Chapter 10 – Blending a Family – Parent Discussion

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Coming Together to Make a Unit

Chapter 10 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling ends with a brilliant quote:

“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.”

Ron and Harry really were having a bit of difficulty getting along with Hermione, and the three of them were not doing well as part of the same Hogwarts house, which is supposed to be their team, their family.

In their discussion of this chapter, the Transfiguring Adoption kids focused on their relationships with each other, blending an adoptive family, and coming to trust one another as family. They discussed events that brought us all closer. You can read their blog here.

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Don’t You Remember What It Was Like?!

The most interesting part of the conversation to us as the parents was how they all seemed so perplexed when Darren asked them what brought them to feel like and treat each other as siblings, and how our daughter said, “We’ve always gotten along.” It was not that many years ago that we started trying to blend our family, and it was about as successful at times as Ron, Harry, and Hermione’s relationship early in their time at Hogwarts.

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Past Experiences Working Against Us

Our younger two kiddos came to us after 8 months in foster care, and we were foster home number 5. Our older two came to us after 5 years in foster care, and we were foster home number 7. If you can only imagine being ripped away from everyone and everything you knew that many times and all the instability and all the lies (or perceptions of lies) by adults you would have experienced, you can begin to get the first small inklings of what would result when trying to establish a family, whether temporary or permanent.

Why bother to remember any of your new friends’ or family members’ names? You’re only going to move again. Why trust the new parents or siblings? They’re only going to let you down or send you packing. And what’s up with every place having different rules or expectations? It’s a bit like Harry in the beginning of this chapter trying to learn the foreign game of Quidditch in this foreign society he has joined.

Life was pretty rough a lot of days. I remember an evening out on the front porch having a tearful, gut-wrenching conversation with a caseworker during which I seriously questioned whether all of us could continue to live together and wondered aloud whether one child in particular would ever grow to accept us as parents and siblings and ever be happy in our household. (Oddly enough, this child’s reaction was probably the most “normal” due to the circumstances and though horrible at the time, this child is probably the most adapted and attached of all of them.) All of the kids’ past experiences before and during foster care worked against us coming together as one solid family unit.

Birth Order

It was not necessarily our intention to adopt out of birth order. There is often discussion among adoptive families and professionals about whether or not it is a good idea; though I feel every situation is different, and we cannot make blanket statements about whether adopting out of birth order is “good” or “bad.” Jasmine and Dalton were placed in our home as foster children. We were unsure if they would eventually be legally free for us to adopt. As adoption was always our end goal, we were in the meantime looking for an adoptive placement. The whole story of how Cody and Matthew came to be that adoptive placement we were looking for will be the meat of another blog I must write soon.

The result of the order in which the kids moved in was complex. First, we had six months (minus times when Cody and Matthew did transitional visits with us over a period of a few months) alone with Jasmine and Dalton, who were younger, had been in care a shorter time, and had fewer moves. All of this resulted in an easier bonding process. Cody and Matthew were older, had been in more homes, and therefore had much more baggage. They weren’t the only kids in the home, and attachment was harder to establish as a result of all this. All the kids got less attention, and more and more problems erupted over a series of months as they tried to establish their place in the rank. Jasmine and Cody began duking it out for firstborn status. While Matthew was a middle child with two biological siblings who followed in the two years following his birth, and Dalton was always the youngest, Jasmine and Cody were both used to being the firstborns, and they literally started fighting over it…repeatedly…for months, until they eventually ended up in counseling together. Throw in all the kids varying special needs, and it made for quite an interesting couple years.

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Bonding Over Similar Experiences or Feelings

Our kids listed in their blog some of the ways they bonded as siblings. You can read their ideas, and I will focus on one here that they may or may not be in tune with yet. This experience actually happened fairly recently, and I don’t think they even understand what took place. It came when one child, who seems to have the most trouble recognizing the two non-biological siblings as siblings, and who I feel has some real unresolved issues with being separated from biological siblings, realized that one of those non-biological siblings has a biological sibling separation as well. There was a palpable change in the atmosphere in the room as I could see the realization taking root in this child’s brain, and over a course of days I noticed subtle changes of treatment towards the other child. Though the situations are quite different, there was a bonding that took place as they discussed not being with their respective biological siblings.

Are We There Yet?

I wouldn’t say we have arrived. I wouldn’t say the kids necessarily all view each other completely as siblings. Matter of fact, there is one of the children that I can say without a doubt does not feel this way and treats the others poorly as a result, whether this child even consciously realizes there are issues there that have not been dealt with. Not to say that I can read this child’s mind, but behavior can be very telling.

