When our older girls were pre-schoolers, people often asked us, “Are they sisters?” Even though I knew they meant no harm, the question irked me. “In every way that counts,” I’d reply.

13 years later, they are unquestionably sisters although they are not biologically related. People who phone the house cannot tell the two girls from me on answering! Yet they are also teenagers, seeking to individuate and looking at their identity as members of their birth families as well as members of our family.

When we adopted our three little ones, the whole nature of “sibling” changed in our house. We brought in a sibling group of three, two of whom were strongly bonded although they were only toddlers. We did not think about how having biological siblings in the family would affect our two individually adopted girls.

About the time the Littles arrived, both girls experienced a renewed interest in their birth families. To be fair, this heightened interest actually began before the Littles came to us, but it took root once biologically related kids became part of the family. It was uncanny how they cried the same, looked alike, and even walked alike. It became immediately clear that the girl of the group has her birth mother’s hips and legs and the baby has birth mama’s eyes.

This experience of familial sameness were new to our older girls and increased their own longing for those familial connections. It was painful for them, too. I know they had experienced those pangs before, but having the little ones here just kept it in front of them.

21 months down the road, the two groups are bonding together. I frequently hear the older girls talking about “my brothers” or “my baby sister.” They comment on things the Littles do and ask, “Did we do that, Mom?” They are remembering, as well, their own closeness as very young children and I think it has pulled the two of them together more. The older siblings and the younger siblings are really one group now; it is nothing short of miraculous.

When strangers refer to the Littles and ask “Are they siblings?,” I smile and say, “Yes.” The next comment is inevitably one about how challenging it must have been to bring them to our household to which I respond that we could not have done it without their older sisters. The “sibling” lines have faded; it’s all for one and one for all now. Hooray.