I have a broader question - what did you all do to prepare Jack for your departure and absence? How did you communicate with his while in-country? Did you have a set calling time? Skype? Anything you can share about this topic will be helpful - our son Luca is pretty close to Jack's age. We weren't sure whether we would take him or not and now are fairly sure he will stay home (GULP!).Thanks for following the blog, and thanks especially for the insightful question.
We decided to leave Jack (age 5) at home mostly because (1) he's in a really good kindergarten program, although he still hasn't chosen between the Computer Science or the Pre-Med tracks, and (2) he's very close with his grandmother, so we had no worries entrusting him to her care.
I haven't really given much though to how we've prepared for this. More than anything, we've been very open and straightforward with him throughout the process. Laura bought him some recommended children's books on international adoption that we've read to him. It's tough to gauge exactly how much these helped, but Jack does have a very good understanding of what's going on. During our first trip, he told anyone who would listen that his parents were in Kazakhstan getting his baby brother.
The hardest part for him to grasp is probably typical for the age -- he just doesn't comprehend the scale of time. Tomorrow, next week, and next month just sort of all blur together -- basically, anything that isn't happening right now.
Leaving him at the airport for the first trip was admittedly a lot harder on Laura than it was for me. She's only been away from him for a weekend or so previously. I've had to spend an entire year away from both Laura and Jack due to my line of work. Sadly, separation is something you can practice, although the experience doesn't make it a lot feel any easier.
We've been pleasantly surprised at Jack's enthusiasm to date. He tells us how he's going to play with his little brother, and that he wants him to sleep in Jack's bedroom. However, as an older brother myself, I know that the honeymoon period will likely be very short-lived. As Jack succinctly put it, "I think we're going to need new toys." We've both tried to give him some heavy doses of one-on-one time as reassurances that, in spite of all the current new baby talk, he hasn't been forgotten. Last weekend was Legoland, and this weekend is a Dad-Lad camping trip (complete with guns and everything!).
Jack's grandmother was very good about calling our apartment in-country by standard telephone 2-3 times a week for us to chat with Jack. We could tell he was having a lot more fun with Grandma than he would be with us, so we found that very reassuring.
In short, I think the decision to leave or bring a sibling child is very personal and very dependent on many factors -- there is no single right or wrong answer. Regarding the process, we found that our 5 y/o could readily understand and support what we were doing. We were very comfortable being straightforward and honest with him. We are very fortunate that a grandparent was available, willing, and supportive enough to watch our son during our absence, and during Laura's second trip when I will be working.
We would certainly be interested in hearing from adoptive parents about sibling integration after the adoption. Specifically, what issues did you anticipate or not anticipate, and what techniques did you find that worked well or not-so-well?
Finally, an old joke that Laura and I re-cycled after our first trip...
Q: How many people can you fit on a Karaganda city bus?
A: Always one more!