"Are They Related?"

Anyone can see my boys' love for each other. So why does it matter whether or not they're biologically related?

These boys love each other, biologically related or not.

I wish I had an answer to that million-dollar question. Every time some stranger taps me on the shoulder in the checkout line, I want to clear my throat and deliver a well-rehearsed speech. But I don’t. Because, even though I’ve been an adoptive mother for several years now, that question trips me up every time: “Are they brothers?”

Sometimes I can feel it coming when a person opens her mouth. I feel my throat tighten and my pulse quicken. Here we go again. Over the years, I’ve handled this inquiry with defiance: “Why do you ask?” Faked ignorance: “What do you mean?” Sarcasm: “They aren’t sisters.” And simplicity: “Yes.”

And, to an extent, this works out fine. Because, frankly, I don’t care what the nosy stranger at the park thinks about my answer or how she interprets my tone. But it does get tricky when the person asking isn’t a stranger. When she’s not quite a friend, but a boss, a fellow PTA mom, my child’s teacher, or even another adoptive parent. Because, let’s face it. I know what these people are really asking: “Are your sons biologically related?”

Of course, this isn’t anyone’s business. I could point that out. I could also return an equally intrusive question about the inquisitor’s annual gross income or his choice of underwear.  But I don’t. Instead, my blood starts pumping, and my jaw clenches as I gear up to respond. Why?

It usually has to do with the six small ears floating around during these “interviews.” With my three sons listening, what can I say? My boys have heard me talk with pride about adoption while answering many questions. They understand completely what it means not to have grown in my tummy. But they don’t yet comprehend what this means in terms of their relationship with one another. From their standpoint, they’re in this together. They share the same birth country (Guatemala), shade of skin, and early life history, all of which sets them apart from my husband and me. In their eyes, perhaps, that’s what makes them brothers.

So when I’m asked the big question, I try to remember to say, “They are brothers now.” But that doesn’t always happen. With three small boys at my feet, I rarely get the opportunity to finish my conversations. After 7.8 seconds of adult talk, one of my sons usually pulls out a light saber, some name-calling skills, or the dreaded “I took your toy without asking” move. And that is the dramatic end to any such talk at all.

Keeping my body between them, pulling them apart, and reminding everyone to use their words, I sometimes remember to use my own. “What do you think?” I will say, with a laugh. Anyone with kids of her own can take one look at my three and agree. They love/hate each other too much. They have to be brothers. Between you and me, I can’t think of a better way to answer that question.


Copyright © 1999-2023 Adoptive Families Magazine®. All rights reserved. For personal use only. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

More articles like this