I've talked about our decision not to refer to Rebekah's kids as Ty's siblings, before, but wanted to bring it up, again, after reading this month's issue of Adoptive Families magazine. That decision wasn't based on any supernatural insight or anything; it just felt right. Ben and I definitely want to adopt again and we don't want Ty to be confused on our family unit. I had visions of him going to school, being asked how many brothers and sisters he has, and answering, "Well....I have two brothers and a sister that live with me (wishful thinking), my birth mom has four living with her, my birth dad has one living with him, but others that he's adopted/lived with from past girlfriends and calls them his own..." You get the picture. All a bit overwhelming for a six year old.
The decision seems natural to me, as a daughter of divorced parents, who are now with other people that have children. When someone asks me how many siblings I have I answer "3" because that's how many I grew up with - the others didn't come until I was married and well into adulthood.
What Ty chooses to call Rebekah's kids when he fully understands their place in his life, is up to him. The same goes for Rebekah. If at 10 [pulled out of thin air], Ty decides to start calling Rebekah mom and her kids brothers and sisters, I won't have a problem with that. It's his life, his story. I'm secure enough in my position that it won't bother me or make me envious. Until we get to that point, however, Ben and I have to make his decisions for him, based on how the Holy Spirit guides and directs us.
All of that to say, it was very confirming, this week, to read that our choice comes recommended by adoption experts. The AF article stated how important birth siblings are to adopted kids and that most adopted children want to have some type of relationship in the future, even more than their desire to know their birth moms.
This makes a lot of sense to me. I can see how adopted children would crave that relationship and want to foster friendships with people just like them, genetically. Then take it a step further and think about the emotions/challenges that are linked to a birth mom that may not exist with birth siblings - feelings of abandonment, confusion, difficulty understanding why. [Insert note: I'm speaking in general terms here. My prayer is that our openness with Rebekah will dull the intensity of these emotions in Tyrus, although I do realize they will exist.] The relationship with birth siblings is probably easier because there is minimal confusion clouding the view. Rebekah's kids didn't make an adoption plan for Ty...Rebekah did.
This topic really fascinates me, so I started to do some research. I found this article by AF magazine that further explains why waiting to call birth siblings siblings is important. Cognitively children don't come to understand genetics until about age nine. The author (Lois Melina) writes, "To a child, brothers and sisters are the people who share the experience of growing up together. It can be difficult for a young child to think of a much older brother or sister as a sibling if they did not grow up together—even if they were raised by the same parents, in the same household. While adoptive parents and birthparents may long for their children to have a close relationship, or at least an understanding of each other’s significance, this isn’t going to happen by labeling them as “siblings” before they are old enough to understand what that means."
The article also goes on to talk about the guilt that adopted children may feel when they see what they have/the opportunities they've been given in relation to their birth siblings. Ben and I wonder this often and are curious to see how Ty's relationship with his birth family will evolve.
I really enjoy educating myself on some of these issues, even though they're pretty far down the road for us. Whenever I meet an adopted person, I try to ask as many questions as they'll allow. Their experience is gold to me. Ultimately, we rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be the best parents we can, but God also puts people in our lives to be vessels of that wisdom. I eat it up!
I would love to hear all sides of this issue if you want to leave a comment, below. I'm interested in hearing how other adoptive families are addressing birth siblings, the adoptees take on the whole subject, and, of course, the first mom perspective (Are we being insensitive? Is it hurtful that your children are not referred to as siblings?) I hope this can foster some good discussion.
Feel free to email me too, if that's easier.