Having more sisters and brothers means more love and sometimes having to hide all your nailpolish.
Kendra is 15 years old and a big sister to six siblings. Mary Caros interviewed Kendra about her experience with being the oldest sister in a family that chooses to adopt more children.
Tell me a bit about your siblings.
I’m fifteen. My brother, Jesiah, is next and he’s 13. He’s the second most helpful in the house. He helps me out a lot by looking after our brothers and sisters. My brother, Tynan, is 10. Next are my sisters, Siarah and Braeli. They’re seven and six and a half. Even though they’re not biological twins, they’re like twins in our family. They wear matching clothes every day and they love each other even though they’re total opposites. Darin is 3. He’s a regular toddler--into everything. He loves trains, cars and tractors. In fact, tractors are his life. We live on a farm and he loves going on tractor rides. Then there’s little Casidee. She’s one and a half and she can’t talk yet. She’s busy. She can walk and she gets into anything that’s left out.
Sierra was the first adopted child. She came into our family when I was 10 (five years ago). She was 2.5. Braeli, Darin, and Casidee are bio sibs and we brought them into the family starting a year and a half ago. They came at different times because they were coming from different foster homes.
How did your parents prepare you for a larger family?
I was always a part of the adoption decision, so I wanted to adopt my siblings and I always knew what it would mean. When I was 10, my parents sat us down and told us that they wanted to adopt and asked us if we had concerns. I was concerned about my books. They assured me that my books could go in a separate place and be kept safely from the small children. They made sure we were part of the decision before they applied. The second time we were adopting three kids together. We were older, so we knew more about what to expect, and I was all for it. They wanted to make sure that we were part of it. They walked us through what might change, and they brought it up a lot. They really talked to us the second time because I was a teenager and that can be tricky so they really made sure that they had my support.
How, if at all, has your family changed since your adopted siblings joined?
How do you “love them all of the time?” I have two siblings and I’m still struggling to love them some of the time!
When I was 10, and Siarah first came into our home, she moved into my room and she was a terror. That was hard. It’s been hard to love them all of the time. We have a family mission statement. We’ve been taught it since I learned to talk, and it has helped all of us in being a loving family.
The first line is, “We are a loving, caring, sharing family.” Even my littlest brother knows this line. If the little ones are not getting along, my mother says, “What kind of family are we?” He can understand this, and can understand what being a loving, sharing family means.
The second line is, “We’re a family of grace.” It means we protect each other in our weaknesses and encourage each other in our strengths. If we’re fighting about who’s better or more deserving , we’re reminded of this line. My little sisters are getting to know this part.
The third line is, “We’re a family of service.” To us it means we’re available to be of help to others. We want to be a family that isn’t closed. We’ll always have an attitude of giving and not thinking about ourselves but what we can do for others. All of these statements together are what my family strives to be.
What, if any, adjustments have you had to make?
I’ve had to learn to take the time to spend with my siblings. I’m the older sister, so they always want to be with me. I’ve had to be open to helping out with my sisters or taking my brother for a walk, or painting my little sister’s nails. I’ve adjusted my time expectations and responsibilities with family. The kids go to bed at 7:30, and after they go to sleep is my quiet time. My parents are good about making sure that I have time, especially if I have school deadlines.
What advice would you like to give parents who are bringing children into the family?
Make sure that siblings have the chance to learn and know about each other. Have everyone together as a family a lot. It’s all about unity. Everyone is not a separate little piece; we’re part of a big family. Children should learn to be friends with each other. My mom says that friends will come and go, but your family will always be there.
Know that all children test, especially adopted siblings. Often, they’ll say things like, “I hate you.” It’s only because they want to know how permanent their family's love is. Show the kids that you love them no matter what. My mom will hug my sister until she calms down and tells her she’ll always be her mommy.
Set aside family time. We have family dinners and breakfasts at a big table and talk about our day. We regroup and come together as a family. Things like family outings are important for bonding as a family.
What advice would you give for siblings who are about to have more siblings?
Remember to love your new siblings no matter what they do. They’ll push you as far as they can. They’ll ruin your Lego, and they’ll steal your nail polish. Come to accept and love them as siblings, even though they’ll push you.
What advice would you give for a child who is joining a family?
It may seem overwhelming, but your new family wants to love you. Even though you might not want to be there, they love you and want you to be part of their family.
Finish this sentence: The thing I love about my family is:
How close we are as a family. I love all of the parts coming together.