Choose Wisely

complicatedmelodi.com readers: This will be the last blog at this site. I’m moving over to mimirobinsononline.com. I hope that you add the new site to your bookmarks. You can also sign up by email over at the new space. Hope to hear from you soon.

Last year, I decided that I had reached my limit. After months of coming home from work too tired to play with my daughter, barely smiling at my husband and spending weekends confined to bed, I finally realized that I was in a bad place.

I was living in a city that I didn’t feel attached to, in a job that I didn’t really like and too tired (or too depressed) to make any changes. I wanted to be closer to family and to feel more connected to my community. I felt like I was barely living. I was wasting time.

After a stressful week at work, I finally broke down sobbing to my husband.

I can’t take it. I don’t want to work there anymore. I don’t want to work for anyone. I want to change my life.

What do you want to do?

I don’t know. Something different.

Let’s move…to South America. Let’s take a six month sabbatical and take language immersion classes. Then we can travel to different cities and do volunteer work. Nana will be fluent in Spanish. We’ll have an amazing time.

I was completely serious. But, yeah…uhm. That didn’t fly.

I’m blessed though. Because my husband didn’t dismiss my distress. We talked about it. And talked about it. And kept talking about it.

It took a few weeks of iterative discussions before we finally settled on moving back to one of our hometowns. I would focus on my daughter and getting a web business up and running and he would continue to focus on his career. After considering cost of living and job markets, we decided to move back to my hometown.

It took six months of discussion, planning, saving money, spending money, freak outs, calm down sessions and true commitment to get us ready to make the move.

When I finally announced at work that I was leaving, I was met with both absolute delight and incredulity. I had to remind myself that someone’s response to your plans are often reflections of their personal situation. Their responses often have nothing to do with you.

People that are happy with their lives want others to be happy too. Those who want to change but haven’t found their way will meet you with resistance. Ignore them.

It’s been a month and it has been the best decision that I could have made. I haven’t laid in bed a single day yet. I’m homeschooling my daughter. I’m cooking everyday. I’m hanging out with my family. I’m reconnecting with friends. I’m getting involved in my community. I’m dating my husband. I’m happy.

Changing your life isn’t necessarily easy, but for me, it was essential. Every day you get to make a choice in how you are going to live your life.

Choose wisely.

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Reading is Fundamental (and other related matters)

Nana is now officially a card carrying member of the public library. I was excited and made it into a big deal.  I took pictures of her with her spanking new library card which she solemnly presented  librarian for her inaugural checkout. So why am I still kicking myself in the rear end and writing blogs about how guilty I feel?

Let’s unpack, shall we.

I love the library.  My mother was a elementary school teacher so we went to the library…a lot.   We didn’t go to just any branch library, we went to the big downtown library that had a whole floor dedicated to little people.  I explored every nook and cranny of the library, reading through Judy Blume, Chronciles of Narnia and pick-your-ending books. Plus the libraries had computers!

My mother had the super duper teacher’s library card so when I reach my checkout limit, I could add some to her pile.  Our plastic bags with the strings (remember those) would be filled to the brim. I would sneak books upstairs into bed, my faced pressed up against the window trying to get the last light before dusk turned into full blown night.

What would make someone who has such an affinity for reading and a love for the library wait a year before taking their own child to the library?

I hated really did not like reading those books.

At first it was fun, our nightly routine of reading books and cuddling. I felt all mommyific.  But soon it became a struggle.  Those books for two-year-olds are mind-numbing.  They were hella interesting to Nana, but I was loosing my mind reading Boom Chicka Boom every night.

I tried to make it interesting and make up other stories to go with the pictures, but kids these days are so fussy.  “Mommy, that’s not the words!”

“Okay, Okay.  Goodnight kittens, goodnight mittens.”  Dang.

I tried making up voices, but they all sounded the same.  I started singing the books to entertain myself.  “If you give a pi-ii-iigggg a paa-aaan-cayayayake.”

Reading a children’s book is only 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes max. But those minutes were like dog minutes.  Nana didn’t make it easier, wanting to hold the book, turning the pages too early, then turning them back.  Imagine Nana and I wrestling over the book in the rocking chair.  If you don’t let me get through this book little girl.

As she got older, I couldn’t skip pages anymore.  Then she started reading the book back to me after I finished.  Noooooo!

I started skipping nights every now and then.  Then two nights would go by.  And then a week.  And then for the past couple of months we didn’t have reading in our nightly routine anymore.  And that just wasn’t right.

