Friday, May 15, 2015

Being an Older Adoptive Sibling

Hello friends, it has been a while since I've posted on here.

Today I have something important to talk about. Although I can't share everything here online I must make you aware of the fact that we are no longer adopting the boys. Many things have contributed to this decision on my parents part and it is not my place to explain everything. Even so, everything I said before about loving being a big sister, about how I could see God leading us to these boys, all of that still applies. The time we had with them was hard but still a blessing. Maybe more for them than us, but I don't regret that time at all.

Having read different blogs and forums, I've noticed that people are always saying that nobody really talks about adoption that much. I wouldn't have known since all of these places were talking about it, but maybe I just stumbled upon the few rare gems. Since there is a need for more discussion on the subject I would like to share with y'all my story as an older sister in a local American adoption. I hope some of you other adoptive older siblings will find this story and get some encouragement out of it.

Easter 2015
We're just missing our older brother Zachary!

My parents have talked about adopting almost as long as I can remember. We have always been open about the topic and I have always felt like I could approach my parents honestly on this subject. In the beginning we talked about how we would feel about having other siblings close to our age. I was probably nine at the time and I told my parents that I would not want to have an older sister. Life went on and we never did adopt any children close to our own age. Early last year, April or May, my parents returned to the subject and decided to adopt. This time family dynamics were totally different. I was eighteen at the time and the children we were looking at adopting were much younger than me.

Again, I was very pleased with the idea and I fully supported my parents decision to adopt. I had my doubts of course. I wondered, is this really right for us? Why are Mom and Dad adopting now? Still, they have always wanted to adopt and I couldn't help but feel like this was a dream coming true. My two brothers (then 16 and 19 years old) on the other hand were more doubtful than I and would voice their concerns to me. They were essentially the same as mine but I tended to be more hopeful than they were. My sister, 15 years old, was very excited. She has always been the youngest and even though she finally already had one little sibling, she was much more excited about the prospect of younger siblings than the rest of us.

I was not involved much with the paperwork so I can't tell you what that was like. I did however, being a legal adult, have to sign a document stating that I considered Mom and Dad to be fit parents, and had to describe their disciplining methods. We had to rearrange the house, buy extra beds, install new smoke detectors, buy a much larger dining room table... (Actually I can't remember if we bought the table before this or not) There were meetings with social workers, house inspections, many phone calls for my parents to make, and special parenting classes my parents were required to take.

One day we went to a special picnic where we met a sibling group that my parents were considering adopting. There were many other children from the local area as well but we tried to spend most of our time with these three girls. We played games and climbed the tree in the park. They were so sweet! Honestly though, at that time I was hoping for boys because I wouldn't know how to play with the little girls. I am very bad at playing dress up, tea party, or baby dolls and those sorts of games. When I myself was a little girl even though I played with those things, I favored playing rough with my brothers over painting my nails with my best friend. Naturally I was nervous if I could do all of that again, this time with much less imagination or patience for those kinds of games. In the end that sibling group ended up going to a different family instead.

Eventually we were matched up with a sibling group of four boys. The three youngest ones were black, a set of twins and one younger (2, 4, 4)  and the oldest was white and autistic (10). Now since I am being completely candid with y'all I must admit I was especially pleased they were African American. I grew up in a black neighborhood, I even told my Dad that when I grew up I wanted to be a brown Christian. And yes, like a stereotypical white person I was fascinated with their hair. With these boys I had high hopes of convincing Mom to let them grow an afro. I am sorry if all that sounds racist, but that's not even the worst part. For a long time I had a hard time telling the twins apart and would have to compare their skin tones to one another (One was darker than the other) before I said their name! Now of course I can tell them apart just like anyone else, their voice, their body shape, and their face.

We met these boys on July 16th for the first time. You can read about that here in this post. After that we started to pick them up from day care and have them spend the day with us. The oldest one spent the night with us a few times, and before we knew it all four of the boys were permanently living with us. This is when things really started to change.

The first few months were very hard for us, especially before they started school on August 18th. At that time Dad was working away from home in Miami, Fl, and Levi was working the summer and into the fall across the country. First commercial salmon fishing in Alaska, then construction in Arizona, then taking a permaculture course in California. With both Dad and Levi away, Mom, Savannah and I were left to care for five little boys. Now get ready for a big dose of reality here... in the beginning it was awful. The three youngest would wake up before six in the morning and immediately start fighting. They would punch and kick each other and screamed at the top of their lungs. At breakfast they had horrible manners and would eat and eat until we made them stop. Almost all day long they fought and terrorized each other. Enforcing any kind of discipline was almost impossible at first. We would have to hold them on the sofa or chair as they kicked and screamed and writhed and punched to get out of timeout. Nap time was kind of like jail. We sent them to their room and they tried to escape, each time, countless times, we sent them back. The oldest, wasn't as much trouble but he did fight about his food at first, he also screamed a lot more than he does now. When school finally started it was a life saver. They got on the bus at seven o'clock and returned at three. The oldest went to school at eight and returned at four. We used the time while they were gone to clean the house, take naps, and prepare for their return. Our schedule was strictly regulated. They played outside until four o'clock, had a snack and returned to playing outside. I started supper at four and we ate at five. We let them play inside or watch a movie until six or six thirty and then we did the bed time routine getting them dressed and reading the Bible story book (or at least trying to) and sending their screaming tails to bed. When they all had finally fell asleep, the three of us, Mom, Savannah and I, collapsed on the sofa or our beds. There were times when they drove me to tears and I would sit outside bawling, feeling exhausted and defeated.

