I like to call us a hybrid family, much to the intrigue of many. The term typically means a family that is an amalgamation of sorts, and I think that is quite a nice way of putting it. We are blended in more ways than one. My husband and I don’t share the same mother tongue (natural language), we consciously do not share last names, in fact I do not share the same last name with either of my children and we each look different enough to confuse immigration agents all around the world.

One a weekend getaway many moons ago (read decades!) with my husband, who hadn’t earned that honorary title then just yet, we sat on the beach and talked. I vividly remember talking about many a crazy things, some of which should have deterred any sane man from proceeding further into the relationship 😉. However, I clearly remember telling him that I would love to adopt one day, and that I wanted 2 kids.

More than a decade later, we had another chat. By this time, we had a lovely boy, a house and a stable tolerance for each other. We both wanted a dual child family and we both wanted a girl. One thing led to another and we decided to register for adoption. My son was just about to turn 6 that year. My first thoughts were – ‘Should we talk to him?’. Incidentally his best friend had a baby brother which allowed me a segue into the topic. For a couple of days, I would catch him off guard to ask him about what he felt about siblings in general, friends having baby brothers or sisters, examples of siblings in our own families including his first cousin who he is close to. My lovely boy, bless him, told me categorically he is interested in a sibling only if it is a sister. I think that was the positive beginning that we were desperately looking for. I also thought that I would have ample time to talk and explain things to him once we registered.

Life had other plans. Fortunately or unfortunately, I decided to go to the agency wanted to register with, to get a feel and talk to them first. The choice was one of the best decisions I ever made. First time that I went there by myself, Sister Breeda sat me down to talk to me for 2 hours! She talked about different journeys parents take to become a family, different sorts of people, other PAP’s in Bangalore (unnamed of course!) and our reasons for adoption. Finally she sent me off saying – ‘Come back tomorrow and don’t forget to bring your son’. We had still not registered at this time.

Next day, I landed there again with husband and son in tow (who was more than happy to skip school and for some reason thought that we were going for Ice Cream!). This time around, Sister Breeda talked to him for a long time, with us and without. She told us to go for a walk while she talked. When we came back, she told me – “He is ready for his baby sister, go register now”. She is no more, but she will always remain special for us..

It took us 11 months from then, to get our baby girl. She was a 3 month old imp, who grinned and chuckled into our lives, changing it forever. We have had our share of parental struggles with anxieties and sibling rivalries since then and it has been a glorious few years for us. Here are some things that I learnt when dealing with an older bio child on this journey:

  • Have a consistent narrative. The narrative should be the same to your child, your immediate and extended family and to your social network. Do not create different versions of it to suit the audience. More consistent the narrative, more normalized it is.

  • For an older child, a younger sibling is a younger sibling. They don’t necessarily need to get details on why and how a second child came to be unless they are old enough to process that information (I use the thumb rule of age 8 for mature topics of discussion)

  • Come up with a term for the arriving baby. It makes it real to your child and gives them a framework for reference when talking about him/her. We called her a ‘gift baby’ to indicate that she was a gift for us as we wanted her so badly, and I like to think made it aspirational for him.

  •  Use the time to talk about other friends/family who have a new sibling and what it entails to have a sibling. This will also allow them to open up and talk through their apprehensions – Will I have to share you with her? Will he play with me? Do I have to give all my toys to her? Can she talk to me? Etc

  • An older child may have questions around where the child is coming from. While, I will not go into the complex topic of disclosure here, my suggestion is to keep things simple and honest.

  • If it is a younger child, read them books around expecting a new sibling and what it means. I always find that we should share our stories with our children as often as we can, childhood stories and incidents.

  • This is a big one – Have a sit down chat with your significant other on plans to deal with 2 as opposed to one. When you go from a family of 1 child to 2, all bets are off. Even the simplest of things will defy logic, logistically speaking. Things rarely double, strangely they seem to multiply. So, talk to your SO about how you will split responsibilities, chores, children. Yes, I am serious.

  • Prepare to go the extra mile for the older child who is dealing with a life changing event and do not trivialize it. That doesn’t mean you have to choose between the kids, that simply means being able to plan for extra hands because you are going to need it.

  •  Keep an extra attention to details. I found my son changing even with all the preparation in the world. To me it seemed like he suddenly grew up. Sometimes being asked to be the older sibling can do that to you. Smaller details like them not talking as much as they would, not coming to you for a snack, a fight that goes un-verbalized, lack of attention in school etc can be missed in the haze of a new baby. We learnt to chalk out undivided time with him through the day, which was sacrosanct. We took turns, we included him in our chores and at times he told us how he wanted us to be 😊

  •  Finally take the time out to be a family just by yourselves. That could mean taking a vacation as a family unit, taking a short break both maternity and paternity, rethinking weekends, coming home early from work for daddies.

Today, when I see them together, to me it seems like they were made for each other. I suspect that if they had to name their favorite person at home, they would name each other. They have taught us and continue to teach us about unconditional love. I am pretty sure we will have our share of ups and downs and they will too, but if there is anything this journey has taught us is that if you open yourself up to possibilities, there is something beautiful to be found…

Note: Radhika Shekhar is a procrastinator who dabbles with robotics and blogging every now and then. When she is not procrastinating, she divvies her time between being a super mom, a super technocrat and a super couch potato…


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