Wood and I had a conversation about the fact that when your child gets older, they will have lots of opinions about what you could have done differently.  I want to feel confident that I did the best I could. So when I find areas where my knowing better isn’t matching up with doing better, there is a problem.

Reading to Nana regularly, especially during these formative years, is incredibly important for our attachment, her language skills, concentration, and overall interest in reading later in life.  It was an incredible gift that my mother gave to me and I have a responsibility to pass that on to Nana.

So say hello to the newest regular visitors to the library.

 

Add Water and Stir 19: Adoption Disruption and Rehoming

AdoptiveBlackMom

The Podcast! The Podcast!

Be sure to join Complicated Melodi’s Mimi and AdoptiveBlackMom’s ABM this Thursday as they wade into to touchy subjects of adoption disruption and adoptee rehoming.  What kinds of things lead to adoption disruption and how common (or uncommon) is adoptee rehoming?  The ladies will talk about various articles on the topics and share some of their own musings about some of the scary topics no one really likes to talk about when it comes to adoption.

The ladies will catch up on their respective homefronts, chat about trash tv, and mayhaps, drop a few recommendations, too!

Tune in live on Thursday, April 16th at 9:30pm EDT/8:30pm CDT on Google Hangouts.  Or catch us later on Youtube, our podcast page, Itunes and Stitcher and be sure to leave us a review!

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Imagine If…I’d Rather Not

A couple of days ago, I mentioned to Wood that my mother and sister really want to move closer so they can be a part of Nana’s daily life. My sister’s connection to Nana has been amazing – she is always sending her things in the mail and sending me articles about parenting. My mother loves to have Google Hangouts where she can see Nana running around in the background.  Moving closer is an ongoing discussion in our family. Wood agreed that their support was more than we initially imagined  (considering their personalities) but added, “imagine how they would act if this was your biological daughter.”

I got the screw face because whet? My entire family wants to move across the country for Nana. What more could they do for their niece or grandchild, biological or not?

It bothered me but I left it alone, assuming it was just a slip of the tongue.

But this weekend, it came up again. Wood and I were talking about Nana’s complete disregard for the Coach’s instructions at soccer this weekend. He said, “Imagine if that was your biological daughter, she would be even worse.” He went on with some joke about my independence and how stubborn my daughter would be.

*pump the brakes*

Two times in a week is starting to be a habit. And it’s clear that a comparison between Nana and what our biological child might act like is on his mind.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. Nana is his princess. There is nothing about his parenting that would make me think that he doesn’t love her fiercely and completely.   He is her biggest cheerleader and she is truly a daddy’s girl. So I know his comment didn’t mean to indicate that he doesn’t see Nana as his daughter.

But right now as Nana goes through this threenager phase, she is an enigma to both of us. She doesn’t listen, messes up her room in a CRAZY way, puts random things in her mouth, tears up her books, jumps on the couch, touches things that have BEEN off-limits, cries every night before bed, negotiates with ever direction given, pours water on her head, and in general just acts like every day is OPPOSITE DAY.

We are so out of our league with this. Most of the time we are wondering if an alien inhabited her body. It is annoying. And tiring. And funny sometimes. Like when she gave her dad the four-finger hand point and said in the cutest, but very serious, voice, “Daddy, do not close my bedroom door again. Okay.” You had to be there.

I read a book – okay, okay, I read an article – and it said that this is normal. So while it can be draining, I realize we need to just stay calm, find the humor in it and wait for the storm to pass. *shrug*

But maybe Wood sees this as a personality quirk that can’t be attributed to us as her adoptive parents and wonders if a biological child would act differently.

With a biological child, you can ask your mother about the craziness that your child is putting you through and she can assure you that you acted the exact same way and turned out okay. With adoption, there is no historical reference and so it feels like you are constantly walking into the unknown. With a biological child, you can point to certain personality traits and assume they “got it from they mama”, but with adoption, who knows where nature ends and nurture begins.

I’m not ready to call this an issue yet, but it is something that I will keep my eye on. If there are still some lingering issues related to our fertility and not being able to have a biological child, we need to address them. Parenting in the here and now is hard enough without having to consider the “what ifs.”

I’m Officially a Soccer Mom

Saturday was Nana’s first day of soccer!

Nana was excited, not because she had any idea of what soccer is, but because her “best friend” Gigi was going to be there. I totally got it.  Getting to hang out with your girlfriend outside of working hours is a guaranteed good time.

She chattered and sang the whole way to the fitness club.  We both share singing as an expression of happiness so I love listening to her random nursery rhyme remixes.  This was sing-a-long on steroids because she was constant and LOUD for the entire 20 minute drive.

