Tales from a Blended Family: Jalapeños and Duct Tape

Dawn Davenport


Blended Family

Stuffing someone’s mouth and sealing it with duct tape seems like the perfect punishment for stating that birth and adopted siblings aren’t “real” siblings.

Mine is a blended family.  Our family grew through birth and adoption, and I feel lucky, really lucky, to have had the opportunity to have both biological and adopted children.  Families with both adopted and birth children work.  Certainly this has been my experience, but it is also supported by research.   Although many factors can influence the adjustment of birth and adopted children, including personality, age at adoption, prior life experiences, and parental attitudes, research has shown that combining children through birth and adoption does not adversely affect either (Brodzinsky and Brodzinsky 1992; Boer et al. 1994).  I talk about the research more in my book, if you are interested.

But adoption forces your birth kids to face issues that other children might not have to.  We adopted across racial lines so my older kids are more sensitive to racial comments, even though we have faced very few.  But the biggest prejudice my older kids have faced is the subtle prejudice against adoption.  The one that gets them the most is the assumption that they are less connected, somehow less siblings, because one is adopted.

Once, my eldest came home from high school absolutely furious because someone had questioned whether her sister was indeed her “real” sister.  I tried to use it as an opportunity to talk with her about how to educate people about adoption without having an argument, since I believe most negative comments are based in ignorance.  As we talked, the real fuel behind her anger finally came out.  She started to cry and said, “But what if someone says that to L one day.  I’d just want to kill them!”

I understood exactly how she felt.  We fantasized about what we’d like to do to anyone who would say something that would ever make L feel less like a member of our family.  As our conversation degenerated into silliness, we toyed with, but eventually and with great reluctance ruled out boiling in oil, kicking in the groin, and the very satisfying sounding spitting in the offender’s face after we had eaten anchovies and onions.  Finally, we hit upon the perfect punishment: stuffing the offending mouth with jalapeños and duct taping it shut.  Talk about punishment fitting the crime.

Harmony reigned the rest of the evening as my eldest tried especially hard to be nice to her sometimes annoying little sister.  The next morning, I knew things were back to normal when I heard the eldest yelling, “L, where’s my CD?  I told you to stay out of my room!  Mom, why can’t you make her stay out?  She’s always getting into my stuff!!”

They sure sounds like real sisters to me.

Here are some resources to help you along the way:


Image credit: Sarajea

17/03/2008 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 12 Comments

12 Responses to Tales from a Blended Family: Jalapeños and Duct Tape

  1. Avatar Tracy O'Mara Whitney says:

    Actually, while we were waiting for Aidan, our oldest faced some racial slur stuff that really rocked his world. He was in 5th grade and very hurt that “friends” who knew he was waiting for a Chinese sister would be so cruel behind the back of another Chinese girl at their lunch period. Such a talking point.

    And we’ve had more subtle stuff happen in the years since that we always deal with Biblically: we are ALL made in God’s image and as such, none of us are more or less beautiful, intelligent, etc. purely because of our people group. The stereotypes held firmly by several older generations of family and friends have been on-going talking points for The Gang!

  2. Avatar Kristina Grish says:

    super cute.

  3. Avatar Kathy says:

    I can empathize with the mom who has blond bio children and a daughter with asian features who was adopted. I have an 9 year old blond biological son and my daughter is 5 years old and was adopted from Korea.

    My daughter has known she was adopted from the very beginnng and she is proud of it. We involved my son in the adoption process as much as we could so he realized that adoption is just another way of building a family.

    There will always be questions and comments from people, some innocent and some rude, but you have to show your children how to handle these questions by example. For instance, I happily tell people that we built our family by adopting and yes, we know she is Asian lol. But, I draw the line once people start asking “Why” type questions such as “Why didn’t you adopt from the US?” and “Why did you HAVE to adopt in the first place?” I consider these as or more intrusive as someone asking about our financial status.

