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“We Are Family” is the anthem that Sister Sledge made popular. Blood is blood but kin born outside the mother’s womb aren’t being recognized as they should nowadays. A distinction of separate but equal has taken over, where mothers are keeping their children from having a close relationship with siblings born outside of relationships, or who came into the picture from a parent’s new relationship. The practice may spare the adults hurt feelings, but it’s the children who suffer when they’re not allowed to have a meaningful relationship with their brothers and sisters.

In an ideal world, families would be raised under one roof with two loving parents to help guide and nurture their children into adulthood. Alas, idealism isn’t reality, and sometimes people make less than positive choices that bring children into the world. No one’s life is as perfect as they try to make it out on Facebook. It’s hard raising a family. It’s even harder when a child is born outside of a couple’s relationship. Two high profile examples of that can be seen by former Senator John Edwards and producer Swizz Beatz. They both had children outside of their failed marriages.

Swizz was married to his now ex-wife Mashonda, with whom he had a son with, when he fathered a little girl outside of their relationship by the name of Nicole. He had the child with a singer from the U.K. Mashonda found it in her heart to accept the little one, and even went as far as to wish her mother a Happy Mother’s Day. Whether or not it was sincere or covered in a layer of shade, we don’t know, but she’s made the effort and Swizz has stepped up as a father. When he tweets about his kids, Nicole’s can be seen with her brothers (as Mashonda’s son Kasseem can be seen with Alicia Keys’s son, Egypt), and she often gets her own shout outs and love.

For John Edwards, his lovechild, Frances Quinn, wasn’t immediately a priority. When she came into the picture, he went on national television and denied paternity because he wanted to save his reputation. He finally acknowledged the little girl publicly a few months back when he was acquitted from his corruption charges and referred to her as “precious,” and a lot more: “My precious Quinn, who I love more than any of you could ever imagine, and I am so close to, and am so, so grateful for, so grateful for Quinn.”

His affectionate sentiment got under the skin of many. And while some people have their emotions invested in hating Rielle Hunter, his mistress and the mother of Quinn, that’s no reason to transfer that hostility onto their daughter, or to be upset when her father shows love for her. However, during Rielle’s recent book tour for her tell-all, she admitted that her mistakes have affected Quinn since she has no relationship with her older siblings.

Another example, but with a happy ending, is Sean Combs. Diddy and the mothers of his children have avoided that painful dynamic after letting time pass, realizing that family is family. The producer and mogul had his daughter, Chance, while in a serious relationship with on-again, off-again love, Kim Porter. Of course, soon after Chance was born (five months later), his twins were brought into the world and the little girl no longer was a secret. Porter was said to be devastated, and for a long while, didn’t want her daughters, D’Lila and Jessie around or acquainted with Chance. However, times have changed, and hearts have softened. Diddy recently tweeted a picture of all three little girls hanging out together, and all seems well and good. The adults finally got out of their feelings and put the kids first, because we all know that shunning a child does not change DNA, or past mistakes.

It takes a big person to rise above hardened feelings, but when you’re a parent, it’s what you need to do. No one should have to be 15 and introduced to three grown men who are strangers at first glance, but in reality, are brothers never spoken of or brought around. That’s what happened to me. I still remember the feelings I had and what I did when I met my big brothers for the first time: I just hugged them. I saved the questions for later and just embraced each of them, just glad I got to meet them, even if much time had passed. We don’t have a super-glue bond, but at least there is one. My eldest brother even thought of me a few weeks ago and sent me a story about Kindle helping struggling authors get ahead. It was a small gesture, but he thought of me and that’s what family is about.

Sometimes, tough pills need to be swallowed for the greater good. For the good of the children and the good of the parent as well. There’s no need to keep siblings separated, or blame a child for the indiscretions of their parent. They didn’t ask to come into the world, but since they’re here, why not let them bond with their family?

Stephanie Guerilus is a multimedia journalist and author. Follow her @qsteph.


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