What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Everly.
When I was eleven, I went to Haiti for the first time and met three kids who would become my siblings. When I was twelve, I moved there as my parents worked tirelessly to complete their adoptions during a presidential coup, an abusive orphanage director coup and deadly rioting. When I was thirteen and fourteen, my siblings came home to the states. We now have a family of ten, with one more on the way from Eastern Europe.
Adoption has changed my family for the better. I love my adopted siblings dearly and hope to someday adopt children of my own, but there is a side to adoption that many people don’t know about. What often goes unnoticed is the fact that when parents adopt children into a family where they already have biological kids, the adopted kids aren’t the only ones whose lives are changed forever.
Like I said, adoption changed my family for the better, but it was also the hardest thing we ever did. One of my adopted sisters is two years younger than I am. She was always extremely competitive with me, but to outsiders, nothing was ever her fault. After all, I was the one who should know better, who should be an example, who should be willing to make sacrifices. Hadn’t she sacrificed enough in her short life?
My adopted sister was emotionally and psychologically wounded and she would take this pain out on me, but according to friends and teachers, I was not allowed to complain. I couldn’t “know what she has been through” and yet I knew better than any of them did.
Being an adoptive sister was extremely hard, especially being teenagers together. While I had to work hard to get what I wanted, even if that was just a little attention, my sister had everything handed to her. She would share her story and be given a scholarship, job, wad of cash, new car. She would lie and turn extended family against my parents and I. She would receive honors and awards for academic work she had never done. This was not easy for a little girl to swallow. Because yes, I was a little girl too. And I wanted someone to notice that I had pain in my own life.
I don’t say this to compare my hurt to the hurt of a child who has been abandoned at an orphanage or to say that my parents should not have adopted because of how difficult it made my growing up years. I fully support the adoptions.
What I want you to know is that being an adoptive sister can be very, very difficult. Though I understand how blessed and lucky and fortunate I am to have been born into a functioning family with a house, a car, and food on the table, it was not easy to share those things with someone who treated me the way my adopted sister treated me. It was not easy to go unheard and watch her use and abuse her way through life. It was not easy to have to hide what was precious to me to keep it out of her destructive hands. It wasn’t easy to see her manipulate the people I loved to get what she wanted and keep me from what I wanted.
The toll this older child adoption took on my family, my mental and emotional health, my social life and familial relationships, is immeasurable. My other siblings and I learned to walk on eggshells at home where she was violent and hateful and to ignore her in public where she was everybody’s favorite.
I have asked for my sister’s forgiveness and she has asked for mine. Still, we are not close as adults and probably will never have a wonderful relationship. I am thankful that my parents don’t try to force this upon us or act like everything is peachy now. I remain very close to my other seven (soon to be eight) siblings and we *all* get together from time to time. This adoption and this sister did not in any way ruin my life, but the wounds that came from those adolescent and teenage years can still sting.
When I see a family with both biological and adopted children, it warms my heart. And then I feel like grabbing the older biological child by the shoulders and saying, “I know you can hardly stand this some days. I know you want to runaway and go back to your easy childhood somedays. I know that not all of this chaos is your fault and that when you get angry, it isn’t because you hate your brothers and sisters. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.”
And I wish someone would have said it to me.