By Mother of a Hidden Pearl
My children are my prized possessions. When my husband and I adopted our 6 year old daughter two years ago, I grappled with my boys’ intense jealousy and anger. At ages 10 and 11, they seemed okay with the adoption until its permanency became real.
Reality hit with a bang. Our daughter’s take-charge personality led her to sit in our boys’ chairs at the kitchen table, commandeer their car seats, and enter their bedrooms without asking for permission. She uprooted our unconscious family rules. Compounding this, her deeply-rooted desire for a mom left her wanting all my attention. I fed her, dressed her, performed hour-long bedtime routines, held her in my lap (into which she jumped before her brothers could), and home-schooled her for six months to help her attach. My sons teeter-tottered from sitting back and observing our new family dynamics to exploding into fierce balls of anger.
Sadness, fear, and a sense of loss gripped my boys. Our youngest son felt displaced. He lost his position as baby of the family and became the middle child. Our oldest son envied the time I spent with my daughter. Watching my sons experience such turmoil broke my heart.
At the peak of my boys’ distress, they screamed and spat angry words. They yelled at their sister—“You don’t belong! You’re not part of our family! I hate you!” They hollered at me and my husband about every irritation. They even banged the house walls in frustration. At a poignant moment, my emotions froze and left me unable to function for the evening. I sat and watched my once peaceful family unravel. We were dysfunctional.
Over the course of a year, we sought family therapy. As a result, we implemented new family rules, reflected on our children’s feelings, and constantly worked at restoring our boys’ sense of security by making them feel special. One-on-one time snuggling, watching movies, eating out, and playing sports helped, but car rides to Tim Hortons worked best. Surprisingly, riding in a vehicle together minus eye contact opened the doors for effective communication.
Our boys’ equilibrium returned. They learned a lot about themselves and they laid foundations of love and attachment with their sister. Today, they are extremely engaging, caring, and protective towards her. As I look back, I’m amazed at their progress.