hope is always running late. She’s rarely ready on time. She misses the bus often. I pack breakfast to- go in order to make sure that she has a solid breakfast. She’s always frazzled before she gets out of the door.

This means that I’m quietly frazzled before she gets out of the door.

It also means that we have zero meaningful conversation in the mornings. Usually I see her for about 90 seconds while she’s shoving her lunch bag in her backpack, grabbing breakfast and a filled water bottle that I’ve prepped. I screech to remind her to take her meds because despite them being *right there* in front of her she manages not to see them. *RIGHT THERE*

My mornings don’t start off being so frazzled. I rise around 5am to exercise and walk Yappy. This morning we walked for 2 miles. I feed him and start prepping breakfasts, coffee, making lunches. I shower and dress, do hair and make-up and resume my work in the kitchen. My own anxiety doesn’t kick in until about 7am, when I start mentally wondering if Hope will make the bus or not for another day.

Over the course of 30 minutes I get more anxious and probably a bit irritable.

By the time Hope comes out, I’m in my own quiet, anxiety spiral.

And today it came out, but what I really wanted to say was left unsaid as we exchanged barbs that continued via text message after she left for the bus.

This morning routine is not what I want. It’s not what it used to be, which is what I grew up with and what I had tenderly fostered for the last couple of years with Hope.

I grew up having breakfast with my family. We watched the news together. We prayed together. We talked about our agendas for the day and what time we would be home. We talked about our after school activities and about upcoming games. We also gossiped about my classmates.

We spent time together.

Since I forced Hope to use her alarm clock and get herself together in the morning, she doesn’t sit down for breakfast with me.

I want her to sit down for breakfast with me. I actually kinda need it. But it’s still new to her, and it’s not something motivating enough for her to hustle to make time for in the busy morning routine.

For the last couple of months, my subconscious has read that as, “She does not find you important enough to spend 10 minutes having breakfast with you.”

That gets extrapolated to: “She does not appreciate how hard you work to make it all happen everyday.”

That gets blown up to: “She is selfish and lazy.”

That goes next level with: “She clearly doesn’t love me, and we might have attachment issues.”

Which climaxes with: “Fine!!!! I don’t like you either! You spoiled, ingrate!!”

LGAngry

And the anti-climax? “Why doesn’t she love me and want to have breakfast with me?”

Meanwhile Hope is like, “I can sleep until 6:30am and be ready 60-65% of the time, and I have a back up bus pass to catch the public bus. I’m good.”

giphy (4)

I now see that. I see the difference in our thinking. I now see that not having breakfast and having those moments to check in with Hope is a trigger for me. It’s not a trigger for her because she gets to prove that she is independent—something I’ve been encouraging for a long time.

Could it actually be that I miss her in the morning? Sigh.

I’m not sure why it’s hard for me to say, “Hey, having breakfast together is important to me. I want to have this time to check in with you in the morning. I’m feeling a little attention starved without a few quality minutes in the morning. I’m willing to limit my expectations to 2-3 days a week. Do you think you could do that for me?” But I know that I haven’t been able to do that. That is a new stretch goal.

Asking someone who seems to have little capacity for themselves to expend some capacity for you is hard. It’s so hard. But I know if I’m not honest with her then I’ll keep feeling this resentment that isn’t fair to my daughter or to me.

I have my own triggers, and those triggers have to do with wanting to spend time with my daughter.  Who knew, especially since she can be a special pill at the moment?

I just want us to have smooth, anxiety free mornings having breakfast with my daughter. Is that so hard to ask for?

Kind of.


Caught Up

During a recent session with AbsurdlyHotTherapist, I got incredibly frustrated. All Hope wanted to discuss was band and her crush. For 18 minutes I sat there stewing in my increasing frustration.

Really? Is this what we’re doing today?

We aren’t going to talk about the fact that there were bugs in your room?

We aren’t going to talk about no chores?

I’m paying a co-pay for this ish?

AHT eventually got Hope to mention several things that were bothering her since school started.

