Of my three children, Eddie is (currently) the only one with siblings in his birth family. Or as he puts it, he has "a brother and sister who live with me and a brother and sister who don't."
Eddie and his out-of-the-house brother and sister share a (birth) mom. The three kids are being raised in three different households, part of three different families, with three different last names, but we just call them brothers and sister. We send birthday presents and occasionally get together in person when our paths cross, much like you might with cousins. Eddie has known about each of them since they were babies.
We spent an evening with Eddie's little brother (now adorably two years
old) and his adoptive parents the other week. It was really lovely. Ever
since we connected with them in 2011 (definitely one of those heart-pounding-as-you-hit-send email moments for me when we first reached out to them), we've been getting to know one another via Facebook and a couple of in-person visits. BabyBrother's
parents are fun, generous people who we really enjoy and, frankly, it has been a giant
relief to see our relationship solidify and know that Eddie will have
that connection to do with what he wants in the far-off future.
What makes it different (or rather, one of the things which makes it different) from cousins, of course, is that while my kids share the same set of cousins, they don't share the same set of siblings. And there are some Big Feelings about that in our house at the moment. Mari thinks it is incredibly unfair that she doesn't have any siblings outside of this house but Eddie does. Meanwhile, Eddie is very proud that he has more siblings than Mari or Trey does and is not shy about sharing it. Their two stances feed off each other like some sort of snake snacking on its own tail.
"I want BabyBrother to be my brother, too!" "No, he's my brother, not yours!" "Eddie won't share his brother! Wah!"
"Hey Mari, I have sister and Trey has a sister and you don't." "Why does Eddie get to have a sister and I don't? It's not fair!" "Ha, ha! You don't have a sister!"
It's the nature of sibling rivalry to tangle over whatever is on hand, and one of those things on hand in our home is Eddie's bonus siblings. I remember talking with Todd about birth siblings back when we were going through that first adoption process, about how it was as important to us for our kids have a relational connection with any siblings as with their first parents. I definitely did not expect to be moderating the same sorts of bickering about siblings as I do about car windows and board games and crackers. But it makes sense when I think about it. Openness allows an integration of the different pieces and people that make up our children's adoptions into our daily life and right now the kids make no distinction between family connected to them by adoption and family connected to them any other way. Even if, at this stage, that means using Eddie's family as one more thing to compete over in their ongoing sibling rivalry.