#AdoptionTalk: Imaginary siblings
Yeah, but is she your REAL sister?
Do you have any REAL brothers or sisters?
Oh, how I detest this question. As an adoptive parent or as an adoptee, the “REAL” question makes me want to scream.
Yes, my boys are real brothers – I left all the imaginary kids at home… They love, fight, play and get into stuff just like every other set of brothers you’ve ever met. Yes, they’re real brothers.
But that doesn’t make their biological siblings any less “real”. You know, the ones that don’t live with us. The ones they’ve never met. The ones they don’t know exist. Those siblings aren’t imaginary either. And those siblings are not less important.
I think this question is pretty universally despised in the adoption community. I’m sure it seems innocent enough to the person asking, but it just lands so squarely on so many insecurities – it’s not a harmless conversation-starter.
Yes, I am their real mother. Yes, the 1st mom is their real mother. Same with siblings. None are imaginary.
I take that back about it being the same with siblings. With siblings it’s even more important. I know this as an adoptive parent, but I live it as an adoptee.
Maybe I should back up. See, apparently a lot of people don’t know that I’m adopted. The technical term, I believe, is step-parent adoption. The short version is that my biological father walked out when I was less than 3 months old. My mom eventually met and married my dad, and he adopted me just before I turned 6. I have a mom, a dad, and a biological father. I also have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I have an older brother from my dad’s 1st marriage, a younger sister from my mom and dad, and a younger sister and brother from my biological father’s subsequent marriage.
All of them. And they’re all important to me. My older brother is not less important because we don’t share DNA, and my two youngest siblings are not less important because we didn’t share a childhood.
I’ve seen a trend among adoptive parents to insist that the REAL siblings are the adoptive siblings.That the siblings that truly matter are the ones you grow up with. I totally understand that reaction. The “real” question is so painful, the easiest answer is to act as though the sharing of a childhood is the thing that defines the existence of a sibling relationship.
And I’m here, as an adult adoptee, to tell you that isn’t true.
That’s why we moved heaven and earth to get Lil Bit placed with us.
Squirm has 4 older siblings that don’t know he exists. Squish has 2 older brothers that he has seen twice in his life (both times before he was 2 years old). Either of them may have other siblings of which we are not aware.
I was NOT going to sit idly by and watch my son lose another sibling.
For now, I’m not going to get into the details of meeting my biological father and his family. We’ll say it was disappointing and leave it at that for now.
But… I can’t exactly just leave it at that. Because there is something absolutely critical that every adoptive parent must know about my relationships (or lack thereof) with my biological family.
I am truly fine with having no relationship with my biological father, his parents, brothers and sisters.
Really, truly fine. I’m not saying that will be the case for all, or even most, adoptees, but for me, it’s fine.
Every fiber of my being – my very soul – covets a close, enduring relationship with EACH of my siblings.
They have been pretty much inseparable since they were 11 months old. Our biggest fear when we were fighting to adopt Squirm was that these two brothers would be separated. Splitting them up would be like amputating limbs.
But please, please understand – this does not in anyway lessen the importance of their biological siblings.
I sometimes fantasize about what my life might have looked like if I had known my 2 youngest siblings as we were growing up…. If we had had a chance to share our childhoods even a little bit….
I think the vast majority of adopted children will tell you that, as children and especially as teenagers, they built elaborate fantasies about how life would have been different with their birth parents. I believe it’s simply a part of being an adopted teenager, like pimples and prom…
I’m 36 years old. I have long-since put away all the school-girl imaginings about my biological father – all the delusions about how he would show up one day and fix everything that was wrong in my life.
But I still daydream about how things could have been different with my little sister and baby brother (both adults now, by the way).
I still imagine that with different choices made by our parents,
maybe we could have at least been friends…
instead of strangers.
This week’s topic: Sibling Relationships
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