I shot him some side eyes as I clearly didn’t think *those* things were nearly as important as the fact that she had a room that lured bugs to it.

Oh, I was righteous in my frustrated indignation.

AHT eventually asked Hope to give us some time to talk without her.

He asked me what I heard, had I listened? He told me what he heard. I acknowledged those things, but still wanted my drama to be acknowledged too.

I grabbed a tissue as I dropped a few tears.

He smiled and said, but you didn’t really hear her.  She is having a very hard time in school already, and she needs your help with that stuff more than you need her to tidy up.

Wait, what?

But what about *me?* #mynarcissismwasreal

Then he told me the good news. Hope is behaving like a ‘normal’ teenager. Her ability to communicate even about challenges is light years better than what it was months ago. She doesn’t practice avoidance and her confidence is up in spite of her lingering and new challenges. She can see a successful future even if she isn’t sure how to get there.

And oh yeah, she still wants to make me proud.

Well damn.

He’s right. Hope has grown emotionally so much this summer.

And I seemingly have regressed a bit.

How did I miss when she evolved into a kid who largely behaved like other kids her age? She hasn’t caught up on everything, but wow she has caught up a lot, given that she was emotionally about 5 when she was placed with me.

And me? I missed that what she really needed was for me to be responsive to her, to help her with her new problems, to just shut up and listen.

She spends so much time talking about band (and we know that I hate that) and what she’s fretting about ish that might happen a year from now. And she goes ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round, for hours.

It has been easy for me to zone out after 20 minutes and take to my couch.

Instead this weekend, I stopped her and listened for that 20 minutes, and instead of zoning out and I asked her questions. I worked on redirecting her; I focused on solutions to current problems rather than imagined problems of 2017.

And I stopped the babbling and got some responsiveness.

She’s got some new limitations right now that we need to work through, and I’m going to have to chill. I’ve got to focus on being a cheerleader rather than a disciplinarian.

I’ve got to do the laundry. I need to meal plan so that I know she’s eating healthier, and I need to be sure she’s in bed at a decent hour whether homework is done or not.

I have a meeting with the counselor this week about additional support needs for Hope.

She’s finally catching up in some key areas, so it’s time for me to change strategy and catch up too.

This parenting is a constantly evolving game of come from behind and sprinting ahead.


Hitting the Skids

It’s weeks like this when I really have to sit back, take stock and remind myself that these problems are “normal folk” problems.

No sooner than I hit “post” on my “Hey, I’m living the dream with this whole family thing,” than we are careering into a one-sided fight.

I say one-sided because it’s increasingly clear that I’m the only one openly emoting and visibly reacting.

We still struggle with chores and motivation to do chores. Most of the month, Hope had done her chores, earned money and just relished in all that responsibility that she was displaying. And then she just stopped.

We went through this a few months ago—May to be exact. After I dramatically pulled the car over into a parking lot while I was wigging out on her, demanding to know what she couldn’t be bothered to do her chores, she told me very simply.

“I just don’t feel like it.”

Say what now?

I did not take this response well. In fact I told her that I didn’t feel like doing things like taking her places that she was supposed to go or to do things that she wanted to do, and I didn’t. Oh I was petty, and I have no shame.

Well several days of no chores meant chaos in the house; this chaos also included an infestation.

Saying I was furious…is a super understatement.

Then there were the limousine expectations re her band schedule.

Then the expectation of a new band jacket because she changed instruments.

And then…the unnecessary, dramatic and dramatically expensive medical appointment that was “out of network.”

And then…

And then…

And then…

Angry

And then I was cranky for the rest of the week. Seriously, most of this is just regular old dumb teen stuff. There *may* be tinges of adoption/trauma/childhood drama running through, but really, this is largely just dumb ish teens do.

Somehow that does not soothe my serious annoyance. It just doesn’t.

Sometimes I do wonder if when we have good blocks of time whether it prompts behavior to bring back big emotional responses from me since that’s a communication style she understands, even if she doesn’t like it. We’ve experienced that kind of self-sabotage before. It is hard to know.

