So Very Sad

Disclaimer – image is unrelated to today’s story.

Also not my personal story. It simply breaks my heart.

I’m a kinship care provider to my nephew and I’m really struggling right now. There is no possibility of him going back to his parents because they both died over this past summer. His mom was my sister. It was a murder/suicide perpetrated by his father and I feel like that’s really relevant to the situation. Which is sort of complex and multifaceted, but I’m just looking for some guidance or opinions. Also I am white, my husband is Puerto Rican, and my nephew is mixed black/white. He just turned 2 at the end of December.

This past week he’s started calling me mom and my husband dad, and we’re both very emotional about it and not sure how to respond. We think it’s started because his friends at daycare all call their parents mom and dad and he hears that all the time. When we show up other kids will also tell him that his mom or dad is here. The teacher always corrects them, but toddlers don’t really get the difference sometimes. Anyways we don’t want to make him feel like we’re rejecting him by correcting him every time, but we also don’t want to erase his parents. My sister and her partner had a very rough relationship with each other, but they were both wonderful parents who loved him with all their hearts. We show him pictures of them, and have them around the house. Whenever he asks about them in the pictures we refer to them as mom/dad. I just don’t know what to do.

The other issue that I’m starting to worry about is him feeling connected to his paternal family. Currently, there is a no contact order in place against one paternal aunt. When everything first happened they couldn’t believe their brother would do it and started threatening me and my husband as well as my mom. I understand the initial shock/trauma response, so I don’t want to hold it against her forever but I’m also not sure if contacting would be safe. I also would text a different paternal aunt at first but she cut contact after the stuff with her sister and no one from that family has reached out to ask about him since. I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable with my nephew staying there alone, at least at first, just because I know several of members of that family were abusive to their own children. I also know that this is a cross racial situation and I want him to feel connected to his culture. I do my best to stay educated, listen to voices of people of color, and be aware of the situations he will face in life, but I will never have the lived experience. As a white woman, I’ll never get how it feels to face racism every day. The closest thing I’ve experienced is the occasional racist mad about my blended family, but even then the color of my skin means I can seek protection much easier than my husband or nephew.

One adoptee confirmed – its totally fine for children to call their permanent caregivers mom and dad even if they aren’t. Let him. You are the acting parents in this situation, and kids (especially kids with a trauma background) need to feel a sense of normalcy in their life. Regarding paternal family connection is important but so is safety. Regarding cultural connection – some of the big ones are going to be immersion in black culture, mirrors in that kiddos life, and making sure that your neighborhood and school has a lot of other black children.

3 thoughts on “So Very Sad

  1. Okay, I have to add my two cents here on this post as well.
    As an adoptee, the only mentally healthy answer is NO, that child should never call his aunt and uncle mom and dad. He is only doing this because of the other children who don’t understand the situation. His aunt is doing a good job wanting to talk to him about his parents but she very gently needs to tell him that she is NOT his parent nor is her husband.
    The child needs to know that he is who he is FROM his parents, not from her and her husband and that includes part of his ethnicy.
    Also, his parents memory needs to be honored and it never will be if the terms mom and dad are given to someone else. He needs a lot of support to deal with his loss and the grief, but the most important thing IS THAT HE STAYS IN REALITY and is clear on true roles. His aunt and uncle are playing the part of his caregivers, NOT his parents.
    I know people who were never adopted and a few of them had a parent that died and they couldn’t stand it years later when their mother or father remarried and they were forced to use the term stepmother or stepfather to address their new spouse. They all said outright she ISN’T my mother, or he ISN’T my father, and they were right. Ditto for children whose parents divorced and remarried. One’s parents can’t be replaced and and that fact is one that is wrongly and widely ignored. And yeah, you can blame the damn adoption industry for that.
    Calling someone else these terms seems intent on erasing these significant people from one’s life which is just a double form of grief for them. And if people will notice, only one man and one woman are ever called mother or father-and they are the ones who conceived the child and gave birth to them. Think about all the other adults a child will know and none of them are ever called that and for good reason.
    And every time we adoptees had to call total strangers off the street mom and dad we were losing who we are.
    These words, these tittles, God made himself and they were never meant to be played with.
    Anyway this boy’s aunt also needs to wait things out with her nephew’s fathers family.
    Or maybe have supervised visits only so she can feel them out and make sure they aren’t abusive. People don’t get restraining orders for nothing and if his dad felt his sister was a danger than that should be respected. The child will be able to understand this when he is older.
    She can still teach him about and expose him to his Hispanic culture however so he can embrace it and be proud of that part of himself. Sadly, all of this has just happened, and she needs to take a deep breath, and take it one day at a time. I would also like to add that her nephew may want to call them mom and dad because he can’t accept the loss of his parents-this is a warning sign which demands his feelings concerning his parents death need to be addressed immediately and constantly. I feel so sorry for this child and all he’s been through and for his aunt as well, but how it is handled is of the utmost importance.


  2. Oh crap-I guess I got confused reading this post. Her husband is Hispanic not the boy’s father. Okay, well then yes, she still needs to expose him to his father’s nationality of course. Just wanted to correct my prior comment. Going to get more coffee now 😳 (totally embarrassed 🙂


    1. I read the longer part and you are correct in your thinking. It’s okay about misunderstanding the actual ethnicity. You understood the most important parts. Thank you for reading and commenting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.