Over the years, I have gone through many highs and lows in my life with my own adoptive mother; but, what I did not realize during my low points was the possible impact of my relationship with my older, non-adopted brother. My adoptive mother had a son before adopting me as a baby from Paraguay, South America in 1991. She was a single parent, who was now raising two children who happened to be the complete opposite of one another. One enjoyed being behind the scenes with her painting, sewing, and cooking, while the other enjoyed the spotlight of acting, singing, and playing for large crowds.
As we’ve gotten get older, we both have created our own individual lives, and our living arrangements have been part of the change. The consistent piece of my life has been the love and trust we both have for one another. Lately, my family had a new addition (a baby cousin) being born into the family, which had us reminiscing about our past. This led me to conduct a recent interview with my brother. Any information or stories I have heard growing up came solely from my adoptive mother, whom I call Mom. I never wondered how my brother may have felt growing up with an adopted sister because I always felt he was the strong one in our sibling relationship.
Part one of this blog will be on a one-on-one interview I conducted with my non-adoptive older brother. Part two will focus on in-depth research of the dynamics, issues, and benefits sibling relationships can have on adoptive individuals.
The following questions derive from feelings I have had for many years now. Having never heard my brother’s side of things, I found the following interview to be rather eye-opening.
Rachel: Thanks, Dan, for sitting here with me today. I would like to start off with the question: what your opinion is about adoption?
Danny: No problem. I think adoption serves a lot of purposes. There are some ways to look at adoption that are negative, that a lot of people look at it in that way, unfortunately. I never looked at it negatively; I’ve always looked at it as positive. It gives families the opportunities to make their family larger. For example, if a couple who can’t have kids or for whatever reason, for medical reasons or gay couples. I think adoption is great. Adoption is such a positive thing, and I have never seen it as something that can detract negatively from a family.
R: When mom adopted me from Paraguay in 1991, you were four-years-old. Did you ever tell mom your concerns or worry about having another sibling?
D: The story mom talks about, “you searched the world for her, but I grew in your belly. So you had to love me; but her, you looked for.” I think those feelings are normal, any brother, sister or kid, for that matter, would have the same feelings as I did. I don’t ever remember feeling anything outrageous, like jealousy, I think it was very normal what I went through. I think any kid will twist a perspective, and I do not mean that in a malicious way. I was four and I did understand everything. Growing up, there was never any difference, and it did not feel different if you were adopted or my blood relative.
Photo Credit: Rachel Strom | In photo: Me, Rachel in the carriage and my brother, Danny, behind the carriage while in Paraguay. (1991)
R: I see, so you didn’t feel any difference, but would you say there was sibling rivalry between us growing up? Or any type of jealousy or need of attention from mom?
D: I think so, yeah. We probably competed in ways that we didn’t realize we were competing. But mom was pretty good about taking away competitive aspects between me and you. She put us in different types of things, plus we enjoyed different things. You had art lessons, and I did music and theater; you played soccer early, and I played baseball. So, I didn’t feel there was a competitive thing. In terms of attention, maybe that one of the reasons I went into theater and music, was because it put the spotlight on me. I never felt, like, jealous of you getting more attention from mom, if that’s the question. I felt pretty good that we both got a fair amount.
I can remember one example of something that I am pretty sure used to piss you off, and you mentioned it to me, and it changed immediately. I used to say, “Oh, my mom.” And you would be like, “Well, she’s my mom, too.” That really upset you. I learned to stop saying that and started to say, “mom” or “our mom.”
R: Wow, I briefly remember saying that. Interesting. How was growing up with a sister that did not look like you? Did it bother you at all?
D: No, it didn’t bother me at all. I think, in a really rare case, I had siblings that looked different from all of each other. So, for me, it wasn’t a big deal you looked different from me. I think it was more of a big deal to you that you looked different from us, than it was to me, that you looked different from me.
R: Yes, I would agree that still is true. However, was there a time you worried I wouldn’t feel comfortable or fit in with the rest of our family?
D: I have never worried about you fitting in the family. I worry still to this day that you worry about it. Again, for me, you’re my sister, you are family. For me, it is not a question. It has always been I worry about how you feel, not my own feelings. I am comfortable.
Photo Credit: Rachel Strom | In photo: Me, on the left & Danny, on right while in Paraguay. (1991)
R: Your other siblings that are biologically related to you, do you find a difference in their relationship or bonds compared to ours?
