“Mommy, Daddy, when am I going to get my second Dad?” I asked one summer afternoon when I was five or six years old.
We had just dropped my two siblings off at their respective fathers’ houses for the weekend, my question rooted in innocence and confusion.
“Hopefully never,” My parents responded, giggling, the short anecdote becoming a go-to “Isn’t my kid funny/precious?” story at dinner parties for years to come.
My brother (eight years older than me) and my sister (ten years older than me) and I all have different dads. This makes them, biologically, my “half” siblings, because we all have a parent in common: my mother. Notably, this is different from them being my step siblings, which would mean we aren't biologically related at all. Ignorant of this terminology as a child, it was explained to me, simply, that my siblings had two dads and that I had one. I worked it out in my head that someday, I would acquire a second dad, too. My family, I thought, was normal.
I'm pretty sure there comes a time in every person's life when they realize their family is not normal.
I've accepted the unorthodox nature of my family tree, although it is, naturally, a little confusing to explain to people. My brother has half-siblings on his father’s side, and he works with two of them, prompting me to commonly reference “my brother’s brothers.” (These half-brothers of my half-brother have half-siblings, too, if you can follow that.) I’m close with cousins and aunts that are only related to my sister on her father’s side, and there have been times when I’ve been asked “Is that relative from your mom or your dad's family?" and I've answered, "Um, technically, my sister's." My (maternal) cousins, too, have half-siblings, prompting holidays to be a buzzing tangle of exes and divorced parents and adult half or step or biological children making requests to pass the mashed potatoes, please.
Ignoring the technicalities, we embrace the madness that is, truly, our family, because what else can we do? My mother never raised me to say "my half siblings"; it was always "my sister and brother." She believed that recognizing one another as half siblings created a divide in a family that she only wanted to have an abundant, overflowing amount of love for one another.
And honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way. We wouldn't be who we are, and I wouldn't be who I am, if the three of us all had the same father like a lot of families traditionally do. We wouldn't be the crazy, dysfunctional, loving, family that we are if things were a cookie-cutter version of what a family is supposed to be.
So, yes, biologically, the three of us only have one parent in common. Scientifically or genetically speaking, we're half siblings. But really, all that means (to me) is that we share 25 percent of our DNA as opposed to 50 percent. In my heart, though, the "half" label doesn't exist; it never has.