Monday, July 19, 2010

More on Siblings & Adoption

Great discussion and perspectives. I'd like to continue talking about this topic because so many good points surfaced. I think I'll draw out a few of them and see how this post shapes up.

I'll start by saying, this is a conversation Rebekah and I have had.  There are few things blogged about, here, that she isn't already aware of.  Rebekah makes hard conversations easy because she's so open and honest with me. It's also worth clarifying that just because we have decided not to call Rebekah's kids "siblings" right now, does not mean we've written them out of Ty's life. We have several pictures in the house and I give Ty regular updates on what everyone is doing. It is not our intention to hide them or pretend they don't exist.  We, simply, are referring  to them as "Rebekah's kids" until he's able to put it all together on his own. Once he does it will be up to him whether or not he wants to call them brothers or sisters.

Kelly wrote:  There are four people who have a different perspective seeing as they DID live with Ty for 9 months and are not allowed to consider him their brother. Rebekah's older children. I've seen from both blogs that they are truly hurting about how they should regard Ty and being told they are not to consider him their brother. It must be very difficult for them to understand how all of this works.

Very true that Rebekah's kids had all of this done to them and that they struggle with understanding Rebekah's decision.  Like so many things in life, I think they will understand the situation better when they're older, especially when they become parents themselves. I have so much more insight into why my parents were what they were, now that I'm a parent.  Our decision to not call them siblings has not influenced their emotions, because as far as I know, this isn't something Rebekah ever discussed with them. I don't really see it necessary. It doesn't bother me that they call Ty their brother. I've had many conversations with Rebekah's oldest daughter over text messaging and she always refers to Ty as her brother - it doesn't bother me at all.  I don't see a problem with Ty calling them "Rebekah's kids" and Rebekah's kids calling Ty "brother." 

For right now, they have very little interaction with Ty and only time will tell if that changes in the future. By the time Ty is able to hold a conversation with them over the phone, he will comprehend his story so much better and will probably understand the link from Rebekah's kids to brothers and sisters.

Anonymous wrote:  I guess my question is, what if the birth siblings are not good for your child?  I don't think there is a perfect answer. Adoption is just as unique as the people who create it. Following your heart, and God's will is the only way to do what's best for your family.

I couldn't agree more that we have to depend on God to direct us in all aspects of our parenting. We've never done this before, we don't have friends around us that are raising adopted children, and every child's story is so unique to them, that there are no cookie-cutter answers. The more I research foster adoption, the more I know this to be true. As far as birth siblings not being a good influence, if we were in that situation, we would still share all the information we had with our child (age-appropriate, of course).  Nothing good comes from withholding truth and keeping secrets.  Ty will know his full story, even the few parts that we have kept private from everyone else.

Amy wrote:  I have an open adoption with the family I placed my little girl with. I wasn't married nor did I have any other children at the time. I am now married and have a baby. Are there any suggestions on how to explain who Paige is when he gets older?...And at what age? Obviously she is a part of our lives and always will be but I just don't know how to explain our situation to a little child. He is only 6 months old but I kind of want to have a game plan.

Does anyone have advice for Amy and her situation? Amy, what does Paige call your son? It sounds like you have a good relationship with the adoptive parents, I think it would be a good subject to talk out together. I think it's great that you're thinking about this now. I imagine it would be difficult for your son to learn of a sister years down the road.

Many of you wrote about how non-confused your kids are with the big brother/sister thing. I think that's great and appreciate how differences work for each family. If we lived closer to Rebekah and saw her family on a more consistent basis our decision on this might be different. But, because we live over 20 hours away (not exactly a day trip!) and we don't know that we'll even see each other on a yearly basis, use of the siblings term becomes much more obscure.  Ty has only met 3 out of Rebekah's 4 kids one time. Another angle of their relationship that will come into play is age gap. There is a tremendous jump in ages from Rebekah's oldest to youngest (Ty). If I had to guess, I would say that Ty will have the best relationship with Rebekah's second youngest son who is only a few years older than him.

