Brothers & Sisters

I wanted to spend some time talking about how all the siblings are doing together.  Sibling dynamics are a huge part of making a family work, especially in out-of-birth order adoptions.  We talked extensively with our social worker before the adoption about how adopting children older than ours could potentially affect our family life.  Most of the information we received was along the lines of, “It’s really hard on the biological children.”  And I definitely don’t doubt that this can be the case much of the time.  Every family is different and you have to know your kids and what their limits are, as well as your own.

On the other hand, adoption comes with a lot of question marks.  There were sides to my biological children I hadn’t seen before their new siblings came home, both good and bad.  Behaviors and reactions to the stress and change that we didn’t anticipate.  I think it’s important when adopting to realize that there will always be unknown factors, and the more siblings you add to the mix, the more unknowns you have.  As parents we have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  Although we were prepared for that, thankfully, our transition has been far from worst case scenario.

So today I just wanted to give you a fun glimpse of how each pair of kiddos is getting along, the good and the not so good as well.

Evangeline & Jacob

Jacob is six years old and Evangeline is four, however, Evie is still slightly older in all practical senses due to Jacob’s orphanage delays and the global neglect of the nurturing of his mind.  That has seemed to work really well dynamics-wise.  Before adopting them we expected to be artificially “twinning” them developmentally, and although I fully expect Jacob to catch up and for this to be the case down the road, at this point she is still functionally the oldest child.

I think this has made the transition much easier for her.  Both of her new siblings are older than she is, but age is just numbers, and nothing has truly changed with her place in the family.  The language barrier is most difficult for these two.  They are both quite verbal enough to give directions during play time, and it is frustrating for all parties when there are misunderstandings.  Jacob is beginning to get more frustrated when she takes the lead, so I’ve had to step in and redirect her eldest child initiative a few times.

This seems pretty minor, though, and typically these two play extremely well together.  They are both on the same level of play on most things, so they have imaginative parties and games together and enjoy it quite a lot.  I think, out of the three, Jacob has taken to Evie more than Stephen or Hope.  I don’t know how “attached” he is to Evie, or if he would even miss her were she replaced with another playmate, but at this point they are functioning as great playmates and friends.  I do believe that she is encouraging his development, as she is just a tad above him, which stretches him to meet those developmental milestones as well.  And it’s so so helpful to me that they entertain one another!

photo (23)Jacob & Stephen

Now Stephen, on the other hand, is quite a different ballgame.  I am not sure exactly what caused his territorial behavior, but as soon as we came back home with Jacob (Daddy and Hope were still in Ukraine for a week) Stephen went from accomodating host to… quite honestly, a territorial menace.  Blatant atrocities began occuring: hitting, kicking, stealing toys (not to play with, just to taunt Jacob and make him upset), deliberately running to get in front of him so he could stand and block him from moving, etc.

I was shocked and in horror… what happened to my good-natured toddler?  He had become a monster overnight!  These weren’t learned behaviors, these were things he was coming up with on his own just to be mean to his new brother.  He had never seen or experienced these things, he just started doing them.  I knew he was scared, his Daddy wasn’t home, but Jacob was.  Things were crazy; Stephen didn’t know what to make of it.  But I was determined to end the cycle.  The last thing I wanted was for Jacob to think the kids at home were just as bad as the ones at the orphanage or for their relationship to become a permanent sibling rivalry.

My adopted-never-lived-in-a-family-before son actually took it very well.  He never lashed back at Stephen, but always just called for me or waited for my sure intervention.  This made it so much easier to quell the unrest, and I have no idea how Jacob showed such great self restraint, but I was so proud of him!  I never let them play alone together because I couldn’t trust Stephen with him (totally the opposite of how I thought that was going to be, btw) and I watched the kid like a hawk.

