“True siblings are bound together by far more essential things than blood” – Constantina Maud
Since I was a child, I have always loved being around people. I have always been a friend-oriented person. Every day after school, I would be at a friend’s house. Because of this, our family trips to Ireland every Christmas were always bittersweet—I loved seeing my grandparents but I was sad to leave my friends for the three weeks. However, maybe the best part of these trips was getting to spend three weeks with my sister. We were close growing up, but we had various school commitments and extracurricular activities so our schedules were never in sync.
It was nice to be able to spend three weeks talking and laughing. The eleven-hour plane rides were less boring with my sister next to me, sharing music, and playing games. In the evening, after my grandparents would go to sleep, my sister and I would go play soccer in the backyard or walk to the neighbor’s. We would walk up to the town together and talk with the sheep and cows in the pastures. When my mom brought us to see all of her friends we barely knew, it was nice having my sister there to carry a side conversation or at least exchange awkward glances with at the dinner table. It sounds cliche but she really was my best friend for the majority of my life.
My sister is two and a half years younger than me and three school grades behind me. When she went into her sophomore year of high school, I started my first year at college and moved to Irvine, an hour away from home. I was pretty excited to be on my own but my sister did not take me leaving well. She missed me a lot because we were so used to being around each other.
While I was away at college, both my sister and I changed a lot. I grew up a little more and she started facing more high school teenage drama. For whatever reason, probably due to drama and personality clashes, my sister and I got in a huge fight in 2019. It was such a major fight that we did not talk for almost a year. Even when I was home, I would close my door and she would close hers. At dinners, we would talk to different parents so we would not have to talk to each other. This period of time was probably one of the hardest times of my life because it felt like I was not only shutting out a sister, but I was losing a best friend—a person who I once told everything to and who I planned on having as my maid of honor at my (future hypothetical) wedding. Thanks to the pandemic, and being locked in the same house together for about a year, we have made up and we are learning to trust each other again.
My point is: people are not lying when they say your sibling is like your built-in best friend. If one of my friends and I had gotten into the same fight, I do not think we would be talking today. Somehow, sibling relationships withstand arguments and events that many friendships do not.
When planning a family, sibling consideration is essential. Whether you are planning to have biological children, planning to adopt, or both, it is worth thinking through and talking with your partner about how many children you want as well as how many children you think you can adequately support financially, emotionally, and time-wise. Here are some questions you may want to take into consideration if you are considering having biological children or adopting:
How Many Children Do I Want?
Many women I know have been planning family sizes since they were little. I recently found a pamphlet I wrote in second grade about myself in which I said I wanted two to three children… I was eight years old. According to Statista.com, “In 2020, there was an average of 1.93 children under 18 per family in the United States. This is a decrease from 2.33 children under 18 per family in 1960.” Further, “Two-parent households are declining and the number of families with no children is increasing.” Some things to take into consideration are the characteristics associated with birth order as well as how many children you actually want (not how many children society or your mother tells you).
Birth order is the order in which a child is born. I am very interested in the study of birth order. The more I read about it, the more I see it in my friends and family members. The traits often associated with people of certain birth order are:
- The oldest child is known to be responsible, ambitious, and bossy.
- The middle child is known to be adaptable, independent, and often feels left out.
- The youngest child is known to be charming, outgoing, and sometimes manipulative.
- Children who grow up with no siblings are social, responsible, and independent but often feel lonely.
I would recommend taking these characteristics into account when planning how many children you want. For instance, some people have two children simply because they want their child to have siblings. Some people opt to have four children so there are two middle children. These seem like silly reasons, but some people really take these characteristics into account when choosing how many children they would like.
Furthermore, quantity matters. I had a friend who was the oldest of three boys. He would always say, “I want an even number of children so when we go to theme parks, no one has to sit alone on a roller coaster.” I have other friends who strongly believe in the hand-to-child ratio. For example, if they were married, they wanted at most four children so each of their children would have a parent’s hand to hold. There are plenty of other reasons to have a certain number of children and each come with their benefits and drawbacks.
Do I Want All Biological Children, All Adopted Children, Or Both?
If a family is considering adoption, another good question to ask is how they would like to have their children. If you are considering adoption due to infertility, your answer to this will be pretty clear-cut. However, if you are considering adoption for other reasons, this is a valid question to ask yourself.