  4. Avatar Shannon says:

    Hi Dawn! I’m wondering if you have a blog post or show about a specific issue in regard to siblings. If not, would you want to talk about it/throw it out to your readers for opinions? Here it is – we have 4 bio sons, ranging in age from 9 down to 4. Our daughter joined our family from Kazakhstan, she’s 3 1/2. Our boys are blonde and white skinned. Our daughter is olive-skinned, blackhaired, Asian. Often, we are asked, when we are out in public if we are all a family or “if they are all mine.” I simply answer yes and usually get kind, admiring remarks (or the ever unoriginal, “You sure have your hands full,” to which I just smile and reply, “they are great blesings,” or something else of the sort) but sometimes folks want more details – rarely about our daughter in particular, but often if two or more of the boys are multiples (once someone even asked if the boys were quads – this really cracked up my 9 year old who later said, “Really, me and a 4 year old?!?!”), what their names are, how old each is, etc. Often our more vocal boys will respond for the more shy ones and they will say, “This is ___, she’s 3 and we adopted her from Kazakhstan.” When I first heard our eldest say this to someone my stomach knotted up. I have adopted siblings myself and came from a very dysfunctional family. When I used to say, “We adopted….” I literally thought I was another parent as my mom was single when she adopted and I was very much a part of the process and the parenting. So that was something I needed to work through and get healed from in order for ME to actually adopt years later! Anyways, I instantly wonder if my kids are suffering from a similar too-much-responsibility deal when I hear them say this. But then I realize that I don’t give them the childcare responsibilities I had as a kid and teen, so that’s not it. And whenever they say it it’s expressed with a lot of pride – they really love their sister and are glad she is with us (and they waited SO long for her – nearly 4 years!!!). So here’s my question – what is appropriate or not? Should I correct my sons (“YOU did not adopt her, your daddy and I did.” or “We don’t need to TELL people she is adopted, she is simply your sister, end of story.”)? Our daughter doesn’t seem to mind when they say this and it is really hit or miss when they do and often people will ask if she is adopted (because she looks different from us) so I know they are answering the question before it is asked often. I really don’t think they have harmful motives in saying it at all, but it still bugs me. What do your readers do and/or what do you suggest?

  5. Avatar Debbie says:

    I LOVE this post! A classmate challenged my third grader and told her that our youngest daughter could not be her sister because she is African American. My daughter told the classmate that of course M is her sister. Classmate kept pushing it and more normally mild mannered daughter ended up hollering at her. Thankfully, the second grade teacher intervened and had a pb and j summit with the girls and read them “A Mother for Choco”. I brainstormed about future responses with my kids that night…The four big kids agreed that a special delivery of dirty cat litter might be the proper response to someone that offended their baby sis. Yeah, we are working on more constructive retorts:)

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Oh darn, just wish my daughter and I had thought of the cat litter solution. I love the idea of reading A Mother for Choco with the kids. Was that the teacher’s idea. If so, she gets a gold star in my grade book.

  6. Avatar Addie Teeters says:

    Thank you so much for this article. We adopted our son (bi-racial, domestic) from Texas in January, and when he was four months old we found out we were pregnant. The babies will be around 11 months apart in age, so they will never know life without each other. But I wonder what society will throw at them some day. This helps bring some levity to my concerns:)

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      In my experience, my kids, especially my bio kids since they are older, have have had to answer more questions. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it still exists and we have needed to help give them info and language to know how to answer these questions. Great book, Wise Up, is good for helping all kids think of how to address curiosity and questions.

  7. Very cute!

    Just an fyi – I’m including you, your site, and your resources in my “suggestions for support” for a roundtable discussion I am leading this weekend at our annual agency reunion. The general topic is “Incorporating Your Child’s Birth Culture in Your Home….” Hope lots of traffic comes your way from it!

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Thanks TGM. We truly depend on word of mouth, so the more mouths, the better! I know you have a blended family as well. Have your bio kids experienced those subtle prejudicial comments about adoption?

  8. Avatar Kristina Hodges says:

    Well said. I couldn’t agree more.

  9. Avatar Dawn says:

    I am working on a show for “Creating a Family” on the topic of combining children in a family by birth and adoption. I agree with you that it would provide a lot of food for thought. I book about 3 months in advance so it will likely be in late summer. To get notice of upcoming shows, sign up on the homepage of http://www.findingyourchild.com. (I know you already are on the email update list since you’ve sent me a seperate email. :-))

    Listen in to the March 19 show of “Creating a Family” (it will be on Adoption 101) when we will also address this issue a little.


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