Siblings Welcome by Margaret Hart

My seven-year-old son has been talking about wanting a sibling since he was old enough to understand where babies come from, and to witness many of his friend’s mothers pregnant and later, giving birth. All around him, in his playgroups and at school, his friends were becoming big brothers and big sisters to new little siblings. My son has always wanted a brother or a sister, and so have we.

In the early years, the discussions about siblings were easier but no less painful. Fast forward a few years and the discussions continue, but the answers have become far more difficult and far more painful. If you became a first-time mom over the age of 35, as I did, chances are you struggled with building your family. Some older moms I know have been fortunate enough to get pregnant and carry a child to term, but most I know have struggled through IVF, egg donations, and both failed and successful adoptions. If you have been lucky enough to grow your family through one of these methods a first time, you are blessed. If you have been successful a second or a third time, you are lucky.

These are all complex issues to explain to a child who desperately wants a sibling. It rips through my heart every time my son comes home from school and laments, “Mom, out of the 20 kids in my class, 18 have siblings, and I don’t.”  While we have had discussions with him about how families are formed, including his own adoption story, he still does not fully comprehend the concept, the process, nor how difficult it has become. Despite the recent trend of celebrity adoptions, those of us who have been there, done that, know it’s just not that easy.

I wish I could say that I take comfort in knowing I am not alone. A year after my son was born I founded an adoption group in an effort to socialize and network with other adoptive parents. While it has been helpful to commiserate and to celebrate with other families, it hasn’t helped take away the pain or made the journey any easier.

How do you explain to your child, who desperately wants a sibling, that it’s just not that simple? How do you keep your smiley face on when your child’s face is red with tears? The answer is: you don’t. You cry right along with your child, and you talk about the sadness you feel. If you’ve come to the end of your journey of building your family, you talk about positive ways to move forward. If you are still on the road, you try to give each other hope and to balance expectations.

We continue to explain to our son that we would love to have another child, and for him to have a sibling. We talk honestly and with hope, as well as sadness, because this is our reality, and we just don’t know what the future holds. While this isn’t what our son wants to hear, it is truthful, and I believe the truth is always the best answer with children. We continue to hold out hope that one day, when we receive an invitation to a party that reads, “Siblings Welcome,” our reply will be “yes.”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

  1. 8 Responses to “Siblings Welcome by Margaret Hart”

  2. I can so empathize with you as we are in the same boat. We had our son via IVF and after one failed adoption felt that our journey was over. We talk honestly with our son about our situation, and he does have friends who are also only children, but it’s still difficult.

    By Rebecca on May 15, 2012

  3. Thanks, Rebecca. It’s nice to have support from other moms who have been through similar circumstances.

    By Margaret Hart on Jun 5, 2012

  4. I find it interesting that although my son is a social butterfly, he tends to gravitate to friends who are also only children. I’m not sure if it is because he feels more comfortable with friends who are also “onlies.” Or whether he can relate to the family dynamics. But, of the 5 or 6 closer friends he has, they are all only children.

    I also am an only, and can sympathize with your son. I remember a little boy coming up to me and asking me why I didn’t have any brothers or sisters. I replied that I wasn’t sure. This crass boy then said, “There must be something wrong with you if your parents don’t want to have any more kids.” I ran home and bawled with my “later” Mom trying to console me as best she could.

    Keep having open discussions with your son. My son has never asked for a sibling and quite honestly, I don’t think he would do well with one. He is the leader. Even with his cousins, he makes it known he is the oldest. There is no competing for his “role.”

    Also, make sure that the issue is purely sibling related and not adoption related. Sometimes kids may think it’s one issue when it turns out to be the other. I’ll ask my best friend who has a son who is adopted and is an only. I’ll see if she has run into this situation with her son.

    By Cara Meyers on May 15, 2012

  5. Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

    By Margaret Hart on Jun 5, 2012

  6. Oh my, how this hits close to home. We are currently awaiting an adoptive placement. We’ve been told that things have slowed way down and the wait is currently very long. My husband and I recently attended a support group for adoptive parents awaiting a child and my daughter asked me if we would be bringing the baby back with us from the meeting. It’s so hard to explain to her, especially when she sees her friends’ moms pregnant or her friends with their siblings. I know kids are pretty resilient and perhaps it’s me who is having the hardest time with this, but I wish there weren’t so many unknowns… Thanks Margaret, for writing this and sharing your experience.

    By Rebecca N on May 16, 2012

  7. Thanks, Rebecca. I wish you all the best with your adoption. : )

    By Margaret Hart on Jun 5, 2012

  8. I applaud your candor Margaret and feel for your family.

    Cara — My son is adopted and an only child, and I don’t see any connection between his being adopted and wanting or not wanting a sibling. Like your son, mine has never asked for sibling. He has friends who are both only children and have siblings. His “best” friend has a sister.

    For our family, it’s a non issue.

    Margaret — There is an author Susan Newman (no relation) who writes on the only child subject. We have featured her. You might check out her work/books.

    By Robin Gorman Newman on May 16, 2012

  9. I will check out Susan’s work. Thanks.

    By Margaret Hart on Jun 5, 2012