The class was filled with little ones ranging from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years old with all that wonderful kid energy that keeps you young. Some kids were running around and shrieking, some were being tended to by their parents. Nana got swept up in the energy and immediately ran into the mix. Those little legs were a-running.

Speaking of running, home girl is definitively un-fast.  Tortoise slow. Matrix slow.  Ketchup in a bottle slow.  You know how in cartoons the character’s legs are moving but they are running in place. Yeah, that’s Nana.  She is forever trying to race somebody though.  It is amazingly cute.

We picked soccer very deliberately. Nana is extremely social and easily distracted. She tends to follow the crowd and wants to always be in the mix. She is so busy that she doesn’t listen and finds it hard to finish a task to completion.  These are all normal three-year-old developmental milestones that some kids reach a little later than others.  I was willing to wait it out and let her mature a bit, but since her teachers have mentioned this listening thing multiple times, we needed to do something.

We get it.  Our child doesn’t listen. *sigh*

We hoped that soccer will help her with listening and following directions, focusing on a single activity and burning off this incredible amount of energy that she has.  Unrealistic expectations, much?

After a couple of minutes watching the kids warm up, I realized that I was a tad bit anxious. Real talk? I was stressed. Most of my time was spent comparing Nana’s behavior to the other children and keeping a running commentary in my head.

The other children are all lined up and waiting for directions, why is Nana running over here?  Oh, okay, that kid is rolling around on the ground, and that one is crying to her dad. Nana is doing alright then.  Yeah! She kicked in three balls and some of those kids only kicked in one.  She’s a natural! Wait, why is she picking up the ball with her hands?  Seriously Nana!  Pay attention!  Aww…look at her. She is so cute when she is running in place. Yay! She did it!

Wood was tense too.  We both stepped onto the field multiple times to help redirect Nana’s attention to the coach.  We would retreat back to the sidelines, arms crossed, physically forcing ourselves to stay put and just let her have fun. We had to remind ourselves that she’s only three.  Having fun is the point, right?

We weren’t alone. Other parents would step in to help their children, but I was hyper aware of how much time we spent in correction mode. When we weren’t fixing her, we were smiling through gritted teeth, making small talk with the other parents and trying our best to have fun and not be “those parents.”

Why was it so hard for us to just relax?

I admit that it’s hard to disassociate myself from Nana’s actions. The reality is that people see your child’s behavior as an expression of your parenting skills. If your child is running around and not following directions, then folks may think you are too lenient. If you child is way too focused and seems introverted, folks may wonder what’s wrong with them.

And as quiet as it’s kept, there is also an underlying racial component. Studies have shown that black children are judged more harshly even when doing the same things as their white counterparts. A lot of my reactions stem from an unspoken fear that someone will write my child off as the little sassy black girl that can’t follow directions.

How can we raise a #carefreeblackgirl when we have all these standards and expectations? When will she get the opportunity to just be, if not as a three-year-old?

I’m sure this will continue to be a struggle for us as we try to balance her opportunity to have fun and be a kid with our own internal concerns about how she is perceived.  Who knew that being a soccer mom came with all these extra bags?

Toddler Bits: Can I Wear Your Shoes?

Today when dropping Nana off, I noticed one of her classmates had on some cute cowboy boots.  I exclaimed over them and asked if she thought I could fit them.  She shyly shook her head no, with a slight grin on her face. Silly grownup.  How funny is it that an big person would want to wear her little shoes?

I started going around the room, “Ooh look at those Hello Kitty shoes, do you think I could fit those.”  The next girl grinned, and gave me an extended, “noooo.”  Then all the children started gathering around showing me their shoes so I could comment on them.  “What about those with the Spiderman, can I wear those?  Oooh, those light up, will my big toe fit?”  With each question, more children joined in until eventually my questions were met with a loud chorus of “NOOO!” and a whole bunch of giggles.

Finally, after commenting on everyone’s shoes and getting no one to pony up, I exclaimed in faux exasperation, “all of these cute shoes and no one wants to let me borrow them.”  Nana exclaimed, “You can wear mine, Mommy.”

That’s my girl!  I knew she would have my back.  Since her shoes are cuter than mine, I counting down the years to take her up on that offer.

Adoption Panel in Houston – February 28th

adoptionflyergraphic

RSVP to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/thinking-about-adoption-panel-and-discussion-tickets-15777595212

Hosted by yours truly – Mimi in partnership with Spaulding for Children.

