"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sibling Relationships

~ Brother let me be your fortress ~ 
~ When the night winds are driving on ~ 
~ Be the one to light the way ~
click to listen to Needtobreathe's "Brother" 

Among the handful of critical factors that led to my very happy healthy childhood, my sibling relationships are among the most treasured.  

(1) God's abundant grace, 
(2) two totally awesome parents, 
(3) a little brother and sister I cannot imagine life without, 
(4) running track, and 
(5) farm life.  

I don't live in the same state as either of my siblings now, but I still love them dearly and certainly think that for at least the first eighteen years of my life, they played one of the most important roles in developing who I am.  We don't even really have that much in common, they're introverts and I'm an extrovert.  I was the smallest but oldest, fastest but dumbest, and certainly the nicest ;) !  My brother is known by all as the "perfect" one, and my sister the "precious" one, or wait, do I have that backward?  All I know for sure is that I wasn't either...!  (Yes! My siblings and I were competitive!)  But seriously, our inside jokes from decades ago still make me laugh so hard I cry, and those two probably still know me better than most other people in my life.  

I mean no disrespect to only children, but siblings are the best!  (Cousins too!)  And dare I sound like a na├»ve newly adoptive parent, I don't see any reason why adopted siblings should be any different. 

As we discerned adoption for our family, we thought a lot about how we as parents, as well as our biological son (age 4 at the time of our adoption), would bond.  We worried about whether our bond would be as strong an instantaneous unconditional love as it had been the first time.  I'm extremely pleased to report that it absolutely was.  We have been completely adoring our adopted son just as wonderfully as we have our biological son. 

What's more, our sons have bonded easily as well.  The four year old has been anticipating his sibling's arrival for quite some time now.  He may not remember it but, "mommy, stop crying," and a face smack from him were frequent occurrences for me during his third year.  While we struggled through miscarriage after miscarriage, our son was in a phase where he never wanted to see mommy cry.  It was one of the things that made that phase so tough for me; because I felt like I couldn't even be real at home, until after 8pm.  But, I digress, the point is that he knew he had a brother or sister on the way, for more than two years now.  

Together, we prayed for our babies.  The sick ones in the womb and then the one that was to come through the precious miracle of adoption.  We prayed for a match, and (funny story!) we prayed that the woman who picked us would live close enough to drive.  Big brother didn't know what to think at first when God matched us more than 2000 miles away!  But, through his little brother, even before he was officially in our family, our older son has learned that some things in life don't come easy... and that they're completely worth waiting for.  

Sibling relationships are invaluable like that.  They teach you some of life's greatest lessons in all the most natural ways.  Our sons are learning how to be empathic at a young age.  Our older son has heard some tough conversations in his four short years and in all likelihood both our boys will learn to be comfortable with a unique dialogue that I wasn't mature enough to navigate until at least my 20's or 30's.  Overall, that is so good for them.  

I know from having been the older sibling, that my older son has great responsibility and great honor ahead of him being the eldest.  I look forward to watching him mature in that relationship.  

Already, there are small and adorable developments.  He shades his brother's eyes from the camera flash and he shows off by jumping fancy crazy jumps for him.  Meanwhile, my younger son's eyes fill with adoration and his mouth gapes with smiles as the older boy flails his body around!  Their mutual love is already evident; their companionship developing.  They've already built, and loved, their first fort.    

It's hard to say if our family is going to be a conspicuous family, especially since our family may not yet be complete.  This is something we spent quite a bit of time thinking about before entering into adoption.  Being part of one domestic newborn adoption so far, we've been thoughtful with our openness.  We had an uncomfortable realization of our white privilege, something I'm ashamed to admit I didn't even appreciate until recently.  Any effects all this may have on our family remain to be seen, and I pray I'll respond with grace to any rude or inappropriate questions or actions my family might encounter down the road.  In the meantime, my husband and I will strive to raise culturally sensitive children.

Another interesting facet of our younger son's sibling relationships is that he has biological brothers as well.  Hopefully our adoption will continue to be open and he'll be able to know those energetic, adorable, fun-loving boys as well.  In my opinion, no one can have too many brothers.  People are made for community.  Men thrive in a brotherhood.  In the words of Bear and Bo from Needtobreathe, brothers can be a fortress, they can help light your way.  My adopted son's biological brothers are part of a few different families and untraditional though that might be, we have to chose to make the most of it.   

Furthermore, if my younger son wants to know who he looks like, I'm excited and thankful that he'll be able to know.  It's already apparent that he shares his biological brothers' extremely handsome facial features.  Through the grace of open adoption, we have numerous pictures and hopefully our relationship with them will also continue to thrive. 

Will my adopted son share affinities, skills and interests with his siblings?  Adoption absolutely causes one to ponder nature versus nurture quite a bit.  I'm excited to see how this unfolds in my family's life.

NoBohnsAboutItFinally, I have no doubt that navigating the waters of our family relationships won't always be easy.  But, I know they'll be worth it.  I hope the sibling relationships my children are blessed with can be as great a blessing in their lives as mine are in my life.  What a privilege!

This blog post is part of the Adoption Talk Link Up.  Click the picture for more adoption bloggers talking about "sibling relationships" ! 

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