A series of guests: Part 1
This is the first post in my series of guests for the week. I have been reading Jen from Sprite’s Keeper before I even had a blog. I lurked around her site for several months and thought she was funny, creative and an example of the kind of person it takes to be a great mom. While she may not handle everything with perfect grace, she handles challenges with humor and spirit.
I’m sure a lot of you know that I’ve been following WSM for a long time, over a year now. (In the world of blogging longevity, we’re practically family! In fact, I think she owes me a birthday gift..) And since I’ve been a fan for so long, I have gotten to know the inner workings of her family. While I know plenty of people who have divorced and remarried and combined their families to include stepchildren, I have never really understood the inside workings of a family of this nature. Until I started reading WSM’s blog.
Granted, I know every family’s situation is different, but the obvious love that pours out of WSM’s words belies any intent she may have of making you think otherwise about her position.
I do have a bit of familiarity with combined families, if only from an outsider’s perspective.
My favorite uncle (Yes, I call him that. Openly.) divorced back in the late 80′s and played the bachelor card for a few years before he met his current wife. While I can’t use any names since they’re unaware of me writing this, I immediately claimed this woman as my new aunt (If you met her, you would fight me for her. Serious, she’s that brilliant.) long before he ever popped the question. When they married, she brought along her three children, two boys and a girl.
(Ooh, quick aside! The oldest son, when he was about ten or eleven and I was fifteen, thought he was being funny when he told me, “You’re a carpenter’s dream. Flat as a board and easy to nail.” I smacked him for it. My aunt let me. I loved her even more for that. But he was right. I had no chest to speak of then.)
At first, things had a bit of a rocky start with everyone trying to find their place in this new family structure. Of course, personalities clashed and fights brewed over seemingly simple solutions. Sometimes, the mood would be harmonious and it would seem that they had been together for all their lives. Other times, my new cousins would glare daggers at my uncle and make complaints, complaints I could barely comprehend since the problems that initiated their anger seemed so ordinary. It finally occurred to me that they needed time. All families need the time to adapt to each other, even my family with John and Sprite need our time. Once we become used to each other and our personality traits, it becomes easier to either forgive small issues or just ignore them. When you combine a family, the clock is starting over and you have to adapt again, even if it’s your own blood relative, only most of the time, all the participants are old enough to have an opinion.
My uncle and aunt have been married for 15 years now, her kids are as close to my heart as the other cousins who came by way of biology, in fact, my uncle’s stepdaughter is one of my favorite people in the world. I will gladly board a plane (hopefully not soon as I’m still getting over the last experience) for her wedding (once her loving, “But come on, man! We’re waiting!” boyfriend proposes), which is saying a lot. (I’ve missed a lot of weddings and occasions due to my fear of flying.) Looking at their family dynamic now, the respect is there between everyone. Sure they have their fights, but my mom and dad have had their fights as well with my sister and me. That is a whole family and family is worth fighting for, even if it’s with each other.
(Another quick aside! Oh, when is it ever quick with me? John and I brought Sprite to her first b’nai mitzvah -my twin cousins were both up to the Torah on this one- and an absolutely gorgeous guy came strolling up to the stage where I was having a conversation with my favorite cousin, the aforementioned needs to get engaged already woman, and stopped in front of us. “Hi, Jen.” I was stunned. Who was this Adonis and how the hell did he know me? Would John catch the drooling display I must have made? When he saw my confusion and my apparent lack of greeting, he introduced himself. He was the youngest of the three kids and I hadn’t seen him in five years since they live up North. I felt like a fool for approximately five minutes for even looking at my cousin that way, five more minutes for not recognizing him, and then laughed at him the rest of the night when all the tween girls were proposing marriage during the reception.)
This is the closest view I’ve had to a combined family, until WSM’s site came along and I got to see someone else’s point of view, even if she was casting herself as “Wicked”. I constantly tease her about dropping the “wicked” or at least adding “Not So” in front of her villainous title, because every post she writes knocks the “step” stigma right off of her daughters, all three of them. In fact, if you were to remove all the references to “blended family” from her site, you would never know she didn’t birth the girls herself. In my eyes, she is not their stepmom, she is their mom, and a great one at that.