On the first day of spring, my adopted daughter turned eleven. I recalled, as I usually do on her birthdays, the amazing transformation that occurred in our family when, after a long journey to find her, we brought our newly adopted baby daughter home to our two (biological) sons, then ages seven and nine. As their mother, it was amazing to see my boys–who were somewhat self-centered and overly-focused on Legos and Star Wars–transform into loving caregivers and responsible brothers. They spent time getting to know their new sister, reading to her, embracing the color pink, and spending time doing everyday things in a whole new way.
Before our daughter arrived, the boys thought mostly about sports, food, playing with their friends, and occasionally about school. With a new little sister on the scene, they came to enjoy doing simple activities with her, learning about babies, and watching her develop into a curious, busy toddler while asking for details about what they themselves were like at her age. As their mother, I felt such joy as I saw this new side of my sons, suddenly more sensitive to the needs of others; and the dynamic in our home changed dramatically for the better.
Patience and sharing suddenly held new meaning for my boys; lessons they might have taken a lot longer to learn without a baby in the house. I remember one of the early days when my son sat in the backseat of the car with his hands over his ears as his baby sister screamed uncontrollably in her car seat. We laughed when I reminded him that he cried even louder, and more often, at that age. Naturally, the boys had a hard time being completely understanding when things started disappearing from their rooms, toys got broken, and prized art work was turned into “scribbles”, but forgiveness was a good lesson for them to learn as well. I felt even more proud of my boys as time went on and their fondness for their sister grew exponentially, despite the bumps along the way.
By the time my daughter turned ten, my oldest son was away at college but his interest in her activities and life remained admirable. He still calls frequently to check in with her, sends her Valentine cards and teddy bears, and feels bad when he has to miss her birthday parties, tennis matches, or musical performances. My younger son, now a senior in high school, is still a willing babysitter. He helps her with homework, coaches her softball team, and drives her to and from after-school activities. Their relationship is unexpectedly close, given their age difference.
Soon my daughter will have to deal with both of her brothers being in college and living away from home. We all feel a looming sense of loss and discontent. Both brothers are worried about their sister entering middle school in the fall without her big brothers there to protect her from eager admirers, and to guide her through the labyrinth of adolescence that they so recently navigated.
With my sons, now adults and soon both away at school, I look forward to yet another tidal wave of changes to my household. As her mother, I anticipate an even closer relationship with my daughter as she evolves into a young woman. Our relationship is precious to me now, but the teenage years will be riddled with problems, social conflicts, and life-lessons that, in the best case scenario, bring parents closer to their children. I shared that incredible closeness with my own mother before she died. My sons were very young at the time, and the memory of her is what encouraged and guided me to find my daughter, despite the odds against us after years of infertility and heartbreak. So far my daughter has brought our family amazing new experiences, blissful laughter, and an abundance of joy, and I fully expect the next ten years to be even more delightful and fulfilling.
Patty Lazarus published a new book about adoption titled “March into My Heart: A Memoir of Mothers, Daughters, and Adoption” available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0615776450/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=211189&creative=373489&creativeASIN=0615776450&link_code=as3&tag=surapres-20