Anonymous said:  I do not mean any disrespect by this but how do you plan to explain to Ty that all the other brothers and sisters stayed with Rebekah but he was blessed by being adopted. 

This is the one question that I know we will get asked one day. For the answer, we will be using Rebekah's words to us, as to why she made this decision.  Rebekah knew that she could be a good mom - that was never in question - she's a good mom, now. But what she couldn't do...was give Ty a dad. After years of watching her children struggle without having a father around, she knew she wanted one for Ty. She also told us that all of her time, resources, and money were already being stretched so thin on the four children she had. It wasn't fair to them, for her to bring another baby into the mix.  I remember being floored by her love. Her only concern when choosing an adoption plan was all five of her children.

Andraya wrote:  In my opinion kids understand far more than we often give them credit for and omitting their relationships to others is a breeding ground for trust issues. Growing up knowing your own truth normalizes any situation but finding out later in life causes questions about so many things as well as wondering why you weren't told sooner...Hiding anything in adoption, including siblings, makes the subject taboo and can make a child feel as though they shouldn't ask or know. 

I agree that full disclosure is the best policy in adoption.  We are not hiding Ty's siblings from him. He knows all about them and has many pictures of and with them. We're merely not choosing to use the term "siblings" for the next few years until he can grasp the concept.  Likewise, there are parts of his story that will be difficult to hear and share. Adoption will always be an open overflow of conversation in our house, but there are aspects that will come out through the years, as he's able to understand the specifics.

As far as using the word "birth sibling," I find it applicable. We always refer to Rebekah's family as Ty's birth family, so whether we're talking about his mom, her kids or her puppies, I think it's okay to put birth in front of it. There are many things to think through while raising Ty and of all the things I could worry about it, this isn't going to be one of them.

Britney said:  ...I also wonder if it would be different if you were not planning to adopt again... if Rebekah's other kids were to remain Ty's only siblings? And, with your plans to adopt from foster care, if you adopt an older child who spent time with his bio-siblings as siblings, but you use a different phrase for Ty's bio-siblings, how would that work?

Britney brought up a lot of great points. And to them, I can only say, we're taking all of this one step at a time. I don't know what we'd do in someone else's shoes or even our own shoes, 5 years from now. We are not trying to control our children's lives and dictate their stories with creative, confusing twists, we're simply doing what we feel is best and right.

For right now, for this moment, I'm Ty's "Muma" and Ben is "DaDaDaDa." As he grows and learns and discovers the pieces will start coming together. With so many loving members on every side of his family, birth and adoptive, Ty will lack nothing; I'm confident in that.


  1. Rebekah u R so classy in the way u treat people. Jesus must sit and watch u and Ben and grin from ear to ear.

  2. we're with you on this one - the children in our home are each others' brothers and sister, their siblings. the children in other people's homes, are those folk's children. we have pictures, stories, and (some, varying) contact. we mostly just call them by name, and add 'miss tina's daughter' etc. to clarify at times.

    it's simple (if you can call any of this simple), it's real, it's how it is. i don't feel as if we're hiding or recreating or whatever. i feel as if we're calling it like it is, in a way they can grasp and process. for now.

  3. Oh WoW! So many things to have to think through and walk out as a parent, I can only imagine. You guys are doing great.

  4. Rebekah I can't even tell you how much I appreciate you and your journey...really both Rebakah's!!

    I actually have learned so much, and I find myself thinking through some of the same things when it comes to our little one, wanting always to offer as much clearity in the situation for J but also making sure that we always seek Gods heart for our little one.

    I can read post, blogs, books and so much more on adoption and how to deal with certain things, but each family is different, each child, each birth mom,each sibiling... each momma...

    I love your heart as you seek GOD first and not man but also sharing your journey so that mom's like me who need to hear words like yours are able to. So Thank you!

