This post is written by Livy, my 16-year-old amazing daughter. She traveled with us both on our first adoption trip to Vietnam to get her now 5 year old brother and sister, Jude and Tess. And 10 months ago to China to get her new baby sister, Mimi, who is 2 years old. All three were special needs adoptions and came with their own unique challenges. Livy is a special young woman. Her heart is huge. But since this is one of the number-one questions I get regarding adoption, I thought it better for her to answer it representing all the children rather than have me answer it for her.
As soon as someone sees our family for the first time their wheels start turning. Especially if we are all out together. We know the questions even before they’re asked. It’s not bad. It just is.
And in the top 5 questions they ask my parents is this one:
“How did your biological/first kids handle it?”
I think this question is largely asked by folks that may have some interest in adopting themselves. Perhaps they are trying to put themselves in our shoes.
What is it like being a teenager with younger adopted siblings?
Our family changed A LOT when Tess and Jude, and now Mimi, came home, and not all in good ways. I will not be shy to admit that much of it was HARD. It was hard for me, it was hard for my parents, and most of all it was hard for the babies. And along with all the hard times also came some really awesome and amazing times. As a family we experienced first steps, first words, first family, and laughter that we never could have imagined months earlier.
Positive aspects of introducing Tess and Jude into the family are:
- We can get away with a lot more now that there is less attention on the bigger kids.
- I get to babysit more, and that is something I love to do!
- The giggles! Nobody could be mad or upset when there is a toddler giggling somewhere in the house.
- Sunny and I finally have someone’s hair to do, nails to paint, and someone to dress up.
- We will have to go to Disneyland again because the babies haven’t been yet.
- Life is NEVER dull. I know now that I’m not the kind of person that sits around on the couch and lets life pass me by, probably because it’s impossible to hear the TV over all the “playing.”
- I am always learning and practicing patience.
- Chubby cheeks. Enough said.
- Those moments when Tess comes in to my room at 7:00am, and I yell “get out” and she replies with, “Sissy, you are such a pretty girl, and you are SO big!” She means well.
- I love when we are out with the kids and someone says, “Are those ALL your siblings?” and I can proudly reply, “Yep! There are 7 of us!
- I learned that later in life I want to work with children as a career.
Some of the negatives are:
- It’s stressful sometimes. There are times in our house when there are multiple cranky children and maybe even a cranky parent (or two). As a family we have had to come up with some new strategies in dealing with times like these. We have implemented “the tap out system.” this is when one of the older kids, or even a parent, can just get away for a bit no questions asked. In a stressful moment I can “tap out” and go to my room to listen to music for 10-15 minutes, and then it all seems way less stressful when I get back.
- My parents worry. They worry about the struggles the little ones will face in a future. This is usually when I come in and remind my mom of her favorite saying, “You can’t change your world just your reaction to it.”
- Money is tighter.
- And of course the obvious one… yes, the older kids do get less attention than before. To cope with this we have learned to spend individual time with our parents later at night. Even if it’s just a quick trip to the grocery store for ice cream. It is always good to be able to tell my dad how my day was.
I have learned so much in the process of adopting. I was lucky enough to go both to Vietnam and China. The trips helped me come out of my box and show me how lucky I am to be living in a tremendous home with plenty of food and a family that loves me. When I went to Vietnam I was only in 7th grade, but there was one thing that I will never forget, one girl, about my age, that changed my life forever. We were walking back from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon. As we crossed the street I saw a girl begging for money, but that wasn’t what was shocking or what stuck with me. This girl had a true smile on her face. Anyone that looked at her could tell that she was honestly just happy to be. She got me thinking, who really cares if you get the best car for your 16th birthday, when your curfew is, or if you have a TV in your bedroom? In the long run those things won’t make a difference. As Tess would say, “We are family, and that means we love each other forever no matter what.” And that’s what really matters.
Livy the unstoppable