Preparing for a Sibling.

One of the most fun and exciting parts of our journey so far has been telling our 3.5 year old (E) that she is going to be a big sister, and explaining what adoption is to her.We told her the day that we sent in our homestudy application.  We decided to do it very early on in the process since DRC adoptions are relatively quick, and because we learned that our social worker would want to make sure we were preparing her for the adoption process.  We explained to E that we would be adopting a baby or toddler from Africa (since she has an imaginary friend named Oregon from Africa, she was very excited that her sibling would be from the same country).  To help make sense of it to her, we purchased a couple of children’s books that explain adoption:
She loves all of them, though I think the Todd Parr book is probably my favorite (we love Todd Parr books at our house).  All the books helped explain the process at her level, and the illustrations in the first two helped her understand that this baby is not going to look like her, but still be part of our family.  The fact that the baby is going to be of a different race is something I have tried to prepare her for and explain to her, especially since we live in a bit of a homogenous town.  I wasn’t sure if she “got” it until we were at the rodeo a couple of weeks ago.  A young African American boy of about six or seven sat next to me and E exclaimed, “Mom, that little boy has the same color of skin as the baby we’re adopting from Africa!”  Once E knew she was going to be a big sister, she was VERY excited to share the news.  When we called my grandpa to wish him a happy birthday, I put her on the phone and whispered, “Say happy birthday.”  Instead, she shouted, “We’re adopting a baby from Africa!”We also bought her this t-shirt from a family on Etsy who is selling them to raise money for their own adoption:

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They made a pink one for her with a heart over the DRC.  When we first bought it, she wanted to wear it every.single.day.  One day, when someone was over installing some blinds in our living room, I found E in her bathroom, stripped out of her outfit for the day and struggling to pull on her Africa t-shirt over her head.  I asked her why she was changing her clothes and she said, “I wanted him to know that we’re adopting a baby from Africa!”We’ve also been trying to teach her a little bit about Congolese culture and people.  While we haven’t been able to find a whole lot of children’s books at the library with information specific to Congo, we did find a lot of books about Africa so that she has been able to learn more about the people, animals, and geography of the continent.  YouTube and the blogs of other families have also been a great resource of pictures and videos about the Congo.  One family posted a video of children in an orphanage our agency works with singing and dancing, and E watched the four minute clip over and over again.  She kept spotting different kids she liked in the video, and asking if we could adopt them.  (Oh honey, I wish…)A few weeks ago, I also found an AMAZING adoption “baby” book on Amazon.  I had been searching everywhere for one to no avail.  Since adoption is so unique, and since our child will be a little older when he/she comes home to us, it was difficult to find a baby book that would work, but I was determined!  I want our child to feel that his memories, childhood, life before he comes to us, and our “pregnancy” with him is honored.  Here’s a picture of the cover of the book:

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E and I spent some time this morning paging through it.  I explained to her what type of pictures and stories would go on each page and she excitedly came up with ideas of things to put in it because, as she put it, “I’m the big sister.”Since we have many pregnant friends, or friends who have recently had babies, it is sometimes difficult to explain to her that this baby isn’t growing in my belly, but is still going to be a part of our family.  I came across a beautiful adoption poem online that helped me think of a way to explain this to her three year old mind:Not flesh of my flesh, or bone of my bone,
But still, miraculously, my own.
Never forget for a single minute
You didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.

So, we’ve been telling E that our baby is growing in our hearts. She seems to be content with this explanation.  I think that once we have a referral picture, this will help the process seem more real and tangible to her.

Every know and then, she’ll get suddenly quiet and then ask me, “Can we adopt our baby from Africa yet?”  But in the meantime, she continues to pray with us each night, that God will watch over her baby brother or sister or the mom who is currently pregnant with him/her.  We so look forward to the day when our family is united, and our two children can begin getting to know one another.

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