We didn’t plan to have two, we planned to have one, one for a couple of years and then go back for another. At the very last moment we changed our minds. We had already been approved, our panel had gone exceptionally well, we knew before we left the building 10 minutes after we left the room, that we’d been approved. Spurred on by our great success an idea formed, why have one when we could have two. We wanted two in the long run, this way we wouldn’t have to go through the process again, waiting again. Plus we’d be doing a great thing, siblings are harder to place, they would be able to stay together and the big bonus it would probably mean a shorter matching process as the pool of siblings was and still is more plentiful than that of a single young (0-2) child.
So not long after a return to panel for sibling approval, attended by our social worker only, they show us two, two little wide eyed boys from another world and instantly they were ours. “Can they be ours?” we ask their social worker. “If you would like them we are not considering any others” so yes they are ours. This is when there are tears, warm salty streams of happiness and relief. This is when it truly all begins. Our children were Stig and Tink and by the time they came to us they would be three and two by a month. They are a year and five days apart in age.
From the moment we met them I was so glad there were two. During those early days Mr H and I didn’t have to share, a child each to play with and have as our own. We were an instant family of four and it all felt amazing and wonderful in every way. Of course once daddy went back to work and there was suddenly two children to dress, nappies to change, feed, entertain, console and control it was a massive shock to the system. I remember, each morning I woke, for just a split second my mind would be clear of what we had done, a single snoozy moment of ignorance and then as if struck I would bolt awake panicking “oh my god there are two children in the room next door”. I probably would have panicked more if there had been the time but from the second we woke through to when they were sleeping; there was never time to panic. Our days were filled with the normal mummy toddler routines, play groups, park, shopping, family visits, regular meal times, potty time, making and creating. They never had a daytime sleep, the foster family had weaned them off that already and try as I might there was no persuading the boys to reconsider. We were on the go at full speed all day.
Emotionally Stig required most the attention then, I’m not sure how it would have played out if both boys had been defiant and angry from the off. So whilst Stig refused, hit out, screamed shouted, pushed, lots of pushing me away, Tink sat quietly often in front of the telly, locked inside his own little world. Tink was mostly compliant, responsive when required, turned on the charm when required but would rather you left him to get on with his own thing as he required. It would be much later that Tink would decide to reveal his inner turmoil, six years down the line and we are now starting to peel back the layers. I do remember shutting myself in the bathroom on more than one occasion, tears pricking my lashes as I breathed deeply and tried to pull myself together. These are very much the days when I started to reach for a large glass of wine once bedtime was complete. The plus being there always was a bedtime and sleep for the boys. I will always be grateful that they both slept through and ate well from day one. That first night, in their new beds, together in their new bedroom, both went to sleep and stayed asleep.
For them having each other seemed to create a level of familiarity amongst all this intense newness that anchored them and provided a sense of security. I’m sure this is why they were able to sleep, because they were together and it was safe to close their eyes with the other one there. This brotherly anchor has seen them through many tough times and they definitely have a sense of loyalty to each other. I have seen Tink march up to children twice his size, hands on hips, neck craning “don’t you call my brother…..” He often follows this with a kick to the shins or a punch in the body, there seems to be no fear when protecting your own. If they decide to attack as a duo then their opponent is in real trouble, they work well as a team, pulling, shoving and kicking from all sides. We jokingly call them the “Krays” but obviously none of this behaviour is tolerated all though the solidarity is always heart warming.
One of the most difficult aspects of adopting a sibling group has been the rivalry, the need that Stig has always had and latterly Tink has too, to be number one, first, the favourite, the best. An adopted child’s extreme low self esteem can create a monster out of the desire to be top dog. We’ve had to take a very measured approach to even the simplest things to ensure no one feels unloved. Counting out crisps, deciding who goes first on things in the park before we get there, alternate days for choosing TV programmes, who sits with mummy this time, which goes with daddy today and the list could go on and on. I know rivalry is common but the fallout from not getting it right with my boys can leaving us reeling for hours. On one occasion I couldn’t get Tink to school because his brother went in front on his scooter. After having a massive meltdown on the pavement he simply turned around and went home. Having said that I think sibling rivalry can cause problems in all families plus I think that on some level the fact that my two boys have such an incredible bond means that it will pass. When you adopt a second child or for whatever reasons another child comes to the family at a different time I can imagine the rivalry and insecurities will be even more intense.
At eight and nine the brothers have reached a point where they can play happily together for hours. They conspire together, plan mischief, egg each other on, and giggle endlessly. They also kick, punch, hit, spit and swear at each other. From our kitchen window I can see the trampoline and in warmer months they love bouncing around on here together. When bored with bouncing they will usually settle into a bit of brotherly wrestling, grabbing, headlocking and throwing each other around. I marvel at the physical comfort there is between them, no boundaries exist as they end up lay in an entangled heap unsure where one starts and the other finishes. I am always ready to rush out, expecting tears and cries of “you hurt me” but before I move there is usually an outburst of laughter as Tink exclaims “urgh you trumped in my face”.
If you are considering creating a family through adoption please consider the possibility of giving a sibling group a home, I’m so glad we did. Seeing my two grow together has given me more happiness than I could ever imagine and just knowing that they will always have each other makes every little moment worthwhile.