Sibling: (noun) a brother or a sister
Many people have asked us about our older children and their reaction to the adoption of Hannah into our family. I thought it was time to dedicate a post to my precious big brothers and big sister (GeGe and JieJie).
When you add a child to a family, whether by birth or adoption, there is a period of adjustment for all family members involved. Our family is not unique and we did not escape this period of adjustment. To some extent, our period of adjustment is still ongoing, but in most respects, as far as the big kids are involved, their adjustment period is winding down. Kids are so versatile and accept things with such ease. Hannah at home is our new normal to them and they have embraced it and really risen to the occasion. I have been literally blown away by each one of them, their love toward Hannah, their ability to look past some difficult things, and their continued persistence and patience. Honestly, I could learn a thing or two from each one of them!
Each child has accepted this new transition in his or her own way. They are three different individuals and they have had three unique responses to Hannah's arrival home.
Jacob is our oldest and most mature. He is mature well beyond his seven (almost) years of age. He has also already experienced the duty of becoming a big brother one other time (accepting TWO siblings at once that go around). This was old hat to him and he jumped in with two feet right into the deep end. I think while we were in China he felt some degree of pressure to be "the man of the house" while we were away. This is a heavy burden to carry for two weeks. It was also his longest separation from us. While I think he thoroughly enjoyed his two weeks spent doing wonderful things with his grandparents, I think he was also very ready for us to get off that plane in Lexington. When we got home he buried his little head on my shoulder and absolutely sobbed, which of course, made me sob. I think it was his release. He could stop being a man and be our little boy again and all was right in his world. We were home. After that meltdown in the airport, he was just back to happy go lucky Jacob. No worries, no cares, and so glad to lead his siblings the best he can. He was desperate for Hannah to love him and play with him. Hannah wasn't sure what to make of her siblings at first and it did take her a little while to warm up to them, but Jacob was the first one she began to truly interact with. I cannot tell you the joy it brought him when she began to bond to him--hug him and play with him. I thought he might pop. Jacob continues to be very mature. When we struggle with Hannah he is quick to try to offer diversions and seems sensitive to when Mommy needs a break and will try to get Hannah to go play with him. He adores her. He speaks to her in this sing song voice that is so sappy and sweet (truly, it can almost get on your nerves it is so drippy with sweetness). He loves to refer to himself in mandarin as GeGe. He is proud of his role and so very proud of his sister.
Joshua was already our middle child, sandwiched neatly between Jacob and Grace (only one minute older than Grace). Joshua has always been our very deeply sensitive child. He feels things very deeply, down to his core. He needs lots of physical affection and closeness from his Mommy and Daddy. None of those things changed with our trip to China, though the need for those things may have heightened a little immediately after we got home. Joshua has regressed some in small ways--needing help using the restroom when he is fully capable of doing it alone, reacting (or overreacting) to boo boos more, wanting assistance getting dressed each day, etc. He has been slower to figure out his role as big brother. While he was big brother to Grace, they were a package deal. He never had to learn how to accept her since she has just always been there (literally always, including the womb). Learning to accept Hannah and the attention she demands from me has been more challenging for Joshua. He needs a lot of extra snuggles and he often just doesn't want Hannah "up in his business." He is cautious to offer Hannah much physical affection. He also tends to be the target of most of Hannah's angry outbursts. This definitely impacts the speed at which these two are bonding. Joshua does not seek Hannah out, but he will include her now if she is around. Just the other day he actually came looking for her, took her hand, and off they went to play. That was a first and a huge deal to be initiated by Joshua. He is coming around and they are both figuring out how this all works. They are both realizing Mommy has plenty of hugs to give and while my lap used to fit the twins so neatly on it, there is still room to pack in three if needed. Joshua is taking his time, but each day we see progress and we know that they will both be okay. Will they ever be the best of friends? I don't know about that, but I do know they are learning to love and accept each other.
Take note, he is holding her hand in the stroller. She reached out to him for this and he actually obliged her!
Grace had a special space in our family before we went to China. She was the only girl and our youngest. Not only our only girl, but she was the only girl in the entire extended family. She knew she held a spot very different from that of her brothers. Honestly, I worried the most about Grace when we began this adoption process. She loves her Mommy and struggled at times to even share me with Joshua. I wasn't sure how that would play out once we got home with Hannah. In the very first early days there were some disappointments for Grace to overcome. In her little mind, she had built Hannah up to be something that she just wasn't quite ready to be yet and that disappointed Grace. She was sad Hannah wasn't sleeping in her room, in their bunk beds yet. She was sad Hannah wouldn't play with her right off the bat. She did not like to see Hannah grieve, especially when she was angry. Hannah's screaming scared Grace's sensitive little heart and would often cause her to cry, too. In those first few days home Grace cried a good bit and required a lot of extra snuggles as she went to sleep at night. She came through that quickly, though. Hannah's grieving lessened and became less intense, thus helping Grace not be so frightened by it. Hannah started to play with Grace and she loved that. Then something magical happened. While Joshua regressed in very small ways, something happened to Grace in the last week or two and she has literally blossomed and matured right before my eyes. She has stepped up to her role as big sister in a big way. Suddenly she does things she's never done independently (shoes, putting on and zipping coat, etc.) and also assists Hannah with those things now! She seeks Hannah out to play and loves to do girl things. Each morning when I fix Grace's hair, she does Hannah's hair (seriously need a photo of this--so cute!!). Grace still has moments when she wants my full attention or a bit of her space back, but she is growing into the most amazing, mature, tender hearted big sister ever. I am proud of her!
Grace really steps up as the big sister to play with Hannah when I have to leave the house to run errands. I got this photo last week when I was in the grocery store. Note that Hannah is "wearing" her baby just as I wear her.
Overall we could not be prouder of each one of our big kids in how they have handled the growing pains of adding Hannah to our family and home. They love, they tolerate, they persist, they show deep compassion. They are amazing. Like all siblings they can run hot and cold at times. Yes, we have fights. Yes, we make each other mad or hurt feelings. At the end of the day though, there are always hugs and kisses all around and each morning starts anew the fun and adventures they tackle together. I love being their Mom. I am blessed and my goal each day is for my actions to show them that they are just that to me....a BLESSING. I cannot wait to see where life takes these four. What treasures they are. Each one.