  5. I was adopted at birth. It was not open because back then a lot was hidden or secret. I have found out I have a birth sibling and would enjoy meeting him at some point. I don't think that would ever happen but I would welcome it. My adopted parents would even discuss my adoption. It was taboo in our house for some reason. I found out what little I do know after I grew up and had children of my own. I needed medical info as one of my sons had a problem at birth that had been passed down. If you tell Ty now and everyday afterward that he is special and adopted then I think it will make it easier. The questions will still be there but it will make it easier. He will find his own name for his birth siblings.

  6. Could he be any cuter in that picture?

  7. Well said. All of it. Once again, thank you for always being open and honest. I can promise you, I will model my way of adoptive parenting partly after what I have learned from you, Ben and Rebekah.

  8. To clarify my position, I am the child of an adoptee. I guess I just don't understand the WHY behind not calling Ty's siblings his "siblings". You can always use the "birth" prefix if needed for clarification. Aren't you going to call Rebekah his "Birth" Mother? Or are you just going to call her, "Our dear friend Rebekah" and introduce that she is in fact his mother when he is old enough to understand? I think that would be more confusing, not less.

    Also if I were a birth sibling it would hurt me to know that my brother was going to be raised NOT to call me "sister" or "brother". Even if, as you are claiming, that you will introduce that later. Surely you don't want to hurt these children even more? If you are going to have a truly open adoption, than why not call a spade a spade. These kids are and always will be his brothers ans sisters.

    I see your choice to not call his siblings his siblings as a way to diminish them, plain and simple. You are wanting him to at least initially only identify the other children in his household as his siblings. You are diminishing one group to make the other seem more important. I wonder why you would want to do that?

    The siblings Ty is raised with (your future adopted kids) will be his siblings. As you've already mentioned, he rarely sees his bio sibs, so why diminish them? Can't he claim all his siblings as his own?

    When you start off NOT calling them sibs, it will make it harder for him to later voice them as sibs himself. He may feel there's an unspoken reason that he can't claim them as such, if only not to upset you. He will see that you have deliberately chosen not to refer to them as such even if you never outright tell him that he can't. You set a precedent that is going to be difficult for him to break. You say he's a sensitive child and he will surely pick up on this.

    My mother had to dance around what to call people so she wouldn't offend anybody and it sucked. She also had to coach us as kids what not to call bio family in front of adoptive so not to offend. I remember being angry about that and thinking it was so stupid. Why can't adopted kids just claim everybody for who they are without all the games? ......Rachel

  9. As an adoptee who has found her birthfamily and has birthsisters that my birthmom did not give up it was challenging and hurtful at first. SHe even ADOPTED children from foster care! However, once i did find out the "why" and got to know the family a little more....I am thankful for being adopted! The why isn't even a ? to me anymore. More so I am thankful that God chose to give me a better life than I would have had. My older birthsister ( just 2 yrs) still won't speak with me my birthmom says its out of guilt that she was kept and i was given up, my 2 younger birthsisters both talk with me via email, etc.
    we all have our own opinions etc. but I do have to say that I do not agree with Rachel. ( sorry Rachel) As and adoptee it really will vary from situation to birthsisters, etc were not called my siblings growing up and my bio parents were referred to as birthfamily and still are. I prefer it that way. Hard to say right now what Ty will prefer..but I know God will lead them in the right direction!

  10. I am just so curious why everyone is so consumed over this. I mean do you not think that Rebekah is seeking God's heart? Every child is different, just because it was one way for you as an adopted child, or as an adopted parent, or sibling it may not be that way for everyone. I don't normally speak up but I am just so amazed how opinionated everyone has become but you don't know Ty, his needs, his wants or even his journey to the fullest... My suggestion if it keeps you awake at night is to pray for them as parents that they would do what is best for TY and their family and no one else...they are seeking God in raising this little one, you can see it even if you don't know them! They are sharing their journey and their heart but it does not give you the right to judge it!

