The sincerest form of flattery……Or will the real XiXi please step forward?

August 7, 2012 Eileen, HepB+ 9 Comments

When we adopted our nearly 4-year-old son, it felt completely natural and right for him to copy the sibling closest to him in age, his 6 year-old sister. He needed a tour guide to escort him through his new life and she was mostly happy to fill that role. What I didn’t realize was that over a year later, I’d be trying to break him from his “minion” status and get him to express his own opinion. Or find his own opinion.

In our early months together, if big sister asked for a popsicle, whether or not he actually knew what the word popsicle meant, he was sure to wave frantically and yell “Me too! Me too!”

Totally understandable. He didn’t want to miss out, and yet the poor kid wasn’t sure what anybody was saying, and so of course he was eager to jump on any passing bandwagons, be they popsicles or brussel sprouts. And even if he didn’t particularly like the brussel sprouts once he found out what they were, if his sister liked them, I guarantee, he’d force a smile, swallow another, and ask for more. That is, of course, if she asked for more.

Once we got past the language hurdles, the I-must-do-everything-my sister-does mentality stuck. Case in point, last week’s trip to the grocery store:

*The kids pick a red fire truck cart and squeeze in behind the double steering wheels.

*In the produce section, Cholita announces that she doesn’t want to ride in the fire truck and wants to walk.

*XiXi cannot exit the fire truck fast enough.

*Now I’m pushing an empty fire truck with two kids trailing, one clearly annoyed, and one watching his sister closely for her next move.

*In the bread aisle, Cholita says that she actually does want to ride in the fire truck and resumes her post.

*XiXi jumps in so fast you’d think he was headed to a real fire.

*In the canned goods section, Cholita says that she now wants to ride in the front seat of the cart.

*XiXi almost falls out of the fire truck, yelling “Me too! Me too!”

*He sees there is only room for one, looks completely at a loss, and is soon in tears.
Now, I have 5 children and understand that for the most part, this is normal sibling stuff. The youngers copy the olders for various reasons, sometimes just to annoy the heck out of them. But I really don’t think that’s XiXi’s intention. I believe he honestly feels lost without her guidance.

Window shopping with them yesterday in our little downtown, both with spending money burning holes in their pockets, XiXi hardly glanced at an item if his sister hadn’t already shown interest. When we’d gotten to the last shop and I asked them if they wanted to buy something, I purposely asked XiXi first and told Cholita that she’d get her turn to tell me her choice in a minute. XiXi bit his thumb nail, nervously glanced at his sister, and literally could not come up with an idea on his own. Cholita, not necessarily the queen of patience, jumped in that she wanted the pen with all the different colors. I don’t think XiXi actually said “phew!”, but the relief was certainly there in his voice when he said, “Yeah! The pen with the different colors! That’s what I want too!”

And then, because she’s decided that having a minion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Cholita said, “Never mind. I think I’ll get something else instead.” But she wouldn’t tell him what that something else was. It was torture for the poor kid. Pure torture. I asked my teenaged daughter to take Cholita to buy whatever it was she wanted to buy and I knelt down and asked my sweet little boy, “XiXi, do you really want the pen?”

He bought the pen. His sister bought a ring. And although Cholita likes the ring, she’s been enviously eyeing the pen, because I think that’s really what she wanted all along. She’s fairly easy to read that way. But XiXi?

We’re still learning. Completely in love. Completely excited about the journey. But still definitely learning.

9 responses to “The sincerest form of flattery……Or will the real XiXi please step forward?”

  1. Stefanie says:

    That does sound a bit… uh… tricky.
    What happens when Cholita isn’t around? How does XiXi respond when asked his opinion on things? I am sure he’ll find his voice in due time, but I can only imagine all the challenges this presents 😉

  2. Eileen says:

    I rarely see these two apart, which is maybe something I need to make happen a little more often. At school, they were both at the same little Montessori school, but in different classrooms. There’s a room between the two classrooms that both classes shared and the teachers said that they often played together there and that they loved how big sister always was so quick to help little brother. Agreed. BUT, I’m glad that this year sister will move up to a different school and XiXi will be going completely solo. For the most part, he’s an easy kid. His teachers adore him. He’s a PLEASER in the extreme, which is the root of the problem. His sister is a born leader, which plays perfectly into ordering around the pleaser.

