I have blue eyes. Both my parents and my brother have brown eyes. My brother told me it was because I was adopted.
He had a whole story about how I wasn’t “really part of the family” ….
Like any toddler uncertain about the alien invasion of a baby sister, as we grew up together, he periodically looked for ways to get me to return to my home planet. The “you’re adopted” story was generally part of his strategy.
My parents would say over and over again, “No, brown eyed parents can have a blue eyed child.” Their factual confidence was no match for the physical discrepancy – not to mention my tow-head blond hair among the brunettes at the dinner table — and my brother’s story-telling capacity. So it wasn’t until ninth grade biology and a full investigation of homo- and heterogeneity, dominant and recessive genes that I was able to fully let go of the taunting story of my adoption in exchange for the facts: two brown eyed parents can give birth to a blue eyed child. They were my family — and I belonged.
Children build a family life story around the facts, and parents play a role in how that story is constructed.
In the last week, I’ve worked with two different families whose children have new siblings in their two-home family. We’re all familiar with “hers, mine, and ours” and for adults, these distinctions are interesting, but not a source of confusion or a way to rank or file family members. When children are told, “No, he’s a ‘half-brother,’ not a ‘full brother,’ their little minds get busy dividing, sorting, wondering how someone gets ‘half a brother’ out of a whole person, and attempting to make sense of this clearly factual statement. Let the story begin!
Family relationships are built in the heart. Helping children develop a family life story that takes the facts and expands the heart —means that there’s plenty of room and plenty of love for everyone: whether birthed to the same parents or step or half or adopted or chosen, their relationships with their siblings in the homes they’re raised in are what make a “whole family” and they belong.