After a few weeks, we were all together and settling in and Stephen became more comfortable again.  He got used to the idea of his big brother.  He still does typical little brother annoying things, but no more monster Stephen!  Their relationship isn’t quite the same because of the offenses, but it is growing and they do very well now.  I think it helps that whenever there is an offense on either side I ask that they give hugs and affection when saying apologies, so they actually hug each other more than anyone in the house!  Stephen doesn’t play at Evie and Jacob’s level yet, so he tends to ruin their games just on the merit of his two-year-oldness, which annoys Jacob to no end.

But I am now convinced they are truly going to grow into their brotherhood and will be very close as they get older.  Jacob is the first person Stephen asks about in the morning, and the first child to come to me with concern in his eyes when Jacob is upset.  There are beautiful things blossoming.

photo (21)Hope & Stephen

As much as Stephen didn’t like Jacob being here at first, he embraced Hope from the beginning.  Since she is developmentally a baby, he took to her so sweetly and kindly.  I think that she seemed like much less of a threat, and the older brother role just fits him like a glove.  He loves to help me throw away her diapers and give her her bottle.  But instinctively, I also think he somehow knows that she is older and bigger than he is.  And in true toddler fashion, he loves to imitate her.  I’ll catch him poking at his neck or rolling his tongue just like she does.  It’s perfectly harmless how he does it, and I just laugh, but it drives Daddy bonkers!  This is a super cute picture of them though.  Stephen was trying to give her a kiss and she was not so sure about that! 😀

photo (20)Evangeline & Hope

So I don’t have favorite children, but I do have a favorite bonding pair.  These two together… just brings tears to my eyes thinking of them.  Often when I find myself tired and stressed and ready to pull my hair out I look over and watch Evie nurturing and loving her older sister and it melts my hardened heart.  I have thought more than once “She is being a better mother right now than I am!”  And indeed, if there is any sibling that Hope has bonded with at this point… it is Evangeline.  She loves and adores her, and no wonder, Evie will sit and cuddle and play and talk sweetly to her all day long.

While I am cooking and cleaning and breaking up arguments and trying to catch my breath, Evie has no other responsibilities and is totally free to make sure that Hope always has her favorite toy, has someone to make her laugh, has enough blankets or isn’t poking herself too hard.  She brags about her new sister to everyone she meets.  I thank God daily for the gift that these two are to each other.  Hope has brought as much joy into Evie’s life as Evie does into hers, and it’s a marvelous thing.  How amazing and beautiful is the pure, unadulterated love of children.  I surely don’t know how they ever got along without one another.

Evangeline & Stephen

Yes, our two bio kids, but I thought that their relationship was worth mentioning.  We’ve seen their dynamic change too since the others came home.  They have become closer.  I do believe this connection will wane with time as our family begins building a common history together, but instinctively they know that they have a common history that the other two do not share.  We all live in one house, eat at one table, play together, pray together and live as one big family… but Evie and Stephen share a little more than the other two do.  At least for now.

They are incredibly close, closer than they were before.  There is very little bickering between the two, and the play together angelically most of the time.  Stephen follows her around and does whatever she says in true little brother fashion, and they hold hands quite often.  It’s such a joy to watch them grow in their bond, and it was an unexpected blessing.  My prayer for them is that their closeness continues to remain even after this transition time is past, and that they will also learn to become equally attached to their new siblings as we build those connections together as a family.

photo (19)Hope & Jacob

And finally, our two new kiddos.  There is not very much to say about these two.  Jacob did not interact much with Hope at all at first, I don’t think he really knew what to do or how to approach her.  There were no babies or very delayed children in his orphanage, so her developmental level was a new experience for him.  He was not afraid or hesitant of her, he’s always been very accepting and affectionate.  But he just doesn’t do much in the way of interaction.  This is slowly changing as he watches Evie and Stephen help me with her.  In the last week I’ve noticed him trying to put her blanket on or play with toys with her, which has been sweet.  It will be fun to watch how they grow up together, and I can’t wait for Jacob to embrace his “big” brother role as time goes on.

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