Adoption and the home-grown helpful sisters

Waiting – Jah’s Life Story Book
Terminology and the emotive power of words, especially with regard to race

One day somebody asked me about our experience of adopting two sons. That wasn’t such an unusual question, but her following comment rather surprised me. Perhaps it shouldn’t have.

She said “The sisters must have been very generous-hearted”.

I ask myself: Did I take it for granted that our children would be “generous-hearted”? Did I simply assume that they would benefit from having the brothers?

We exposed our daughters from the ages of four and two to a different kind of society when we went to work and live in Western Malaysia for a few years.

map W.MalaysiaImage courtesy of Thanamat at

Exposure to a different kind of society can be a very ‘eye-opening’ experience for people of any age. It was easy for Lucy and Anna to see that they were quite fortunate and that they could share with others.

Clearly some people in Malaysia were far far richer than we were, but there was poverty in some places for all to see. And once a week we looked after a little child who suffered from Cerebral Palsy. Lucy and Anna liked her and observed how she could do so little for herself, yet they had many things in common with her. She was a child like them. They enjoyed making her smile and laugh and sharing funny situations with her. One example I can remember was when our kitten jumped into the dolls pram and let the girls push him round the garden.

kittenImage courtesy of digidreamgrafix at

This made all the girls laugh long and loud. So Yes. They had fun with her, but Lucy and Anna were also definitely “generous-hearted” in helping to entertain and care for this little girl. (Unfortunately it is so long ago that I cannot remember her name.)

The little girl was brought to us every Tuesday, by one of the missionaries who lived in her town. She then stayed one or two nights with us and I took her to the local school for children with a variety of disabilites. It was called “The Spastic School” and indeed most of the children who attended were like her and suffered from Cerebral Palsy.

On her first “sleep-over” it was not easy looking after her even when she was asleep, because naturally she dribbled a bit onto her pillow and the ants soon found that out. However, during that first night, we managed to defeat the ants by putting the four legs of the cot in big saucers of water and the ants could not get over the water. I think that everything else, including her food, was quite simple to deal with, although now I cannot imagine what we gave her to eat.

As I have said, the little girl stayed one or two nights with us every week. It was the missionary who brought her, but it was her mother who came to collect her by bus when it was time for her to go home. It was so moving to see her little face light up every time she heard her mother’s footsteps as she came to collect her! I think she was happy with us and the school was most helpful with providing her with enriching experiences and activities.  It was clear that she benefited from attending there, but nothing is as good as a Mum coming to collect a child with love written all over her face! Our girls were always amazed that their little friend could hear the mother long before they heard her footsteps.


         We were in Malaysia for three years. We then returned to England and applied to adopt a baby. Our children were aged 8 and 6 when baby Sam joined the family. Their baby brother gave them great joy all along, so maybe being “generous-hearted” did not apply. They played with him, watched him if I put him on rug to kick while I was preparing food in the kitchen and generally enjoyed helping with him and playing with him. He was very adored and from the moment he arrived. He definitely enriched all our lives.

playing 16.30.47Anna and Sam having fun in a make-believe tent.

By the time we applied to adopt Jah, the girls were much older. They were already teenagers. I think Lucy, as the eldest, felt protective of us during the settling-in period and maybe she thought that it would become even more difficult for us during the years ahead, but they were both so great.

In my last blog post there is a photo of Jah on his 5th birthday.

5th b'day Jah

If you look carefully in the background you can see a big girl standing behind the boy in red. That was Anna. She was wonderful at helping to arrange games and activities for the young brothers

Well. The more I write here, the more I realise that we are indeed extremely fortunate in our daughters as well as our sons! And YES. They benefited in many ways, but they were also definitely “generous-hearted”.

Odette Elliott
Odette Elliott
I love writing stories for children. I have had six books published and am working on others.


  1. Rachel says:

    Great post. Lovely to read about the little disabled girl who used to stay over with us in Malaysia. I hadn’t remembered that it was every week. You were very ‘generous-hearted’ in looking after her so regularly! I’m delving into my memory bank to see if I can remember her name…

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