Does Elsa want a sibling?
For a couple of years now I’ve been toying with the idea of adopting. I would love Elsa to have a brother or a sister. I have one of each, and have developed a theory that as adults we naturally seek to replicate the family size we grew up with. This theory has as its scientific basis my mother’s habit of setting six places at dinner. She grew up as one of four siblings, and obviously felt that in producing a mere three children, she and my father were left one short of a full set.
As a single parent, my options are somewhat limited. I have friends who have gone the sperm donation route, but although I’d love more of my own children, having Elsa has satisfied at least 90 percent of the biological urge. Adoption seems therefore the best solution, but I’ve been finding it hard to decide whether to go ahead. At the moment, it’s relatively easy to balance work with time for Elsa. When I’m not working, I can focus on her in a way that would be impossible with a second child claiming my attention. And we’re actually very happy as things are, so do I really want to tempt fate? As it is, I don’t always feel I deserve such happiness, knowing that Elsa will probably suffer later as she comes to grips with not having a father. Part of me worries that I’m overreaching, risking what we have by seeking more.
I’m also worried that I wouldn’t feel the same way toward an adopted child as I do toward Elsa. I don’t have any doubts about loving them, but could it really go as deep?
When I first moved to China, I was a regular viewer of CCTV-9’s guest interview program “Up Close.” During an episode on adoption, a mother in the audience who had both natural and adopted children said that far from feeling differently, she felt such a bond with her adopted child that she could not imagine that he had not actually come from her own body. It was a lovely perspective that I had not considered before. So, I keep reminding myself that while my fear is a natural one, it needn’t reflect reality.
The third mental stumbling block relates to my motivation. A big part of my reason for adopting would be to give Elsa a brother or sister. But shouldn’t I want children simply for their own sake – in their own right? And perhaps Elsa doesn’t even want a sibling – another child would change our small family’s dynamics pretty radically.
These thoughts had been stewing around unresolved in my head for far too long. Finally last week I made a modicum of progress. Elsa and I were in the Blue Zoo underwater viewing tunnel when we bumped into a gorgeous Chinese girl with her mother. The little girl looked just like the younger sister I had imagined for Elsa. (As far as I know single parents can’t currently adopt Chinese children, but for some reason I’ve always had a clear mental picture of her with an Asian sibling.)
Although I do it periodically, I hate bringing up the subject of fathers or siblings with Elsa in case it makes her sad. I’ve read that if you need to talk about something tricky with children, you should pick a time when you’re not directly facing each other – like when you’re driving – as it reduces the pressure. So I decided the aquarium’s moving walkway was too good an opportunity to miss.
Fixing my eyes determinedly on a passing stingray, I casually asked, “Elsa, would you like a brother or sister one day?” “Yes,” she instantly informed an incredibly ugly blue fish. “Two meimeis.”
Help! Twins had not even crossed my mind. But having discussed the subject with Elsa, I feel a lot better. I’m going to slowly start investigating.