who is real in your family?

re·al1  ˈrē(ə)l/ adjective 1.  actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed. 2.  (of a substance or thing) not imitation or artificial; genuine. “the earring was presumably real gold”

It’s Friday, the eve eve of Mother’s Day.  My youngest at school pick up sheepishly shared that in class they made Mother’s Day cards and she made it for her birth mother who will be seeing on Saturday.  She seemed upset that she only made one, and I shared that if she wants to make a card for me she still can on Saturday.

That evening we could hear our girls screaming at each other in our back yard. It turns out our youngest was telling her sister, “You are NOT MY REAL SISTER!” which of course was hurting her sister.  This was a new conversation in our house, our youngest telling her sister they are not real sisters together.

Technically she is right.  Each of our girl’s was born to a different birth mother so they don’t share the same DNA.  It is through our family building of adoption that makes them sisters and that has never been questioned by them to each other until now.

Our younger daughter, now almost 7, has been processing a lot lately, with questions of why she is part of our family and how we came to be her parents… Yes this is Why we have Open Adoptions in our family Our family was built through domestic adoption, both of our girls entrusted to us at birth by their birth parents.

We live in a family with each of our girls and each of their birth families.  This is all our girls have always known. The newest conversation of “REAL” was brought up by our youngest and she seemed to be seeking answers to who is her real family? and who is not?  I was surprised to hear her use this term as it is something I am more accustomed to hear from strangers “do they see their REAL mom?, are they REAL sisters?” and more.

Adoption has been part of an ongoing conversation in our family since our girls were born, they’ve always known that they were born to another and placed with us.  They have relationships with their birth mothers and extended family and know their birth fathers too.

But it is this conversation that upsets me because I cannot fix my daughter’s losses and I cannot fix mine either.  I am here to try and help her process what she is feeling and she has her birth mother to ask these questions of too.    But these questions are a reminder to me that I am different as a mother.  My girls are not yet old enough to understand my loss too.  All of us have experienced loss in making our family. All of us live with this loss either out in the open or tucked away for private moments. The conversations last night brought a twinge to me that I know these will be conversations that we will continue to have as each of our daughter’s figure out who they are.  But sometimes the words hurt my heart.

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and so the school year begins …

and so the school year begins here is an email sent to my younger daughter’s first grade teacher today.
 
 
Hello Ms. N,
 
J is currently working on her homework, all about me and it prompted me to write.  
 
I wanted to let you know in advance so you may have an understanding of what she is sharing. Our family was built through adoption.  Both of our girls were entrusted to us at birth and we have continued family relationships with their birth families including and not limited to their birth mothers, birth fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and siblings.  
 
So on her page she has listed she has 2 brothers and 1 sister.  This is true and how she knows her family (her sister has 3 other sisters).  They each live with her birth family, one with her birth mother and the other with her birth father. We see them, have pictures of them, etc.
 
Our family has blended beautifully and J is choosing to share this.  She is at an age now when she can decide who she shares with.  If you think at any time I need to come to class and help explain how our family was built for the other students to understand, please let me know I’d be happy to read a book and talk about it with them.
 
Please let me know if you have any questions.
 
Thanks,
 

Words are just words or are they?

definition of word
noun \ˈwərd\

: a sound or combination of sounds that has a meaning and is spoken or written

: a brief remark or conversation : something that a person says

: an order or command

Overheard as our girls were preparing cards for J’s brother to go along with his gift he is MY BIRTH-BROTHER, not YOURS!  J’s brother was born about 15 months after her and S along with her husband are parenting him.  Our girls have known him from inside S’s tummy and when he was born.  We see him as often as we see S.

My husband and I sat and listened to our girls speak about who has sisters and who has brothers that don’t live with us but are still our family.  We wondered when voices rose should we step in to calm the fighting down?  Or should we just let them figure it out on their own?

They had it right in knowing that A has 3 sisters through her birth father and J has one brother from S and one from her birthfather.  It was interesting to hear them assert who belonged with whom to each other claiming their own brothers or sisters.

It is just words that they were using with the prefix of “birth” to claim their siblings.  What was so great about this discussion they had was how natural it was for them to talk about these siblings that live in other parts of our family like it was nothing out of the ordinary.

The words we have used to explain our family story are something they have taken in and processed themselves.  They know their siblings they know what part of the family they are part of, and to us that is what is important.  It is our girls who add the prefix “birth” when talking about their families when claiming their territory.

So while they fought over the wording and logistics it was comforting to us they understand who their family is, all of them.