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How many of you have a big age gap between you and your siblings? In many large families, there can be a pretty big gap between the oldest and youngest children. In my family, there are exactly sixteen years between my youngest sisters and myself.
When we’re all out as a family, nothing seems out of the ordinary. We’re just a big family, and from the outside, no one knows that we do foster care, or that my siblings are adopted; no one knows anything about us. They just see a family. But if the only people out in public are my mom, me, and my littlest sisters, suddenly everyone’s talking to us. And by us, I mean me.
Why? Why would everyone suddenly talk to me if the whole family wasn’t around? Because they think that I am the twins’ mom.
From the time the girls were placed with us as infants, if people saw me with them, they would automatically assume that I was the mom and that my mom was the grandma. Now, when we’re all together as a family, you can clearly see that we’re all siblings and my parents are the parents. If you just saw my mom out in public, you wouldn’t assume that she was a grandmother. If you just saw me out in public, you wouldn’t assume that I was a mom. So why in the world does everyone assume that we fall into those roles when it’s just the four of us out somewhere?
I can distinctly remember this one time, when the girls were infants. It might have been right after they came to our house… My mom and I went out shopping to try to buy new clothes and baby gear. We always keep extra stuff in our storage unit so we’re prepared for anything, but we didn’t have two of all of our baby supplies. So we went out shopping. We left the other kids home with my dad, and I went along to help my mom with the two babies. Well in the store, my mom was obviously looking through the clothing racks for what we needed. Sure, I love looking at baby clothes, especially for baby girls, but my task was to rock the stroller back and forth and keep the girls calm. It was hard to navigate the double stroller through the store, so I wasn’t right next to my mom as she moved through the racks. This one woman came up to me (now she was someone you could assume was a grandmother, not my mom!) and she started commenting about how cute the girls were. So I kind of thanked her (I’m pretty shy, and I still wasn’t used to getting so many comments on twins at that time), and waited for my mom to come back. Then this woman said to me, “It must be hard with twins, right?” Well let me tell you something, I could not get the words out of my mouth fast enough! I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open and I replied, “I don’t know, I’m just the sister!” That lady didn’t know what to say to me, so she just kind of mumbled and went away. When I told my mom about it, she kind of just laughed it off, and we moved on with life.
Now, I don’t know if it’s because so many girls have kids in high school or what, but apparently being sixteen qualified me to be a mother in almost everyone’s eyes. I started getting comments everywhere; alone with the girls, when it was my mom and me and the girls. Everyone thought that I was the mother, and it didn’t matter to me that I would never see these people again… I had to explain to everyone that I was just the sister, and I wasn’t even that much help! I have never changed a diaper in my life! (No wait, I had to do it once… one of the worst experiences of my life. My mom doesn’t believe me that I did it though, because she was out at the time.) It just really blew my mind that the big age gap between us could cause the wrong idea to be conveyed to so many strangers.
Even at my high school, where most people knew me, I would be seen with the girls and people would assume they were mine. I remember being at parent-teacher conferences this one time in my junior year. My best friend and I had accompanied my mom so that we could watch the girls while she spoke to the teachers (I couldn’t be left home alone with both of them… I just couldn’t handle it). Now let me just tell you something about my sisters, the guy that I was friends with, and me. This guy and I are the palest white people you’ve ever seen. My sisters are the most gorgeous tan Puerto Ricans (of which I am very jealous in the summer months). Tell me how people thought that the two of us created those beauties. It was insanity, but people kept stopping to talk to us about how we were handling parenthood with high school. It was crazy.
It still happens to this day. It doesn’t matter how old we get; people always assume that they’re mine. When my little sister went into the hospital after Christmas (check out the Hospital Posts 1, 2, & 3 if you missed that story), the doctors and nurses kept talking to me to explain things and ask me about everything. If my mom went for a walk and a doctor came into the room while I was alone with my sister, I would tell them to come back to ask my mom a question when she was back in the room, and they would be so surprised and say that they thought I was the mother.
Has this ever happened in your family, or a family you know? If I could change anything about my life, this problem right here would be pretty high up on the list. Okay, well I might have more important problems in my life to take care of, but I’m just saying, it’s a pain in the butt!
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My family has been doing foster care since I was three years old. I'm the only biological child in my family, though I now have five permanent siblings. Having nineteen siblings over the course of my lifetime has been an incredible experience, and I'm hoping that by sharing some of the ups and downs of being the only bio kid in a foster family, other foster families or people looking into doing foster care will be able to learn a bit of what life can be like. I also like to share what life is like on my journey to becoming a published author, as well as where my schooling and career choice are taking me.