Living Unscripted: The Families We Choose

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There are his, there are mine –and at this point in my unscripted freedom, I don’t even want a puppy we could call ours.  But my relationship with Bond, James has moved forward, and with it, the initial blending of our kids.  Call me nervous, but the best we can hope for is that they like us – and that on some level, they’ll get along with each other. Which, of course they won’t until they do –and until that happens it’s best when they live happily (and ideally, financially) independent, out-of-state.  

 

As mine do.  And his do.

 

I’m sure my kids want me to be happy if they really think about it, but emotionally, even after years of getting birthday cards from two different addresses, they’re still pissed.  They really didn’t enjoy experiencing the fallout from our separation and subsequent divorce — and they certainly don’t like being torn between two end posts – real or imagined. But since both their dad and I have been dating for a while now and involved in exclusive relationships, they’ve had to master meeting the offspring.

Dave Barry wrote that we should never underestimate the power we have to humiliate and embarrass our children, especially in their somewhat defiant teenage years (his example was picking his 15-year-old up from high school in a borrowed hotdog truck, with the Oscar Meyer diddly blasting from the outside speakers).  Well, Mr. B, the children certainly have the home court advantage in divorce when with just the slightest snub, they can put a damper on a love-bud before you can say “coffee at my place?” And of course, when meeting their potential competition for parental affection, anything can happen.

And something does, when they meet each other, that generation, eyeball-to-eyeball.  I may have been imagining it but I noted a nod of recognition when the two teams lined up for the theoretical handshake recently . . .  Perhaps in varying degrees, but they seem to acknowledge a common bond of “oye” in the details of having suffered through dissected families, the pain and agony of separation and the guilt of which parent, they imagine, is hurting more.

So when they meet, there’s body language that suggests the “I know . . .” part, as if they share the same muscle ache . . .  which then morphs over to an ever so slight “I have the inside scoop on the ‘real’ her” raised eyebrow/wink.  I’ve observed this; I’ve seen that roll of their eyes, that “I know.”  It doesn’t take them very long after that to find a starting off point that will at least get them to a warmer greeting at the next family function.  Which in my case, involves adding a few more leaves to the dining room table to accommodate more than one set of extended “almost” family.

My birthday (unluckily) falls a week after the holidays end, when everyone has returned to his or her daily routine in different cities.  As much as I truly delight in over-indulging with my kids at Christmas time, I like celebrating me too — okay, love birthdays actually and am always looking for some way to entice my kids to rally around mine.  That doesn’t always work but I’ve noticed lately that there’s a straw picking thing going on between the four of them.   This year, Brielle picked the short one and had to hang around long enough to be there for me, on behalf of her siblings.

Soooo, despite my exhaustion from too much Christmas/New Year’s holiday out-of-town — and not having nearly enough time in the few days between landing back at LaGuardia and tossing out the poinsettias to actually plan anything, I decided to throw myself a birthday party for 35 of my closest pals.  Brielle would be there – (“I’ll drop in, Mom”) and Bond, James’ adult son, who was also in town on his first business trip to NY (and staying with me. Oh my.)

 

A bit awkward having my lover’s son in my house rather than my own flesh-and-blood but that’s just the way it was going to be. I’m still dealing with Brielle-the-writer who loves painting me in shades of “Mommy Dearest” in her creative writing classes — and she’s been published (I don’t leave her literary mags on the coffee table).  In her never-ending effort to drive the stake even deeper into my heart, she prefers staying at her dad’s place when she’s in town (allowing him to shack up with Glamour Puss, his 20-years younger, size zero blonde for the duration).  A guest appearance was better than nothing.

I understand Bond, James , in his first long-term relationship since his divorce, wanting to integrate his kids into my life . . . but I also know how delicate that can be: for everyone.  It’s the game of “getting to know you” with all of us on good behavior, which isn’t always easy. Glamour Puss, for example, has a daughter the same age as Brielle and although I’m sure they’ve adjusted by now, their first encounter was less than joyful because of the uber attention the GP’s daughter was getting from my Ex.  So I’m aware.  Aware that despite whatever issues are at the core of our issues, I’m still her mom and she needs to feel that front and center, unconditional “mommy love” – no matter how challenging that may be for me at any given moment.

Our partners’ kids are dealing with their own “mommy issues” (somewhat refreshing) and Dad’s paramour offers a different kind of matriarchal bonding.  I joke that when in one of my former relationships — the 8-year, on-again-off-again kind — died, I inherited my “almost step-son” and his very fun wife.  He jokes that despite the heartache he’s truly sorry I suffered through in the breakup with his dad, he’s so glad I’m here, in a supportive role for him.  My kids still feel a kinship with him and like seeing him when they’re in town.

The party was great.  Maybe because we (friends) were all disbursed over the holidays, dealing with our own “stuff,” getting together a week later was like being in the home you chose, rather than the one you got . . .  doesn’t matter/felt good.  Both sets: my ex’s and Bond, James’ son, were front and center, along with Brielle (my creative writer with mommy issues) and it was certainly a hoot, making the introductions — and observing, seeing who was talking with whom and watching that generation graciously handle the ever changing landscape we’ve created for them with ours.

Like us or just tolerate us, as our relationships inevitably evolve with our love-partner’s family. . .  and our kids (and their partners) to their “almost” additional siblings (and their partners), they’re probably more capable than we are, in handling the gain or the loss as we swing in and out of our late-in-life relationships.  The heart does have a tremendous capacity to love though — and since we all know that’s one thing the world needs more of, it isn’t a bad thing if our kids connect, on whatever level for however long, with potential siblings.  It’s just funny explaining who’s who from which, when — while extending the dining room table to accommodate accumulated “almost” family.

NOTE TO SELF:  Make sure there are enough chairs.

About Shaz

I’m 59 and never expected to be divorced and, having raised a big family in the city I grew up in, to be still living there now completely on my own. My parents are gone and my grown children have opted for smaller towns. My father passed away this past February and my children suggested I take off and make a world tour of all my friends overseas…In piecing that together in my mind, I imagined taking a boat across, as I did the first time I went to Europe with my grandmother, as a teenager – and in that vision, I imagined taking those first five days and writing. Writing about where I’d been, writing about what I want, writing about the crossing over from my past to my future.

In reestablishing myself as a single woman, I’ve made new connections with some fabulous women and realized I’m not the only one going through this; there are other women out there who are also on a journey to becoming whole again. I hope my personal adventure will help us all find humor in the aging process –and confidence in following our hearts.

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