Creating connections with Adoption Choices families

Posts tagged ‘siblings’

Supernanny 911!

It looks so easy on TV!  How come when Supernanny enters a home, she immediately gets respect and results?  It seems somewhat real but can it be that easy? 

Maybe those parents just aren’t in control of their kids.  Those parents just don’t get the basic principles behind raising children.  Those parents let their kids act like barbarians.  They don’t say no with conviction.  They are letting their kids walk all over them.  They let their tweens set the rules of the house.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM?   WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? 

We follow Supernanny’s instructions………..…..sort of.

We are consistent……………………………….…….…most of the time.  

We hold our ground………..…………………………..usually.

We say NO firmly and with conviction…………..typically.

We remember to praise good behavior………….more often than not.

We follow through with consequences ……….…sometimes.

We take a tone of authority……………………….….at least we think we do.

We demand the respect that we deserve……….occasionally.

SO WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG?

As you may have predicted, we know exactly what we are doing wrong!  But how do we stop.  We do try to be strong, firm, and demand respect but we get worn down.  How many times can we put Bruiser on the step for a timeout when he gets up the second we turn our backs?  We have spent upwards of an hour with the back and forth between the step and wherever he chooses to go.    Oh…but then Bruiser’s twin, Princess, she has her own little method of removing parental power.  She will go to the step……and make the best of it.  She doesn’t consider it punishment.  She will sit and sing a song and basically defy all logical consequences inherent in the “dreaded” timeout.  Then, there is the big brother.  JJ too has his own little twist to the timeout, he develops some sort of hypochondriacal response to the timeout.  First it is the moan, then the flailing hands due to the pain, then the ice that he needs to sooth his aching head…..eventually he will make it to the step but not before the academy award winning performance of “Why Does Everyone Hate Me?”

What are we doing wrong?  Basically, a little bit of everything.  We know where to make changes.  We try to adjust our behavior but haven’t been too successful.  I guess that our only option is to bank on the old parent adage, “this stage too will pass.”

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Adrienne is a recently unemployed (correction-not so recent) mom of a pre-teen son (JJ) who has aspirations of owning a sports company, a set of boy/girl toddler twins—one (Bruiser) with a compulsion to build and hoard, and the other (Princess) a diva in training, a Havanese (cute, fluffy dog) velcro-ed  to my ankle and a wonderful husband, David, who keeps the family happy and wife sane!

Toddlers Unite!

“Daddy, want picture rainbow” says Maximus the other day.  This request was not tied to having seen a rainbow anywhere within the past 6 months, he just happened to want a picture of a rainbow at that moment.  Such a simple, sweet request that took our breath away.  And, I might add, a welcome antidote to the stark-raving crazy tantrum he had just a few minutes before because he didn’t want his diaper changed. How can this delicious little ukele-playing 2 & 1/2 year old summon so much rage when we are just trying to restore him to his sweet-smelling self?

The emotional ups and downs of toddlerhood are INSANE. Every time I walk past a parent in public who seems to have a peaceful toddler I wonder if only a few moments ago they too were making it clear that mommy isn’t to be hit/kicked, and if they are also waiting for the next tantrum time-bomb to go off.  I can’t believe the things I used to take for granted – leaving the house, getting into the car, walking up the stairs, eating a meal, moving quickly and efficiently throughout my day. Now everything is a battle of the wills that has makes us at least a half hour late for all of our commitments. “I do self!” is the warning shot, but often actually is just a bluff that really means “I have no intention whatsoever of doing what you want me to do”.  The daily battles have made me wonder who on earth ever decides to bring second child into their lives when their 1st is anywhere between 2 & 3.  Do these people have a muscle for patience that I don’t? Do they have bigger hearts than I do? I have several friends with multiple children and I want to be like them, calm and rolling with the punches, not concerned that leaving the house requires military-style planning or that 4 days might roll by before they even get into the garage.  I honestly fear that if we brought a second into our lives, we might never leave the house again. Or if we did, we might never make it back up the 3 flights of stairs to our apartment, forever stationed in the entry way of our building. There we would be, an exasperated, grubby pile of a family with the smallest members screaming out unrelenting demands:

“want raisins!”

