Recently our family was on a trip to Orlando, FL, and Darren and I ran into the grocery store to grab some breakfast food for our room while my mom stayed in the car with the kids. After we checked in and moved our luggage in, my mom told me a story that greatly upset me. While we were in the store, the younger two kids were having a conversation in which Jasmine told Dalton that he was getting a lot of freckles, and it reminded her of [name].
Screams emanated from the back of the SUV. “No, [name] is MY brother!” yelled one of the older boys. My mom said, “And so is Dalton.” “No!” yelled the teen, “[Name] is my REAL brother.” My mom said a couple things to our son about what he had said and talked about how she addresses and loves her step-siblings as her own, and she didn’t even grow up with them. He didn’t really respond.
Okay, so, hold up! The word “real” doesn’t fly around here. Our teen boys’ younger biological siblings, whom they were separated from when they went into care in 2004, are no more “real” than the two adoptive siblings they’ve been living with the last 6 years, the two who adore and worship them and want to be them, the two who love the teens’ biological siblings as their own and at times talk about missing them even more than the teens do.
“I was shaking in anger at the way this teen always treats the younger two, frustration at bonding and attachment issues in our home, and sadness with the way the foster care system separates siblings.”
I was shaking in anger at the way this teen always treats the younger two, frustration at bonding and attachment issues in our home, and sadness with the way the foster care system separates siblings. I was a bundle of emotions and struggled with whether to broach the subject with our son. I don’t always say what I want or need to when I’m angry and emotional.
I took a deep breath and went to the condo room where he was finishing unpacking his vacation clothes. What ensued was about 45 of one of the best and most real conversations my son and I have ever had, and I’d venture to say that it was a very healing conversation as well. I validated his feelings by telling him how much I thought it sucked that he was separated from his brother and sister. I reminded him that the younger two have a brother whom they’ve never met. I told him the feelings Darren and I experienced the first time we saw him and his brother reunite with their younger siblings and about how much grief we feel about everything they’ve been through. We talked about so many real-life issues and feelings. We sat in a tearful side-by-side embrace and discussed the dark not so miraculous aspects of adoption.
In the end, I basically told him that his pain and grief are not an excuse to treat Jasmine and Dalton like lesser people, that that behavior had greatly disappointed and grieved me as I knew it did Jasmine and Dalton. I told him that I know his biological siblings love their adoptive siblings, parents, and other family members, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean they don’t love or miss him. We talked about so many conflicting emotions, and I hope our conversation has a lasting impact.
How have you dealt with these issues in your household? Leave your comments below!
Discussion Questions for Your Family:
As our goal is always to help you spark healing conversations in your household, here are some questions you may want to talk about and some books that may help get the conversation started.
- What biological family members are you separated from?
- What types of feelings does not being with them give you? Do you feel cheated? Are you angry, sad, happy? It’s normal to feel a mix of all these and many more emotions.
- What can you do when you are feeling angry or sad or cheated?
- What makes someone a “real” brother or sister? A “real” parent?
- Saying someone is not your “real” family member can be very hurtful to them. What are some better words to use to talk about adoptive and biological family relationships?
Good book to help your family discuss the idea of “REAL:”
You’re Not My REAL Mother By Molly Friedrich