I have hope though. We are NOT the family we started out as. The fact that the kids don’t really remember how rough our beginnings were is encouraging, and we continue to become more and more one single family unit, with all the complexities of biological/adoptive extended family members intertwined.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve seen in blending a family? What have the rewards been?
  2. What about the past is an obstacle for the individuals in your household to being connected as a family?
  3. Have you brought kids into your home out of birth order? What are your thoughts on when this may or may not be a good idea?
  4. What similar experiences or feelings have helped your family to like each other?
  5. What progress have you seen? Take a moment to reflect as often changes are subtle and happen over time so that we lose perspective and don’t notice.

 

Parents’ Discussions:

Ch. 01 | Ch. 02 | Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Kids’ Discussions:
Ch. 01
| Ch. 02Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Chapter 10 – Kid Discussion – Blending an adoptive family

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“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Ron and Harry just were not getting along with Hermione until they all had to confront the mountain troll together and then face the angry teachers. A birth family naturally has experiences that bond them together. When a baby is born, it is scared and helpless to be out in the open. In the ideal situation the biological mom and dad are there to comfort the baby and care for its needs. When a baby is learning to walk, mom and dad are there to comfort them when they fall down. When a child is sick, the biological parents check on the kiddo and make sure that they are nursed back to health. There are so many other natural events where a family (in an ideal situation) has a chance to help each other and take care of each other. This earns a deep amount of trust.

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If you’re in an adoptive and/or foster family, you possibly didn’t have these experiences with your family. You have to work at finding the trust. I asked my kids about this situation. I wanted to find out what events made them want to treat each other like brother and sister since they are not all biological siblings. They all looked at me with odd and surprised faces.

“We’ve always gotten along,” replied my daughter.

My wife and I chuckled and gently reminded her that she was in counseling with another one of the boys for a time because they disliked each other very much. There was actually probably a time when we weren’t sure if all the adoptions could happen if the two didn’t learn how to live with each other.

“There was actually probably a time when we weren’t sure if all the adoptions could happen if the two didn’t learn how to live with each other.”

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As we discussed things with each other more, I don’t think we could find one event that helped our family but lots of small events that added up to helping. These events were mostly in times of great trouble or when we were outside of our normal routine. For example:

  • We took a vacation for one week where all four kids were together for the first time. During the trip they had fun together, had to make sure that each other stayed together and safe inside the theme park we were at and they got into trouble together. This whole trip gave them stories together that they could talk about later. “Remember when we tried to get so-and-so on the roller coaster but he was too short.” “Remember the large hill we had to walk up in the middle of the park and we thought our legs would fall off.”
  • When stormy weather approached and a tornado warning was in effect, our family banded together while taking shelter. We waited the storm out for almost 30 minutes and within that time kids helped each other and comforted each other. Experiences and stories were created in that time. “Remember when we all squeezed inside so-and-so’s closet.” “Remember how scared so-and-so was and I held onto them.” “It’s funny to think that grandma had to get in there with us.” “Remember that so-and-so was so scared they accidentally farted.”
  • Every Friday our family stops everything they are doing and has a family movie night. This might be an old favorite like one of the Harry Potter movies or Wreck-It Ralph. We most often like to watch something new. The simple act of watching a movie together creates experiences and memories too. We actually are closer together as a family because of it. Recently we actually watched the movie Blended. It’s about a single dad and a single mom whose lives accidentally come together on a vacation. The parents and their kids do activities together at the resort. The experience our family brought away from this movie was a funny song sung by the master of ceremonies through the movie. Whenever he caught people bonding, he would sing, “They are bonding … they are blending.” Yes. Our kids sing that song anytime they see anyone in our family caring for each other now.

Now it’s Your Turn:

  1. Why was Hermione always so frustrated with Harry and Ron?
  2. Do you think Harry and Ron would have befriended Hermione if they hadn’t fought the troll?
  3. Why did fighting the troll make all three of them friends?
  4. What is an adventure or trip you have done with your foster/adoptive family?
  5. What are 3 things about the trip you can say, “Remember when…” about?
  6. What is the next adventure you would like to do? Movie night? A trip?

Help Others:

What do you think about this chapter? Your thoughts or questions will help someone else. Please put them in the comments section below.

Kids’ Discussions:
Ch. 01
| Ch. 02Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Parents’ Discussions:

Ch. 01 | Ch. 02 | Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17