“don’t want wear pants!”

“where’s my penguin?!”

“no go upstairs!”

And then I try to think about how we’d be doubling our joy and that the positive part of the equation probably only requires a few sweet things to happen each day. Like the request for a picture of a rainbow.  Or today when I told him a surprise visitor was coming over who would want to give him a big hug.  “And big kiss?” he said.  “Yes!” I confirmed.  “And nibble my toes?”  wanting to understand exactly how much love would be coming his way.  It’s moments like this when I think maybe I could do it, and that I probably owe it to Maximus to give him a little brother or sister.  To have someone who looks like him and can relate to the adoption questions and challenges he’ll face as he gets older, to have someone to play with, to have a mentee in his “Toddlers Unite!” empowerment program.  I think an adoptive parent of an only child probably feels much more guilt about not adding to their family, because I think you can argue adoptees need siblings even more.

But then I go back to thinking about how I don’t think I have double the patience.  And how we’re so lucky to have such a healthy child who seems to be developing on track. And how we can give Maximus more if he’s the only one – education, travel, etc.  But fast-forward 20 years; would he rather have had a better education and trips, or would he rather have had a sibling?   You ask me that, growing up with an older brother who made being mean a sport, and I might have preferred the travel.  You ask my husband, only child of a doting Jewish mother, and he’d have preferred the sibling.  My husband definitely wants to double the fun but is willing to go with what I want.

So I wait for my epiphany.  The day it strikes me like a lightening bolt what to do.  Or maybe it will come in a dream and I’ll awake with a new found clarity and inner calm that all my friends with multiple children seem to have.  Or maybe it will spring from another sweet moment with Maximus, like when we’re done with the last book at night and he says “Snuggle with Mommy?”  Or when I get in the car with him after work and say “I missed you today” and he says “I missed you too!”  Can I possibly miss having 2 pudgy little faces smiling back at me???  We’ll see.

Is Adoption an Option?

Three years after our first son was born, my husband and I started to think about expanding our family.  As each of the next few years passed, there always seemed to be a reason to wait.  After all, I was working a ton of hours, then my husband’s company went under, then I started a new job, my husband started a new job.  Timing was never right……but then again when is it.  Well, once we took the leap to move forward….we hit a roadblock, multiple miscarriages.  Each miscarriage was attributed to some sort of genetic issue that could not be identified by the doctors.  After miscarriage #4, my husband and I agreed that we did want another child and that adoption was a great option. 

Questions were overwhelming:  What agency? International? Domestic? Newborn? Match through an agency, lawyer or facilitator?  Would we love an adopted child the same way we love our biological son?  How would our family react?  How would our older son take it? Would the 6 year age difference between the children be too much? What if we don’t get chosen?  Would I be able to deal with an adoption, when I would have so little control over the situation?  These questions were just the tip of the iceberg.

 With all these questions looming, we jumped in and started our research.  And one by one, we answered each of the above questions.  

 After one year of waiting, we were matched with a wonderful 37 year old birthmother from Florida.  She and I hit it off right away!  We spoke weekly and candidly.  I heard how she grew up, her challenges and uphill battles.  I heard how proud she was of the children that she raised and even of the little girl that she had placed for adoption with another family three years prior.  Each call brought us closer to her and closer to our baby.  Then, one month after being matched……….we got the call from our social worker.  She said, “Adrienne, nothing is wrong but I need you to sit down and get David on the phone, have him lay down.”  We followed her directions, very anxious to hear what she was about to tell us. And then she said, “It is twins!”  We were floored!  A whole new set of questions started to flow through our minds.  David freaked out and obsessed about how our son wouldn’t be able to handle twins.  Well, a few days later after the initial shock subsided, David decided that our 6 year old son would be the deciding factor as to whether we would consider twins.  (BTW–there was no considering that needed to be done–I knew that we were going to adopt the twins, regardless—however, I wasn’t sure how long it would take David to accept that).  David came right out and asked our son how he would feel if we adopted twin sisters.  Our son thought about it and said, “Dad, I am ok with twins but I want a brother and sister.” 

