Rachel wasn’t the only sibling to be won over by her big brother. Years later, when my second daughter was born, the process repeated itself. For Amanda, the day Joe’s status of “brother” became real was when she was five. Joe had come to visit in order to surprise Rachel at the Madrigal performance her school orchestra was doing at the high school. We were at the house, Joe, my parents, my husband and Amanda, waiting for the time to go to the school. Amanda had not seen Joe since she was little, and couldn’t remember it, so she was eyeing him closely during this visit. After a few minutes of visiting, Amanda suddenly ran upstairs to her room, returning in just seconds carrying my book, “Because I Loved You.” (My daughters have their own copies of all of my books.) She propped the book up on the coffee table in front of Joe, the photo of Joe and I on the cover facing Amanda. After a few looks back and forth between the photo and Joe, Amanda walked over to me and whispered, “That’s that guy on the book!”
I said, “Yes, it is.”
And she replied, “Then that means he’s my brother!” I nodded with a smile. She ran over to the couch and squeezed between Joe and my mother with her hands folded on her lap and smiled big up at him as she said, “My name is Amanda and I’m your sister!”
Joe laughed, and said, “I know!” And she beamed. She followed him around the rest of the evening, presenting him with little pieces of herself such as her favorite stuffed dog, a picture she drew, a photo of her best friend. They laughed together and he graciously hung on her every word. By the end of the day Amanda proudly announced, “My brother is cool!”
Both my girls love the fact that they have a brother. And Joe very much enjoys the role of big brother to them both. They know he’s there for them, even though we only see each other occasionally. But they talk often on the phone and by email and it’s always as if they just saw him the day before.
I am very thankful to Joe’s parents for teaching me how honesty was the best path with the issue of siblings. My girls are very proud of their brother, and he treasures them as well. I know that as they become adults this is something they will share and have when they need family and I am gone. My girls share with their friends the fact that they have a brother, and they do it with such pride and simple honesty that it is not questioned or judged. Joe, I know, has done the same during his life.
As I’ve said often, adoption does not mean that families are torn apart, it means there are more people to love a child. If we embrace this – this love for one child leading to honesty with other children – we model for all our children the type of values we wish for them as adults. We also set the stage for open discussion, sharing of feelings and relationships that can depend on each other. Our children depend on us to tell them the truth, to model the behavior we wish to see them someday have towards others and be there for them as they build relationships on their own. Supporting siblings in adoption puts everyone on a road to success.