When we were going to adopt for the first time, I was 10 years old and obviously looking at life with a lot of optimism. I was expecting nothing challenging from adoption. I was just excited to have a little sister. And from everything I can remember, it was just that. It was just magical.
When we brought Emma and Aiden home I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be all magic. Yes, it was beautiful and exciting, but it was going to be a long fight for them. We had brought in two kids who had experienced more hurt and pain in their first 3 years of life than most people ever have to endure. They were taught very wrong things about love and acceptance. They were wounded and scared. They needed to be re-taught how to love and how to be loved.
They didn’t know how to play with toys. They didn’t know how to eat solid foods. They didn’t know how to get up and down the stairs. We had to take them back to the beginning and show them that they are beautiful and full of worth. We had to earn their trust, and that wasn’t easily given out.
There was still magic though, it was just different kind of magic. The magic was found at the end of tantrums that lasted for hours, when finally they would calm down and relax. They would look up at me, and I would see the brokenness in their eyes slowly become restored. Because through the experience, they had learned that I wasn’t going to give up on them, that we were safe. Two minutes later one of them would get into some other bit of trouble, but it’s those little bits of magic that kept me confident and persistent in showing them what true love looks like.
We adopted Mattie when I was 13. He was a wild ride of ups and downs with his health. But he was full of life, energy, and joy- no matter how sick. We lived between St. Louis and KC for a few months that felt like years. It was insanity, but it was magic because he was perfection. He made all of the traveling, the trips to and from different hospitals, the days spent in his room watching him and keeping him healthy, safe and out of trouble, and all of his medical “accessories” that we had to drag behind us everywhere we went, all worth it. I got to be his big sister and his nurse. I l learned how to take care of him the way he needed to be taken care of, just like we learned how to take care of Emma, Aiden and Elia the way they need to be taken care of.
I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with a lot of other people who are big siblings in adoptive families, and I’ve been inspired by their stories and thoughts on adoption. It is a fascinating journey. It is full of intensity, but its not something that would be traded. Being a big sibling to all of these kids is the adventure of a lifetime. When your family is adopting, your WHOLE family really is adopting. You are all in it for the win. We’ve pushed and fought through a lot for them.
It is a different, special connection that we have with them because we’ve taught them that we are safe. We’ve helped them grow and learn to be loved, and they’ve taught us how to grow and love. The thing that I’ve heard the most from the people I’ve spoken to about this is that even though we are not living life the way most teenagers our age are, none of us regret it. Our siblings are our people. They are special and make life so much more full and rich. Through adoption, we’ve learned more in a few short years than any of us ever expected.
To me, it’s the things that you’ve fought and searched hard for that are magical and glamorous. It’s the messiness, the tantrums, the “5 steps forward, four steps back” kind of fight for their trust, so long and full of stories that I could write a book about it, THAT is so much more fulfilling than some easy, sugar coated story I could tell you.
This life is so much more glamorous.