From his mouth to G-d’s ears, on November 2, 2006, our boy/girl twins were born.  The anxiety, the questions, the lack of control, the decisions…….as hard as they were, could not have delivered anything more wonderful.  We love all of our children more than we could have imagined.

SIBLING “ARRIVALRY”

In November, 2006, our then 6 year old son, JJ, flew down to Florida with his Grandfather to meet up with us after we had taken guardianship of our newly born boy/girl twins. Little did he understand that his life had just changed forever as he knew it, as the only child who got 100% of our attention. Now, the focus would be divided, yet we didn’t have to explain to him that these newborns would get most of our attention for obvious reasons.

Adrienne and I could not have asked for a more wonderful early “Chanukah gift” that year. Of course, we consider all three of our children, the ultimate “gifts from God,” regardless how they came to us. However, I’m speaking about how JJ immediately fell in love with the twins himself. From the moment he met his new brother and sister that day in November, he never displayed any act of resentment, jealousy, or anger, as we understand how some children do react negatively when their “only child” existence is taken away. We certainly believe that his age of 6 was the right age to introduce siblings. Perhaps it could’ve taken a different turn had JJ been younger.

Fast forward to the present. JJ, Bruiser and Princess are ages 10 ½ , and 4, respectively.
JJ’s relationships with his brother and sister are everything you’d expect from siblings at these ages. “Love/hate” comes to mind at best describing the superficial exterior layer between them because of the constant bickering, rough-housing, and so-called rage that bubbles up from time to time. But aren’t sibling relationships typical of this at these young ages anywhere, in any household? We know deep down inside, all three children love each other dearly. Three different personalities, three different children, brought together under one roof, sharing the common bond of what is fostered in our home; love, respect, and acknowledgement of each child’s individuality.

Love and Family Ties

I’ve been thinking a lot about becoming a grandmother this week, which is odd, since my kids are under five and I’m not quite forty.  What’s sparked these thoughts? Well, I just found out that my youngest daughter’s birth mom is six months pregnant with her second child, whom she will parent. I still think of my youngest’s birth mom as a kid, perhaps because her birth mom is my age (which makes me old enough to be my youngest’s grandmother, thank you very much!), or perhaps because when I was her age, I still felt like a kid. Truthfully, I’m not quite sure how to think about this new addition to our lives yet.

How will this new baby fit into our family dynamics?  The baby will be my youngest’s half-birth sibling; will he/she also be my oldest’s half-birth sister or brother?  Hypothetically speaking; if my sister has a sister, that sister is also my sister, right? Wrong? Does it matter? My oldest has a teenaged half-birth brother, who we refer to as her brother.  But when my youngest is speaking of him, she calls him by his first name, rather than referring to him as her brother.

Where is this imaginary familial tie line? It is so blurred in our family that I feel the need to define it a bit. For example, I have two half sisters myself, whom I call my sisters; it confuses people since my sisters are quite a bit younger than I am.  I often qualify the reference to my sisters for people who do not know my family of origin by saying, “they are from my dad and stepmom’s marriage”.  Moreover, my children call my close friend “Tia”, Spanish for Aunt. We form all of these “family” ties without any real explanation to the kids. And they seem to get it. I guess it seems simple to the kids. From my daughters viewpoint they seem to define those who are in their family as people who love them, come to their birthday parties, send them Christmas presents, and are excited to hear about their first days of school. However, as an adult, I often get stuck defining who is in my family. Are they a beneficiary of my will?  Are they my emergency contact? Can they pick my kids up from school? Are they related by adoption, birth, or by marriage? Would I loan them money if they were short one month? Are they sitting at my Thanksgiving table? Do we support each other’s dreams?

