We are adoptive parents and we tend to do things a little differently.
For some reason, in a non-adoptive family, when a mother gives birth, she has her first child, who becomes the “first born”, the “oldest”. If she has another child this child becomes the 2nd, or the “middle child”. Add another to the mix and you have the “baby”, the youngest. All the kids know their place; everyone knows where they fit in the family. The dynamics are set and cannot be messed with.
Now look at my family; we have a first born adopted son, an infant. No problem here, everything fits into place. Then ten years later we adopt a 13-month-old baby girl. Things still seem normal; she is the baby, the next in line to her big brother. They don’t fight because of the large age difference.
Three years later we are told about a little girl in an orphanage. She is about three or four, and not a “typical orphanage” child, she is “different”. Gets along well with everyone. She would be perfect for our family. We say OK and start the paperwork. It takes over a year to finalize everything. Somehow, in that one year, she aged about 4 years. She is now 6, almost 7.
We are about to adopt “out of birth order”. We are entering a new realm, a place we, and many before us have never been. We are about to “rock the boat”, change the rules. And there is no turning back. Do we know what we are getting into??? Absolutely not.
In my naive little world I think, “ah, another little girl, a sister for her baby sister to play with, how nice.” We will just be another happy little family.
Adopting out of birth order is like stepping into a minefield with your eyes open. No one knows his or her place anymore. Sure, we are still the parents, but this child is not like the others. She doesn’t speak English; she doesn’t understand why she is with us. She has spent her entire life in an orphanage. She does not trust us. She is the oldest sister, but she isn’t the oldest sister. Younger sister has been tossed off her throne and doesn’t like it. She wants to tell older sister what to do; after all she has been here much longer, why should she listen to this upstart, this stranger.
Older brother just feels ousted. A new child is getting all the attention, now he has two little sisters who don’t get along. The parents are in a world of their own creation, and they are confused, frustrated, in other words “out of their league.”
To be continued.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt