Forever Family: we see what we expect to see

All in all, these kids of ours are pretty awesome.  They’re funny, polite (especially to other people), responsible, good natured…there’s only one question we hear from folks more often than the compliment that we’ve got great kids.

“Are they biological sister and brother?”

I honestly didn’t get this at first and truth be told it still perplexes me.  T-man and Bear didn’t come home together, which is the first and most obvious sign of adopting siblings, so this isn’t a timing thing.  Their skin tones and body types are different enough that you’d think it would give people pause, and yet we get this question a lot.  This is how the conversation usually goes.

“You have such great kids!”

“Thank you!”

“I hope you don’t mind my asking, but are they biological sister and brother?”

“No, they aren’t.”

Really??  I’ve always thought they were.”

“They’re not, but we get that question a lot.”

“But they look so much alike!”

By this point I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle and it’s time to wrap it up.  Sometimes I comment that a lot of people agree they do look alike, sometimes I mention that their birthmothers had similar traits…sometimes I simply smile and deflect.  It depends on my mood, I guess.

But here’s the thing:  I don’t see it.  Not the great kids part, they really are great kids, but the resemblance?  Beyond some basic physical traits T-man and Bear have in common, I just can’t see it.

The most persuasive argument for this perception is probably the fact that both kids are tall for their age, but other than that?  Well, let’s take a look.

The first thing that comes to mind is that they’re both biracial, but that doesn’t mean they look the same.  It’s not just that one child is darker than the other; they have different skin tones altogether.  Bear’s skin ranges from a light tan with honey undertones in winter to a richer almond in the summer.  T-man’s base color is a darker walnut that browns to a beautiful espresso in the summer.  I don’t mean to sound nitpicky, but it matters.  My kids may both be biracial, but they’re distinctly different.

If I step back from focusing on skin color, I see two entirely distinct body types.  T-man is long and lanky, a young man with sinewy muscles and a bright smile.  Bear has grown almost as tall as her brother, but she’s strong and sturdy with powerful muscles on her frame.  There’s no mistaking one for the other, that’s for sure.

Then I look closer…at face shape, eyes, eyebrows, ears, foreheads, noses…and still, I get nothing.  I see the tiny things that make each child uniquely themselves.

So this reaction where most everyone is stunned to learn T-man and Bear aren’t related biologically?  I figure it’s one of two things: either people are seeing something I simply can’t, or they see what they expect to see.  It’s an interesting puzzle, and it makes me wonder what my own expectations make me see in other families.

6 thoughts on “Forever Family: we see what we expect to see

  1. I love this look at a mother’s discerning eye. My three children are biological siblings, and people are always saying they look exactly alike. I don’t see it. I see all the things that make them unique, and I can pick out different traits from various relatives in each of them. ❤

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    • I’m so grateful to hear that biological moms feel like this, too! And I never looked at it as being a mom thing — seeing their individuality, which is my natural inclination. Thanks for reading!

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  2. I’m smiling so big. Oh, Laura, I can totally see it. Not like twins, but as alike as my kids look, any two of them, who might share both parents or just one. At least, that’s what I’m told. I don’t think any of them look particularly alike, cause they’re my kids. I rarely think my kids look like me, but sometimes I’ll snap a photo and gasp at how much they do. And there’s more to looks than genetics, I often think your daughter looks like you. Something in the eyes, the smile, the expressions, the chin. Now, I’m just random lady on the internet, so I can only imagine how much they look/act/express like you in person. I have actual real life friends with adopted children, and there’s something to it. Maybe how married people start to look alike over the years…
    But, because we’re the mommies, we see our kids each as these totally different snowflakes.
    Also, people ask dumb questions a lot, like, “Are you sure your kids are only 14 months apart?” YES, I’M SURE! 😛
    Why does it matter to people, I wonder? I hope they’re just trying to show interest 🙂

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    • So many people have commented that I figure it must be there and simply sits in my blind spot. You’re right, it’s the special snowflake vision, I suppose. 😉 I’m dying at the 14 months apart question…well, DUH…would you like to see the ultrasounds?? Lawd…

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  3. You remind me of a friend who has a step-son, Larry. People always say Larry looks exactly like his mother (i.e. his step mum) and not at all like his father. This is from people who don’t know that my friend is a stepson. I guess seeing people together makes people see similarities that may not be there?

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    • Maybe so…maybe part of it is also the impression they give off since they’re so clearly sibling-ish. (They probably get along better than most, at least for right now.) Thanks for sharing!

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