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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- What have been the biggest challenges you’ve seen in blending a family? What have the rewards been?
- What about the past is an obstacle for the individuals in your household to being connected as a family?
- 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?
- What similar experiences or feelings have helped your family to like each other?
- 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.