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When everything else was strange, unsettling, weird, they had each other
Published: November 30, 2017
Emma and Andy adopted two siblings, ‘Nibbles and Bubbles’, four years ago, when the children were one and two years old respectively. Emma shares their story…
I am not going to tell you that adopting siblings is easier than adopting one. It isn’t. When my husband returned to work I was scared. I felt woefully unprepared to cope with two children vying for my attention. I needed eyes in the back of my head, a nose like a sniffer dog, seven pairs of hands and was utterly exhausted by it all. My life felt like an endless roundabout of nappies, meals, tidying up, fights, supermarkets, naps, bottles, laundry, nappies, trying to understand their sort-of-words, more tidying, another meal, more nappies, baths, stories, bed and more.
When Bubbles went to pre-school, I suddenly experienced how much easier one child would have been. Not just a little bit easier, but soooo much easier. There just seemed more space, more time, more of everything. So I can understand why you might be thinking of adopting one child. Two is harder, certainly in the early days. But there are upsides – things that you can only get if you adopt siblings.
They had been with us just a few weeks and Nibbles was upset. We had no idea why he started crying in the car, and even my most soothing rendition ofWe’re Going on a Bear Hunt wasn’t working. Two-year-old Bubbles turned to him and said “hold my hand.” She stretched out towards him, touching fingers between the car seats in a moment of joyful tenderness I will never forget. The impact was immediate. His tears stopped and he smiled. When everything else was strange, unsettling, weird, when their new home didn’t feel like a home at all, they had each other, they had love and that helped them feel safe. Their love for each other is massive, unbounded, magical. With siblings you get to share a love that goes to the moon and back.
Their lives and the people in it have changed so much in the few years since they were born. They’ve experienced trauma and separations. But one thing (and one person) has always been there for them, always been part of their lives. We were kind of late to the party, but Nibbles and Bubbles have always had each other. Their history started and continues together. And through this history, they have learnt that you can trust some people to be there for you whatever.
“What did he say?” I would ask her. When Nibbles spouted sentences of jumbled consonants and vowels, when I had tried all the combinations I could think of and was running out of patience, Bubbles would often know what he meant. She was our go-between and not just for translation. When Nibbles was confused and upset in those first wobbly weeks, in a way we could not mend, a big hug from his sister was all that he needed to know that things would be okay.
Nibbles and Bubbles are inseparable (until they upset each other). They invent make-believe places and games that I cannot always fathom. Together they play, they explore, they invent, they create, they cut and stick and learn about sharing, about being mean, about saying sorry. It feels safer when they are together, because they look out for each other, so I relax and give them leeway to grow to their capabilities (rather than being limited by my fears). Sometimes their gang of two isn’t open to me, and yet as much as I pout, they are growing faster together.
With a big sister, Nibbles has run to keep up. Sometimes literally, sometimes with his words, with behaviour, eating, skills and play. He wants to copy her and she loves to help him with his reading, or zipping his coat up, getting washed or teaching him new things. After watching her go in for years, he couldn’t wait to start school, to do the things she has done. And one day, as I keep hinting, he will be faster than her.
We always wanted a family, Andy and I. By adopting siblings, we created a ready-made family overnight. It wasn’t easy, but it’s what being a family meant to us. We were a little family and they were a little family, and then we became a new family of four. Within six months we had got over the early wobbles and were finding our feet. But when they ask you at Matching Panel why you want to adopt siblings, don’t say “because it’s quick”!
They share DNA. They don’t look the same, yet there is something in their make up, a connection beyond skin, beyond looks, beyond shared experiences. They will always have someone to talk to about being adopted (I might want it to be me, and it might not be), someone who understands what it is like to be them. Nibbles and Bubbles know they belong with each other (and now with us), and they get each other in a way that only siblings can.
Being with each other feels like home.
The way they play with each other is infectious and before you know it, I am shouting “giddy up” as we canter to school on the back of imaginary unicorns. They might be double trouble, but they’re also double the hugs, double the happ tears of pride in their achievements, double the joy, double the giggling at jokes and double the frustration too. With a child in each hand, I feel balanced, rooted through their touch to my life at a whole new level. They have multiplied the love and laughter in our home many, many times over.
It wasn’t until I wrote this list, when I sat down and really thought about all the magical and incredible ways that these two lives, these gorgeous people have added to my family that I really understood what it was that we did when we adopted siblings. I wouldn’t change it for anything. They are my family and I am their mummy and I have never been prouder.
You can read more from Emma at nibblesandbubbles.co.uk