We have a post office box that we use solely for the purpose of communication with our kids’ biological families. It’s in another town that’s accessible for my husband on his drive to and from work. Since there is rarely mail there, we don’t check it very often, usually once a month or so. My husband checked in the week before Christmas, but didn’t find anything but junk mail. Then he checked last week, and there were two items: a large package for our daughter from her birthgrandmother, and the holiday card we sent to our son’s birthmom marked “return to sender.”
Lately, our son has been having a hard time with his sister reaching the age of reason. She’ll be seven in a few weeks, and we’ve noticed she’s reached a new level of maturity. Our son has noticed it too, and he feels the divide widening. The same thing happened when our daughter turned five and he was still three. Every interaction was a operatic tragedy for him, and now that he’s got a five-year-old’s vocabulary, he bemoans the ways in which his life is unfair in comparison to his sister’s. And his behavior has been correspondingly atrocious as he works through these feelings. (In fact, we have our first teacher conference about his behavior next week.)
So when my husband brought home this big package for our daughter, we actually left it in the car for a day or two until we could find the right time to bring it in. When we did bring it in the house and told the kids what it was, our daughter was excited and our son was deflated. We dealt with the fallout and waited a few more days to actually open the package. Tonight, our daughter was pleading to open the box, and we let her after dinner. Inside, her grandmother had folded a few of those super soft fleece sweaters that our daughter absolutely adores. Then underneath was the holy grail of all presents: a Dream Lite Unicorn.
She’s been begging for one of these night-light-stuffed-animals for months, and when she saw it she just about lost her mind screaming. She was so excited. Our son on the other hand lost it in a different way. My husband swiftly swooped in and kept him from totally going over the edge, and it was a tough conversation to navigate. Our daughter, being nearly seven now, was extremely kind with her brother, showing him how the night light worked and inviting him into her room so they could turn it on in the dark. Still, I could tell he was saddened by yet another tick in his sister’s life column and another empty space in his.
And so we’ll keep telling him how much his birthmom cares for him in spite of her absence, showering him with our praise for his social development, and helping him enumerate the people in his life will always be a part of his forever family. With any luck, he’ll move out of this phase of keeping score, and maybe someday he’ll even fill that void created by his missing biological connection with the love that our family has for him.