Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Out of Birth Order does not equal Disorder

I've had a few contacts recently on the topic of birth order and adoption. Questions and comments on the subject ranged from "Can we do it?" (Meaning, is it permissible?) to "Could we do it?" (Meaning, is it advisable?) to "Why WOULD we do it?" and "Why wouldn't we?"

Word on the street and in some adoptive circles is that out-of-birth order adoptions are... quite bluntly... out of order. Toying with the natural pecking order in a family can't be ideal.... could it?

Given the right families, the right children, and the right supports, out of birth order placements can and have succeeded. 

"Wow, that seems like a lot of work," you might say. And it is. But guess what? Adoptive parenting is a lot of work. (Good, immensely rewarding, important work, but lots of it!) Being a child in an adoptive family requires tenacity, and thoughtful preparation on the part of the adults involved. These challenges don't scare us away.

We've proven our adaptability right from the start. As adoptive families we take on many challenging and rewarding roles. All members of the family must work together and celebrate our diversity. We walk proudly as conspicuous transracial families. We parent children with (GASP!) special placement needs. We tackle grief and loss, we take on attachment, we help our children heal from past abuse or neglect. We foster openness. We don't just survive, we thrive. 

Basically, we rock. It's just too bad they don't hand out super hero capes to each family member every time we welcome a new child home.

We're given all these special roles as adoptive family members. And yet.... somewhere along the line, the mystical "they" decided (through scientific research and careful consultation) that parenting children out of birth order is a BAD idea. In effect, stating that our shoulders are broad enough to bear the challenges of adoptive parenting.... but that messing with birth order was, simply, too much of a burden for the parents or children to bear.

I had a lot of trouble defending that research in light of the families I know who have defied its findings. Larger families especially seem to have an easier time of welcoming an "out of birth order" sibling into the fold.

One of the major arguments is that it upsets the roles of children (both the new members and the 'old'). Well, doesn't that happen ANY time you add a child? The youngest becomes the oldest, or the middle.  The newly adopted child may have been the youngest, oldest, or only in their birth or foster home. Being adopted may mean they assume a different position in their new family constellation. Blended families bring kids of all ages together under one roof, and those families thrive successfully, too. 

If you've bucked the birth order in your adoptive family, let us know. I'm willing to bet they happen, and happen successfully, more often than we hear.