Recently, I asked three of my four kids to write “an essay that talks about how adoption has affected them: the good things about it and the things that have been hard.” I told them to be totally honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly, because it would help other families. Then, I left them to take those directions and write whatever they wanted.
I admit, I thought I knew what they were going to say. My oldest son (14), would say that it was absolutely the best thing that ever happened to him, and that there was not one hard thing about it. In both adoptions, he has been excited, and welcoming, and extremely loving. He has never once expressed a negative feeling about adoption.
My oldest daughter (11), would say it’s been awesome, but she would have plenty of examples of hard stuff. Her brother, who we adopted when she was 4 and he was 3, completely rejected her for about the first year. It took time for it to get better, and it absolutely did, but it was rough for a long time, and it was hard for her.
When it was time to adopt her sister, no one was happier than Chloe – she sobbed actual happy tears. However, in China (just a year ago), she sobbed again on night two after meeting her sister saying, “I thought I wanted a sister, but I really don’t!” And, even after a few weeks home when she admitted it was better, she struggled with her new sister having a clear preference for her biggest brother. Things have improved a lot recently, but she has had some rough patches with both adoptions.
My 10 year old son who was adopted would have little positive to say, because the process of bringing his sister home has been emotionally difficult for him. Then the adjustment of being dethroned and having a new little kid around was sort of unmooring for him. He would often say, “I don’t like it. Maybe I’m just not used to it yet.” While things have gotten better, he still struggles with having a little sister.
However, they each really suprised me with some of the things they wrote. Here are their thoughts.
(**edited by me only for spelling, punctuation, and in one child’s case, a ridiculous amount of repetition because a teacher once told said child that a paragraph had to have X number of sentences and said child is a textbook rule follower. So, I removed the extra sentences that said the same exact thing in different words. You’re welcome.)
Sawyer, age 14 (biological)
Adoption, to me, is not just an idea. I say that because my friends at school and at soccer think that it is insane that I have siblings from China. I feel like they don’t really think about it as something that really happens to people. It is something that has happened to me, and is a part of my life. I think about it every single day, but I love every second of it. I couldn’t imagine my family without my brother and sister.
I think adopting my brother and sister is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Cooper, my brother, is my best friend and even though he sometimes has a hard time socially, he is my favorite person to hang out with in the world. When I look at his face my mind just explodes in wonder thinking about all the possibilities of what I don’t know about him. His family back in China: are they alive, is he part Russian, Indian, African? Although it is probably not realistic, I still ponder it.
At first, I was scared to go to China. I mean, it is across the entire world, I don’t know their language, and maybe they don’t like Americans. But I was too young to understand that it is a country with amazing beauties and wonders like nowhere else in the world. I remember that when I first met Cooper, he ran to mom and dad first but then he bolted right over to me. For the rest of the day all he wanted was for me to carry him and hug him. I loved him so much right then and there; I could not focus on anything else. So, after our big adventure we came home to a big party at our house.
Fast forward to the end of August 2016. I still love Cooper very much. He has always, since I first met him, felt like a brother to me and I usually forgot altogether that he was adopted at all. But then Piper arrived. I had an unusually hard time with adopting her. When my mom and sister left to go get her, I was excited to meet my sister, especially when they started Facetiming us from China. I would always look forward to seeing and talking to my new sister, but when she got here it was a whole different story.
I was confused. Confused mostly because something didn’t feel right about what was happening. She didn’t feel like my sister to me once she got home. The first day she did, but then a week went by, a month, and still I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t tell my parents ever. Literally when they read this it will be the first they will have learned of it.
It didn’t feel like a big deal for a while, but it just kept getting worse. I was treating her like my sister and loving her, but it just didn’t feel like she was really related to me in any way. That was until Christmas, when we were opening presents, my heart was just changed. I don’t know what did it, but I remember from that day on when I looked at Piper she was just another sibling who is incredibly cute.
