“I hate him. I hate him hitting me all the time. I wish HE had never come here. I never used to get angry before HE came.” The utterances of a 9-year old birth child about his adopted brother.
I have talked about this issue in a previous post (The World According to Gherkin), and I am now going to somewhat contradict myself. As times moves on, so do the ups and downs of post-adoption life.
Recently, I have noticed the red mist enveloping Gherkin in a way which is really starting to concern me. In a split second it consumes him and forces him to lash out at Pickle with a foot, or an elbow, or a random object. It is never unprovoked but it still concerns me. I see it rise from the pit of his stomach and fly out of his body with such velocity and venom, it’s soul-destroying.
There is so much written about the psychological effects of adoption on the adoptee but much less about the effects of adoption on birth children.
Birth children, who were once secure and happy, can be negatively influenced by the presence of the new addition the family. I am fully aware that this can happen generally in most families. Certain neurotic reactions, such as jealously, are to be expected.
When an adopted child moves into his forever home much emphasis is placed on the traumas to which the child had been subjected: the separations, the anxieties, the attachment issues, the lack of a sense of belonging and identity. The need to forge bonds with members of the new family is utmost in everybody’s mind. This is fairly cogent reasoning.
What can and often does go unnoticed, however, is the simultaneous trauma occurring in the birth child’s life. For every complexity faced by the adopted child, there is an equivalent reaction in the birth child. Often thrown in at the deep end with little support, he may be left to assume adult strategies when tackling unrelenting barriers head on. The subtle, even silent, dilemmas he’s struggling with are often difficult to pick up on.
The attention that is paid to Pickle often leaves Gherkin shivering on the sidelines. At times, I imagine, with a wry smile and an irrefutable sense of ‘what-about-me?’.
In instinctively requesting understanding and empathy from Gherkin, are we creating an underlying jealously and resentment that could impact on the boys’ relationship as siblings as they progress into adolescence and adulthood?
In encouraging Pickle to discuss his feelings of fear, anxiety and insecurity, are we unintentionally discouraging open discussion with Gherkin with regard to his confusion, hostility and impatience?
Wrapped in his invisible blanket of presumed security, does Gherkin feel that voicing his concerns will make him appear selfish and unempathetic?
Will what stems from this simply be a ‘normal’ rivalry that many blood-related siblings experience? Or will it fashion a deep-rooted sense of bitterness towards each other and/or the adoption process itself?
Does Gherkin feel that because Pickle was ‘chosen’ as part of the family that his being born into the family somehow makes him less special?
Am I forcing the relationship with my pushy insistence on friendship and a spirit of fraternity, instead of letting it develop naturally?
So many questions, so few answers.
I’m used to trying to micromanage each situation but I am starting to learn – as simple and obvious as it may sound – that children grow together. I am here to give them guidance and the tools to manage their own respect and understanding of each other, and to aid the development of their own personal and unique identities so that they can confront and overcome the challenges that adoption presents.
[To be continued…]