November 03, 2011

Overlapping Family

Eddie came bounding out of school one day last week all full of excitement over a little photo album he won when his table group collected the most points for following directions. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with it: "Fill it up with pictures of my family."

I set him up with the laptop, open to Picasa. He paged through the last year diligently, pausing occasionally to ask me to add a photo to his print order.

He added pictures of Todd, Mari, and me, of course. His grandparents, cousins, and uncle. A photo of himself on his first day of kindergarten. One from a ridiculously exciting trip to a Star Wars museum exhibit.

He added pictures of himself with his first dad, Ray, and his first mom, Kelly, from this summer.  No surprise for an adopted child who has grown up with his birth parents present in his life.

Then he searched for a photo of Marian's first mom, Beth, and added it, too.

"Pictures of my family."

That's how it is around here: my son counts as kin his adoptive sister's biological mother. There isn't any official familial relationship between them. There aren't any easy labels to describe who she is to him. I haven't the foggiest idea what a genealogical chart would make of it. But she's his sister's first mom and an important part of his life. That's enough for him right now.

I used to think the untidiness of "family" in open adoption--the way it doesn't neatly fit on the standard family tree--was sort of an unfortunate, but necessary thing. Something to be accepted as part of the bigger package. But the opposite is true; my family is stronger because its tent is stretched wide. It has created a space in which my son can claim Beth as his family just as easily as he claims his own first mom or me, the mom he lives with. In our house family is the people you live with and the people whose heritage you carry, but it's also the important people love you and are committed to you. It's hard for me to see anything unfortunate about that.


Parisienne Mais Presque said...

Your -- and Eddie's -- conception of family, though ties both built and born, is beautiful! And you write about it so eloquently. I started reading by accident, knowing nothing about adoption or open adoption, and I've learned so much from your blog. Thank you!

Also, what a great idea to give a kid a photo album to assemble. I'll think I'll do that with my son.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

That should be "family, *through* ties both built and born." Clearly two cups of coffee was not enough for me this morning...

luna said...

Love this! Love the blending of family and expanding what makes a "family." But you're right, there are no labels to capture these blended relatoonships.

Chris, Dana and Addison: Hoping to Grow through Open Adoption said...

It is funny how as adults we try so hard to put labels on relationships, on love...children just follow their hearts and do what feels right. I love this post and so appreciate you sharing such a hopeful journey!

Anonymous said...

What a great way to explain our families. Ours overlaps in so many ways, it can be confusing even to us. But it is what it is, a big pile of family.

Sonya said...

Our boys have so many grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins through their individual birth families that I wouldn't know where to divide them we all just share them!

Lori Lavender Luz said...

I love what you say about the tent and strength.

Eddie's thinking reminds me of math properties:
She's mine.
They're hers.
Therefore, they're mine, too.

What a kiddo. What a mom (and dad!).

Maru said...

Love this!

cynthia said...

yes, and yes. of course yes. and so very well said.
miss you all. move east?

Lavonne said...

love love love this:)

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