So, yes adoption has impacted my life, but only positively. Sometimes I feel like I don’t get enough attention, I guess (rarely), but it doesn’t last long because I know that they should have all of the attention knowing what they went through.
Anytime I am mad at either of them, I just think of what I would do if I had relatives I didn’t know in China. I love all of my siblings equally and don’t know what I would do without them.
Chloe, age 11 (biological)
I used to be one of two children, but I don’t really remember that. But I know I won’t ever forget how adoption has changed me for better, not worse.
My brothers and I are really close (one of them was not adopted). I am also so close to my little sister. I don’t remember how I felt when I found out we were adopting Cooper, but when I found out I was getting a little sister, I was so excited.
I think adoption has changed me for the better because now we have a great, amazing family, and I have two new best friends. Cooper and I are closer because I have known him longer. (I am getting to know my sister more and more every day.)
Cooper and I are really close and I think that of all my friends, I spend the most time with him. We may fight over the TV 24/7, but I love my family. They are all so special and I love them for that.
Cooper, age 10 (adopted 2010)
I feel that adoption is really cool and fun, but there are some pros and cons about adopting a sibling into your family. This is how I feel about having an adopted sibling.
Having a new sibling is hard because you have to share your toys that you like a lot. I have to share with my sister and it’s hard to share with her sometimes. If you are going shopping, but you are only shopping for your new sibling, it is hard.
Your new sibling might get a lot more attention than you too. Your new sibling could be annoying and not understand what is going on. They might be loud a lot of times, too.
Some things are good about having a new sibling. With a sibling you can play a board game with them. You can talk to them about your feelings because they are like you. You aren’t the youngest one in your family anymore.
I feel adoption is a good thing, but it can also be hard, annoying and fun and nice to have an adopted sibling on your side. I like having a new sister, but at some points, I don’t like it.
Reading their thoughts I was struck by a few things:
1. Sawyer had attachment issues. I never really thought much about the fact that not just parents or adoptees might have attachment issues – siblings might have them as well. I love how he was able to articulate that he “faked it till he made it”- which is a very real strategy for parents with some attachment issues.
I felt badly that we never overtly talked to him about attachment-related things previous to bringing Piper home. It honestly just never occurred to me. Thankfully, their bond now is insanely strong. She greets him like a king every day when he gets home from school, and he tells her daily, “You’re my best friend!” He’s taking Mandarin in high school, and just waiting for the day he can go back to China because he fell in love with it when he was there.
Adoption has most certainly altered the trajectory of his life.
2. Chloe does not even remember the hard stuff. That is how good it has been for her in spite of the challenges. And, as the mom who often worried in the beginning if Cooper would ever be ok with Chloe or if she would grow resentful towards him, it was great to hear her say he is her best friend. Truly, we have come a long way. Tonight, they helped each other through their chores so they could get them done faster so they could play Minecraft together. I listened to them laughing in the basement for an hour tonight.
3. Cooper is one beloved brother. (Both of his big siblings called him their best friend!) His perspective in our family is unique as an adoptee himself sharing his feelings about his sister’s adoption. His thoughts were so simple, but powerful to me – especially the part where he acknowledged that he will now have someone who he can talk to about his feelings. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that, so I asked for clarification. When I did, he said, “She was adopted like me, so when she gets bigger we can talk about that.”
However, you can see that he’s still sort of in the “this is hard” phase (just over a year from his sister joining our family). A lot of it is just who he is or just the normal adjustment to a new child in the family (not unique to adoption) and the shift in family dynamics that comes along with that.
Chloe’s essay though gave me all the reason to hope that with hard work, help, and time, I expect Cooper and Piper to form a great bond.
Before we adopted one of my biggest concerns was how an adoption might affect the children we already had. Looking back now – and especially after reading their thoughts – it seems like such a silly fear.
All of the hard stuff pales in comparison to all that we have gained by bringing these two amazing kids into our family!