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Birth sister? Is that even a thing? What should we call her?

(41 Posts)
paulwellersjam Tue 04-Nov-14 20:36:20

DD will be seeing her birth sister soon, we're hoping to have a good relationship with the family (she's adopted) and see a lot of them in the future.

My issue is that I'm wondering in the longer term what to call this little girl person and her family. Obviously we'll call her Ermintrude/Amanda/Persephone/whatever. But it occurs to me that DD will need something to grow up calling her so that it doesn't immediately 'out' her as adopted when someone at school asks what she did at the weekend - as in 'I saw my birth sister'.

DD also has a sister (our BC) so we don't want to use 'sister' as I think that confuses the nature of DD's relationship with DD1.

DD is only 15 months old so she doesn't have a word to reference this relationship. But DD1 is at school and I would prefer she wasn't using the phrase 'DD2's birth sister' to people there.

So do we go with something artificial like 'cousin' which doesn't feel right? Or something else? Any ideas?

Monathevampire1 Tue 04-Nov-14 20:52:38

Your DD is only 15 months so I suspect a term of reference will naturally emerge. 'I saw Persephone on Sunday' or 'I saw my sister'. i appreciate you have a birth and adopted daughter but why cant the three of them form a solid bond?

MerryInthechelseahotel Tue 04-Nov-14 20:53:39

If you don't want people to know it is a birth sister maybe cousin is the word to use. Remember though it is just a word. Don't get worried about it. Children often used to call their mum's friends aunty. Children in long term foster care sometimes call the foster family mum, dad, sister etc. a lot of the time it is save on awkward questions and not want everyone to know your business.

My ds calls his sibs his brother, sister but it is a slightly different situation and he was older when adopted so knew who they were.

Will dd be told she is her sister?

silverlinings79 Tue 04-Nov-14 20:54:04

I don't have a BC to worry about but our LO's do have birth siblings. I just don't see how you can't use the term 'sister' as anything else is a lie, other than 'birth sister', which I wouldn't want to use either.

Personally, when you consider the make up of families these days, with so many people taking children into new relationships, there are many sisters and brothers not in the same household, even when adoption isn't a factor, so it won't really be that odd. But like I said, not having a birth child, I don't understand the confusion bit smile

Hope you get some more useful advice, sorry smile Just wanted to say that I would worry about resentment or questions later for 'lying' when that is not your purpose. Someone is going to come along now with a wickedly obvious suitable alternative I'm sure and I'm going to say ooooooooh ofcourse! smile

silverlinings79 Tue 04-Nov-14 20:55:42

Lying by using an alternative such as 'cousin' I mean.

youbethemummylion Tue 04-Nov-14 21:00:38

I would just use sister, families come in such an array of forms these days no one at school will bat an eyelid that your DD mentions her sister has a sister who lives with another family.

mcdog Tue 04-Nov-14 21:06:16

Our boys "birth siblings" are just their brother and sisters. There isn't any confusion, it's just how our/their family are. Does that make sense? Just because they don't live together does not negate their relationship, they are siblings so call each other brother and sister.

PacificDogwood Tue 04-Nov-14 21:07:54

My adopted cousin is my cousin, as are my 'birth' cousins.

I'd stick with sister.

Hels20 Tue 04-Nov-14 21:09:12

I would let her use "sister". I agree with posters above. Families come in all shapes and sizes these days.

mcdog Tue 04-Nov-14 21:13:42

It might help to think of it in terms of your own family if you have siblings. Just because your (I presume) sister/brother now lives with their own family does not mean they are suddenly not your brother/sister anymore. Again, I hope that makes sense and I'm not coming across as a patronising old crone??

My youngest was a similar age to yours when he came home, and it's never caused any issues here.

paulwellersjam Tue 04-Nov-14 21:32:34

I am hoping they will all form a bond. It's possible that DD1 will form a closer bond at first as she is of a similar age to 'Persephone'.

I suppose my main issue is that it's an instant 'out' - if DD1 says for example 'DD's sister came to see us at the weekend'. However much people have different families these days, neither DH or I have children from previous relationships and even a cursory examination of that would result in the 'DD is adopted' conversation. We are being very private about that information, it's DD's not ours. No-one at DD1's schoo (which will also be DD2's school) l knows for example (DD was placed just before the start of her first term). So if there's a way round it I'd like to find it.

Also I suppose I think that in our family a sister is not a person you see three times a year. Just as a mother is not the person who gave birth to you. That's why I'd use 'birth mother' to distinguish those things and I suppose I think DD1 deserves the same respect for her status as DD's sister. I want these siblings (DD1 and DD2) to have absolutely the closest sibling bond possible and I feel that words are important. So I would like to explore whether there's another word for Persephone which doesn't negate her relationship with DD2 but does show my DDs that it's not quite the same thing.

Maybe? Or maybe there isn't and she's just Persephone...

paulwellersjam Tue 04-Nov-14 21:35:39

And sorry - yes of course DD will be told this is her sister. smile

I'm not trying to negate their relationship, it's a hugely important bit of DD's life. I just want to get it right and not compromise my child's privacy with something careless like this.

silverlinings79 Tue 04-Nov-14 21:40:19

In which case I would just go with 'Persephone' and specifically have an absence of the term 'sister' in your choice of words e.g. Persephone is special because she has the same birth mummy as DD.

However, while you can choose your choice of words, will the other adoptive parents share your feelings? If they use the term 'sister' your LO's will automatically pick up on it, just a thought. smile

Hels20 Tue 04-Nov-14 21:44:48

PaulWeller - I do sympathise. The penny hadn't quite dropped that you had a birth child already - so DD1 referring to DD2's sister would seem odd. I always struggle with suggesting children are untruthful - I think they end up tying themselves in knots. Couldn't DD1 refer to this birth sister as "her friend" and when DD2 is old enough, she can either say "her friend" visited or "her sister" visited. A sister can be a friend, but can't really be a cousin.

