Christine Rhyner

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Are They Really Brother and Sister?
Sunday, June 16, 2013 by Christine

On occasion, my son's and daughter's relationship to one another seems to be a curiosity to strangers and acquaintances who don't know our adoption stories.

Fortunately, most of the times I've been asked in public, like say in the grocery store, whether they share the same genes, my kids haven't overheard the question.  Either they've been too distracted by shelves of goodies around them or, as they've gotten a bit older, too many feet away.

What bothers me as an adoptive mom is that this question invalidates or diminishes a precious relationship they have been blessed to enjoy with one another, what they experience in their day to day lives as siblings, and what their hearts tell them they feel for one another.  It also could raise doubts in their minds about what we consistently teach them about being brother and sister.  For example, "Be nice to your sister," or "Say you're sorry to your brother."  Their impressionable minds might tell them there might be something false or phony about being raised together in the same household.

However, I do believe in most instances this question is borne out of of innocent curiosity and even something perhaps heartfelt about seeing two previously abandoned potential siblings making it into a forever familiy that has decided to adopt both and keep a part of their biological family intact--if that were true.

My husband and I have always been very open about our two children's pre-adoption backgrounds--what little we know of them.  They know they are from different countries yet have never questioned whether this fact makes them true brother and sister.  They have been brought together by God to live as siblings and identify themselves as such.  Well, except for a period of a couple of years when Lucas, my son decided he was going to marry his sister Olivia, but he's over that now.

If the kids do overhear the question, "Are they really brother and sister?" I will calmly say, "Yes, they are brother and sister."  If the person persists with, "But are they REALLY brother and sister I will repeat myself and walk away or busy myself with my kids and shopping.

Sometimes, I have found that I can't get away if I am say, at the checkout counter with this curious, persistent person standing beside me.  At these times I simply end the conversation and begin one with my kids or the checkout person.  This isn't to say I haven't experienced people who won't stop trying to get to the bottom of my adoption story and pressing with questions like, "Did you get them together?" or "Are they from the same orphanage?"  In these instances I realize this stranger is overstepping boundaries and jeopardizing my children's wellbeing.  I sometimes have success in ending the barrage of questions with a curt "No."  If that still doesn't work, I tell them gently but firmly that I don't want to participate in the conversation anymore.  That usually does the trick.

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