And although I have gotten much better at managing my reactions to Hope’s shenanigans, she still knows what buttons to push to get a rise out of me.

Soooo, I dunno, I know it’s just an icky week. I’m glad that school starts again next week and we can get back to our routine. And I am glad that I’ve worked out hard enough to earn my evening cocktail.


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.


I Must Look Amazing

It’s hard to believe that me and Hope have been together for 2 years now. Sometimes it feels like forever, and other times it feels like the blink of an eye.

I was so excited when she came to live with me that her hair was natural. I also remember the first time I took her braids out and did her hair. It took me 5 hours. Detangling it was like grooming a Yeti. As the months passed, Hope and I relished the routine and the ritual of doing hair on the weekends. It was a time of the week when I wholly and completely took care of her. It was primal, really. It was an experience that she had rarely enjoyed before I became her mother, so she really relished the time and attention.

Until I suggested wearing her hair out, natural, in a regular old twistout done on wet hair.

Until this week.

Now, keep in mind that I had encouraged her to embrace her curly mane. She has gorgeous, thick curly hair. It’s grown a lot in the last two years under my care and attention.

Last month, I made her *try* to care for it herself, with little to no assistance from me.

Well, she blew it out most weeks, because she likes the stretched look.

Cool. I gave her a few bottles of heat protectant and told her to have at it.

She complained that doing a twist out on wet hair was just too much shrinkage. Too nappy. Too this, too that.

Ok. Rock on.

But leave it to laziness to be the mother of invention and trying.

Running out of time this weekend, she decided to try a twistout on wet hair.

It was glorious, but I only told her it looked nice because I knew if I gushed too much then she would bail on it.

We visited my parents, and Sister K visited with her sons; Hope’s cousins told her that her hair look fantastic.

And well, they are boys, Hope’s prime focus group.

She commented that her cousins liked her hair on the drive back to NoVa, and I knew that this was a vital piece of data.

And contrary to my loquacious nature, I kept my comments to myself and my piehole shut.

After two extra days home (Presidents’ Day and a snow day) Hope returned to school today rocking this ridiculously fly, curly, parted afro. Frederick Douglass would be proud.

She glammed out with jewelry and makeup with her flannel shirt, skinny jeans and sneakers.

When she got home, she casually commented that her classmates inquired about her hair—who did it, the name of the salon, why did she look so fly today, why hadn’t she wore her hair like this before…and on and on.

I raised one eyebrow to show I was intrigued by the line of inquiry, but I kept my mouth shut.

She went on about how the kids loved her hair and that it MUST be the coconut oil she used, because she really didn’t do anything different.

#eyeroll #chileplease

I simply nodded.

We went to her band concert. Again, on the drive home, she regaled me with stories about how her band mates loved her hair.

She concluded, “Huh, I must look amazing today.”

I smiled and nodded, “Yeah, you look good.”

Never mind two years of prodding, coaxing, product purchasing…two years after moving in, my daughter is rocking her mane of hair in all its fabulous, awesome glory.

Inside I am beaming.

I am also grateful for the cosign of the male cousins who validated Hope in a safe way. Kudos.

I can’t wait to see what she does next, and how she will embrace herself next.

I know that I will be sure to remain supportive but patient in getting Hope to love herself, as she is, with no filter.

In the midst of a lot of crazy today, my afro wearing kid totally made my day.


Finding a House

So after the fiasco that culminated in leaving my previous house of worship, I just took some time off from church. At first I applied a lot of pressure to myself to find a place that would hopefully offer Hope and me a place to fit. Aunty Therapist convinced me to just take some time off; she was right.

It gave me a little time to breathe.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the neighborhood Unitarian church. I was intrigued by and attracted to the progressiveness, the commitment to social justice, the inclusiveness of believers. It all seemed to suggest that it might be a nice place to visit and to try out.

