Yolie's World

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Parentified Child

I have always been the "parentified child." It seems odd to me that so many people (professionals, parents. etc.) view this as a negative attribute that needs to be broken, rather than a positive trait that can be a helpful tool when adopting a sibling group. Many times, the oldest child is removed from the sibling group because they are parentified and thus will interfere with the adoption process. I thank God that this was not the case in with me. Yes, it was difficult for my new adoptive Mother to deal with my constant "interfering" as she tried to establish herself as the mom with love, discipline and commitment. Yes, I took it personally every time she comforted one of my younger brothers, tied their shoes or put them in time-out. Who did she think she was? I was the only one who had ever taken care of them, and I was the only one who had EARNED the right to have their trust...and here she was trying to take that from me. In reality, though, I had no idea what a great Mother she would turn out to be. Instead of seeing me as a threat, she chose to accept my position in my brothers' lives and to use it to her advantage. She knew that if she could earn my trust then she had my brothers' trust in the bag. How smart is she! So many adoptive parents do the opposite, feeling threatened by the parentified child's position as "caretaker," choosing instead to focus on breaking that and establishing their position. This is a mistake. You see, as time went by and I began to notice that my new Mom meant what she said and that she could be trusted, I slowly began to allow her in, which meant that I also began to view her as the caretaker and to let go (little by little) of my sole desire to be the caretaker. My mom realized early on that I had a wealth of information about my brothers, after all I was the only one around who was there when they were born, who held the keys to their years before adoption. Why not view that as an asset and choose to honor that position? I am so thankful my Mom did.

Now, as an adult, I have never let go of my "parentified" personality. My mother and I joke that we co-parented them, both attending all their sports activities, being there for the good times and the bad, loving them through every minute of their lives so far. And what could be wrong with that? How can a child have too much love? Both my brothers know that in any bind, they have at least two people who will never abandon them. I am forever grateful to my Mom that she chose to honor my position in my brothers' hearts and in return, she earned a place right there beside me, which is a huge accomplishment in an adopted child's eyes.

I say all this to now explain how difficult yesterday was. My baby brother left for Basic Training. I cannot put into words how much I love Daniel. He and Joe were my entire world for so long. They kept me going when we were left alone in dirty apartments without any food and when we were in foster care and even now as a mom the love I feel for them is inexplicable. So, at 26 years old, I felt empty nest. My heart literally hurt as I watched him drive away, knowing that since the day he was born all I've wanted for him was success, and here he was growing up on me. I am so proud of Daniel. He chose to serve his country and he'll come back in 20 weeks to finish up his college education and then who knows. Life holds so much potential for him and my heart bursts with pride, but inside I remember that little boy looking at me to tell him everything would be okay. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at him and not see my baby brother.