Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Do I have the right to call these people my family, too?

Asked by Dutchess_III (43574points) July 29th, 2016

It’s an odd situation. As many of you know I adopted my oldest daughter. She was the product of my ex’s first marriage. We’ll call her Jen. She’s been in my life, I’ve been her mother, since she was 18 months old. Long, long, long story short, her mother, who we’ll call Diane, was sporadic about being in her life. There was a 4 year battle where I pulled no punches in pushing for her to allow me to adopt.
She finally did. And about a year after that she disappeared for the last time and we never saw her again. Jenny was 6 at the time.

And the years went by. There were times that Jen had to wrestle with her feelings about her biological mother’s abandonment. When my ex and I divorced, he started playing head games with 12 year old Jenny, telling her she didn’t have to do what I said because I wasn’t her “real” mother. What an asshole. But we got through it all.

About a month ago Jen called me…she has 3 half brothers….and they tracked her down through Facebook! Her cousin, Jane, is the one who found me first (I use all 3 of my last names in my FB name, for this very reason) and from there she got into my pictures. She knew it was Jenny the moment she saw her picture, because she was old enough to remember her. They even had a picture of them with her.

They had been looking for Jen for years. Diane died recently, and that caused them to redouble their efforts.

And..we met them in St. Louis this past week! They were going to dinner. I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcome, but I asked Jen if she wanted me to come. She said, “Of course!”
I was nervous. I didn’t know what they might have heard about me.

It turns out that they didn’t even know they had a sister until the oldest brother was 13. Diane got drunk and started crying and talking about it. He thought she was making it all up, at first. But then, through cousin Jane, they learned that they did, indeed, have a sister! I guess nobody was really willing to talk about it.

We had a wonderful time. It was just like magic. I just fell in love with them all! It was SO exciting.

But…can I call them “family” too? What is family?

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13 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Of course you can, and I hope you do.

Dear Abby once answered a question from someone who, as I recall, didn’t want to include an adopted child or maybe a stepchild in a family photo. Abby said something like “It doesn’t matter how they got to be family. They’re family now.”

I would take her advice. People who treat others or get treated by others as if they were members of the family are lucky, in my opinion. Pedigree is irrelevant. I have an adopted cousin who belongs to another ethnicity. She’s still my cousin.

zenvelo's avatar

You get to call family anyone that agrees that you are family.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, they feel like family.

On the Dear Abby thing….WTF?! Jesus. At a family reunion once, someone made a flow chart showing the relationships between family members. Some asshole got the idea to denote adopted family members by setting them off to the side or something. That hurt my daughter deeply. People can be such assholes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

There is one family member, Diane’s sister, who seems to be avoiding me. Apparently she’s send friend requests to Jen and my other daughter, but not to me. They’ve dismissed the requests. I haven’t reached out to her either. Apparently she was pretty instrumental in keeping Jen’s existence secret and Jen is angry about that.

Seek's avatar

The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.

Chosen family is the best family. And you would be an utter jackpot of a surprise aunt.

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL! That’s the best compliment I’ve ever received, @Seek! Thank you!

geeky_mama's avatar

Can’t top what @Seek said – I second that opinion.

You might remember I have a similar situation with my oldest – raised him from 18 months while the mom (let’s call her Diane in this case, too) was sporadically in & out of his life – but I didn’t get to adopt him, and I’m still married to his dad.

We consider our son’s younger brother (half-brother, because Diane had a child with another man and was struggling) as family. Let’s call him Jeff. He’s at our family Christmas, he’s spent long stretches in the past living with us, has his own bed here, etc. My husband has been his most consistent “father figure” and when we have all four kids together and not around family members that know and accept Jeff as our family member… if people as we call him our “bonus kid” or my husband calls him his godson.

The way I see it is whatever is best for the siblings is best. Diane’s sister is being petty rather than seeing the benefit of your role in Jen’s life AND the love that you’ll all share with her (newly found) siblings.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I played pretty dirty (for me) to push Diane into signing the papers.

As we were leaving, I was giving hugs all around and I said, “Man, this is so wonderful. I had NO idea what to expect!” The person I was hugging said, “I think that speaks for us all.”

Coloma's avatar

Absolutely, you can choose new “family” members when ever the family member feels like a fit. What a great encounter. Just remember though, as you get to know everyone better you may not like everyone as much as the initial moment of family romance. Beware of the rose colored family glasses. haha

DarknessWithin's avatar

Family isn’t defined by genetics but by the heart, Jen hit the ‘mother load’ with you, pun intended, let alone these new people but perhaps it would be wisest to get to know them better before regarding them as family.
First impressions are not necessarily informative. Any of one them could show you a side of themselves that you don’t like. You also need to consider their level of interest and comfort.

As for Diane’s sister, fuck her. People who are not interested in you are not worth your time and effort. If she doesn’t appreciate you and your devoted role in Jen’s life that’s her problem not yours.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

A good adopting parent is light years better than a shitty abusive blood parent.

cazzie's avatar

Try this on. My family here in Norway consists if my ex husband’s ex and their son and her son from earlier and her Swedish boyfriend. They are my family. No quotation marks.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yup. My ex also had 3 more kids after we divorced. I’ve never met them, but if I did I would consider them family. And my husband has 2 girls, 5 grandkids and one great grandkid, who I consider family.
My one daughter has 4 kids from 3 different fathers. The fathers all married someone else, and I also consider them family.

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