Defining Family

Biological ties aren't necessary.

admin April 11, 2014
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When I talk or think about my family’s decision to adopt through foster care, I say it might be easier for my family because we already have a unique family arrangement.
It wasn’t always this way.  My family life started out pretty typical. I was born in the 1970s to two married parents who had 3 children. My parents were raised in typical two parent homes and had a long successful marriage until their deaths.

I was the first and only child of this family to get divorced.   When I got divorced, I had a young son.  I had been married 11 years to a man I had dated in college so I had formed a pretty close bond with my ex-husband’s family.

After the divorce, it was a little strange because I kept my ex-family with me after he and I split up.  I had to balance relationships that included an ex-father-in-law and his new wife and her grandchildren; my ex-sister-in- law who is a dear friend, and ex-Aunt’s and Uncles who did not cease caring about me or my son with my own biological family.

And then to further complicate matters, I fell deep, head over heels in love with a wonderful man.  When we married, my son and I had yet another family with new grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins!

My son’s relationship with his birth father (my ex-husband) is similar to the kinds of relationships foster parents see with their foster children and their birth parents. He calls, at some times more frequently than at others. He visits supervised once or so a year.  My son has only known him this way because we divorced when he was 3 and he doesn’t really remember him in our lives differently.  He has known my husband now since he was four and calls and considers him “Dad”.

I am used to this kind of “open” relationship with my son’s birth father so it doesn’t scare me to think about maintaining relationships with the family of my foster daughter. I know she will define her family by the loving people consistently present in her life and that I will always be “Mom” and my husband will always be “Dad”.

Life has us creating surprising groups in the interest of having family gatherings and having our children exposed to all who love them.  (I always try to remember that no child can have too many people who love them, no matter how trying at times it can be!!)

We celebrate Christmas four times before the actual Christmas. My son’s biological family embraces and celebrates the adopted daughter of my husband and myself even though there are no ties that bind them to her or to us.  My husband’s family celebrates both my children as their own even though there are no biological ties to either of them.

I love the craziness of trying to balance the crowd. Sometimes, it is too hard and my husband and I vow next year to just have one “family” holiday gathering rather than accommodating everyone at different times, but all the gatherings can make it truly a holiday season versus just a holiday.

When couples are adopting from foster care it can be a scary to think that there might be family that comes with that child. You have to be open to consider where that family will be included. I guess that messiness is often why some people seek closed adoptions. However, in today’s information age, there really is no guarantee to closed adoptions.

I know adoptive families have found some of these relationships to be a gift to them and, when it is possible and not damaging to the child, a crazy fun reality! Sometimes, I yearn for a gathering that doesn’t include banquet tables and card table chairs but when I think about what we would be giving up, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

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