“Oh, they’re brothers. So they were adopted together?”

This was the question Aaron and I were recently asked during a school-related meeting for our older son. It is fascinating to me (and often times enraging), that people think this way. We have two living sons. Of course they are brothers. Yes, one came to us through adoption, and then one through genetics, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. Family is family.

“Well, you’ve got an adopted son, and another son now, so…”

Another conversation. Another disclaimer. Why do people find it necessary to differentiate? This is a big sticking point in daily life for me, especially when it comes to the media, as they almost always add this when talking about celebrities who have adopted. Do they really think that we, as parents, make a distinction like this with our children? There are plenty of things that differentiate my boys, but who is more part of our family isn’t one of them.

This got me thinking about who, and what makes up a family. I’ve long thought that you don’t need to be blood-related to be considered family. There are many friends whom I consider family, and am much closer with than actual blood relatives. Family is about love. Family is about support. It’s more than shared names and bloodlines. They say home is where the heart is, and the same could be said for family.

As loss parents, our notion of family is already outside of the “norm,” as we all have family members who aren’t physically here. Yes, I realize that most people have family members who aren’t here. But the big difference, is that most of those family members had lives, probably long lives, filled with experiences and memories. For us, our missing family members–our children–didn’t have that luxury. Their experiences and memories live only in our imagination and hearts. And because of that, there are many who don’t consider them as part of our family. The fact that they’re not living, doesn’t take away the hopes and dreams that will remain with us forever. They existed. They matter.

As adoptive parents, our family is automatically extended by our son’s birth family. I know this can get complicated in some families and situations, but whether there is a relationship or not, they are part of our child’s background, and therefore, part of their present and future. To Aaron and me, it is important to honor that to ensure our son has an understanding of his story. I’m sure as he gets older, there will be questions, some that we’ll be able to answer, and others that we won’t. But our hope is that by being open with him, and helping him to find the answers, or at least the understanding he needs, then we’re on the right track as parents.

I’m not sure there is such a thing as an average family these days. Perhaps what matters most is what each of us holds true, and respecting that in others. To the outside world, Aaron and I are bereaved parents, adoptive parents and biological parents. To our sons (and to us), we are simply Mommy and Daddy. No disclaimer. No distinction necessary.

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