When I married Louis, it was more than a wedding, it was a joining ceremony.
At that moment, the lives of three young children and his were bound to my own. How could I know the challenges and the joys we would experience as we became a family?
The poet Kahlil Gibran spoke about love in this way:
“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him…
It is hearing the voice of a loved one saying, “I miss you and love you,” and instantly feeling the warmth of love’s embrace enfold you through the phone.
It is the spirit of a family that would welcome and wow you with their heartfelt hellos, and when you depart, their genuine generosity prevails with you.
For me, love equals family in all of the glorious configurations they embody. I feel when your heart is open to receive, you may find abundance and gifts beyond the biological bloodlines of your brood.
We recently celebrated 15 years of marriage. Our children were 5, 7 and 9 when we wed.
Our kids shuffled back and forth, during the week, rushing to complete homework, make it to sports activities, eat dinner and shower, which is stressful enough but toggling between two very different households. We did our best to lovingly instill good habits in eating, sleeping, hygiene and strong work ethic when they were with us and prayed those patterns would be practiced when they weren’t. No doubt they were confused and struggled under the strain of whom to honor allegiance.
Early on, there was resistance from our kid’s mom to me in a co-parenting role. I personally shudder at the word stepparent. I’ve never liked it, even though, the first word I remember ever reading successfully was ‘stepmother’ in the Little Golden Books version of Cinderella. True story.
I have stepparents. I used my life experience to help guide me in crafting what my own little family would look like. First, the only steps considered in our home would be the ones in the front and back of the house.
Secondly, we are a family, laced together through love, sometimes loudness and loyalty regardless of who does not recognize us as a united unit. Three out of our four children do not resemble me. Yes, I did not birth them. I have tirelessly brandished my love, cheering wildly and embarrassingly on the sidelines of their sports matches, holding them close and singing to them as I moistened their brow with a lavender cloth when they burned with fever and listened as they shared thoughts and feelings only their journals would see. My heart leapt at their victories and accomplishments. I have seethed with anger when they were wronged and have wept when they were not with us. Yes, indeed, they are my kids, too.
We know what it is like to fight long and hard for the right to parent our children as equally as the legal system will allow. We lived the very real terror of having only $25 left in the joint bank account for the week after all of my teacher’s paycheck went to pay attorney’s fees when we were sued.
We have experienced heartbreak beyond description by the malicious machinations of our kid’s mother and family members with a very myopic view of parenting and life in general.
I won’t plant the seeds of discord here. I will, chime in the wisdom of Anne Lamott, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Years ago, a friend commented that things would get easier. I didn’t believe it then, but she was right. We live in a small town and encounters with our kids family are inevitable. Still, over time, the interactions have become less in number and acrimony. Our two oldest children are currently moving into the marriage season of their lives. I can’t help but wonder what feelings will arise within us when we are all thrown together in the mix with those who we have such a hurtful history.
70% of blended families end in divorce. Honestly, we have come very close to becoming a statistic. We have endured my nervous breakdown and chronic depressive episodes. My husband’s medical scares and recent job loss after 30 years of faithful employment due to COVID rocked us to our core.
There has been much happiness, too. Definitely deliriously delighted when we were blessed with Danny.
Man, have I made mistakes in my relationships with our children and husband. Some I committed repeatedly. I dust myself off, wipe my tears, apologize and try again. I asked my husband, or maybe he asked me, if knowing what we do now, would we still get married? He said, sure.
My answer is yes, a million times, yes.
My highest hope is that my parenting embodies this quote by the Dalai Lama, “Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.”
My deepest desire is my family believe my love is eternal. I pray to be the best version of myself so that they may learn to live their truth. May I be wholly present for them, all ways.
My heart is full of gratitude for every step we haven taken together and the road that still lies ahead.
I want to spend my lifetime loving you, all of you, my cherished ones.