The Brady Bunch Effect: Meshing Cultures

With our children, both bios and adopted, we share a common desire – a complete family. Daleska and Emily wanted new parents, siblings, and all that comes along with being a part of a healthy, normal family. The other five of us wanted new daughters/siblings with whom to share life.

The journey towards becoming a typical family has had, and will continue to have, bumps along the way. With our patience tested on a daily basis, it is with a broader perspective that we will make this new family work. I call our “new normal” the Brady Bunch Effect.

Popular throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the Brady Bunch was centered around two families becoming one. As the family members began their new lives together, they were faced with learning and adjusting to each parts’ past family culture. The rules, comfort, and stability of “what used to be” no longer existed. This is what we are currently experiencing.

Through our adoption, we are merging two distinctly different cultures – Latin American institutional culture with Midwest North American family culture. Daleska and Emily have spent the last 5-6 years in an orphanage. They have had to learn independence and survival instincts and have guarded themselves emotionally and otherwise. The rest of us (Nathan, Stacy, Dylan, Kayla, and Aubry) have created a close-knit family based upon love, acceptance, trust, and vulnerability.

Merging these two cultures will take time and the first step is building trust. With biological children, trust with parents begins to develop immediately at birth, so we’ve got to make up some time. Our stay in Costa Rica has been invaluable as it has allowed us to focus solely on the girls and their needs without the distractions of life back in Indiana. Through the course of daily interactions and activities we have spent precious time together – swimming, playing games, sight-seeing, shopping, and having bedtime conversations. All trust-builders.

During this time, we have also learned not to take words or behaviors personally. When tempers rise, we don’t react as we would with our bio children, with whom we have built years of trust. Every action we take needs to be accompanied with patience and gentleness, as right now the end goal is winning trust points, not necessarily correcting behavior. Ultimately, we have learned to celebrate the wins, of which there have been many, and to count them as baby steps in the process.

In the last nine weeks, we have already seen so much improvement in the adjustment process. Both girls are gaining a level of comfort around us as we learn likes and dislikes, work through language barriers and listen to one another’s stories.

On Friday, we travel home to join the rest of our family. As the Brady Bunch Effect continues to set in, more adjustments will shape our everyday lives. And together, the seven of us will work towards becoming a “new normal” family!


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