Forever Family: birds of a feather

People have been asking us “Are T-man and Bear brother and sister?” since they first came home.

When I was new to the adoption world (and, if I’m being totally honest, at times a bit touchy about the whole thing) this used to annoy me a little.  Maybe it was because I wanted people to simply accept that they’re sister and brother now, or perhaps I wasn’t keen on the intimacy of the question.  Sometimes I felt like I was walking a fine line between an acceptable response and what was their private story to share on their own terms.

But lately I’ve been looking at my kids and thinking about just how much they have in common. They really are birds of a feather…as a matter of fact, I’ve known some biological siblings that fall further apart on the spectrum than these two!

Sure, biological children have that whole conception and childbirth thing going on.  They also have a single family tree and a shared medical history, and they may have genetic traits in common as well.

When I look at T-man and Bear, though, the number of similarities between them is notable.

They’re both adopted.  Okay, one has an open adoption while the other is closed, but both are being raised by people who are not their biological parents.  That’s a pretty significant bond right there.

Both kids are biracial, with one caucasian and one black biological parent.  I know T-man feels pretty isolated right now since his skin tone differs from Bear’s, but in time I believe he’ll come to understand that’s simply a matter of how their genetic material mingled.  The fact is that both of them share a biological makeup that is not one race or another but a combination of two distinct ethnic groups.  That’s another unique bond.

They’re both being raised by white parents.  We read up on the subject of race issues, we talk openly and often, but the reality is that both BrightSide and I are white.  We love our kids and strive to be there for them in every way possible, but the truth remains they will have life experiences that we can only empathize with.  No amount of secondhand knowledge comes close to actually living life as a person of color.  T-man and Bear have in each other someone who fully appreciates what it’s like to walk through this world in their skin.

Both kids are experiencing childhood as part of a transracial family.  We are conspicuously different than many of their friends’ families, and those differences provoke feedback.  T-man and Bear face similar reactions, judgements, and inquiries from their peers.  If anyone can understand what it feels like to have a classmate sputter in disbelief, “That’s your mom?!” it’s someone who’s heard the same blessed thing.

Last but not least, T-man and Bear are living all of this out in a small southern town.  Parts of this experience would manifest differently if we lived in another area of the country or in a larger city.  Each of my kids implicitly understands the challenges facing the other when it comes to being an adopted biracial child in a small North Carolina town, a perspective that neither BrightSide nor I have.

Looking at all of these things my kids have in common is rather comforting.  They have us, yes…but they have each other, too.  Hopefully they’ll grow closer as they get older, and they’ll learn to lean on one another when they need someone who truly understands what life throws their way.

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