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The Baby Sister Effect

Our new daughter taught our sons many lessons, and changed the dynamic in our home for the better.

by Patty Lazarus

An amazing transformation occurred in our family when we brought our newly adopted baby girl home to our two biological sons, then seven and nine. Like other boys their ages, my sons thought mostly about sports, food, Star Wars, playing with their friends, and, occasionally, about school. With a new little sister on the scene, they came to enjoy doing simple activities with her, learning about babies, embracing the color pink, and watching her develop into a curious, busy toddler while asking about what they were like at her age. The transformation was amazing to see. This new side of my boys gave me great joy, and the dynamic in our home changed for the better.

Patience and sharing suddenly held new meaning for my boys--lessons they might have taken longer to learn without a baby in the house. I remember when one of my sons sat in the backseat of the car, with his hands over his ears as the baby screamed in her car seat. We laughed when I reminded him that he had cried even louder, and more often, at that age. Naturally, the boys weren't completely understanding when things disappeared from their rooms, toys got broken, and their artwork was scribbled on, but forgiveness was a good lesson for them to learn, as well. I became increasingly proud of my boys as their fondness for their sister grew exponentially, despite the bumps along the way.

Now my daughter has turned 10 and my older son is away at college, but his interest in her life remains unchanged. He calls frequently to check in with her, sends her Valentine's cards and teddy bears, and feels bad when he has to miss her birthday parties, tennis matches, or musical performances. My younger son, now a senior in high school, is a willing babysitter. He helps his sister with homework, coaches her softball team, and drives her to and from after-school activities. Their relationship is surprisingly close, given their age difference.

Soon my daughter will have to deal with both of her brothers living away from home. Both boys are worried about their sister entering middle school in the fall without her big brothers there to protect her from eager admirers, and guide her through the labyrinth of adolescence that they so recently navigated. We all feel a looming sense of loss.

And yet, I look forward to the tidal wave of changes that will soon sweep our household. I anticipate an even closer relationship with my daughter as she evolves into a young woman. Our relationship is precious to me now, but the teenage years will be riddled with problems, social conflicts, and life lessons that, in the best-case scenario, bring parents and children closer. I shared an incredible closeness with my mother until her death. My sons were very young at the time, but my memories of her encouraged and guided me to find my daughter, against the odds, after years of infertility and heartbreak. So far, my daughter has brought our family amazing experiences, blissful laughter, and an abundance of joy, and I expect the next 10 years to be even more delightful and fulfilling.

PATTY LAZARUS is the author of March Into My Heart: A Memoir of Mothers, Daughters, and Adoption. She lives with her husband and three children, through birth and adoption, near Seattle, Washington.

PHOTO: Micah Lazarus (7) reads a story to his sister, Sophie (1 month, U.S.).

How did your child's siblings react when you first brought your new son/daughter home? What lessons did your family learn? Share your story at Adoptive Families Circle.

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