Sibling Rivalry and Adoption

siblingsBringing a second child into your family is tricky and if your family is made up by way of adoption, well, it just makes things that bit more complicated. I am not by any means saying that natural families don’t have issues with expanding the family but when your family is expanded by way of traumatic (yes, that word again) life changing events rather than (what I imagine to be) the joyful moment of childbirth it kind of sticks. These adopted children will always feel a sense of insecurity and I would go as far as to say that all of them will feel like this, it took me a long time to realise this but the truth is why wouldn’t they?

With one child it’s simpler to work on creating those secure attachments and life can be enjoyed, you can build the trust, you can concentrate your efforts solely and get through the tough times together with no added complications. Then comes along child number two. Suddenly life is as complicated and confusing as it’s going to get. You need to create a bond with your second child but yet maintain a good bond with your first child but then you have to consider that your first child still needs that concentrated effort of attention but your second child needs it just as much or actually more and the more one needs it the more the other needs it.  Even thinking about it sends my head into a spin.

I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the time one child is going to feel like their nose has been put out of joint. The squabbles and bids for my attention are never ending. I might sound bitter, I am not. What I am is stretched to my limits. Whatever my moves are with one child I have to make sure I have the other child in mind, ready to spring into quick-witted action, I have to be forward thinking. If anyone has ever met me, I think they would agree that quick-witted or forward thinking would not be the first words you would use to describe me. I am a thinker, I like to take my time to mull something over, I am not really very good at being one step ahead unless I have already learned previously from a similiar mistake and I guess that’s the important thing, learning from the mistakes.

Take for instance the other day. Girl came home from school and Boy laid into her as he does most days. Whatever she picks up he wants, ‘it’s mine (whether it is or isn’t), I want it’. If she sits down he shouts ‘my chair, me sit there’. Resigned, Girl slipped to her room quietly with the excuse she was going to the toilet. After twenty minutes I went to check on her and she was sitting playing snap with herself on the floor, looking utterly miserable. I tried to talk to her but she was stubborn that she was not going to say she was sad about Boy picking on her again so I suggested she find her Guess Who game and I would play that with her  (while I cooked the dinner I hasten to add). To cut a long story short (because it really is dull), Boy soon sniffed out that Girl was having ‘Fun with Mummy’ and he was not. Much squawking later Girl is happy but Boy is not and refuses to eat his dinner, he suddenly has tummy ache, leg ache and mouth ache (and Mummy has a headache Boy dearest). In hindsight I could have picked a game for us all to play but Girl looked so sad I thought she needed some special attention but by doing that I put Boy’s nose out of joint. What do I do? Is there ever a point of mummy coming out champion of everything?

It’s not just Boy being mean to Girl, we do get the opposite where Girl has tried to push herself into whatever activity Boy is doing. She calls it sharing but differently to boy it’s more sly. Boy will just shout his desires, ‘mine, I want it’  but Girl pushes herself into Boy’s space so eventually he is pushed out of the activity altogether, comic reading, brushing the dog, playing on the ride-on motorbike etc.

Our (new) family therapist told us to consider that in parenting terms having one adopted child is the equivalent of having two children, just in sheer input and extra measures we have to take. In my words I would say adopted children have extra needs, not necessarily special needs, just extra needs. They have been to the dark side, they need to know they won’t be there again and every move towards the sibling is a small rejection for them, I think that’s important to understand.

I hear so many adopters excited by the prospect of a second adoption, frustrated at having to wait the two years required by most adoption authorities and possibly more excited than when they adopted the first child. I have been there myself. The grim reality is, it’s bloody hard work parenting two very needy children and juggling all the different sized balls that come with adoption but by golly I must be a glutton for punishment because I actually love it. Honestly at times I have felt like I haven’t liked it very much, that the incessant demands for my attention have been overwhelming but I would not change a thing.  The moments when you get it right I am sure feel a million times better because those cuddles and smiles, moments of relaxation are fought so hard for.

8 Responses to Sibling Rivalry and Adoption

  • claire says:

    Brilliantly written and all so so famiiliar but obviously with the added complexity of all 3 girls having landed at the same time :/ sadly though there’s lots I would change looking back x

  • Emma Hunter says:

    Think that was written with me in mind although mine arrived at the same time I have the constant thoughts of “is it a twin thing or adoption thing?” I have no idea half of the time and I’m not sure it matters. I just know I feel depleted of emotional energy most of the time!

    • AdoptiveMummy says:

      Having the adoption thing always makes it harder to work out what’s normal or not and then being twins on top of that, yikes you must be supermum!

  • Vicki says:

    Brilliant post and so well written. I find that having adopted first, then birth child second that brings lots of issues into the mix…the sense of competition is enormous, and Mini feels different – he knows he doesn’t look like me and hubby, whereas Dollop does, his personality and character are different whereas Dollop has very similar traits to me and hubby, he is jealous of the time I spend with Dollop because she’s not at school and he is. We’ve had many occasions like the one you write about, and Guess Who has been involved here too!

    There is lots I would change – better preparation for Mini, more thought during the early days, but I love my kids and despite the arguments they love each other too :-)

  • Missy says:

    Oh I hear this!!! First adoption – piece of cake (infant girl adoption) Second adoption (5 yo boy) ok, tough at first but after a year – ice cream to go with cake!! Push our luck – 3rd adoption (6 yo girl) and whoa!! Pretty sure we angered the sibling gods with that one.. oh, AND 3rd child is 7 months OLDER than first.. and the girls are in the same grade. I am finding the jealousy and bids for my attention to be the hardest to deal with. Newbie has some behavioral challenges.. and that too takes a toll. I wouldn’t trade any one of my three – but it is exhausting and a bit of a trapeze act – balancing the needs of my children with that of my career and hubby! But – it is still amazing that we get to parent these three amazing little people!! :-)

  • Missy says:

    I have a hairdresser on speed dial – so no grey hairs visible. It is hard work – but I honestly don’t feel it is more than having 3 bio chilliez. Kids are different and have different needs.. frankly parenting is a lot like kindergarten rules “you get what you get and you don’t get upset!” LOL I love my chilliez all three and I wouldn’t change them… maybe I would change the road they had to take to get to me… but their story is part of who they are and why I love them so much…

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