When my husband and I decided to answer the call to adopt a sibling group of three we felt equipped. After all, we had done the blended family thing and survived. Our step kids actually seem to tolerate us now – what more could you ask for? So it was settled; we were older, wiser and more experienced. Kids are kids and those “Kids from hard places”- as they mentioned in the one or two meetings we went to before making our decision – were not going to be any different from our own kids. Besides we were answering “the call” – what could possibly go wrong?
The “ours” in the equation was a “surprise” that we received at the ripe old age of forty-one. She’s nine now (yep that makes me way too old to be adopting). She is pretty smart, somewhat goofy, a little sensitive, and very independent – let’s call her Little Miss Independent. She acts like an only child. Her closest biological sibling is eight years older and lives with his mom. We see him on the weekends. The other older siblings are out doing their own thing, living independent lives and gracing us with their appearance on holidays or when they need money. Anyway, she was six years old when we decided to adopt a sibling group of three from foster care. She was quite used to being the center of our attention and didn’t much like the idea of sharing any of it. She’s gotten used to the “arrangement” now, but has become even more independent as a result.
We got the sibling group almost 4 years ago; two days after the oldest girls third birthday. Their circumstances had previously dictated that she basically mother her two younger siblings. She had – in her short lifetime – already learned to be a take charge kind of gal. This was a survival skill that she holds onto even to this day. She was the boss and she liked it. She was a good little momma – fixing bottles, changing diapers opening anything she could find in the pantry to feed the babies. We had a difficult time gaining her trust. She didn’t want to give up control to total strangers. She had experienced that adults don’t do a very good job of taking care of those she loved. She knew first hand that adults hurt you, lie to you and leave you. She watched me change a hundred diapers before she decided I knew what I was doing. She had a hard time even learning to play. She hadn’t been shown. We learned a lot about what she had been through by watching her play with a doll. It was quite eye opening. She is still learning how to play nice, to be easy and to tell the truth. For the purpose of this blog, she will be referred to as The Ring Leader. She still manages to tell the other ones what to do and how to do it and when there is trouble to be found; more often than not, she is the one behind it.
The middle child was what we lovingly referred to in the early days as “our screamer”. She was a petite little 21 month old girl who found no reason to smile. She would stand in the middle of the floor and scream non-stop for what seemed eternity. She didn’t want to be near me – unless a male would approach her, then she ran as fast as she could to me and hold onto my leg. She would bite, hit, kick and claw my face if I tried to pick her up. Holding onto my leg was close enough – thank you. Even when we jumped that hurdle, it was still very hard to get her to “use your words”. She went from “screamer” to “Eeyore” – crying at the drop of a hat. Anything that doesn’t go her way and she has a meltdown. It’s been a struggle, but I’m proud to say that she has achieved that ability to use her words and now the child almost never shuts up. She loves to talk about everything, over and over and over again. She has used her new verbal abilities to let us know what time it is, what day it is, what plans she has for the next two minutes, etc. She has also developed superior tattling skills; we call her “The Informer”.
The baby of the adopted group was a quiet little nine month old boy. The back of his head was flat from being constantly left in his car seat. He was unable to roll over or crawl around since he had not developed those muscles. He couldn’t eat baby food without getting choked, but could down a bottle of formula in 2 minutes flat. He never learned to crawl; he just got right onto walking. He is what probably the least affected by coming from “hard places”. But he still has some challenges ahead. He is head-strong, has a short attention span and an even shorter fuse. He can be smiling and laughing one minute only to drop to the floor in a tantrum the next. There is no sign of a stop button, a safety switch or filter on this kid. Since he’s the only male in the group, and the only one still at home he is simply known as “The Boy”. (Not a very original nick-name, but it’s more complimentary than “Demon Child”.)