D: Um, I don’t think so. I have two sisters who I basically have relationships only through Facebook. I have two brothers, one in Med school that I haven’t spoken to in a long time, and the other lives in Washington D.C. We are not extremely close, though. I was never close with them. The only sibling I was close with was you, and still is. I don’t feel closer to them because I am related to them through blood. That’s the most basic connection that you can have with somebody. The relationship that we have is based on more than just blood. It is based on time spent with each other and learning who each other is and growing together and that’s a much better relationship.
R: Did people ask you questions about why I did not look like you? If so, what or how did you react to the questions? If not, was there a moment of worry someone may ask you?
D: There was never a moment of worry if someone would ask me, you know, “Why or who is this person with your family?” If they did, I would say, “Oh, this is my sister.” There was never any anxiety about that. Of course, I got questions. People would be like, “Who is that?” and I’d say, “Oh, that’s my sister, she’s adopted. End of story.” If they didn’t understand what the hell was going on, that was their issue. I never felt embarrassed or anything like that. I don’t think there was ever a time I felt worried when you were with me or like that. I think I used to worry when you went camping, and thought, “She looks really different from a lot of the other people that come to camp here. She is going to feel alienated, and she is going to feel different.” I wasn’t worried about how I would respond to it. I responded to it how I always responded to it. I was worried how you would take the situations. I’m not discussing our local Y camp, but the sleepaway camp upstate. That was a situation you may have felt really out of place at.
I remember a time you were really upset at the Y, when a kid’s father asked why you were wearing a Star of David and you got really upset that he asked you that question. I remember feeling you were justified in being upset. I thought, ‘How ignorant are you?’ It doesn’t matter what race you are. There are Jews around the world, there are African Jews, Asian Jews, South American Jews, and there are Jews on every continent.
R: Yes, I remember that guy. It was very painful for me. You mention camp, but, what about our synagogue, when we would go to Hebrew school how was that for you, having a dark-skinned sister in the temple?
D: Here is where I think my opinion might be skewed, because yeah, I had a dark-skinned sister. But, I was also darker skinned than a lot of the other kids there, too. I also felt out of place there. But I also knew as, “Jewish” or “white” as everyone looked, they looked at me a little differently because of it. There’s really nothing like having a Latino or being the only latino name in your Hebrew class. So I never felt weird, it felt nice that we were both a little darker skinned because both you and I had each other’s backs in that situation. I don’t know if you felt the same, but I never felt like you were alone. I was gonna be there with you, and my friend who was also latina was always there with me, on the same page, in terms of being a Latino Jew there. We had really good leadership as kids in the synagogue.
R: Yes, I would agree that we had each other’s back. As you know, your friend had a sister who I was once friends with that also attended our Hebrew school with me, so I understand that connection you speak of.
D: Danny nods in agreement.
R: Having discussed a little bit about my adoption, our relationship, and family in this interview, would you in your own family with your wife and son, consider adopting a child in the near future?
D: I mean right now we are working on the process of adopting my son, Andrei legally. Adoption is not something that is foreign to me. Adoption definitely something my wife, Sasha and I have talked about. If we don’t conceive a child, you know, we both still want to be parents, we will figure it out. I am not ashamed about that. Adoption is something we both have considered. Why wouldn’t everybody consider adoption?
Photo Credit: Rachel Strom | In photo: My adoptive mother, Diane, Me on her lap, and Danny on the right. This photo was taken at a hotel in Paraguay. This was the second day we became a family. (1991)
R: Well, thank you for answering all my questions. I learned a lot more about myself than I thought I would. You brought up many interesting points of not only my life but yours. I appreciate you and your time, thanks, Dan!
D: I got you.
Jenn Evelyn Ann/Unsplash
I had mixed emotions going into the interview with my brother. I was concerned I had outshined him by being the adoptive sibling that may have taken time away from him and our mother. My brother, Danny’s, answers were honest and heartfelt. The mention of our time at Hebrew school brought tears to my eyes because the thought of my brother having similar insecurities left me heartbroken for not only myself but for him.
All adoptees have different family relationships and go on different paths, thus, making each of our adoption stories unique. If there is ever a shadow of a doubt about who we are as brothers and sisters, it is nice knowing you can rely on your siblings to have your back.
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Nevada. You may visit our website here or contact us by phone at, 775-825-4673 (Reno Office) or 702-474-4673 (Las Vegas Office). Our hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm PST.
About the Author
Rachel Strom was born in Paraguay, South America and resides in New York City with her adoptive family. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing in 2018, and hopes to pursue a career in publishing for adolescents and young adults.