Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My wife and her sister gave birth two days apart. Six months later, my wife’s sister and her husband were killed in a car accident, and we adopted their son and have raised the two boys as “twin brothers” even though biologically they’re cousins.
My wife’s sister’s husband was a different race than us, so it’s obvious from looking at the two boys that they’re biologically not twins. The boys never seem to give it any thought, until adults ask nosy questions like, “Why do you boys say you’re brothers when you’re not?” Our family hasn’t come up with the right answer to that question and I’m wondering if you could help us. Thanks.
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DEAR ANONYMOUS: What a beautiful way to deal with a terrible loss.
I can see kids being nosy about it, but adults? Really, people.
I suggest you settle on one or two non-answer answers that mark the end of the discussion (adapt as needed for your responses or the boys’):
“Because it works for us.”
“Who says we aren’t brothers?”
“We’re not hung up on biology.”
[beat] “Sorry, it always throws me that people still ask this.”
“It’s always the adults who ask.”
“Is it important?”
“Is it important to you?”
“I’m touched that you care.”
“The boys never seem to give it any thought/We don’t even think about it.”
“Oh, you noticed.”
“Thank you for the teaching moment.”
Seriously — deflect all you want, as you want, in as few syllables as you want. It’s nobody’s business, at all. Any follow-ups by the particularly clueless can be shut down more explicitly.
Readers also suggest:
▪ “Because that is how adoption works.” You can stand up for your sons and adoption all in one breath.
▪ Give them the “think about it, genius” look. If the 5-year-olds delivered the look, that would be perfect.
▪ “The Doobies weren’t really brothers, either.”
DEAR CAROLYN: Most of my kids’ friends are going to summer camp. My kids feel inferior because we can’t afford it. Is there something to be said for living in a neighborhood where everyone has similar incomes?
DEAR MONEY TROUBLED: I suppose, but I think there’s a lot more to be said for living in a neighborhood with a big range of incomes. I think economic diversity is underappreciated and often ignored for the more talked about diversity in ethnicity and race.
I know exactly how your kids feel, so I’m not discounting it. However, obstacles are what spur creativity, growth, resiliency, compassion and self-knowledge. Plus, it’s not even a universal obstacle but one of proximity; they only care about summer camps because they’re in a community of summer-campers.
So their summertime limits are a bummer they can spin into the gold of resourcefulness as they fill their own time — exploration, free play, developing a lot more independence than campers get, earning money, perfecting a skill or sport, reading? Or it can fuel a motivating fire to be able to afford someday what their friends have now. Again, no fun for any of you in the moment, but not the worst thing.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.