Caring for Siblings

For all of my adult years my mother has tried to force relationships between me and my siblings (and likely vice versa). She has insisted I always invite both my sisters to any invite, that all siblings should be included in all events, that I should call this sibling or that sibling when they are ill or struggling. I have resisted this greatly.

I am particularly close with only one of my siblings. Candidly she is the only one I look forward to seeing, the only one I think has any amount of understanding and respect for me and mine, and the only one I truly want part of my life. My other two siblings? One is not a particularly friendly or emotionally available individual and the other has made life choices I disagree with. I disagree with those choices so strongly I have refused to invite that sibling to my home due to safety concerns for me, my home, family.

This situation and similar ones have upset my mother dearly. For years she pushed my siblings on me and I pushed back. We fought, debated, discussed and eventually, I think, she got my point. I am an adult. Sibling or not I have a right to decide who is in my life (particularly if they are emotionally or physically unsafe for me or my family). Further, I have always suspected her intense desire for her children to be BFF’s was rooted in the fact she was not close to her own siblings. I will not live out my mother’s dreams for her. I will live my own.

And yet…

While my son was in the hospital, post head injury, he wrote a journal page or two that alluded to his sister lost to adoption, my search for her, and the current situation. While some might question my reading this journal, I should add that at the time he had no memory and no speech. It was his way to communicate with us. Further more, the page in question was directed right to me. We have not discussed that journal page since he left the hospital six months ago. I have wanted to but have not pushed. He has dealt with so much following his injury, recovered from so much, and still has recovery under way. I waited for the appropriate time.

I thought the time came a few weeks back in a therapist session. Discussing goals each of us wanted to achieve, I mentioned that I felt there was an elephant in our family room — his sister. I made no mention to the journal. Rather I said I wanted to discuss it as I felt the need.

Therapist looked towards my sons and my oldest responded to the look by stating rather matter of factly “I do not really care. I have no interest in discussing my sister.”

Internally I gasped. I might have even uttered a silent scream down the dark hallways of my own mind. Outwardly, I did my best to sit stone faced and not react. Therapist acknowledges his response and we move on.

Being Okay

Part of me is okay with my sons response. It may be true. He may not have any interest — and that is his right. He may also not be ready to discuss it — and that is also his right. The first option bothers me. The second does not.

Reflecting on my own experience of having a mother who pushes siblings together, I question why my sons lack of interest may bother me so. I know I strongly believe in his right to make his own decisions – now and in the future. So, why the heart ache for me?


I wanted someone to care.

I wanted someone, anyone, to care about my daughter — someone besides me. I wanted my mother to contact her. She did not. I wanted someone to express an interest, perhaps even a regret over the loss of her from our familiy. I had not realized how strongly I wanted this until a likely suspect I thought might surely care, my daughters own half sibling, said they did not.


This is not my sons issue – it is my own. If I allow and accept my daughter has no interest in her half sibings, surely I owe my sons the same acceptance.

I do. I know I do.

But it is aching my heart to let it happen. I did not, do not want, to be the only one that cared about her in our family.

Perhaps my mother feels the same way about my other siblings.

5 Thoughts.

  1. Oh Suz…..I can so relate to all of this. I keep typing and deleting. All I can think of to say is that I understand what you mean…..I get it completely.

  2. Pingback: Caring for Siblings | Adoption News

  3. Suz, this is a current issue for me as well as an ongoing one. The three sons I raised and the one I surrendered have never met, and two of my sons ignore the existence of the other, the youngest is more vocal and angry. I made mistakes when raising my other kids, always busy with adoption reform stuff, always mourning for the lost one and depressed, and my kids resented it and I think mistakenly thought I cared more about my surrendered son than them, which was not true, but I can see how it appeared that way to them. Like the Bible story of the Prodigal Son, my other kids were like the good son who always stayed with the father, and resented the fuss made over the return of the Prodigal Son. It is hard for kids to understand that you love them all equally, maybe they have to have kids of their own to really get it.

    For many years my surrendered son was not interested in any of us, not communicating with any of us, so it was a moot point. Then he came around and had a relationship just with me, but no desire to meet the others. Next he met me and my husband, that went well but the meetings were infrequent, and the email relationship was just between me and my son. I tell him about the other kids, and them about him, everyone has seen pictures of each other, but nobody made a move to connect. He just recently finally connected with his bio father who he has always known about, only on email but it is a start.

    This weekend everything changed. I went down to help my son Mike with a project he is doing to stop a terrible gas pipeline they want to put through his beautiful rural area, and was greeted with the news that he and his wife are adopting two little Black kids from foster care. I did not know, but they had been trying for ten years to have a baby without success. So I am suddenly going to be Grandma to a 7 year old boy and 3 year old girl, same biological mother but different fathers. They have been bouncing around in foster care due to substance abuse and neglect and parental rights were terminated. I have a picture, and they are so cute and look happy and healthy. My family is pretty racially mixed already, an Asian daughter-in-law and a Black almost daughter-in-law so that is all good.

    Obviously now there will be much more contact between our families, and these will be my first grandkids. Yayyy!! Also this weekend for the first time my son introduced me to his friends and associates as his Mom, and also said he loved me when we said goodbye:-)One other son is married, the other in a long-term committed relationship, but no kids yet. Not sure how I will manage all this. I feel very much in the middle.The single son who lives with me and my husband is fine with it and excited, but the other two who live far away may not be. I emailed one about the news, got no reply The youngest, the most angry, I will tell when he calls but expect indifference at best. Like all of us, I would love my whole family to be together, but it is not my call to make and I can’t make it happen. Adults have to decide on their own about sibling relationships, you are so right, but when you are the mom it is hard.

    Suz, I sympathize with where you are, and especially dealing with your son’s traumatic injury. I think as Moms we always feel responsible for fixing everything and taking care of everyone’s feelings, and that can get exhausting.

  4. Since I didn’t have any other children after losing my son, I don’t have the sibling issues with him, but can totally relate to your angst in dealing with your own mother trying to foist relationship on you with your other sibs. I have a younger sister who for whatever reason, used to get angry at everyone in the family for slights she would imagine. She stopped speaking to me a few years ago and since it was during the time I was being treated for breast cancer, I was not only hurt but decided I didn’t need her negative energy in my life. During that period and in the years since then, my mother would beg me to reach out to my sister…in spite of the fact that I was the one who had been treated poorly by her. My mother would just say, “well you know that’s the way she is” as if her behavior was ok. This went on for years and then suddenly last Thanksgiving at a family reunion, my sister decided she was ‘over’ whatever she was angry at me about and asked me to forgive her. Of course I did because that’s the way I am but when asked why in the first place she was so upset with me, she couldn’t answer except to say ‘it’s just didn’t do anything’… Ok. I accept that and now have a pretty good relationship with her, in spite of not having discussed why we were estranged for 4 or 5 years. I realize this doesn’t have a lot to do with your situation with your boys and your daughter except that it reminded me of how bizarre relationships with even the siblings we grew up with can be.

  5. Ah, all the feels. My son’s father and I both care about him, obviously. My daughter, I think, would like to know her brother, but she was six the last time she saw him (she is 14 now) and I think she finds it difficult to connect with her feelings about him. She worries about upsetting me. About a year ago my father broke down crying, saying that he really regretted his inaction when I was pregnant with my son, and that he really wishes he could meet his grandson. It was a great relief to me when he said this because I’d felt for so long that my family didn’t give a crap that one of us was out there in the world without our knowing him. My mother would gladly died without ever speaking of my son again. Oy. So much family baggage.

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