My sons (now 19 and 21 years) and I, took a road trip from Texas to New Jersey this summer. It was our first trip as a family, just us three. It was a great bonding experience. I loved having my two sons with me and seeing them connect as brothers. I learned so much about them, especially my youngest. It was amazing how easy it felt for me. I felt balanced. It was also an opportunity to see how adoption has impacted my family.
Both sons helped me drive. My youngest, during a bathroom stop, asked me if he was a better driver than my oldest when just he and I were walking back to the car.
This was not the first time my youngest asked me a question like this and I found myself wondering about the root cause.
I remember our first reunion, six years after his birth. It seemed like there was this need for competition, which is not uncommon for siblings, especially brothers. But my sons (then 6 and 8 years) had not lived as brothers under the same roof. It all started with the bike riding. My youngest had more skill and practice at the time. They were trying to out-race each other which ended badly. Thank goodness no one was physically hurt. But some egos and feelings did get hurt.
Then, the day before we left to return home, my youngest got close to the video camera, lowered his voice and asked if his older brother had worst behavior than him. I was caught off-guard at first. My oldest overheard him and they joked back and forth which one was worse behaved. I remember having petty arguments with my siblings about who was better. This usually started as a chatted debate with the other sibling. Then, if it could not be resolved, we would enlist our other siblings or a parent to help decide. Since my youngest asked nonchalantly and jokingly, I didn’t think much of it.
Over the years, when our families were visiting each other, them driving down to visit us or us driving up to visit them, my youngest would present a question of comparison. He did so quietly and secretly to me alone. It was always a comparison between him and his older biological brother. However, it was no longer as a light-hearted joke between siblings, but rather a sincere inquiry and a need to know. It concerned me. I would respond as tactfully as I could, trying to deflect while reassuring my youngest that neither was better.
It seemed like others were often comparing my sons. Some wanted to focus on their differences; their hair, their skin tone, their height. For me, none of it was important. I saw too beautiful babies, boys, and now men.
My youngest would sometimes say his brother was darker than him. I found that strange. Technically, my youngest has darker features than my oldest. My oldest has lighter hair, eyes, and skin tone.
I wondered what prompted my youngest to say this. Did he hear someone say his brother looked “more black” than him and in his young, innocent mind, he interpreted it as his brother was darker than him?
My oldest son has never initiated a question like this or compared his younger brother with himself verbally to me. He has yet to ask for my validation between him and his younger brother. That’s not to say that he has never wondered. Naturally, as humans, we all have wondered at some point or another, but we may not always communicate it. Since my youngest communicated it almost every time we visited each other throughout his childhood and now young adulthood, it is a real concern for me. I wonder what has prompted this and why he needs to ask or know if he is better than his brother in my eyes.
Was there a need to be better than by his parents, his family, his friends, or his community than his birth family because he was adopted? Did he grow up with comparison within his family? Is it related to relinquishment and adoption? Did he hear comments? Did he believe that I chose to parent my first born but not him because one was better than the other. Or is it something else completely or possibly all of it combined?
My sons both have unique personalities, skills, and talents that make them special. One is athletic and loves sports; one is creative and loves the arts. They are both really funny and make me laugh. They both have a heart of gold and a quality that is uniquely their own and I love them both!
Measuring or weighing our children is impossible. We can’t measure or weigh skills and talents or our love for them.