It is Harry’s birthday. He is twenty-eight years old today. I have not seen him, nor even heard from him or about him in several years. But I am sending out all kinds of love and best wishes.
Harry is the older biological half-brother to my second daughter, Beatric. Harry and Beatrice had a rough start together (that’s kind of a given once a child is in the foster care system), but he was 4 years older than his sister and he was her rock, her protector, and at times, her provider. That says a
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All of my kids have extended family. Kids do not come into care with a clean slate of biological connections. They do not automatically become only my children with a Danish heritage. Some of them have taken my Danish surname by adoption, but it does not erase the generations of ancestors that have added their lives and voices into who this child is. And this is important to remember!
The current fascination with DNA testing to learn your background is not without merit. It is a valid yearning to know who you are. My kids all have this drive to know who they are. It does not diminish our created family, nor the validity of my parenting when I accept that these children were created through generations of living and dying, loving and losing, joy and sorrow.
For years, since the arrival of Alice in Spring of 1991, I have done everything I can to keep every child as connected with any piece of their family as I possibly can. Because of the complexities of WHY each child entered foster care, it has been a journey to learn how to do that in a respectful, yet safe way. Each has been different…. but, I hope, valuable for each child and their biological families.
The result of this is that we don’t have a family tree any more. We have a family hedge that extends out and up in every direction you can see. We have aunties and uncles and grandmas and grandpas and brothers and sisters and moms and dads in every shape and form that you can imagine. And as a family, we claim them all. Each child, of course, gets to have their own mom or dad or auntie or whoever the connection is, but the relationships extend into the rest of our family in different ways. I let the relationships grow in whichever direction is comfortable for everyone and we, as a family, are richer and more blessed because of all these amazing people who became family members through adoption. If any of you are rolling your eyes at this Pollyanna approach, you’re right. It’s messy, HARD, sad, confusing, and at times, safety has had to dictate the direction of the connections. But life is messy and this is our life. If we don’t wade through the mess, we don’t get to the blessings that come through family.
The next layer is that every single one of my children are also Native American. So they are ultimately connected to traditions and history, culturally, that I have also tried to honor. The positive piece of this, is that each has spiritual connection to relatives within the Native community that helps them name who they are.
We have ongoing conversations that happen in good humor and usually some laughter because of imaginations gone wild as the kids get older. It started as a serious, innocent question from Alice to Beatrice when they were young. “If you are my sister now and Harry is your brother, is he my brother, too?” The girls between them (at 12 and 5 years old respectively) decided that yes, he was
These days it’s, “If your auntie is my grandmother’s cousin, what are we to each other (true conversation)?” Then they get silly and we find ourselves with large pieces of paper trying to draw a family tree, which looks more and more like a hedge as they get carried away, “What if your biological mom’s biological grandmother was a biological cousin to my biological brother’s biological father? How would we be related?” Hahaha.
Anyway…. Happy Birthday, Harry!