I have been in a total funk for the past few days and still can't seem to get motivated to put together an interesting blog post. While I have tried several times and started many articles...I can't seem to complete any of them. So instead of not posting anything, I have asked my very good friend Kim to put together a blog for today. Kim and I have had many discussions as of late about what constitutes a family. The conclusion we have come to is that families come in all shapes and sizes. Most families aren't the perfect families we dream of as kids. Bottom line...family is what you make it! Kim has a very inspirational story, so I asked her to guest blog and share it.
As a little girl, I had a very typical working definition of family in my head. Picture the crayoned drawing of a stick mommy, daddy, brother, and me. I found a similar description online. DEFINITION A, we’ll call it:
”…a fundamental social group in society typically consisting of two parents
and their biological children."
That’s a family, right?
As I grew older, I saw my situation for what it was: a drunk, abusive, and distant “father”; an enabling and weak-minded “mother”; a brother who clung like hell to me for support; and no grandparents, aunts, or uncles who would help me. I began to rethink what family meant. “Was this all I got?” I used to wonder. At 18, I moved out and away from what-I-then-called, “my biological sperm and womb donor” (since they didn’t deserve the title of mother and father) and proceeded to make my own way in life, rethinking my definition. I considered myself an orphan.
I lived with a close friend and her parents for a long time and tried desperately to be a part of their family. But, to my fundamental dismay, they also followed DEFINITION A, and I was forever seen as a close friend but never as a true family member. The most status I would ever get was as a quasi adopted/step daughter explained to others in a muted, befuddled manner. So I continued my search.
I met a nice fellow (or so I thought at the time). His family was great! They embraced me with the warmth of the sun. I always felt like an insider. I married this man and had two kids by him. We had a DEFINITION A family for sure which expanded to include all of my in-laws and their children. Unfortunately, that marriage didn’t last.
So now I’m a single mom sharing my two kids with my ex. My ex in-laws still loved me as much as ever and continued to embrace me as family. So, at that time, my family consisted of me, my kids and my ex husband’s family. A new picture came into focus. Digression: For every harsh thought I ever had about my ex, I will say this. He loves our children. So, even though we aren’t together, we separately provide our children with two loving homes. (I wonder what my kid’s definition of family would be…)
So here’s the good part.
I meet (re-met, I should say) this guy. I dated him back in high school and, viciously, broke his heart. But we’re older now. It had been 12 years. He’s single and had never been married. A calm, centered, logical guy without a real care in the world. He works, he hangs out with friends, and he lazily reads the Sunday paper every weekend. He can afford whatever he wants. And then he reconnects with me.
I describe myself as the tornado that took out his trailer park. I am this loud, opinionated, bossy (at times) Latina who is also full of romance and love. We fall in love. But there is an issue.
That damn DEFINITION A!
What about his dream of starting a family? How will he get along with my kids (who, at the time, were 2 and 4)? What role will he play in their development and discipline? How will he feel about being around my ex’s family who I love with all my heart? How will his family feel about being around my ex’s family? How can we make this work? Will we have kids together? What will this all look like?
But I had assets: Being a single mom is no walk in the park. I offered him:
•"Time in" meaning (unless we chose to have more) he had 18 - X years before the kids would go away to college which meant a quicker time frame for having serious couple time again. I told him if he did want to have kids, he would know I am a good “breeder” and can make cute kids.
•The benefit of already knowing what my kids looked like; their health status; their mental capacities; and their personalities. They could walk and talk and he could get to know them right away. As an added bonus-he missed the baby years. He had no butts to wipe. No sleepless nights with a newborn.
•The fact that I (and all single moms) rock! We know how to multi-task big time: our job; our kids’ needs; their school activities; the house; the bills; the laundry; pets; our social lives (if we get one); etc. We can do it all. Single moms know how to do it all on fumes! We are very efficient!
•And my #1 selling point to him was this: I have walked on the dark side. When my DEFINITION A was shattered, I was devastated. Regardless, I had to get my stuff in order pretty fast. I had to be there for my kids. I am a survivor. And one thing I learned from that heart-wrenching process was how to find (what I should have been looking for all along): the right guy. Not the funny guy or the foreign guy or the overly romantic guy or the rebel guy or the mysterious guy. But the right guy who is a balance of everything I need mixed in with what I want. I had to pick a person who is not only good for me but also for my children. So I wasn’t going to play games. Plus, I knew what the warning signs of a troubled marriage were and would avoid them like the plague. Divorced/single people have a perspective that those who have never been married will never fully understand. (Much like a war veteran, I would imagine).
Well, he was in for the roller coaster ride! He said his life before me was boring, meaningless, and without purpose. Well I gave him PLENTY of purpose. So, this is what we did. We let love lead the way. We got married and, in the ceremony, this is what Dave said to my kids as he was putting a necklace with a unity symbol on each of them:
"David, you have acknowledged and accepted that, today, you not only join Kimnfor a lifetime of happiness but also G and A. Often marriage is viewed as the union of two persons. In reality, marriage is much broader. It is always a joining of families. Therefore, we now recognize G and A and their importance."
"David, do you promise to love G and A for all of your days, to treat them as if they were your own, and make them a part of your life?" David: I do.
"Will you protect them with all of your strength, support them with all of your efforts, teach them with all of your knowledge, guide them with all of your experience, and love them with all of your heart?" David: I will.
My ex-sister-in-law coordinated the wedding and my ex-in-laws stood up as my parents. All of my ex’s family was there to support me and my new husband. And now I have two mother-in-laws. And I love them both. And they love each other deeply (if you can believe that).
My husband and I made it work because we love each other.
Was it all smooth as butter? NO. Dave had to deal with my ex husband and his new crappy wife; Dave struggled with what the kids should call him after we got married (dad, Dave, etc.); He had to try to love these kids knowing they would probably always love their biological dad more; and he had to figure out how to incorporate his love for the older two with that of our third child. No. It was not easy. But we did it anyway. He loved me enough to make it work. What is worth having if you don’t have to fight for it? Unlike others, I have worked, sweated, and fought like hell for my family. I wasn’t just born in and got to coast through life singing la-di-da. I actively sought them out, recruited them, maintained them through good and bad, and busted my butt to keep it all going.
CONCLUSION: Because I am much older and wiser, have run the gamut, and am now a family connoisseur, I want to share my new DEFINITION B:
Family consists of people who love each other; support each other; and who may
or may not live together all of the time or be related by DNA but, instead, are
related by the heart and soul. They stand together in times of joy and sorrow
and in sickness and in health for as long as they all shall live.
Ironically the only person who doesn’t nicely fit into this definition is my biological mother. But you can’t always choose your family, right? NOT. Sure you can!!
So, at present, we have three kids, 2 dogs, 1 hetero life mate (my bff) and one of my nephews who stays with us semi-regularly. So that’s 9. We have all Dave’s family which adds in 10 and my ex’s family which adds in 11. And my biological brother’s family adds 4. And my bio mom. 1. Maybe 1/2. That’s a total of 34 ½. I am SO proud of it! Lord knows, I would never have drawn 34 ½ people when I was a child, coloring. But life is three-dimensional and unpredictable and sometimes, through the process, I have had to change and mold to accommodate it. I am so thankful that I broadened my definition or I would have missed out on all the craziness and joy this myriad of wonderful people give me. I am truly blessed. This is my family.