Saturday, September 17, 2005

Will Their Cousins Still Love Them?

I currently have two nieces by my only sister. These two girls are the only first cousins my kids currently have. My sister and her spouse are fully aware that my kids were conceived by donor insemination. I doubt my sister has ever mentioned the word donor to her kids and as they are also young (6 and under) I doubt that without explanation they could grasp the concept that their cousins were conceived via donor insemination. My concern is at the point when they are told and they actually understand will they treat my kids any differently?

I am already thinking ahead to some family gathering where a disagreement starts over some stupid toy and one of my nieces says something like "you are not my real cousin anyhow" or something cruel like that. How will my kids react to that?

The affects of disclosure are still to new to even guess at this point to us. We still haven't told our families about the half sibling yet. As a result they don't even know of this blog yet. We are still committed to continuing to inform our kids of their origins as we feel their right to know trumps any right we have to keep it private to avoid questions or negative comments from the outside at our, the parental level.

The issue of family is a tricky one. It's one thing for kids at the playground to learn, react and accept the next kids family structure or origin but how a kid reacts in the family itself I am guessing can have greater affects on the DI child's psyche. My son loves his cousins very very much. If they all of sudden, even innocently, if one of them commented that they were not real cousins it would hurt him very much. I think I want to start talking to my sister about this as maybe her kids need to start hearing the terms more frequently just as we tell our son so it just becomes a normal part of our lexicon and NOT something that comes as a surprise.

But just as I expect to someday hear my kids as struggling teenagers to answer me in anger that I am not their "real" father I guess my kids should expect the same from their cousins. Raising kids is going to be adventure enough without worrying about this stuff but what choice is there. At this point none.

4 comments:

Janice said...

I think when you talk to anyone in your family about your kids, the phrase they are "not your 'real' kids" should never be used. That is totally not true. I also think that it is not something that is repeatedly talked about. You use the term donor when you tell them the story, but it is not something that is brought up all the time. As they age and ask questions, you answer the questions in a simple way that is age appropriate. I'm not even sure your sister should tell her children at this point. It's your children's story to tell. If your kids some day mention to their cousins that a donor helped them be born, then your sister can explain in simple terms what that means. However, it doesn't mean that they aren't "really cousins" and no one should say that. My children's dad died at age 35. My son (who is 17) looks a lot like his stepfather. When people say "You look just like your dad (meaning his stepfather) we simply say "thank-you." Otherwise, we would have to say, "Well he's not his real dad because his real dad is deceased." It's not necessary to 1) make the person feel really bad that he said that 2) remind my son that his father is dead 3) remind my husband who cares for him and has stepped into the role of father, that he really isn't his father.
I think if your kids grow up not knowing any differently, it won't especially hurt them if someone says "that's not your real dad" anymore than if someone said "you can't play because you're too short, or fat or ugly or whatever other mean things children can say that aren't true. I know it is scary to think about all these things. You can drive yourself crazy with worry. No one wants their child to be hurt, different or rejected. If you present it in a matter of fact way, that's how your child will probably respond to it. I have researched this issue extensively. All the stories I ever read from children who were told early on, were positive. The really negative stories I've heard and read were from children who found out accidentally when they were older or as adults. I print out everything I read on stories like this, so if you ever want some information like that, just let me know. I would be happy to send it to you as an email attachment or by mail. I sure wish some more dads would talk to you! I think it would help!

Marty said...

but what choice is there. At this point none.

Yep, you're right about that. As i said on another blog, that's a hell of a burden to put on a kid, because of your problem.

I'm not trying to attack you or anything, but God forbid any other kids be abused in such a manner. You're an adult, and should be able to handle your own problems without pawning them off onto a child for the rest of his life...

Marty said...

PS: I agree with Janice, and i hope you don't drive yourself crazy with worry -- and appreciate that you blog your experiences so publicly. But as i have tried to expose, society has a vested interest in what's going on here, for the well-being of all children. I'm trying hard not to be judgemental, and probably failing, but there are serious questions at stake here. Aldous Huxley addressed just a few of them 50 years ago, and they are still unanswered for the most part. But the clock is not only ticking, it actually seems to be speeding up...

JoEllen said...

I'm a DI kid born to lesbian parents, but my mom worried about this when I was little, too. She says she didn't know how I would react when other kids asked about my dad or when I talked to my family about it. Actually, she described it much the same way you did, which was why I decided to post. I just want to let you know that I think you're going about this the right way. I've been given three mothers and three sets of cousins in my life, but I've never had a fight with any of my friends or cousins because of it. Yeah, they were really curious and maybe said things like "I have a dad and you don't" but I distinctly remember being far more upset when they killed my butterfly. Like me, most of my cousins have "always known" how I was conceived, to some extent. Now that we're teenagers, I'm really close to my non-biological cousins. Sometimes we talk about how we're not really cousins in the biological sense, but that isn't a factor in our definition of a cousin. My sister handles it differently than I did and I'm sure your children will, too, but as long as you're open with everyone in your family, you'll get through it.