Before adoption became a reality in our family, we brought our three biological boys into the mix. Even though it took ten years for my husband to finally see adoption as the way to complete our family, we expected our boys to make a decision in a shorter amount of time. After our first conversation with the agency, we had a family meeting to discuss adding a sister to our testosterone-filled family. Each child held his own vote and if ANY of them said no, the discussion would be over and we would not move forward.
My husband and I remember it like it was yesterday, instead of almost 5 years ago. We were in the car. We told the boys we needed to hold a family meeting and explained what it was about. We told the boys that we wanted to hear their concerns and if they wanted to move forward with adoption and adding a sister to our family. Almost immediately our oldest son, who was almost 12 at the time, said yes; shortly after our youngest chimed in with an excited yes as well. Silence abounded from our 9-year-old middle son. I can still feel myself holding my breath waiting for his response.
In order to understand where we were coming from with our middle son, you must understand the background. He was supposed to be our girl. That is what people think . . . you have one boy, and one girl, and it’s the million dollar family. As if you can pick your children. Biologically or adopted, we believed that you get what you get and you are happy about it. But, in my mind’s eye, you were supposed to have one of each and be done.
Little did I know that we would have three boys whom we were grateful were born healthy after complicated pregnancies. Hence why we ended here with the adoption question. Another pregnancy would not be healthy for me. We wanted four children. And while we were adding anyway, we would like a girl in the mix. We had often teased our middle son that he was supposed to be our girl, maybe too emphatically. Call us mean and unfeeling, but it was always done in jest and usually at the heels of something crazy our youngest son did that upset our middle . . . ”Well you know, if you had been a girl, there would have not been a third . . . ” (We were totally joking! We love all of our boys and are crazy about each of them. We made the decision to have a third child because someone was missing from our family.)
When you look at birth order, the middle child is usually very social, flexible, and a good negotiator. They may struggle with their sense of identity and relate more to friends than family members. They tend to be peacemakers. Our middle child is being raised by two middle children, and we must say that our son is not much like this, and neither are his father or I. Our only agreement is that middle children tend to be more successful in life than their siblings. (HA! We have to have something, you know!) Our middle son is a rigid, black-and-white thinker, and stirs the pot waaaaayyy more than he settles it. But he is compassionate, deeply feeling, and has a heart of gold. He is an out-loud thinker, much like his mother. If he thinks it, it usually has already flown out of his mouth without consideration of its affect on others. (He’ll outgrow it, I’m sure.) He defends the underdog and will often speak out when he feels others are being treated wrongly. He felt very secure in his all-boy family with Mom fully ensconced in their all-boy world. If there were a girl involved, would we be a family divided? What would adding a girl mean to him, specifically?
As we all waited with baited breath for his response, our breathing seemed abnormally loud and I stared out the windshield with my hands clenched.
“No,” he finally said. “I do not want to adopt. I do not want a sister. No.”
Whoosh! The air was sucked out of the car. Quietly and calmly I turned to him with a small smile. “Ok, then, we won’t. The topic is closed. We won’t bring it up again.” As my husband reached over and took my hand, my eyes filled with tears.
With his arms crossed, our middle son sat back in his seat at the back of the van. Quietly we heard our oldest son turn to him and ask if they could talk. He asked him why he had said no. He reminded him how I had always wanted to raise a girl. That adding to our family would never take away from any of them, only add to. Again he said, “How can you say no? Why not say you need to think about it?” (Our oldest son is more of a peacemaker than our middle.) After a few minutes, our middle son piped up. “I changed my mind. I needed to think about it. I think we should look into adopting a sister. I think we should do it.” And with that, the ball was rolling.
Our boys were very involved in our adoption process. We explained every step, how everything worked. We explained our time frame and what may or may not happen. We were open with them when we were matched. That our daughter’s expectant mom could change her mind. That we could come home empty-armed. What it would be like for the family if that happened. What it would be like if we did bring her home.
Throughout it all, our middle son was right in the mix. Asking questions. Looking at little girl items to fill her room. We had them all involved in naming her, with a “majority rules” winner. I was outbid. But in the end, I figured I was the biggest winner, so I conceded graciously. When we left to fly out to pick up our little girl who had been born the night before, our middle son was beyond excited. He wanted to see pictures of her right away. He was worried we would not come home with her. He attached to her before he ever held her in his arms.
And today, they are the best of friends. You can find him lying in her bed reading her books before bedtime. She gets piggy-back rides when her legs are tired at amusement parks. He pushes her on the swing, jumps on the trampoline with her, and catches her when she jumps in the pool. He is her biggest champion, sitting through dance recitals and school programs. This middle son, who was so sure he didn’t want a sister, now says he can’t imagine our lives without her. And neither can we. Because our little girl has taught her brothers to be more caring, softer, more gentle, and sillier.
Plus, our middle guy realized that by adding a fourth child, he now bumped his baby brother into a middle child role, too. Hey, there had to be some additional benefit to him, didn’t there?? Besides a sweet little sister, that is.
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