    XiXi went on a father-son campout with his dad a few months ago and within minutes of their leaving, Cholita said, “What will I DO without XiXi?” Although I shared the negatives of their co-dependance, they also have a blast together. I just want XiXi to feel like he can still idolize and emulate big sister but have his own opinions as well.

  3. We have this same dynamic. A lot! Now, all my kids are very close in age and I know there’s some normal copying going on, but just like you, I can tell that there’s a different motivation behind our daughter copying our sons than just childishness.

    When I was talking to her about it one day and telling her she didn’t need to copy, that we wanted “Boohoo” to act like “Boohoo” she looked at me and yelled, “I don’t know how to be me!” It was a deep moment for a three year old (and her mama).

  4. Eileen says:

    Oh my goodness, Jamey, that is a deep moment! Although he hasn’t expressed that, I think those would be XiXi’s words exactly. I wonder if he knew himself better in China and that his transition threw him for such a loop that he couldn’t quite find himself again? Or if the orphanage was so restrictive that he couldn’t really find himself there either? Or both? And I don’t even think it’s quite fair to say he hasn’t found himself because he’s a GREAT kid, he just needs to become more confident in his own opinions.

  5. DeEtte says:

    Just tried to post a comment and not sure if it went through or you may get two from me. 🙂 But I just wanted to say this is my two girls exactly until very recently. Only in the last year has my youngest (Sadie) been wililng to give her opinion on something or tell me what she wants first. And only in the last 6 months has she been willing to stick by that and not change her mind to what her sister wants. She’s been home 4 years and is 6.5 years old. Repeated encouragement that it was okay for her to want different things than her sister helped. And quite honestly, kindergarten helped too. Oh, and another thing I did was point out when I liked things different from my oldest. “See…Hannah loves beef jerkey and I really really don’t like it. And that’s okay..she can enjoy it and I can have something else and we’re still a family and we still love each other. You can choose soemthing different too and you are still part of this family and we will still love you”. I think her need to BELONG to her family was so strong that she was willing to let go of her own opinions..or maybe she didn’t even know what her opinions were. While she’s still a “pleaser”, iit’s much more subtle now and she will sometimes even argue with her sister..which I see as great progress!

  6. Aus says:

    Oh we have that dynamic too! Son and daughter – son younger – 2 years difference in age – and ack!! But having a grand total of 6 and the same with our oldest two bios (now 28 and 27) – they DO find their own voice eventually! In our case what really helped was when they went to school (unfortunately the same grade level) the district was happy to keep them in different classrooms – at least until they hit high school. But by then they had developed different “circles” – even though there was some overlap! It’ll come in its season!

    hugs – aus and co.

  7. Eileen says:

    DeEtte and Aus,

    Thanks for the encouragement! I think that this school year will be helpful and also just time. Although I can hardly remember life before XiXi, he hasn’t been with us long at all. He’s learned a new language, forgotten another language, adjusted to life in a family, become accustomed to a new culture, adapted to new foods……and it’s no wonder it’s taking some time to find himself amidst all that change!

  8. Julie says:

    I could have written this exact post! My kids are 4, 3, 2…..our 3 year old has been home 8 months. I use to always ask her first in hopes she’d come up with her own answer but she always changes her choice and I got tired of wasting all that food. Now I ask her last. But I am dying to know what she really wants/likes! Praying with time she’ll find her own way.

  9. Joyanne says:

    THANK YOU for posting this. Many times I have wondered if others have experienced this as well. Our daughters are 9 months apart in age. Our second daughter has been home now for a little over a year and a half. At first, we were pleased how well our daughters got along and how well our youngest did with transitioning into our family, with her older sister as her “tour guide” (what a great metaphor!). At supper, our youngest will subtly watch the order her sister eats foods from her plate. If her sister eats rice, she will too…when older sister switches to chicken, she will follow…older sister picks up her water glasses for a drink – well, you guessed it. I have countless other examples, but this one was from tonight. Our youngest daughter is getting to be more opinionated and expressive as her language develops and we can see slight glimmers of her true independence underneath. We too have tried to ensure time apart (ie. both take dance, but in separate classes) but they truly seem at a loss without each other and are visibly relieved when they are together again. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I very much agree it is still in the learning phase.

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