We will have adoptive parents to speak about their experiences and adoption professionals representing foster-to-adopt, straight adoption from foster care, domestic/private infant adoption and international adoption.

Please repost for folks that may be reading in Houston!

Adoption in Pop Culture: Deitrick Does Detroit

Recently a special episode of Preachers of Detroit aired named “Deitrick Goes Home” focusing on Deitrick’s continued search for information about his biological father’s side of the family.  So, folks have been showing up at the blog since my post, Adoption in Pop Culture:  Deitrick Haddon and His Missing Link shows up in the search results.  Hello visitors!   This recap is for you.

Deitrick, his wife Dominique, and his children are returning to Detroit to check on his adopted father, Bishop Haddon who recently had a heart attack.  Since the last visit to Detroit, Deitrick has also tracked down some siblings that he never knew existed and plans to meet them for the first time.

When they arrive at the Haddon home in Detroit, we greet his mother and sisters.  One of the first questions asked is if he has been in touch with his father’s side of the family, the Troupes.  Clearly there is still some anxiety from the Haddons about Deitrick’s involvement with the other side of his family.  Deitrick seems completely tone deaf and answers with giddiness about his growing relationship and the fact that he has two new siblings. The mother, Momma Joyce, is shocked and exclaims that she has never heard of these children.  Deitrick pushes back that they are his siblings and implies that his mother painted the whole family as bad people because of her relationship with his father.  Sad faces all around the kitchen at that one.

He pushes on, even though the tension is thick as a mug in the kitchen and tells his family that he’s bringing his new siblings to dinner.  What?  You are just going to drop this bomb shell and then invite essential strangers to your family home.  Where they do that at.  After a little buttering up, he convinces his Momma Joyce to meet his brother and sister and to cook dinner for them.  His mother agrees as a favor for him.

At this point, I’m concerned.  This seems a bit much for everyone to take and Deitrick seems completely unaware or unconcerned about how his family might feel about the introduction of these new family members.  He has a vision of everyone getting along together and being one big family.

As an adoptive mother, I would want to support my child’s enthusiasm for finding her first family but I would need some personal time to adjust also.  How do you balance that support and not wanting to stifle your child’s excitement with your own emotional need to get your mind right?

Deitrick meets his brother Lavonas and sister Tamisha at a restaurant.  You can tell they come from the same blood immediately.  It’s all in the eyes and nose area.  Deitrick is so excited and it is really beautiful to see this place of emptiness filled for him.  After a very open discussion about their family and their shared experience of growing up without a father, Deitrick invites them to dinner at the Haddon house.  I wonder if they felt any kind of way.  They just met you and now you want them to meet some other folks.  I feel anxious for everyone involved.

When Deitrick meets with his mother and his adopted father, he tells them about his meeting with his newly found brother and sister.  He explains that he sees them as an addition to the family and wants everyone to be one big happy family, like the Brady Bunch.  His mother pushes back with, “How do you know that they are so wonderful.”

I can just feel this anxiety coming across. Deitrick is so excited and so persistent in his vision.  His easy use of the terms, “my brother and sister” definitely throws his family for a loop.   Deitrick asks his father if the Troupes will be welcome at dinner. His father lobs the question at Mama Joyce, saying, “she’s the one that has a problem.”  In his talking head, Deitrick posits that Joyce has a problem because these new siblings are around his same age, meaning that his father was cheating on his mother.

Nawl Deitrick.  You are trying to paint your mother like she is a petty person, concerned about the escapades of your father who has been dead for years.  Deitrick seems like he has a low opinion of his mother to think that is what is driving her response.   Momma Joyce is probably uncomfortable because she has a very different relationship with your father versus your very limited memories of him.  You just informed her that you have some siblings, never mind the fact that you have completely embraced them even though you just met them.  And now you expect her to not only absorb all these changes, but cook dinner and be cordial to people who are essentially strangers to her.  That is a lot to expect from someone.

Well, Momma Joyce is working it out in her mind.  She’s on board this plan, with a caveat.  He needs to work this issue out with his sister Zina, the main one that was against his journey to find his father’s family.

Deitrick starts telling his family about his new brother and sister and how they are such great people.  He gives an ultimatum, “if you love me, then you will love them.”  Record scratch.  They have a conversation about how Deitrick’s life could have been different if he hadn’t been raised by Bishop Haddon.  Welp.

Zina and Dominique go out to lunch to try to make up.  Dominique tries to explain that Deitrick started having an identity crisis when he became a father and really needed to find his family.  Zina is like, that sounds like a personal problem.  She really doesn’t see the point of this and frankly doesn’t care.

