In an article for the Boston Globe this past weekend, a queer mom reflects on talking with her daughter about her family structure and donor siblings, as well as the lessons this holds not only for her but for families of all types.
In “A lesson in queer parenting that’s good for any family,” Stephanie Fairyington writes about introducing her 4-year-old daughter to her donor siblings—something she and her spouse were happy to do, but struggled to find the words to explain. “The topic was far too complicated for her language and understanding — and ours…. The way we laid it out was spectacularly idiotic from beginning to end,” she admits.
They sought help by connecting with other queer families and by reading children’s books that included families like theirs. Despite their earlier bumbling, though, their daughter came to take pride in her extended family. The moms ultimately realized the value in discussing their family’s difference and “in the way that her lived reality challenges social norms,” which may help their daughter foster a compassion for other marginalized people. More broadly, too, Fairyington says, queer families challenge traditional conceptions of family, making room for new possibilities that can help make the world kinder and more inclusive. All parents, she says, can learn a lesson here.
For me to say more would be to recreate her piece, which I don’t want to do. Go read it. Then, if you want some further related reading for yourself or your kids, try these books:
- Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings, and the Creation of New Kin, by Rosanna Hertz and Margaret K. Nelson, the result of interviews with 212 parents (two-mom couples, different-sex couples, and single parents) and 154 of their donor-conceived children. The authors explore how parents chose donors, how they and/or their children chose to connect with donor siblings, and how the children within a donor network made sense of their donor and each other. Grounded in academic research, Random Families is nevertheless an accessible and informative read for anyone who has or is considering donor conception. Full review.
- Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction, by Kim Bergman (Conari Press), offers a detailed look at assisted reproductive technology, including assisted insemination, in vitro fertilization, and surrogacy, written in a way that doesn’t take a medical degree to understand. Bergman, a licensed psychologist and senior partner at Growing Generations, the first surrogacy and egg donation agency dedicated to the queer community, devotes a whole chapter, too, to ways of talking about their creation to your child(ren) and to the outside world. Full review.
- You Began as a Wish, also by Bergman, is a simple and melodic picture book appropriate for even the very youngest children, based on what she’s been advising parents for 30 years to tell their kids and what she told her own kids about their creation. Full review and author interview.
- Zak’s Safari: A Story about Donor-Conceived Kids of Two-Mom Families, by Christy Tyner, is told from the perspective of a young child with two moms. Buy it at the link, or read it free online in English, Spanish, or French at the book’s website. Full review.
- What Makes a Baby? by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth, remains a gem of all-gender-inclusive explanation for young children about reproduction. Full review.
- Picture books that specifically talk about donor siblings include Your Family: A Donor Kid’s Story, by Wendy Kramer, co-founder and director of the Donor Sibling Registry (also available in Spanish); Jennifer Dukoff’s Meeting My Brother (watch the author read it here), and I’ve Got Dibs!: A Donor Sibling Story, by Amy Dorfman.
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