MerryInthechelseahotel Tue 04-Nov-14 21:52:42

And sorry - yes of course DD will be told this is her sister I think you have your answer then!

paulwellersjam Tue 04-Nov-14 21:52:56

Thanks - those are both good suggestions.

I wouldn't for a second suggest they lie. I think that would be wrong in all kinds of ways and a horrible thing to do to them all. I am posting now before the first visit so that I can start using whatever I'm going to say with DD1 and I really like both 'a friend' and the reference to them both having the same birth mummy and therefore Persephone being special to us all. smile

Another one solved by MN...

Italiangreyhound Tue 04-Nov-14 23:13:30

paulwellersjam I totally get where you are coming from. My ds is 4 and our birth dd is 10. DS has no other siblings, and I totally want him and dd to claim each other as sibs, which ds totally does and dd is working on.

I know what you mean when you say how you feel about the relationship between the siblings. Seeing a sibling three times a year is very different to living with them day to day.

Some areas of the issue are similar for us in terms of ds's birth parents. When ds started preschool he said (on the day he first went!) something about birth mum 'Dora' (for want of a better name).

I told him he was welcome to talk about his birth parents if he wanted to but if he did people would know I was not his birth mum. It was totally up to him. I explained he cannot untell people. As far as I know he does not talk about his birth family outside the home but he does talk about them at home. He totally claims me as mum and dh as dad and I know that he would find it very hard at 4 to answer questions relating to his adoption.

I think it is helpful to explain the relationship to your dd but also explain that it is private if you want to keep the fact your daughter joined the family by adoption quiet. When she is older, if she wants to confide in people and tell them then you can advise her. I have told my son he can tell people, it is his story.

Before ds arrived I was all for telling anyone anything, then he came and surprisingly a lot of people who know me vaguely had no idea he was adopted! I know I've had the discussions with people when I have told them, thinking they knew, and discovering they didn't!

Anyway, I understand why you want to keep it private, as long as your dd knows it is not something to be ashamed of, which I am sure she will. Then I am sure as she gets older she will understand she does not need to tell other people private things but can still know her relationship to her birth sister.

Not sure if any of that made sense! confused

CariadsDarling Wed 05-Nov-14 11:28:59

Anything other than the reality of the situation will only ever cause problems in the future and not just because like it or not the other wee girl is your daughters sister. Nothing you ever do or say will change this and trying to make your birth child 'the sister' is quite appalling.

TheWildRumpyPumpus Wed 05-Nov-14 11:45:39

From the perspective of the adopted person - it's important she never feels that being adopted HAS to be a secret or something to be embarrassed about, so I wouldn't have any issue with it 'coming out' at school that she is adopted, it is bound to do so at some point unless you expressly tell her and DD1 that they aren't allowed to talk about it.

I am in contact with my 'birth' family and just refer to my half-brothers as brothers. Never call my birth Mother Mum though, that would be very weird.

MerryInthechelseahotel Wed 05-Nov-14 11:45:46

It's not appalling Cariads just because you are appalled.

TheWildRumpyPumpus Wed 05-Nov-14 12:14:23

You could always just say 'we had family visit us at the weekend' and leave it at that. I don't know that you'll have too much control over what the children themselves decide to do or say about it.

Italiangreyhound Wed 05-Nov-14 12:27:44

CariadsDarling you said, Nothing you ever do or say will change this and trying to make your birth child 'the sister' is quite appalling.

If a child is legally adopted or even if she is not legally adopted but lives with a family who have children in a kinship or other form of care situation the children will be siblings. It is not about making it so, it is so, and will be experienced as such by the child. To not treat the children as siblings would be very cruel and unfair.

I am not sure why you think this is appalling. From what I can see it seems the OP is not trying to deny that these two girls are birth sisters or keep it secret from her dd. She is saying that she doesn't want all and sundry to know their personal family business and wants to use language that will give her dd the chance to keep this private.

IMHO once a child is legally adopted they are the legal sibling of other children who are part of the adoptive family, this is just a fact. If they have birth siblings this does not alter that fact but an adopted sibling is just as much a sibling. And if a child is growing up in a family seeing an adopted sibling day by day and only sees a birth sibling a few times a year they are bound to have slightly different relationships IMHO.

This is the nature of adoption sometimes and it is a sad aspect that children at one time would totally lose contact with birth siblings. Not all children who have full or half birth siblings can be adopted together, for a whole range of reasons, sometimes for the benefit of one or all of the children. I am speaking generally here and not in relation to this case.

paulwellersjam Wed 05-Nov-14 13:01:10

I would never tell my children they are not allowed to talk about any aspect of their life but I do think it's important to give them language which protects their privacy so that they have control over who they give information to and when.

As you say I cannot control what they say and to whom and nor would I wish to. I think DD1 has already talked about DD joining us at school as she is very proud of her little sister smile

Cariadsdarling if your understanding of adoption is so completely fucking non-existent that you think people's BC and AC are not siblings and that the idea that they would be is 'appalling' then can I suggest you read around the subject before offering your input because you might find you look like a total twat otherwise. Your response is offensive to a huge number of people here who have families where children with different birth parents are very very much siblings. And it's also plainly fucking imbecilic. HTH. smile

Copper13 Wed 05-Nov-14 14:11:00

We'll said Paulwelletsjam!

CariadsDarling Wed 05-Nov-14 14:20:48

Ive read back and I can see where what Ive said is totally not what I meant.

I have a very complex family history and would never say what it looks like Ive said.

My apologies, sincerely.

I really dont know how I managed such a cock up of a post.

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