  11. Dear Anonymous,

    Something that you must consider is that you are looking at things from an adult perspective. You've also had your own unique experience--please just let Rebekah and Ben have THEIR own experience. These are people who do not take this lightly, and will do what they believe is best for their family and their unique circumstance. I've known Rebekah and Ben for many years and trust me when I say, they aren't diminishing Ty's birth siblings. Something else you might consider is that while this blog is very raw and authentic, it is only one portion of their lives--I'm not going to give any information about their lives that hasn't been openly shared here, but I will say that Rebekah and Ben have enormous hearts, and Ty's birth siblings hold a special place in their lives. So, with that said, I'm sorry it seems like you have issues about some of the decisions that have been penned on this blog, but again, this is their story, their life, and their decisions.

  12. I have four children, and my oldest two were born in my heart, not in my womb...

    Our family situation is complex on paper, yet far simpler in reality. We are Mommy and Daddy, and we have four kids. If asked about their siblings, they say, "I have two sisters and a brother." or "I have two brothers and a sister." The fact of the matter is, my older two have four birth siblings that are of varying ages, living all over the country. Two they have met, two they have not. We do not have an open relationship with their birth mother, as she is in the throws of addiction....but my children know that she loved them as much as she was able.

    My nine year old daughter was talking to me about it the other day, and said that, even though "biosib1" and "biosib2" are her brothers, it doesn't feel like it. I explained to her that sometimes, when you don't live with a family member, it changes the relationship. I compared it to her cousins, who she loves to death, but only gets to see once in a great while. It doesn't diminish the importance of the relationship, but it changes the dynamics of it.

    Also, one of their siblings has followed the same path as their birth mother, and has gotten into a host of trouble. When asked about him, we just answer that, "BioSib3 isn't making good choices in his life." We don't lie about it, but we also don't feel children really need to hear all the details.

    I think your and Rebekah's relationship is so beautiful, and such a blessing from God!

    I'm a true believer though, that the more people in this world who love your child, the better off your child is!

  13. As someone who grew up in an abusive home, lost my father because of it, lived with a mother and four younger siblins who all blamed me for the desintegration of the family, despite my innocence and youth, was "given" a step-father at fifteen and forced to call him "dad", adopted by my step-father at seventeen, after being told that I didn't have a choice...having gone through three maiden names as a result, and the pain and confusion of trying to deal with all of this, plus the trauma from the abuse...having been blamed and abandoned by the entire paternal side of my family...having the maternal side of my family accept the past, but not my need to deal with it...

    I am an adoptee, and I understand that these issues are really complicated.

    Rebekah, what I really want to say to you is that I sincerely admire the love, devotion, courage, and care that you and Ben AND the other Rebekah clearly shower upon little Ty. By appearances, I'd say that he will clearly grow up knowing that, while his story is a little more complicated than some, he is loved and accepted for who he is, and where he comes from. Reading both blogs, it sounds to me like Ty's birth siblings are sweet kids, who likely grieve the loss of their little brother, but know he's where he is supposed to be. Everyone goes through their own journey, good and bad, and sometimes all we can do is make the best, most prayerful choices we can, and see what happens.

    I have no doubt that my mother loved me the best way she knew how. It wasn't always good enough, or even right, but she tried. Even my birth father, who did terrible, unloving things to me, loved me in the only ways he knew how; they were wrong, and put him in prison for the rest of his life, but I keep in mind that I don't know his whole story, and for my own peace, the best thing I can do is reject the evil, and embrace the good.

    Little Ty has, at least that has been discussed here, a much less violent family history, and he has a family that is much healthier and more in touch with Godly love than mine - I think he'll be fine *hugs*

    I hope other readers will remember, before gushing personal feelings on personal blogs, that every person has their own journey to make. Little Ty is better equiped than most to handle the tough questions, because he has the love of not only ONE wonderful family, but TWO. He, like all people, will struggle at some point with identity issues. But I am confident that he will come out of it much healthier and happier than most. And if he chooses to call his birth siblings "brother" and "sister" at some point, it sounds like his parents will be okay with that. Just be glad that he HAS family, and that they are safe, good people for him to love.