My husband and I tried to tackle the subject of family a few years ago when we were first diving into the deep end of opening our adoptions. We met with a therapist and he challenged us to define what it means to be a part of our family, and to look at the people in our lives and, see how they fit. By the miracle that is Gmail, I just retrieved a copy of what we wrote. It took us five rounds of discussion to boil down our definition of what it means to be a part of our family. (This is the generic/simplified version, there are many sub-bullets that further defined things for us, but I won’t bore you with those)

  • We love you and our children love you
  • We care for each other and rely on each other for support and encouragement
  • We support your hopes and dreams and care about your future
  • We celebrate holidays and special occasions together
  • We’ll help and support you when you are in need
  • We trust each other enough to say when we think you are making a mistake or have a disagreement and still be family
  • We share a common history and participate in each other’s lives
  • We share similar beliefs and values

As a result of looking back on this work that we did a few years ago, I am reminded what it means to be a part of my family. I can see where this new lil one will fit into our dynamic and into our definition of family. He or she will be a lil sister or brother, a lil birth sister or birth brother, a lil half-birth sister or half-birth brother to my girls, and most importantly, a new family member for all of us to love. (ok, and to buy cute outfits for-I mentioned that I’ve been thinking like a grandma right?!)

Love and the Minivan

As a modern woman, I thought minivans were for old people, for those 40 plus moms who wear holsters with juice boxes and granola bars, and who live and breathe to chauffer their little ones to and from soccer, piano, and ballet lessons. Minivans were not for me. I drove a sensible, fuel-efficient, and safe car, that the kids fit in, but that didn’t have a single “My kids the student of the month” sticker on it, like every minivan I’d ever seen. Sure, I struggled to get the ever-loving car seats in and out of the car without gouging my shins, bumping my noggin, or swearing so loud that the neighbors took notice, but at least I was not one of those minivan moms. Then one day things changed and I began to see the light.

Our family’s obsession with getting a minivan started a few years ago when we rented one while on a trip to visit my oldest daughter’s birth family.  For me it was a miracle; everything fit in the minivan, two kids strapped in car seats, two moms, one dad, one teenaged brother, a stroller, the largest suitcase Lands End sells, and a bushel of lovies, pacis, books and toys to keep the two kids strapped in car seats, happy. For my oldest daughter, the big brother sitting in the third row, was the best part of the minivan.  My oldest daughter’s birth brother was seated behind her and he was playing with her hair. It was such a simple and loving act that my oldest daughter’s brother performed each time we piled back into the minivan.  He sat and just twirled her hair, like it was their usual routine. Although they had just met, it was not the awkward touch of a stranger, it was the magic that happens between siblings, and the most cherished memory my oldest daughter has from that visit.

Our obsession grew each time we borrowed my mother-in-law’s seven-passenger car to road trip it to visit my youngest daughter’s birth family.  The roominess, the DVD player, the cup holders; I began to love all the practical bits and pieces that came with large-car driving. My kids began to love the association between three rows of seating, and seeing their birth families. We would drive and scoop up my youngest’s birth mom and head to the aquarium, the zoo, out to lunch, back for naps and hang out time.  There is room in the minivan for giggles and smiles, look-how-big-you’ve gotten and hugs. I began to think the minivan was truly a family car, an open-adoptive family car.

My husband loved that the girls and I were obsessed with the minivan, but he wasn’t so convinced we needed to trade in our economy car for a luxury van. The doors slide, I told him. There’s room for everyone, my girls said. He still wasn’t convinced, but we got one anyways, because he loves our family. We’re now one of those families with a family car, and I’m one of those minivan moms, which I never wanted to be, but truly love being. I’m an adoptive mom with two wonderful girls, one terrific husband, and one big and loving family that all fit in my new minivan.

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