Monday, 2 June 2014

A constant reminder?

Many of my adoptive parent friends and acquaintances report difficulties with their children when meeting new babies - whether that's family or friends, or even in passing.

For Mini we never noticed that - he met several children as babies - my God-daughter, her cousin, baby Whizz, friend's babies and of course Dollop. He's struggled with just one of those occasions, when he met our friend's new baby boy (who is actually 2 and a half now). But that was confusion about how this new little boy was connected to him, to us, and made a little more confusing by the NC being the Godfather of this new little boy - lets call him Pilot. After all, if you share the same father, does that make you brothers? Mini hadn't heard of the term 'Godfather' before so it was confusing, and we'd only recently been talking about Mini's birth sibling who had been adopted so there was lots of 'brother' talk going on.

Of course over the years, Mini has struggled with Dollop. Even on a daily basis now he has tantrums and meltdowns because he wants and needs the same things as she does, but is physically too big. Dollop particularly loves riding on the NC's shoulders, and although we do lark about and crawl around with the kids on our backs, it's not quite the same for Mini.
Dollop also likes being swung between our hands as we walk along, so does Mini, but he's too tall and too heavy for me to do it.

And there is the big one - the difference. He feels this acutely - thinks that she is somehow better in our eyes because she was born to us. He can't remember the things we did for him when he was young, and so he thinks she gets special treatment, and he thinks that's because we adopted him so he's not as special as her. It's really hard, and so amount of gentle or obvious reassuring seems to make any difference to Mini; he simply sees himself as less important and less lovable. We plough on though and try not to give either special treatment. We love them the same, we give them what they need when they need it - though sometimes that means they might not get the same thing as exactly the same time.

Because I've been there from the start with Dollop - right from even before she was born though I haven't missed anything. I've seen her firsts, I've met her needs, I've loved her forever.
With Mini, I missed so much. I didn't have the firsts, I didn't meet his needs, and well, loving him didn't come immediately; it took time. And, during that first year, he missed so much - yes he had a lovely foster carer, but he also had uncertainties, medical problems, lack of consistency, and deeper than that - he missed chances to emotionally and physically develop 'normally'.

Is he aware of that? Does he see that every time he looks at Dollop? We've thought all this time that he was jealous of her, jealous of the attention he sees us giving, and hyper-aware of the differences between them. But is it more than that? Does she make him think about all the things he missed as a baby? Does she remind him of all the things he didn't have?
Until Mini can talk about all of this without becoming angry and shutting down, all we can do is be curious and try to help them develop a good relationship as brother and sister.
But it feels like *everything* is so complex.


  1. Brilliant post. The boys and I do talk about how I wasn't there for them when they were little like Baby is now. For us, it's been therapeutic.
    Maybe in time Mini will want to talk.
    Even if he doesn't, seeing you care for a baby will have given him a better image if caring for a baby that he can carry into adulthood, and that's a great thing.

    1. Thanks for the positive there Frogotter. I hadn't thought about it that way. I think in time he will talk, with maturity and a little bit of expert teasing it out (from our counsellor). I just wish I could take it all away and make life a little easier and gentler for him, like it's been for Dollop... x

  2. Great post, it's so hard to 'read' their thoughts and feelings isn't it, wouldn't it be easier if their brains had a printer attached!! ;)

  3. Do you ever do those baby things with him now? Both our children (10 and 11) still react well to being babied, right down to being fed mushed up food with an aeroplane spoon, sitting on our laps, being pushed on a swing etc. It can really help them re-regulate even when they've completely 'gone'. I get the too big thing - my back is constantly jumped on, they are nearly my size and I sometimes have to say no! - but it definitely still helps.

    1. I wish sometimes! We occasionally feed him and sometimes dress him. But for the most part, no he won't even entertain the idea. If we try to gently, then he'll lash out. Blinkin' hard work!

  4. OB is having similar issues with BG, although at his age a lot of it is guesswork on my part, and I know it isn't the same situation. But he struggles when I have to feed the baby etc. and demands my attention. I've been showing him lots of photos and videos of us doing nice things together when he was little and explicitly saying, "Look, I used to [xyz] with you just like I do with BG". I know you didn't have the baby times with Mini, but maybe comparing the toddler times would be enough, although probably would have to be done more subtly with Mini than I do with OB. These are such complex additional layers to what is already a complex story.

  5. We have similar issues as well although both children are adopted. I think it's that they see how much of our time a younger child takes up and they feel that it isn't the same for them. Obviously we all know that both children tend to get around the same amount of parent time but for different reasons. I think they see the close proximity of the smaller child to us and want that physical closeness but then that comes with the paradox of being older and trying to be grown up and do things for themselves. Katie has often commented that she thinks I love Pip more than her. I obviously talk to her about that and reassure her that I don't but she sees me carrying him around and feels that that means I love him more. I constantly point out where we do big girl things together that Pip is currently unable to do. I do think though that in all of us there is that baby who is still craving the closeness of their mother. We learn to override it more as we get older but it's always there and it presents itself in many guises.