The Bigger Picture

Family is so important. Being a military brat has taught me that family is not always the people you grew up with or have a blood connection with. A lot of the people in my life now that I call family I’m not even related to but I have either known them most of my life via the military or they’ve come into my life during a crutial period and we developed a strong familial bond. Growing up military and marrying into the military I have a slew of aunts and uncles scattered all over the world; people I haven’t seen since I was a child but I still call them aunt or uncle. My kids have the same connections with people that they’ve known all of their lives that they call aunt or uncle with cousins attached.

I think because of the experiences I’ve had with having so many people in our lives not be actual relatives but become “actual” relatives it opened my mind up and allowed me to be more open to certain situations in my life. If you’ve read some of my previous blogs you’ll know that I am divorced and remarried. One of the toughest situations in divorce is when your spouse moves on and brings another person into your children’s lives. It is not an easy process and there are a lot of mixed emotions. Sometimes it depends on the circumstances of the situation and other times it could be personalities that clash but my situation didn’t start off on the right foot. I had no desire to meet or get to know the person that my ex had brought into my children’s lives. This was part immaturity on my part and there was still alot of pain that I was trying to work myself through. Many times my ex husband brought forward the recommendation of us meeting and building some type of report under the premise of if something happened to him he wanted to insure that the children stayed in touch. I would always respond that won’t be a problem. I would never keep the girls away from their brother. I think it was easier for my ex and his wife to want to open the lines of communication because they were both products of divorce and I was not. I did not understand why it was even necessary for me to talk to his wife as long as I could communicate with him. As long as she was kind to my children, communicating with her wasn’t necessary for me.

Over time, as God began to work on me, I started to see things differently. I started to grow and learn more about myself. I started moving forward and I stopped operating out of a place of pain and anger. Most importantly, I stopped thinking about what wasn’t necessary for me but more so what was necessary for my kids. I still had a great relationship with my in laws and would still go and visit. This meant that there would be times where I would have to share space or be in the same area as my ex and his wife. Initially this was uncomfortable but over time the more I saw them and spoke to her the easier it became to continue to speak to her. We would see each other during drop offs for summer or the holidays and these moments also further increased my openness to learning more about the person that was aiding in raising our daughters.

By the time I met my husband I had gotten into a much better head space. I was able to directly communicate with the girls stepmom and even sometimes preferred communicating with her over my ex! (Who would’ve thunk it?!). But getting married again further opened me up to the importance of building relationship with the girls stepmom. I further saw the value in it because once again I removed myself and my feelings from the situation and focused more on what was best for the children. Not only that I further understood my ex husbands position when he wanted me and his wife to get along. I wanted him and my husband to get along as well.  I also found myself thinking how blessed are my children that they have two sets of parents? It doesn’t seem like a blessing initially because they are going back and forth between two homes, with separate sets of rules and expectations but really it is. They have two rooms full of stuff, they often recieve lots of gifts at Christmas not just because of us parents but the grandparents they’ve inherited and other family members that send them gifts.  They get to go to places like disney and other theme parks in Florida sometimes twice a year because they get two separate family vacations. But the most important thing is the amount of love they recieve from all parties involved; people who want the best for them and want to see them succeed in life.

Too often I have seen relationships fall apart and the parents can’t seem to get on the same page especially when there’s a step parent involved. While we may not always agree with the other parent or the step parent, they aren’t the enemy. (It took me a long time to come to this realization). The girls didn’t always have the strongest relationship with their dad but over time it enhanced and grew to something beautiful. I have always encouraged that relationship and I think his wife did the same. No matter what we may feel about the other parent what is most important is that we push our kids to connect with that parent, to love that parent, to respect that parent. It is immature and selfish for us to stand in the way of that relationshiop with both the biological parent and the step parent. The best advice I can give someone who is in this type of situation is stop making it about you. It’s not. It’s not about your feelings or how much you’ve been hurt or what they have put you through. Your feelings have nothing to do with the kids and they are something you need to personally work through on your own or in therapy. I am aware that there may be extenuating circumstances that make these types of situations difficult or even impossible but for situations that aren’t parents need to learn to step outside the box of what people normally do or your friends saying “I wouldn’t want anything to do with her/him!” Believe me I get it. I stated numerous times that I would never have a relationship with or even speak to my kids step mom. Let’s just say God made me eat those words!

Now we are in a place where we can share holidays together and other family events. It’s not weird or uncomfortable for all four of us to be in the same space and hold conversations, have dinner, talk about the kids or other experiences. It took work. A lot of hard work for all parties involved. And it’s still not always easy. Often times when people over hear me talking to my ex on the phone or hear about us all doing something together they stare at me like it’s the craziest thing that they’ve ever heard. But what I think is crazy is that more divorced or broken couples don’t aim to make these kinds of situations their goal for their kids. You don’t have to be best friends. You don’t have to talk everyday. But establishing that relationship helps make it to where your kids don’t feel like they have to choose between parents. It makes it so that for some holidays or some birthday parties your kids can have all of their parents and siblings together in one room (which makes my kids really happy and that’s the point). I am grateful that my children have a stepmom that is caring and wants to be there for them. I am grateful that she is active in their lives just as I am sure that my ex is happy that my kids have a step father around to play an active role in our girls lives, to protect and care for them. Family isn’t always the people you choose but they can be the best people for the life God has blessed you with.

4 Comments

  1. I like this. I haven’t really experienced anything like this before, but I’ve had a lot of friends go through ugly divorces, and I’ve seen too much of the angry and petty kind of situations. What you’re describing is so much healthier for everyone involved. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. This was very touching. I know that we got off to a rocky start, and trust me, I wasn’t fond of the idea at first either. However, these girls stole my heart from day 1. I have loved and adored them, every since I met them. They are sweet and smart and funny. Well behaved, well mannered. There is no way I could ever have chosen better children. Now, these teenage years…. I could go without those, but we are learning as we go. Anyway, what I really want you to know, is that I never want the girls to experience what I did as a child. I have always felt that if my parents had gotten along, life wouldn’t have been so harsh for us. We split Christmas right down to the day and hour and second. If Dad was one second late, hell broke loose. If Mom was one second late, child support was held hostage. Dad wouldn’t hesitate to make Mom show receipts for what she spent the child support on. Let’s just say, life was hard for us as children, and much harder because there was no chance of them getting along. My Dad didn’t attend my 16th birthday, because it was at my Mom’s house. My Mom and Step-mom, never had a decent conversation until my graduation party, and that really upset me. I didn’t understand how after literally 10 years of screaming at each other, that they just decided one day to be nice to each other. My sister and I had wished that we had that as kids. So, I promised myself that I would never be that way. I love that we get along and that we talk. It was hard, but I think this is the way that it is supposed to be. And yes, people do think it’s weird, but I also think that they are jealous that we can provide this for our children. We get to choose how we represent ourselves as parents and as a family, we don’t have to let society determine that for us. Honestly, I wish that what we have was the norm these days. We don’t have to agree, but we do understand each other and I like that. I love that my son loves you and I love yours, mischief and all. I am very glad to call you a friend, actually, I’m glad to call you family. -Jo

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