The Calculus of Family

There are a lot of people in my family. I mean a LOT. My parents started out with two kids, completely average. They divorced and both remarried, but didn’t have any more children. No “second batch” if you will.  Fast forward a large number of years and you have some pretty impressive and/or alarming numbers:

I have three children and two step-children (that I’ve never met).

My husband has three children, two step-children, and an ex-stepchild. (Do you divorce step-children when you divorce a spouse? I don’t know.)

My son has no full siblings, but he has two half sisters that he lives with and with whom his relationship is anything but “half”. He also has a half brother and half sister that he’s never met and most likely never will. Oh yeah, and a step brother and step sister he hasn’t met yet.

My daughter has no full siblings, but three half-sibs: two brothers and a sister. She’s also got a step-brother and step-sister she’s never met.

My youngest daughter has two half sisters and two half brothers. Are my son’s half siblings any relation to her? How about my older daughter’s newborn half-brother? Anything besides her half-sister’s half-brother? Sissy’s Daddy’s new baby?

My husband has a full sister, two half-sisters, three step sisters and a step brother. When my mom remarried, I gained a step sister and a step brother. I never met the step brother, and now that my mom is widowed, are they still related to me in any way?

Come to think of it my dad’s new wife has a daughter in Thailand. Who has a baby. So I guess I have a Thai step sister and niece?

It all looks so Jerry Springer when I write it out, but my family is not comprised of bed-hopping hillbilly cousin-humpers. All it takes is a divorce and a remarriage to start the exponential expansion of halfs and steps. And what of half-siblings? For example my son has a half-sister who lives across the country and he’ll probably never meet her. The only connection he has to her is they share a father. But he has two half-sisters that he lives with and who he held within hours of their birth. Who he fights with and plays with and loves. Should both kinds of sisters be deemed ‘half’?

If blood is so important what of adoption? I wasn’t married to my son’s father, but when he was three years old I married a man with whom I had a daughter and who adopted my boy. For all practical and emotional purposes they are father and son. So. My ex-husband and his new wife had a baby boy this week. This infant has zero blood connection to my son. Does my son have a baby brother? Or does he have nothing?

This is one twisty twirling family tree. I kinda want to diagram it all, but am also afraid to!

[Editor’s note: I don’t actually know what calculus is. I just like the sound of it.]


  1. I’d say the answer is up to your son. If he wants to have a baby brother, then yes, he has a baby brother. Love is simple. No need to complicate it.

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