Ain’t No Half-Steppin’: My Kids May Have Different Dads, But We Are FAMILY



As I dig through my life in the name of not being a hoarder spring cleaning, I recently happened upon some paperwork from my son’s high school. It was dated last year, back when he was in the 9th grade, back when we were knee-deep in his IEP process. It listed his academic history and his family history. The academic stuff I was used to. But seeing us in black and white letters threw me for a loop. The descriptions of us were clinical, anesthetized, devoid of love.

I was: Stepfather (a word I’ve come to loathe over the years)
Mom was: Mom (as always)
Baby girl was: Half-Sister

When I saw the words “half-sister,” I was transported right back to the moment when I first read them: sitting in an administrative office on one side of a fully occupied, large oval table, my face twisted. Much like that day, I read the report and was hurt. Disgusted. Insulted.

How dare they call her “half!” I remember thinking. What the f-bomb does that even mean? (Confession: I don’t curse out loud, but I do tremendously in my head) They don’t know how my son at the age of 10 jumped, both feet in, to care for his baby sister. He didn’t half help his mother get ready for the hospital when she went into labor (while I was speeding along in an ice storm to get to the hospital). He didn’t half often rock her to sleep once she was born. He didn’t half feed her. He didn’t walk halfway to the trash and leave her dirty diapers on the floor when asked to throw them away (though now every piece of garbage in his hands never ever seems to make it to the trash).

Conversely, his sister has NEVER half loved her brother, NEVER half hated him (as little sisters do), nor only half terrorized him, nor asked that he pick up only half of her when she is too tired or lazy to walk.

Of course I know that my son and his sister have two different fathers so they have only their mother as the shared parent their single source of shared DNA. But in our home, they are 100 percent siblings who receive 1,000 percent of their parents’ love. My daughter is none the wiser and my son has never considered otherwise. I don’t anticipate them changing course from this path and should they ever decide to, I am fully prepared to fiercely shut down one and/or both of them.

My mother’s father was DAD to the six kids he had with my grandmother and he loved the three she already had when they met as if they were his own. As a child my uncle and aunts were my uncle and aunts, period. Just as their cousins were my cousins, period.

I know it’s just paperwork and unfortunately I know every blended family isn’t bursting at the seams with joy or basic cohesiveness. But if it matters to you, keep at it! Thank God real love and real family are stronger than any school, doctor’s or government agency’s paperwork.

Long live all forms of family!

Eric Payne is the author of DAD: As Easy As A, B, C! coming Father’s Day 2011, and has written the articles Investing In An Emotional Letdown and the now infamous, My Wife Is NOT My Friend (on Facebook). He keeps it candid about being a man, dad and husband on his blog, a MyBrownBaby favorite. This piece originated on his site, and he graciously agreed to share it here on MyBrownBaby. Follow Eric on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credit: Eric Payne

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Well said, Eric. My sister and I have different fathers, but I’ve never referred to her as my “half” anything because there is 100% love there. I get that not all blended families are like that, but I too get offended when others refer to her as my “half sister.” Now that I’m a single mom, I hope that if/when I find someone that it can be the same as my relationship with my sister, if not better.

  2. Thanks for your comment Alicia. It’s something that you don’t think about until someone mentions it and then they look at you like “don’t you know you didn’t give birth to that child?” Most times I hold my tongue because I know if they walked in my shoes they wouldn’t last a second. But I guess that’ why I’m in mine and they are in theirs.

  3. Eric, I enjoyed your article, it hit a personal spot for me. As the only child of my mother (who had a crew of imaginary friends as well as big and lil sibs) I learned at the age of 10 that my father had 15 other kids in addition to me! I know, I know. Anyway, that summer at a meet & greet family reunion type of thing, I got to meet some of my new-to-me family. I remember overhearing some talk amongst two women, one saying, yeah, that’s their new little half sister there. I don’t know what came over my 10-yr-old mouth, that was always very quiet, but I stepped out of a child’s place, stood up on a chair (for effect I guess) and boldly said–with a head snap–“Half?!…my WHOLE heart is in this!” I was kinda passionate there.

  4. Glad you said so. I’m proud of you for accepting your family as whole, no labels needed. My sisters and I are “halves,” a concept I didn’t even realize was applicable to us until I was ’bout grown. We have never ever used that terminology in my immediate nor extended family (which is full of “half” siblings).

  5. I am the only biological girl cousin on one side of my family, but I have three other girl cousins by marriage. They came into our family as young children, though, and we have NEVER referred to them as “half” siblings to their brothers. Likewise, I have never thought of them as “half” cousins, even though I know that my uncles are not their biological fathers. Family means so much more than the biology of how people are made. Somebody in my family would slap me if I ever referred to them as anything less than “cousin.”

  6. My mother’s four children all had different father’s, but we have never used ther term “half”, either. Even with my father’s other children, I don’t use that term. They are my brothers and sisters, period. You can’t separate them into half this and half that, so why label them as such?

  7. Where did the half concept come from anyway? Who started it?!

  8. Great story! It would be so nice if EVERYONE had the same sentiments. My siblings and I are brothers and sisters. Never once has it been half, step, or part. I think it’s harder when the children have different mother’s because normally they are raised in seperate households. Yet in still siblings are just that and should never be classified as anything different then brothers and sisters….

    • I was just thinking this when I read this article. I am not saying there should be a “half” in there but I think it tends to be a little different when they have different moms because they are not in the same house. I applaud the author’s love of his “step” son (and all parents who do the same/similar) thing. I think that no one outside of the family should take it upon themselves to label anyone’s family. They MAY have labeled him “step” for legal ramifications (not saying it is right, just looking at both sides) but they definitely should have left the “half” off of the sister; their was no reason for that.

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