Thursday, November 13, 2008

Young adult children with an infant sibling - how is it going?

(Songbird and Blueberry)
I've gotten quite a few questions about how my older kids are doing with their baby brother. The questions have been framed in a lot of interesting ways - are they jealous? are they feeling like you are distracted? do they feel replaced? do they like him? are they great helpers? it must be nice to have so many babysitters! - and so forth and so on.
(Waffles and Blueberry)
It got me thinking today - thinking about "how it's going." In a word - SPECTACULAR! Really, no kidding. When we decided to adopt, we framed the adoption as a "we" event. If we weren't all on board, we wouldn't have done it. I was surprised, actually, at our first family meeting that the big kids were "all in" right away. They were ready. It wasn't the first time we had talked about adoption as a family, but it was the first time that we (the parents) brought it to the kids with clarity - "we want to adopt to grow our family - how do you feel about this?" 100% yes was the refrain. Blueberry was a boy for all of us - a son and a sibling.
Mr. Silly Pants and I put a lot of thought into how we would keep the lives of the big kids feeling "the same" with the addition of a new little brother. In fact, we talked to the kids about what we thought would change, and what we thought would not. We also talked about how we would work together as a family welcoming a baby and little brother. It seems to us, actually, that we've succeeded - so far anyway. All 3 of them (make that 4 with Schwartz, our foreign exchange student) have quintessential teen lives - they go out with friends, they join teams, they eat us out of house and home, they have tons of laundry, they resist rules, they do chores, they forget to clean up their dishes, they hang out, they take the cars, they get a little testy now and get the picture. Mr. Silly Pants and I had hoped that the lives that would change most significantly in our household would be our own. Whew - is that true! In fact, we planned for this scenario by asserting that we parents would do all of the feeding, all of the diaper changing, and all of the primary caregiving (baths, finger foods, rocking, etc). After all, our parental primary care makes sense for deep attachment work - Blueberry KNOWS who his parents are -there is no confusion between parent and sibling in our household. And, as we had hoped, sibs get HUGE smiles and giggles, and we parents get the full array of emotions from our sweet babe.
(Twinkletoes and Blueberry)
So, I can answer these questions. No, the young adults are not jealous. They adore the baby. Nope, they don't feel like I'm distracted. In fact, since I am on leave from work this year I am much more present at home - more available, more and better prepared meals, and fewer demands that come with being a high school teacher. Nope, noone feels replaced. Oh my gosh, the kids are all cherished and beloved in unique and powerful ways. And, I'm pleased to say that the father of these young adult children has been super supportive of the arrival of little Blueberry - he even came over and cooked dinner for all of us one night when we returned from Ethiopia. In fact, we celebrated the 16th birthday of Waffles at his Dad's house, all of us (including Blueberry and Schwartz and my husband, of course!). Since we live in the same neighborhood, it makes the small and big adjustments easier. We ALL planned it that way - kids first. I am so lucky that the 4 adults in the young adults lives really do keep them first in their sights. Do the kids like Blueberry? THEY ADORE HIM! Waffles never walks into the room any longer. If Blueberry is in the room, Waffles throws himself across the room in odd rolls and sommersaults in order to get Blueberry to smile. It works! Twinkletoes lays on the floor with him every night while he chews her hair and practices "crawling and pony rides." Songbird makes special trips home from college on weekends to get her little Blueberry "fix." Helpers and babysitters? Well, we haven't gone out yet without the baby. I suppose we could, but because we are so focused on attachment, we haven't done that yet. And c'mon, you know how help goes with young adults - it's sort of hit and miss. That said, I get a lot of help from Twinkletoes and her boyfriend in the early evening when I am making dinner - they almost always are here and entertain Blueberry so I can get the grub on the table. But really, egos are alive and well among my young adult children. I'm glad about that.

After writing this all, I can say with confidence that Blueberry is such a delight for our whole family - we are perfectly adjusted to being a family of 6 (make that 7 with Schwartz!). Blueberry has brought us all closer - it's been a wonderful journey for our whole family. Yes, it's going wonderfully.

1 comment:

Liz said...

I loved your post! (Loved your pictures, too). My sister-in-law is 15 years younger than her sister -- they're both way adults now -- but the two of them have always been very, very close. It can work out well. I've recently read a story about a woman who did a lot of caring for her disabled sister, called That Went Well. Yes, there were difficulties along the way -- theauthor talks about a sister's desperation to help make her sister's life work and failing miserable. But she still finds heartwarming support from strangers from every walk of life. Your family seems very close and together, and loving. This family, the book makes clear, has love and fun and togetherness as well. I'm already planning to give it to my sister-in-law for Valentine's Day, because a) she'll love it and b), it's above love, too, and how it shows up in the oddest places.