Thursday, January 19, 2012
Part IV: Third wheel
One of the most common questions I read on adoption forums is "When should we tell our 2/3/4/5 year old about his/her new sibling?" As with any parenting decision I believe the "right" answer will vary from family to family, but I am certain that for *our* family it was right to tell Miss A and Sweet Bubs early--before we were even matched. My kids have been involved in our adoption process pretty much from the beginning.
Sweet Bubs was totally on-board from day one. Miss A had some reservations. Reservations that she did not hesitate to express to our social worker during our home study visit. Reservations along the lines of not wanting a baby to touch her stuff (cough cough SEAN cough cough) and not wanting the baby to share her room. In fact Miss A discussed these reservations at length with our social worker (who luckily found the little lady to be utterly charming).
Sweet Bubs didn't say much to the social worker but he did say he wanted two babies: a boy AND a girl. He wanted them to sleep in his room and he wanted to help take care of them. And when I read those sentences in our home study draft my eyeballs melted from the cute and I died on the spot.
The day after we were approved to parent YH we received this picture in an email:
Wow. What a super cute and smiley way to introduce the kiddos to their new baby brother. Since that first update we have done our best to include YH into our family life. We have several pictures of him on display. We talk about what his life is like with Mrs. S and we try to imagine what he's doing at different times of day. We gave the kids a doll to look after until YH joins us. Miss A takes great care with "YH's baby". We interact with our toddler friends and make sure to say things like "Baby J is the same age as YH--he will probably be able to play with you just like this." Sweet Bubs speaks frequently about what he will help YH with in the future: learning to brush teeth, how to put away toys, how to pet the dogs...
Are you rolling your eyes at how sanctimonious and smug this all sounds? Don't.
Here's the thing: I feel pretty confident that both kids are prepared to have a theoretical sibling. Living with the idea of a toddler is WAY easier than living with the actual little body. A little body that runs and climbs and TOUCHES ALL YOUR STUFF (Miss A, you were sooo right to be skerred of that!). I know that as much as we've tried to prepare the littles for our changing family dynamic, there will still be unanticipated adjustments.
What I am most concerned about protecting is the relationship between my eldest children. Since the moment 19 month old Miss A laid eyes on 12 hour old Sweet Bubs they have been best friends. They went through the "princess" phase together, with Miss A resplendent in glittering gowns while Sweet Bubs (wearing his own sparkling sundress) trailed behind her like a handmaid. Miss A potty trained Sweet Bubs (amazing) and Sweet Bubs can make Miss A laugh just by looking at her. Miss A volunteered to be Sweet Bubs' "reading buddy" at school; every Friday she walks down the hall to his classroom where they curl like kittens in a corner and read books to one another.
I do not ever want their closeness to change. I want Miss A and Sweet Bubs to remain best friends and to retain the secret language they have built over the last five years. At the same time, I am wary of YH being excluded from this fraternal web. I worry about how a child who already has a different first language than the rest of our family, and who is of a different race form the rest of our family, will feel about the tight bond between his siblings. I do not want him to be a third wheel.
I am hopeful that the age difference between my youngest and his elder siblings will help to mitigate any feelings of exclusions. I am hopeful that Miss A and Sweet Bubs are able to envelope YH in their love and to welcome him into their cozy friendship. I am hopeful that by including my elder children in the conversations and decisions surrounding our adoption they will naturally feel a part of the process of welcoming YH into our home. I am hopeful that in turn YH will see how much every member of our family wanted for him to be with us.