One day fairly recently, one of the little boys noticed we had an Alaska license plate on the garage wall, and asked if we’d lived in Alaska. We said we had.
“That’s cool,” he said. “My grandparents went on vacation to Alaska.”
“Yes,” said Nod, “But those are Blynken’s grandparents only, not mine. I don’t have other grandparents. But I have some sisters Blynken doesn’t have.”
They argued a little while about whose sisters were whose, exactly, and how many there were. It’s all very confusing, and what they think they know does not quite mesh up with what I have been told. Nod was, I think, making some of it up, but based on what I’ve been told, he also has many more half siblings than he knows about, or probably ever can know about. None of the mothers have been married to his birth father.
The boys often argue about silly things, and they often debate the different family circumstances- Blynken sometimes sees his birth father. Nod will never see his barring some substantial miracle working. This visit there was a different note than previously, however. It’s like, before these things were just words to the boys, but now it means something, and I think Nod is feeling a loss he did not know was a loss until recently.
A few days later, Nod observed that Princess Peach and the little Ladybug look a lot alike.
“Yes,” said Peach’s mama, the HG. “That’s because they are cousins.”
“What are cousins?” he asked. “Like sisters?”
“No. Cousins are relatives whose parents are siblings. The Equuschick is my sister, so our children are cousins,” explained the HG.
“Are they my cousins, too?” he asked.
But we did not know there was an important conversation was going on, so we swooped in at just that moment to put the boys in the car, as we needed to head home.
He clearly spent some time thinking about this. The following afternoon we were in the parking lot after church, chatting with several friends, waiting for the boys to get in the van. Instead of getting into the van, Nod walked up to me and asked, “Aren’t the Dread Pirate Grasshopper, the Ladybug, Striderling, the Princess Peach and the new baby all my cousins, and Blynken’s, too? And we’re their cousins?”
Readers, I almost said no.
I thought he was asking for information- factual input. I was in the middle of two conversations at the time, one in English and one in ASL, I was distracted and busy- but something made me stop and glance at him. There was just…. a look. I can’t describe it, but you don’t need me to if you are a mother or one of those special bodies who knows small children. It wasn’t much, just a flicker across his face, a something about the eyes that told me this was not merely a classification question.
“Nnnn- Yes,” I said. “You can all be cousins. You are cousins. You and your brother. And I am your Ti-Ti, and the Mister is your Mister.”
The flicker of concern vanished, something like satisfaction flashed across his face, and he climbed into the van.
Later I asked him, “Why did you need to know? Did somebody tell you they weren’t your cousins? Do you need me to go say something to somebody for you?”
“No,” he said. “nobody argued with me about it. I just wondered.”
And he grinned his adorable six year old gap-toothed grin and returned to playing.
There are more ways of being family than just a bloodline or even an adoption form- and we’ve done both of those. This is different, less easy to quantify, qualify, and categorize, but it matters to this small boy in a big way just the same.