How Adoption Affected my Son

My second oldest is my only boy. His response to adoption was very different from his big sister. He was 7 when our journey started.

He was good about playing and making jokes and trying to include this new child in things but he wasn't very excited about all that was happening. He bottled up most of his thoughts about it. His behavior definitely changed. He started acting out more and getting easily angered more. The stress we were under and the constant going to appointments for her took a lot of our time. He felt like that time was taken away from him. He accepted her as a new sister and he treated her as such, but it definitely affected him differently.

When she'd act out there were many times that she would direct her anger at him and hit him or claw him. He tried to not retaliate, but as time went on it was as if you could see a gauge on his forehead with the red rising with each incident. Eventually anger would come pouring out. He could recount to her every time she hit him or scratched him or kicked him or called him names and he was seething mad over it. He started hitting back or shoving her out of the way as his first reaction. Seeing him act like this broke my heart. He was the calmest, most loving little boy before. He also didn't have to constantly stand up for himself before, he wasn't under attack all the time before. He went from singing and joking and giving hugs to stomping around angry and screaming at a moment's notice. He started getting in trouble at Sunday school and acting out disrespectfully to adults.

My husband and I saw this and at times felt like he and his little sister's needs were being sacrificed to save this new child. I laid awake at night praying for him and his anger. I fretted over what I saw and tried to figure out strategies to help him. We went to a family counselor, who did some team building stuff with us, and basically said we were doing great, keep it up. I didn't feel like we were doing great when I saw his new behaviors and anger surfacing. I felt broken. I felt hurt and I felt like my little boy was hurting and angry and I couldn't make things go back to "normal" for him.

We upped our "dates" with each child. Trying desperately to give them each their own time. I would get him alone going shopping or out to lunch or to play a game with just him and he would be his "old" self. Full of smiles and laughter and hugs. I had to remind myself to give him more hugs through the day. I had to affirm all I saw in him and thank him for the ways he was helping us. The minute she would do something to him I would have to immediately say, "Thank you for having self control and not repaying evil for evil. Good job bud," and give him a high five, before he had the chance to slug her back. It helped as he then started to step backwards again, knowing I was coming. For him he thought her little "time-ins" were stupid. If she had just hit him and I was making her sit in a time it, talk about it and then do something nice with her hands instead of hurting with them, he'd roll his eyes. He didn't think the punishment fit the crime. It took a lot of explaining to him where her brain was at and the need to train her this way. He's my science child and those explanations helped him be a little more understanding.

When I asked him recently what he thought of adoption he said, "It was long and boring and horrible." And he's right about the process being long and boring and horrible. He sat and thought for a while and then said, "The good thing about it is your helping someone who doesn't have a good family, but it's hard to not have as much mommy and daddy time. I felt like there was an alien invading my home because I didn't want another sister, I wanted a brother. But she was also funny and said funny things that made me laugh."

Two years later, I feel like he's just starting to figure out what his normal is with another sister. He plays with her just like he does with his other two sisters. At one point during all the adoption and guardianship stuff he had said, "It doesn't feel like we are doing guardianship mom, it feels like we are doing family." Which is exactly right, we are a family and we are learning how to treat each person in our family and how we all fit together.


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