Eddie wanted to talk about his brother the other week. BabyBrother had turned one year old, a little smiling, curly-haired boy. Eddie and I looked together at a new picture of him his adoptive mom had linked to on her Twitter account. I wondered why I felt like a stalker, looking at a public picture someone had put out on their public Twitter stream.
"Do you think he knows how to walk yet?" Eddie wanted to know on another day. "I don't know," I told him. I find myself saying that a lot when Eddie asks about him.
What little I know about BabyBrother comes from what his parents tweet here and there. As I feared, Kelly's parents clammed up and wouldn't answer even the small questions I tried to ask about him after that afternoon last fall when they burst out with the news of his existence. As he turned one year old I was still wrestling with how to deal with the strange limbo of us knowing but Kelly still not having officially told us about him.
I can see that BabyBrother is less real to Eddie than Kelly's other child, Robin. Robin he has seen and played with. He readily claims her as a sister alongside Mari. "Why is BabyBrother my brother again?" he wanted to know last week. "Because Kelly is his birth mom, too," I answered. "You and Robin and BabyBrother all grew in Kelly's uterus." "I have a brother and Mari has a brother but Mari doesn't have a sister," he said, sorting it out in his own way.
That's where we are with siblings right now in our house. Some people are your brothers and sisters because you grew in the same uterus and have the same birth mom, some people are your brothers and sisters because you are growing up in the same house and have the same everyday mom and dad. I can sense the bigger questions of why around the bend for Eddie. Kelly isn't raising any of her three children right now, which I think delays perhaps the question of why Eddie is here and not there, since none of them are there, if there is with Kelly.
There has been sadness over the last year, though, expressed in the way Eddie expresses it, about his brother and sister being far away. Some sense for him that you should know if your little brother knows how to walk yet or what he likes to play with or what he sounds like. Because of course he does know these things about Mari and, to some degree, about Robin. And siblings should grow up together, generally speaking. I've been trying lately to open up space for him to talk about his feelings when he is ready by acknowledging that I have my own. "I'm glad that we have these pictures of BabyBrother to look at. His smile makes me smile," I say. "I hope we get to meet him someday. I feel sad that we haven't met him yet."
"It's a long life," a friend in an open adoption recently shared, a phrase that is swiftly becoming my mantra. Things change. People grow. Feelings shift. It has been good for me to be reminded to take the long view in coming alongside Eddie as he grows up apart from his siblings by birth. I don't know what those connections will look like in the future. But I know it will not be just as it is now. I'm holding on to that.
Read other bloggers' experiences with talking about siblings in open adoption at the open adoption roundtable