Bitter or Sweet Rivalry?

1 May

“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…]


6 Responses to “Bitter or Sweet Rivalry?”

  1. Ivavnuk May 1, 2012 at 22:45 #

    That’s a thought provoking one!

    • permanentlyinapickle May 2, 2012 at 11:54 #

      Yes, too much so. I haven’t slept all night 🙂 I also haven’t forgotten about your request on an earlier post. I just don’t think I have it clear enough in my own head yet to be able to put it down on paper. i will get to it soon (I hope)

  2. Stix May 2, 2012 at 19:50 #

    Very thought provoking. My kids are the other way round (in that I adopted first, then gave birth later), so in some ways Dollop’s never known things to be any different. Doesn’t stop me wishing I could offer her more time though instead of sitting holding Mini sometimes for hours on end. Dollop’s not even 2, she has physical needs that still need meeting -nappy changes etc, but at times I can’t attend to those straight away because I’m preventing Mini trying to climb inside the oven, jump in the fish tank, smear poo etc etc

    I don’t have the answers for you, but I do empathise with you. Your last paragraph for me says it all…

    Keep going, you’re doing a great job x

  3. Mamacook (@Mamacook_Blog) May 3, 2012 at 15:33 #

    Thank you for giving this to me to think about. I know I don’t want any more biological children but had considered adopting. I’d not thought about it seriously yet and this has made me realise that perhaps I need to think more deeply.

    • permanentlyinapickle May 3, 2012 at 18:05 #

      Thinking in-depth about the commitment is really important, but please believe me when i say the positives far outweigh the negatives. I just feel sometimes that Gherkin’s feelings have been pushed aside unintentionally. The boys are going through a tetchy patch at the moment, hence the reason for writing the post. I wouldn’t necessarily change anything we have done, except be more mindful of his needs and reiterate them to those around us. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. It has to be right for you and it is hard work, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Thanks for popping by. 🙂

      • Adoptive Mommy May 3, 2012 at 18:49 #

        Getting the balance of attention right between two kids is the hardest thing in the world, both of mine are adopted – separately and both have their unique needs, lots of empathy for you on this one.

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