When our good friends sent us a profile of a then-6-year-old boy from Eastern Europe, we experienced a range of emotions. We knew we wanted to adopt again, but we had just brought our daughter home, from the same country, only a few months prior. Even though the process can take up to two years, we wondered if we were ready to dive in again so soon. After much consideration and prayer, we decided to move forward. Along with all the paperwork, home visits, and expenses, we also had another concern on our minds. How would our daughter react?
When we finally told our then 4-year-old daughter that we were planning to adopt again, we tried to make it as exciting to her as we could. We had told her before, even at her young age, that she was adopted and what that meant. We had told her about her native country and had tried, as best we could given her age, to explain why we were so happy to have adopted her. So when we started talking to her about her brother, we told her that he would be from the same country. We told her that she would now have someone to play with and that we could all be a family together. We also did our best to assure her that this wouldn’t change how much we loved her in any way. Her response was basically, “I’m all done brother.”
This was taken the second day our son arrived home.
Well, we weren’t off to a promising start. We tried, as the weeks went by, to incorporate him sometimes when we were playing pretend. She would respond by flat-out saying that no, he wasn’t in the pretend truck with us or on our pretend trip to Florida. Or, if she was feeling generous, she would say that he was on a completely different plane or boat or vehicle, but still totally separate from us. This was not going to be easy, or so it seemed.
As parents, worry pretty much comes with the job. It seems we are always concerned over one thing or another, at any given moment of our kids’ lives. We began to wonder, seeing our daughter’s reaction, if we were doing the right thing by her. Were we adopting again too early? Would she see him as a threat? Would this undermine her trust and relationship with us? He was older than her, would that be a problem?
Despite all these questions, we continued to move forward. When we received a video of the boy who would become our son, we watched it quite a lot. We began to show it to our daughter, hoping that maybe this would soften her heart towards him. She was apathetic at first, but then gradually began to pay more attention when we would play the video. In that video, he sang a song that she remembered from her life before ours and this piqued her interest. When she started asking, of her own accord, to see the video, we began to hope.
This was taken only a few months after he came home.
But then, just as we felt like we were making progress, it was halted when it was time for us to go meet him. For us, this was exciting, but understandably, for our daughter, it was scary. It meant Mommy and Daddy would be gone for a week. While she had a wonderful time with her grandparents, it was a big adjustment when we got back. We felt like we had to earn her trust again.
So there we were, back to worrying. What would bringing our son home mean for her? For us? For our family?
We soon realized, as is often the case in life, that our worry was unfounded. She started asking us about our visits with him. She would ask us to play the videos that we took while we were there. He happened to sing another song that she especially liked (one that we played a lot for her when she first came home and was upset) and this endeared him to her even more. As the time drew near for him to come home, she became more receptive.
When we met him at the airport, the social worker who had escorted him said he had not slept the entire time. Our daughter pretty much took to him immediately. She didn’t hold back and had no reservations in making him, in every way she knew how, a part of her world. She continually chattered away at him, trying to pull him into her pretend games. This was quite an effort, considering how little English he knew and that, given the first eight years of his life were spent in an overseas orphanage, pretending wasn’t exactly on his mind. But I firmly believe that my daughter’s incessant determination to involve him in her world is one of the biggest reasons why two years later, his grasp of English is absolutely incredible!
I will never forget a moment that truly captured for me the realization that these two former strangers are now, without any question, siblings. I was in the kitchen, listening to them playing in the living room. I didn’t understand their game at all and as is often the case with kids’ games, it sounded like nonsense to me. But they were both absolutely loving it! They were both laughing and just being kids together. In fact, they were so engrossed that when I walked into the living room and said, “Hey kids, I love you,” they didn’t even hear me. Now, don’t misunderstand, they’re still kids and siblings, so there is often much bickering and whining. But that is just as much a part of childhood and having siblings as all the fun times are.
As beautiful as this picture has been for me to watch unfold, there is an even greater depth here to this story. You see, my daughter is of ethnic Eastern European origin, while our son is Romani. This group of people have been and often still are highly mistrusted and were one of the groups that were targeted in Nazi Germany. In most circumstances, and in many people’s opinions, my daughter and son shouldn’t like each other. They shouldn’t trust each other. In fact, they might even have hated each other. But adoption, becoming a family, negates all of that. They don’t know their country’s and people’s history. It holds no sway over them. They are simply family. I think we could all learn a lot from their example, don’t you?