If we adopt, how will my other children accept them, or will they?
I let my three bio boys answer this one for you further down this post. But let me say that it’s a normal question to ask yourself. I sure asked it before we embarked on our adoption journey.
I love my three sons more than Fred MacMurray. I would hate it if they didn’t consider an adopted sibling as a “real” sister. And that would make a miserable life for the sister too. But that never happened with any of our four daughters. Let me give you an example of their love.
When our Harper, who’s three, had her heart procedure, all of our other children couldn’t wait to see her. They were genuinely concerned, and when they arrived at Harpy’s bedside, they couldn’t stop kissing her and doting on her. A couple of minutes after we first arrived, I told the kids I was going to the cafeteria for a Coke. Now, normally, there would be a blare of competing voices, beckoning to go with me. But there was silence. And all eyes were on their sweet little sister. And that’s exactly what she is—their sister.
When Adéye and I see something like that, our hearts melt because we know what’s taken root in our sons’ hearts AND in the hearts of other children we’ve already adopted. When you adopt into your family, you’re enriching your children’s lives, not detracting from them. You also teach them a powerful life lesson at the same time. It’s not hard to imagine what that life lesson is…
You impart the heart of our Father for orphans into your other children’s hearts. They not only EXPERIENCE the reward of being around kids who didn’t have parents. They grow to LOVE them as their own sibling. And let me tell you, when those new siblings are special-needs ex-orphans, it does something in them, no matter what the age. They learn patience, kindness, sacrificial love, and how to help another person even when they don’t feel like it. They learn that people matter to God and to us, regardless of their special need.
Listen to what my boys are saying:
Connor, 12: Life would be so different if they weren’t in our family. They’re my sisters. I don’t feel like they’re anything less. And it’s kinda cool that they come from other countries.
Kellan, 10: It wouldn’t be as fun without my sisters. We do stuff together, play together. I don’t know, Dad. Why are you asking me this stuff? (just keeping it real, folks!)
Cade, 6: When we have a lot of people in our house, we can go out a lot. We get to go to fun places. I wouldn’t want them gone because they’re my sisters. Dad, can I go now?
Notice that none of the children mentions the girls’ special needs. They just don’t see them.
Now, the last thing I want to do is paint a picture of a perfect Salem family. We are not. The boys and Hannah-Claire (the most cognizant of the four) can go at it like the best of them. But which family does not have this? That’s what brothers and sisters do. I remember the old TV series, The Waltons, and believe it or not, they had their spats, too.
We certainly do not have all the answers. But we do know that the grace of God covers us all. Still, is there something that parents can do to cultivate a bond before an adopted child arrives home? I believe there is.
When a couple is expecting, it’s easy to form that bond with other children because they see a constant reminder that they’re getting a little brother or sister—it’s called a mother’s belly. The kids can touch it, pet it, talk to it. And the mother makes it “real” for them by encouraging them to do so.
In the same way, parents “expect” a new adopted child. This waiting period of several months from when you first start the adoption process to Gotcha Day, I believe, is God’s way of preparing a family. The mother and father should involve their children from the start, telling them the future sibling’s story. If there isn’t much of a story, tell them about the plight of orphans in general.
Notice I say mother and father. Dads, this is an important time for you. Become involved even in this stage. Excite your children about your new child. They must see, not only from Mom, that this is a good thing. Your other kids need to see Dad looking forward to this new child too. Children are smart. They can pick up lots of things we think we’re not communicating. They need to hear from you, Dad, things like,
“Son, what name do you think God wants to give your new sister?”
Or “Isn’t it exciting?! Your new brother’s coming in just 30 days! Why don’t we make a countdown calendar?”
Or “Your new sister has a special need. Let’s look at her picture again and ask God to be with her.”
Involvement breeds affection, like in any new relationship. It’s that simple. A lot of it will grow naturally, but you can start now.
And if you’re only in the stage of just thinking about adopting, guys, let me and thousands of other dads of adopted children tell you—your life and the life of your other children will never be the same!