Today I revisit a blog I originally posted back in November when I was writing my family tree. Now we’ve started Stage Two I thought I would re-examine the cracks in my extended family in light of conversations with Denise, our social worker.
I come from a large family and I was struggling to fit everyone on to my family tree. And that was without including my sister – or half-sister to be exact. And, I suppose if we’re going to be exact, I should also call my brothers “my half-brothers” – a title that I would never dream of using when introducing them to anyone or generally talking about them.
I’m the only child of my parents’ marriage. My three brothers are from my mum’s first marriage and I grew up with them in the same house after my mum left her first husband and moved in with my dad. It must have been difficult for everyone but my parents and my brothers’ dad dealt with it brilliantly. There were occasional issues between my older brothers and my dad but they got through it, and my nieces and nephews call my dad “Granddad” without any thought to whose blood is in whom. We are a family. End of.
This is all in stark contrast to the relationship I have with my sister. There is a 22 year gap between my parents and as a consequence my mum is only a few years older than my sister. I appreciate this must have been difficult for her at the time, but when I was born she was a woman in her late twenties and a few years later would be a mother herself. Yet it took her until I was nearly 30 before she would even entertain the idea of acknowledging my existence.
About six years ago my dad became ill (he’s fine now) and he asked for us all to meet up. So my Mum and Dad, my sister and her husband, and Tom and I all met for dinner. It was fine (if not very strange) and we meet up now and again at my parents’ house but we don’t call each other or see each other outside of these meetings.
I know my dad would like us to have a similar relationship to the one I have with my brothers. But the fact that she’s more of my parents’ generation than my own, that she ignored me for 30 years, and that she has continually rebuffed any efforts I’ve made with her mean, for me at least, that the opportunity has passed. Plus, I’ve always felt like I was somehow betraying my brothers by having a relationship with her – I know this is completely irrational, and when I’ve said this to them they’ve always said they would support me in any decision I make, but I can’t shake that feeling.
I was originally worried about how this broken relationship would appear to Denise. Would she see it as a weakness in our application that I hadn’t been able (or willing, if I’m honest) to mend the relationship between my sister and me? Would it matter that I’ve met her two children only once, and never their children? Would it matter, when asked who’d support my ageing dad in future my answer was immediately “my brothers” (related to him by marriage), and that Denise had to remind me I had a sister (his daughter) who might take the responsibility?
As it turns out, the answer seems to be no. What I’m starting to realise is that what I thought might be considered ‘weaknesses’ by Denise are actually bonuses. Many of the children we’re likely to adopt may also have complicated families. Being aware of how that feels and can be managed could be a crucial part of what our children need.
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...