Summer 2015, I read Everything You Ever Wanted and loved it. After reading it, I decided it was time to write my book and I began. Jillian wrote she knew she wanted to be a writer and a mom, so she was determined to do it. I didn’t have kids yet, was in the adoption process, but knew to my core that was who I also wanted to be.
Everything You Ever Wanted is Jillian Lauren's memoir about her journey to motherhood. Jillian was a college drop out, a drug addict, and an international concubine (TRUE STORY) in the Prince of Brunei's harem. She wrote about this in Some Girls.
She and her husband adopted an Ethiopian child with special needs; she writes about the journey to him and working hard to make him (and everyone around him) feel safe in the world.
Jillian is now mama to two children, both high needs. Her life is filled with doctors and therapy appointments - it's a good day when she only has the f-word thrown at her five times.
It is my privilege to share with you my interview with her as well as a giveaway of both her books.
NB: Jillian, you touched a bit in Everything You Ever Wanted about the struggle for finding the best OT and learning how to best love your son through his deep attachment disorders. How are things now and do you have any words for parents currently in the thick of this?
JL: I now have two; Jovi was adopted out of foster care when he was 3.5 years old. And Tariku. Jovi has a more complex trauma we are dealing with in a very immediate way. It seems as though we are learning the same lesson we learned with Tariku, over and over again: there are so many different treatment modalities and there is not one definitive solution for every child.
Everyone providing treatments (whether it be books, occupational therapists, the school district, etc) present their solution as the definitive solution as a response to us casting the line out asking for help. We find ourselves feeling so isolated.
In my experience, there is no definitive solution. Each kid responses differently to different people administering different tests and therapies.
You have to keep trying and keep clinging to the faith, believing there is a potential for healing and love and family and permanency; there is no guarantee but we all have the potential to heal in time.
There is no miracle pill: the doctor’s don’t have it, church doesn’t have it, OT’s don’t have it. It takes time. A lot of time. You are not doing something wrong just because it’s hard.
People like the idea of us adopting, the idea of us dealing with trauma; they are often unable to relate to us and know what it actually looks like to deal with trauma in their space around their kids or community. So those of us who are in it, we need each other. We are in this together.
It is very hard to understand what the cumulative effect of trauma in your home is like: that is why I write what I write. To reach out, share a connection, remind other parents in this journey that it takes time. We see a kind of healing experience through connection, it is unique and precious.
NB: Do people ever talk to you like you are a savior? Do people ever say to you, “I could never do that, I could never parent a child like that,” etc?
JL: I have heard moms in many different situations (special needs is a wide group of people) hear the, “I could never do that.”
It’s meant to be a compliment. But it is a very backhanded compliment.
There is some kind of implication that, “Oh you are more sensitive, like Mother Theresa.” I am not. I am a writer, I am an artist. I essentially like to spend my days by myself thinking about big ideas. Spend my nights talking about existentialism at a bar downtown. I am not Mother Theresa.
I tell people all the time, “You don’t have to be perfect to parent trauma, you just have to stay.”
When people respond to our family with, “I could never do that,” I want to ask, “Then what would you do? Fake your own death? Move to Cabo? What would you do? The ground would open up and swallow you whole? You would do this. You would because you love your children and would do anything for them; anyone would do this.”
I have to remind myself everyone’s suffering feels the same: hard and impossible. I find myself rolling my eyes when my mom friends complain about car seat tantrums when my kid wouldn’t put his shoes on for six hours straight, told me to f**** off, and I had to restrain him while at Target. I have to remind myself their hard is the same as my hard. When we say things like, “I could never do that,” we are raising the bar.
We are survivors. We love our children. I still get angry at my children, I get frustrated and have really hard days. But then there is that one delicious moment in a day where we are drawing together, we are laughing, and I look at their smiling faces and it is a precious moment. Just last night my son couldn’t sleep so I laid in bed with him and we wrote in his journal together. We were writing and he was asking me questions like who my best friend is, and I couldn’t help but think, “I could never imagine, in my wildest dreams, being happier than this.” With dishes in the sink, the worst day, fighting all day, and then sitting together in his bed writing in our journals.
I want to remember these moments when I’m on my death bed.
So to the, “I could never do that” I say: “Really? Pretty sure you could. It’s just as hard and just as awesome.”
NB: I don’t believe balance is achievable, BUT as a mom and writer, how do you manage to write, meet deadlines, be a mom, and not feel like you are constantly failing your son or falling behind?
JL: I don’t balance it.
I don’t balance, I don’t feel balanced, that conversation is not productive.
People use that conversation to sell you stuff: their new simplicity thing or decluttering thing.
This idea of balance has been releasing itself entirely: I have been learning to say no a lot. I am really good at over committing. I take a lot of pride in keeping a million balls in the air, doing a million things like: going to Africa, writing books, volunteering with charitable foundations, raising two kids with special needs. People often talk about how I do it all, but I don’t.
In the last year I have started to say “no” to many things and do not feel bad about it. I get up at 4 am to write; that’s how I do it. There is a tremendous sacrifice to write. I sacrifice my nights, my cuddly television time with my husband - it sucks. I would love my marriage back. But we know that in the long game, together, sometimes all you have is to stand side by side with one another.
There is no such thing as balance. There is only a thing as sacrifice.
NB: Do you have thoughts to share as a white mom to a black son?
JL: I don’t know how to encapsulate the experience.
Being a transracial family certainly has its challenges; it really needs to be addressed in a mindful and conscious way.
I think the key to it for me is curiosity. The willingness to be wrong. The willingness to have difficult conversations.
I make sure that I call my black friends and have difficult, uncomfortable conversations pretty often.
Living a diverse life. To me that is the most important thing because I can’t know everything and I don’t know everything. I will never have the experience of walking around this world as a black person. Especially not as a black man. I obviously fear for my black boys.
There are things I have to think about like having nerf gun fights in the front yards; I don’t let my boys do that, it’s a safety decision for my children of not having anything look like a gun in public. When I tell white people this, they think I am crazy or overreacting. But then I watch this calibration in their eyes happen as they process it and say, “I never thought of that.”
My children are bodily endangered in this country. Unarmed black men are murdered in the streets of this country.
It is not something that’s on my mind 24 hours a day. A lot of time my mind is consumed with things like, “Why don’t you put your shoes on and get out the door so we can go to school?”
But we must be in the conversation. My black friends are really willing to talk about it. My [white] husband has reached out to his black male friends saying, “I know that I don’t know what it’s like to be you and what’s going to make my children safe. I need your help.”
We have had nothing but love as a response to that.
It is important to ask the hard questions. And have difficult conversations.
Please watch this video: #$%@ People Say To Transracial Families
EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED: A MEMOIR
SOME GIRLS: MY LIFE IN A HAREM
Enter to win both of Lauren's books: comment below with what your favorite part of this interview was/if you learned anything AND/OR if you watched her YouTube video I linked above.
Giveaway begins Friday May 19 and ends Tuesday May 30.