During this time our church family ministered to us and I can't even begin to say how grateful I am for them. They cooked for us and sometimes came over just to help with bed time! Sundays they would take one or more of the boys to sit with them and were understanding when they refused to obey us. They loved them just like the rest of us.

September 10, I took a week long vacation with my Grandma on a road trip up to Michigan. While I was gone Levi was called away from work in Arizona to take my place and when I returned left two days later for Arizona again. Little by little the boys began to adjust and to calm down. Little by little the screaming lessened and eventually we didn't have to hold them in timeout and they would sit by themselves. Eventually Dad and Levi came home. Eventually two of the boys would answer me when I told them "I love you." and said "I love you back". Eventually we had a lot of fun, eventually we could take them out in public with us without worrying they would run off, or start screaming. We went canoeing with them, camping, visited the museum. We watched fireworks together and had birthday parties, we cuddled them and gave and received hugs and kisses, we took them to the park. We were a normal family. I watched my little brothers grow from wild little creatures into little boys who loved God. They asked questions about God, learned the Lord's prayer learned to sing the Doxology, they liked to read the Bible story book and began to be able to tell us the stories themselves. At church they would sit still and listen. They colored quietly on their papers and sometimes even matched their pictures to the sermon! They begged for communion but since they were not baptized yet we couldn't give it to them.

As a much older sister I feel more motherly towards them than I do towards my other siblings. As an older sibling, I think you can expect the same. Much responsibility will be placed on you. Your parents will rely on you to help care for your new siblings, and your new siblings will look up to you. You have a unique position being an older sibling. At times, I felt that the boys looked to me as their mother more than our actual Mom. For a short period they would call me Mama, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. I think it is because it feels safe for them; maybe they have been rejected by too many women in their past and to grow attached to someone who is supposed to be their Mom feels very risky to them. They can be more confidant with their feelings towards you because you aren't telling them that you will be their mama. You offer all the benefits of being their mama without any of the risks. I was conscientious about this tendency and handled it in two different ways.

Firstly, I emphasized the word mama around them. I used it more often in my own speech when talking to Mom. Often when they had a question I would direct them, saying "I don't know about that, go ask Mama."  even if I really did know the answer, in an effort to emphasize Mom as someone to come to for help. Secondly, I did not discourage my relationship with them. I loved them without holding back. I figured they would grow closer to Mom when they were ready and I didn't want to make them feel bad about not being that close yet. I believe I handled this situation correctly. They began to go to Mama more often, they began saying things to me like "Mama says...", they began to ask to sit with her more than me, and they would often go to Mom first for help. I feel like that is a good thing.

We haven't even had the boys for a whole year and it has only been a few weeks since they have been gone but already things are so different around here. Like I said before, I won't be sharing all of our reasons for not adopting the boys but as before, I fully support Mom and Dad's decision and I feel as if this is for the best. Actually, its quite extraordinary how things have turned out so far. The three youngest boys are actually going back to their previous foster family and they are planning to adopt them! Even more, we are still going to be part of their life! Jubal will grow up with these boys as good friends that he doesn't even remember meeting. They will always be a part of his life and I am so happy about that. As for the oldest, things are still being worked out, but it looks like we are going to continue to foster him. The house is so quiet now, three o'clock comes and goes without being noticed and the early seven o'clock bed time has been relaxed to a snoozy eight. The TV is not on nearly as much as it used to be and things left down low remain untouched and are easily found later. No new coloring marks have been made on the walls and the laundry is no longer swallowing our large sectional sofa whole anymore (Not every day at least.) Over all, there is more room to breath, and to be completely honest, my base stress level has reduced greatly.

I can't speak on adoption in the long term but this has been my experience over about ten months. I've heard some pretty scary adoption stories and I am relieved that ours hasn't turned out like that. I don't know what to say to anybody living one of those scary stories, but I hope this is helpful for the others.

Even though I feel somewhat cheated, investing so much in those boys, loving them so much and then having them taken away, I am at peace with the outcome. I can see that God used this experience just as much for the good of those boys as He has for my further purification. I've learned many lessons over these ten months. I look at parenthood, love, family, and trust, in a whole new way. I've learned that sometimes we must suffer for the good of someone else because they need help so much more than you do. I've learned that being the bigger person is so hard and to never underestimate the impact your decisions, and even every day actions, have on others. Things that I used to think were so simple now have more angles than I first realized.

Above all, God has shown me that there is so much that I do not understand.

May we always look to Him in whatever trials we are facing.

With love,
Elise

5 comments:

  1. What a story. It sounds like it's been a crazy year. I hope that your adjustment to life without foster siblings is a good experience; that it is a balance of both grief and joy. I've come to learn that you can't have grief without joy, nor joy without grief.

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    1. Thanks Becca. The change has certainly been a strange one. I kind of don't know how to feel about it. Nevertheless, even if it is a bit disconcerting, I can see how this is a good thing. As for the balance of grief and joy, I totally get what you are saying.

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  2. WOW! It is easy to see that you love those boys. I'll be praying for you, your family, and the boys, because I know this has got to be hard for all of you. Isn't it wonderful, though, to have Someone to lean on in times like this? God understand everything we go through, even if we don't understand it ourselves.
    With love,
    A friend in Louisiana

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  3. I really appreciate that I have a wonderful friend like you, so warm and I am deeply touched by your family and you. Sometimes people have their own lives and thoughts,so they will seperate other people and themselves. Also they will be selfish if they decide not to communicate with others or lose their direction for life. I am so proud of you , not only have you a so wonderful experience, but also you pay your own,fulfilled love heart. God will always be with you my lady!

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