Answering the Sibling Question

“Do you have any brothers and sisters?” It sounds like an easy enough question. Most people answer it pretty quickly talking about their older brother or how they were the youngest of three.

Inside I’m usually answering something like this: “No. Well, maybe. Two, in fact. Yes, two. Or five? It’s complicated. Can you please define brothers and sisters?” Out loud the answer may not be much different.

For some reason, this question has come up several times for me recently and I’m always at a loss on how to answer. Saying “I was an only child” is an option, even if I’m not an only child now. Or maybe I am since my siblings aren’t blood relations and I never lived with them.

And if you count step-siblings, how do you know which ones to count? Do you include the ones you haven’t met? Maybe you count only the step-siblings you grew up with? Only the ones you’re friends with on Facebook?

Let me explain my confusion. I was an only child, right up until I turned 19 and my mom remarried. Her husband has three sons. The youngest one is about my age and I met him at my mother’s wedding and a few times thereafter. I met the middle son once over lunch. The oldest one, I’m told, is in prison and I’ve been content to keep myself out of those conversations. I’ve never met him and it sounds like he’s probably not a nice person anyway.

When I was 22, my dad got remarried to a woman with two kids, both of whom were in elementary school at the time. My step-brother is now a junior in high school and my step-sister is a sophomore in college. I see them a couple times a year when I visit my family. They’re very nice.

In answer to the dreaded sibling question, usually I end up saying that I have a stepbrother and a stepsister. Of course, that sounds a little clunky because of repeating “step” for both. I figure I don’t see my other stepbrothers, so I just don’t count them. If I’m met with a confused stare, I usually explain that it’s the new math and very confusing.

How do we explain our families in today’s complex world? I don’t know… “Next question, please.”

Does anyone else have complicated answers to simple questions? How do you handle them?


  1. Well, mine is simple, I'm the oldest of two. I have a sister. Samantha will have new math issues! She has a half brother who doesn't live with her. She could possible have another half sibling someday and step siblings. As for now, she's an only child, the youngest and the oldest, the second child and the first born all rolled into one. Now I'm dizzy.


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