Now Deitrick sits down with his mother and sisters, saying that he felt a “spirit of resistance.”  He’s at peace with his father and who he became so he doesn’t understand the problem.  In his talking head, he claims that Zina is territorial and doesn’t want to share him.  Really?

Zina is confused about why he wants to search for his family when he never wanted to do that before.  He explains that he’s changed because he now has a family.  His family tries to get across to Deitrick that he can’t expect them to deal with all of this change.  D is pretty much like, whatevs man, ya’ll just need to support me.

Obviously he needs more information.  Zina does her best by revealing that she had to go live with their grandmother because Deitrick’s father was abusive.  She was sent away from her mother at a young age and didn’t understand what was happening.  She felt unwanted.  Deitrick, being the empathetic (not) person that he is,  points out that she doesn’t have a problem with his father, she has a problem with her mother, Momma Joyce, for not standing up for her and allowing her to be sent away.  Dang, Deitrick.  He then says that she can’t put her pain on his dead father but should put it on her own father since he left their mother which left her with a woman (his mother) that couldn’t take care of her.  And then he walks off.  Sooo disrespectful.

Apparently Momma Joyce prayed about it because she seems to be excited about the dinner and has cooked all day.  The rest of the family…not so much.  When the Lavonas and Tamisha arrive, Deitrick is like a little kid.  You can tell that he really wants this to work out.  Bishop Haddon says some words that are very accepting to make them feel comfortable.

I really appreciate that because that’s a strange situation for the new siblings too.  They have no idea what they are walking into and don’t know how these people will react.

After dinnner, they start talking about his father and sharing stories of growing up.  Deitrick calls Zina, putting her on front street and asking about her feelings.  She explains that she has nothing against the Troupes and her reaction was because Deitrick had never wanted to search before.  I can see this being an issue in an adoptive situation.  If a child has never wanted to search before and then all of sudden changes their mind, the entire family can no longer be complacent in dealing with their feelings.

Of course we have a happy ending.  Deitrick explains that he loves Zina and is sensitive to his pain but still wants to move fowrard.  Zina claims his new siblings as family and apologizes to Dominique.  Everyone smiles and hugs.

What do I write about now?

I think about writing often.  But the topics are always so elusive, right on the edge of my remembrance but too hazy to put into words.  When my ideas settle down, I am immediately and continuously self-editing, discarding each thought as dull, uninteresting or unimportant.

What can I write about now?

I’m done with all the foster care rigamarole – no more training, paperwork, visits.  We’ve taken down the gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.  Gosh, I hated those gates.  More than once I stubbed my toe or dropped everything trying to balance an armload of stuff and open the gates.  I rebuke those gates.

Our adoption is official.  Nana is happy and thriving.  We are a family.  What else is there to say?

Are you really interested in the totally terrifying and terrific threes?  I mean Nana has the mood swings like a mug.  She runs around jumping, singing and twirling like she is amped up on a case of Red Bull and then crashes in bundle of tears – oh, the tears, the sheer amount of tears – when its time for bed.  Where did all this energy come from?  When did you start crying at bedtime?  What is the world is happening?

But the times when she is amped.  Oh, man.  It’s party time.  We have dance breaks every day.  She plays air guitar.  Yeah, no idea where she got that from.  She improvises words on songs.  I’ll claim that one.  She gets that from her Mama.

We cook dinner and desserts together while listening to 90’s music.  I’m training her to be on MasterChef Jr and to be in a R&B girls group at the same time.  I know she has a few years to go, but train up a child and all that jazz.

But ooh child, you are getting too big to pick up like a baby.  How about I hold your hand and we walk together, okay, said while bent over trying to catch my breath.

By the way, did you know you have to buy whole new wardrobes for these children every year?  Every shirt I put on her, I think, why is your belly button showing?  It wasn’t even a gradual change.  Just one day, her pants were flooding.  I let her wear them anyway. *shrug* No one writes about that.  I’m still salty no one told me to start saving up.

Wood and I finally have a babysitter.  She’s booked twice next week.  Hallelujah for grandmotherly ladies who love little children.  She’s not expensive but that’s still money BEFORE we walk out the door.  Did I mention that you need to start saving up?

So the point is, the writing on this blog may not focus on foster care and adoption so heavily.  The reality is, we will always be an adoptive family and that will continue to affect our family in different ways but it won’t be the only thing we think about as we continue to develop as a family.

Hmmm, I guess I had a lot to write about.  And so it continues…