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Photo ofShaelyn Walters

Have you ever felt like the least important child in your family? This feeling is not an ideal way to start your childhood. Don’t be mistaken; I have a fantastic family. That’s just how I felt during my young and  innocent youth.  One significant memory I have as a child was children coming in and going out of my home from the foster system. That was when I began to feel like the least important child. My parents would give foster children every drop of their attention. My brother and I would feel neglected and unsettled, which made us confused and jealous.  Initially, there was a story for every child. As a result, when they’d share their heartfelt stories to me, a relationship/friendship as siblings and as friends began. I remember finding it hard to say goodbye and then wondering why they couldn’t stay. My parents would explain by telling me that their parents got out of a bad place (jail).  At age seven, my mom told my brother and me that we were going to be adopting a one-year-old girl. At that moment, I had mixed emotions: less attention versus gaining a sister. I told my mom I was excited and asked to use her phone so I could learn how to style hair for my new sister.  The day finally arrived. I was at summer camp when my dad walked in with my new baby sister. My dad explained that she was afraid because of being separated from her mom, so we had to be gentle and calm with her. Her name was Angel. She was the first child that my parents considered adopt- ing. I felt surprised and jealous and viewed her adoption as threatening. She would require more attention from my parents. I feared that Angel’s arrival would mean no time or love for me.  I was quiet on the car ride home and didn’t make any effort to communicate with Angel. Once we arrived home, my mom took me into the kitchen and had a mommy-daughter conversation about how I would no longer be the only daughter in the family but instead the oldest daughter. I was required to set a good example. My mom brought Angel into the room and suggest- ed that I try the hairstyles I learned. Angel immediately started crying as soon as I put the brush against her head. I remember this moment clearly because it made me frustrated, angry, and sad. I spent so much time pre- paring to do something for my new baby sister, yet she reacted negatively. Consequently, I took my feelings out in words. “Take her back; I want one that won’t cry when I try to make her prettier.” I understand those words were hurtful and dramatic, but as a young girl, I didn’t comprehend the situation correctly.  The next day my brother and I returned to school. During the day, our class- es crossed paths in the hallway. His teacher asked me how I felt about hav- ing a new sister. I thought to myself, “How can she be loved so easily?” That day I went home and cried to my mom, begging her to take Angel back. I felt like she was getting all of the attention and was replacing my brother and me. Of course, my parents didn’t take her back!  However, after that event, my parents made sure to give equal attention to us. They allowed me to pick out a new name for her after the adoption since my parents felt that ‘Angel’ wasn’t acceptable. I felt content, and as I grew older, I realized that I don’t require all of the attention. Even though we still have our ups and downs, I have so much love and affection for my sister, Sadie, and don’t regret having her in my family. I truly understand the value of each family member. 

© Shaelyn Walters. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.