Most of the people who were adopted at the same time I was are either only children or have other adopted siblings from the same country they are from. Personally, my parents were infertile so they did not really have much of a choice in this department. My parents chose to go back to China for convenience (all of the paperwork and home-study documents from my adoption were able to be transferred to my sister’s adoption since we were from the same country), but also because they wanted me to have someone of the same race growing up with me. The parents of one girl who was adopted with me chose this same path and went back to China around the same time my parents went and adopted a baby boy. I really do think that growing up with my sister in a multiracial household was really nice because it made me feel like I belonged more and it was nice sharing my Chinese heritage with someone else.
The parents of another girl I was adopted with had two biological children after adopting their first. I also had a middle school teacher who had one biological child and then adopted her second child. Both of these families are truly beautiful families. I am sure they have gotten their fair share of strange looks and intrusive comments, but both sets of parents treat their children the same, which I think is the key to having a mixed family. A lot of my friends who want a mix of biological children and adopted children have the concern that they will treat the biological children or the adopted children in a preferential manner. I can understand this worry—especially the concern of favoring adopted children.
The Freeform television series, The Fosters, follows the story of a same-sex couple raising their household consisting of one biological child, two adopted children, and two foster children. The biological child, Brandon, is often seen as “the golden boy” by the two adopted children. However, Brandon constantly struggles throughout the series—he makes a lot of poor decisions and experiences a lot of loss. In one episode, Brandon’s biological mother, Stef, finally sees him struggling. She tells him, “I think I have more compassion for my adopted kids than I do for you. I think in my mind you haven’t suffered as much as they have. You’ve had a stable home and parents that loved you and cared for you from the day you were born. And that’s not fair. I know you’ve suffered” (Season 3, Episode 8). Speaking from experience, the thing that makes me feel weird about being adopted is when people treat me differently. I do not want preferential treatment even though I spent the first ten months of my life in an orphanage. Treating your biological child or adopted child in a favorable light will definitely be noticed by your children. While I completely support and encourage mixed families, this is one thing that I recommend taking into account before choosing this path.
I Want To Adopt Biological Siblings Or Not?
If you are going into the adoption process and you are sure you want more than one child, it could be worth asking if you would want to adopt a group of biological siblings at the same time. This is especially true if you are considering adopting children out of the foster care system. The foster care system prioritizes keeping siblings together and moving them from place to place together. Adopting biological siblings is beneficial for both parties. The siblings have each other—they have usually lost both their parents, their home and most of their belongings. Having each other means they have some constancy. On the parent side, the paperwork and legal trouble are a lot easier when adopting siblings at the same time (rather than adopting two or three children at different times). Many times, in both foster care and orphanages, it is harder for adoption agencies to place siblings because most parents are looking for only one child. Therefore, if you would be open to adopting more than one child, you should definitely look into this option.
After adopting me and realizing they could keep a child alive, my parents decided they wanted a second child. They emailed the adoption agency that helped them with my adoption and asked if they would help them again. The agency was happy to help and assured my parents that adopting a second time was much easier and faster than the first time. (For the record, my adoption took about 18 months and my sister’s took about 10 months.) On the adoption paperwork for my sister, my parents indicated that if possible, they would love to adopt another child from the same orphanage that I was from. They did not end up getting my sister from my region of China—my sister was adopted from a completely different region in the southern part of China. I can guarantee you we are not biologically related, even though we have been asked many times and mistaken for twins for the better half of our childhoods.
Just because my sister and I are not related does not mean my relationship with her is any different. We still act the same way sisters act—after all, we did grow up together. So, if you are worried that two non-biological siblings may grow up different than biological siblings, I do not necessarily think that is accurate (although, it depends heavily on the ages of the children at the time of their adoption and the age gap between the children). Overall, as I advise in most of the articles I write, I recommend you do what is best for your family. If you want two kids, have two kids. If you want to adopt, adopt. If you want to adopt but also want biological children (and you can handle having multiple children), have a biological child and adopt a child. All I can say is siblings are a special gift and they do really make childhood more fun and less lonely. So, to my sister, if you are reading this—thank you for being an awesome sibling and making my childhood so memorable!
Katie Kaessinger is an international adoptee from China now residing in Southern California. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine in June 2020 with her BA in English, Katie started law school at the California Western School of Law. Katie hopes to be a family lawyer and specialize in child advocacy and dependency to work with children in the foster care system and adoptees as well as foster and adoptive parents. In her spare time, Katie enjoys listening to and writing music, singing, drawing, playing with her pets, and spending time with her friends (with a mask on and from six feet away!).