What It's Like Having An Adopted Sibling

Every time I share this story, I start it the same way. I begin by explaining that children today are most concerned with getting the newest cell phone, iPad, or laptop put on the market. But instead, all I wanted was a sister.

Yes, I did wait a total of 3 years to finally meet and bring home the little girl I had only seen in pictures. Indeed, I did travel to the Guatemalan orphanage with my family to the top of one of the highest mountains I had ever seen. Also, being told our completely unsafe, outdated, dilapidated van was going to climb it, is also a very distinct memory.

And of course I remember walking into the crowded, 100-degree nursery, and seeing my sister for the very first time. I actively recall my inability to communicate with anyone around me, including my sister, considering my inability to speak Spanish. I easily think back and remember how happy all the children were, despite their lack of families or any type of material things.  Some of the best memories were the first time we spent with her in the playground at the orphanage, the pool at the hotel, and the first time she learned English words just from sitting in the hotel room with us.


Usually I stop the story at: my sister came home and we all lived happily ever after.  Even though I hold all of these memories extremely close to my heart, a happily ever after is simply not the case.

Before long, the magic of having the sister I always dreamed of wore off. As much fun as my 10-year-old self had playing with her and acting like a second mom, reality set in.

My sister had to adjust to the American lifestyle; eating foods she never had before, learning a language she had never heard, and becoming attached to people she had never met. She had little quirks that we had to break through as well. She had an avid fear of the bathtub, hated being hugged, and could not go to sleep in her crib without someone there with her. Teaching her all of the American ways did not come easy, but instead was a process spread out over the course of years.

As far as myself, I also had to adjust. Now, my family’s attention was not solely on me. Not only did my parents have to split their attention between the two of us, so did my extended family. At family gatherings, everyone wanted to specifically hang out with my sister. Giving up my title as the youngest child in the family was not easy. The attention did not gradually shift to my sister, but instead completely switched to her.

The house was also suddenly never quiet. If my sister was unhappy for whatever reason, there would be a meltdown. This meltdown would last from anywhere from 5 minutes to what felt like 5 hours. Since I had never had a crying infant in the house before, this constant noise was not something I was even remotely used to. I’d like to say her tantrums fizzled out soon after her toddler years, but then I would be lying. In later years, I even came to the conclusion that she took joy in pushing my buttons. Getting a rise out of me soon became a sport, and I spent a decent portion of those years rather annoyed, to put it nicely.

Most days I am not conscious of the fact my sister is adopted. She’s just my sister, and I don’t feel the need to explain how she joined our family to every person I meet. But sometimes it does come up, and then people start asking questions.

Most people tell me that having a sibling adopted from another country is pretty cool, but there’s always the few that just don’t understand. I never understood the uninformed questions and misconceptions people had about adoption. Some of the questions came from children and teenagers, but some even came from adults. It is no surprise that my sister looks absolutely nothing like me. Yes, I still consider her my sister even though we don’t share the same blood. No, my parents don’t love me more than her. No, I can’t tell you her entire family history. But the most popular question that arose after we brought her home was whether or not I was adopted. People found it extremely foreign for one child to be born into a family the traditional way while the other child was adopted.

My sister is going to be 13 years old, marking the 10-year anniversary of the day we brought her home to America. She has done gymnastics; learned karate and dance, played guitar, and most recently became a very skilled artist. All of these are opportunities she never would have gotten the chance to experience if we had never adopted her. We celebrate the day we brought her home as a second birthday for her, letting her do whatever she wants to celebrate. We always make sure to make it a point to commemorate that my sister finally made it to her forever family.