I’ve never got hung up on Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers … if we grew up together, then you are mine, and sometimes you are mine if we didn’t. Most of my family are bits and pieces from all over the place and I think that makes for a most interesting melting pot, a pond full of diversity — indeed the makings of a very fabulous life.
My father adopted me when I was about 4 years old. In those days, the adoptions were closed, and everything was much more uptight than it is today. When I was a rebellious teenager and my mother refused to share any info with me, I traced my natural father and his family who, oddly enough, lived up the road from us in the sizeable City of London. He was a pastor. I never met him, but he was reportedly quite a character.
When I came to later know Dominic, one of his son’s, he told me that I was fortunate I didn’t grow up in their family. His dad was so busy saving the world, he forgot to take care of his own children. The nicest thing he ever said to Dominic was that he was the best-traveled member of his family.
And fortunate is exactly how I feel. I was always treated the same as my sisters and we had a wonderful childhood. Our father worked long hours to keep everything just so for us, and our mother was able to stay at home and do important things, like reading and art, with us that became important foundations for our future lives. She was a talented artist and, though she was a harsh critic of her own work, fostered a wonder for the artistic world in us that appeared in various ways.
My sister Rosie was a superb artist herself, Mary a highly well-read academic and me … well a bit of writing here, a bit of photography there, a little music … all pursuits completely endorsed by our parents. We attended private schools and received the best education, though I wish I had done something a little more career-driven with mine. Our middle sister Mary recently completed her training as an attorney at the ripe old age of 50-plus and is dutifully employed with a law office. It’s all good. We arrive in our happy places at different stages in life. Our father retired from 30-plus years with his father’s company and then went back to school, where he flourished in his academia and made life-long friends.
My second husband adopted my daughter when she was about 5 years old. Things were now much more free and easy in the world in that regard and we were able to have fun with the adoption. As a blended family of two older boys and one younger girl, it was an insane mish-mash that consisted of the most delicious chaos. We had an adoption party for our daughter, and she got to wear a princess dress and tiara. My husband gave her a ring and his family gave her a necklace. We had the most delightful adoption party in the park with all the relatives in attendance.
My daughter has never been hung up about adoption either. When her natural father attempted contact a few years later, she told me she had no interest in him or his family. I showed her a photo or two and she was satisfied. It seemed like a healthy response to me, though I didn’t force the issue either way. Not my choice to make. She knows what she has with her only dad and it goes way beyond any bloodlines. They are the best of friends and deeply loving toward one another.
My husband’s sons went back and forth between their mother and father in the early days of their divorce, and it was a most difficult time for them. I inherited them at the tricky ages of 11 and 13, so that made for some interesting days. Their mother was not a very balanced person and created lots of turmoil for those formative minds in the early days. I could not be their mother — they had one of those — but I could be their friend and adviser, a role I took on with little knowledge of the male species.
Gradually I came to realize that they would call or consult me before their father, and I took on my own position of importance in their lives. When their mother died, I didn’t try and push anything, but attempted to be comforting and consoling and continue my job as their friend and supporter.
We treat all our children the same, just as my parents did. Both my sisters have had similar supporting roles with their husbands’ children, and I see a familiarity among us of being the safe harbor in the storm for the children, the comfy sofa when all around feels a bit rocky. I think we have served our positions as stepmothers admirably, unattractive word that it is. And now I have a granddaughter and she claims me and me her. It doesn’t matter ultimately where all these souls came from. Love is all that matters.
This Father’s Day, my daughter took her dad out fishing to a nearby lake. There’s a lovely photo of the two of them sitting on their fishing stools and chatting away as they are wont to do. My son is also taking his daughter out fishing for the day. I’m proud to say that he is a good dad as well.
If you are in a blended family that struggles to mesh the way you should, put yourselves in the shoes of the other person and try to be as mellow and accepting as possible. It will likely serve you well. Though I never anticipated that I would raise two boys from teenage-dom (and continue “raising” them per se in adulthood, because we are never done, are we) … I would have laughed out loud. We didn’t have boys in our family. As dad fondly joked — even our family dog was a female. There was no escaping the estrogen levels in our house.
I love all my children, as they do me — I believe. And, again, love is all that matters.
Thanks to my dad for all you have done and continue to do for me and my family. You are much loved.