So, Hope and I get there and…we diversified the church by a factor of 200. I mean, I was looking for diversity, but I didn’t want to exclusively be “the” diversity. Also, the congregants were…older, a lot older.

And I struggled with the service. I was raised Christian; I identify strongly as Christian even though I believe a lot of other things that many folks believe are counter to Christianity. I have never been in an organized place of worship where I could also be open about all the other stuff. I also missed the routine of a more traditional Christian-oriented service. I like it; I know what to expect and generally what kinds of things I’m going to hear. So, despite being curious and interested, I found myself overwhelmed by being in a new space and not knowing anyone, overwhelmed by the service being so different, overwhelmed by my being so different than the other congregants. People were very nice, but it really didn’t feel like…I just didn’t think this was home.

And so then we didn’t go back.

Until this yesterday; off we went to the 10am service to try again.

Hope nearly shut down when I announced that she was expected to go to the Religious Education class today. I sensed her anxiety and yet I pushed her off anyway; we were really going to give this Unitarian church thing a chance.

So, the service…yeah, I’m still not connecting the way I would like to, but ok. It was nice, really nice, but just really different. While having snacks after the service I chatted up an older couple who joined the church about five years ago. I had my little visitor tag on and shared what I was kind of looking for and how I was also a little anxious about how Hope fared in the RE class. I shared that we were an adoptive family.

The gentleman smiled and shared that he was adopted many, many years ago.

I smiled. We smiled. And I got the sense that he got me and that he appreciated that I was looking for something for me and Hope that I still struggle with articulating after the drama of our last church.

I breathed, and I smiled again.

And then Hope breezed by, casually saying, “Hi mom” as she headed to the snack table.

I was nearly slack jawed, staring at my usually withdrawn kiddo as she amiably chatted with other teens, giggled and perused the snacks.

missjay

Hope didn’t run to me. She didn’t cling or give me dirty looks about making her do this thing she didn’t want to do 90 minutes ago.

I just watched her. She strolled over to me confidently, bringing me a piece of cake that I didn’t ask for but secretly desired, just because she knows I like cake…a lot. It was even a corner piece because she knows I love frosting.

Who is this kid??? She brought me a piece of chocolate cake for gawd’s sake??? I thought to myself, well, this is the shock of 2015. Stunning really.

I introduced her to the folks I spent some time chatting with earlier.

And then, she asked, “Hey the kids are going to IHOP after church, can I go?”
So, clearly this Unitarian church is the church of the body snatchers because I have no idea who this kid masked in Hope’s clothing is right now. I’ve fantasized about moments like this. moments when Hope asked to ditch me in favor of hanging with peers.

The other kids breezed over and all these teen eyeballs looked at me expectantly.

And I said hells yeah sure. I told her to call me when it was time to be picked up and practically threw $20 at her. I said good bye to new people I met and I left. I totally ran bounced to the car.

I left my kid with folks I don’t even know, kids she met at church, kids she actually asked to go hang out with. In retrospect it sounds a bit irresponsible to just let her go get in someone else’s car and drive off, yet I lost, like, no seconds of sleep over the decision to do so.

OMG. Seriously, Hope asking to hang out with other kids was a fantasy come true.

And about 2 hours later she texted me to come fetch her. She went on about how the kids went to IHOP and then to Starbucks. One kid is a rising 10th grader at the school she will attend in the fall and also in the band! The young man who is the youth mentor/group leader is also an adoptee. Hope gushed about how much fun she had, how accepted she felt and how she looked forward to going to another event.

She begged to go to the game night the church is hosting for the teens in a few weeks as I picked her up. I had Yappy with me so all of the kids came out to the car talking about game night and how it would be fun.

More expectant teen eyeballs looking at me for an immediate answer.

Um, yeah, sure!

So, looks like we’ll be hanging out with the UU folks for a minute. I hope this continues to be a place of growth for Hope. I am excited for her.

I’m also excited that I might have some time to myself without paying the nanny.

Yeah! #fistpump


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