The Captain and Tinker

Last week we had company from England: my friend Sarah and her boyfriend, Glenn. This was wonderful, a delight, a pure treasure. Nonetheless, it threw the little ones into a tizzy.

This is one of the occasions in which the differences between adopting a sibling group of non-newborns and newborn adoption shows up. When the “Bigs” were little, they were secure in their attachment to us; they came to us as infants. These kids are less secure. After 15 months, they know they are here “for keeps” and probably have few conscious memories of their previous moves, but new people still make them nervous. Very nervous.

Our 2-year-old is the least affected, probably because he was only 10 months old when they came. The other two (ages 3 and 4) were — how shall I put this — challenging. They climbed all over people (including our guests) like monkeys. They pulled our guests’ hair. They dumped their milk out and splashed in it. They vied for attention any way they could dream up. They cried. A lot.

I talked to them, I reassured them, I kept one of them almost constantly in arms. I spent private time with them. I gave them extra sweets.

Nonetheless, this is their coping mechanism. It only took a day or two for the baby to catch on to the mischeif-making and join in. The crying is the hardest for me. That’s because these are the happiest kids you have ever met. They are smiley. They are joyful. The crying is what underlined their insecurities for me.

I’m not trying to scare anyone off. Yet, I do think that when you are bringing in a sibling group or even one older child, it is helpful to be prepared for such things. Kids who have been moved around a lot are going to be insecure even if they do not have attachment disorder. It may not be company that sets them off, it may be the doctor’s office or something that seems completely innocuous to you.

The good news is that it does get better over time. Slowly but surely, every time I can see improvement. What helps is planning in advance. The housework may have to slide a bit to add in extra cuddling time. Eating at home helps. Everyone (including Mom!) getting lots of sleep is key. It also really makes a difference if I sit down with our guests and explain what’s going on. And then, just love them to pieces!