Sometimes, it takes a while to find your groove. Everything new has it's bumps, whether it's a relationship, a change in career, a blended family and in my case, all of the above. When I was a child, there seemed to be nobody in my class that had divorced parents. Kids would ask me in confusion why I was packed to stay with my dad on a weekend. My family tree had 8 grandparents. Today, it's more the norm than not that parents are divorced, remarried and blended.
I remember as a child, coming home and telling my mom how pretty and cool my stepmom Sue was. Later in life I would learn that this woman had an affair with my dad; my dad who broke my mother's heart, and I think to myself how I as an adult would handle my child telling me how fun and cool my ex's mistress was. It couldn't have been easy for her. My father went on to remarry. And remarry again. And then again. But that's a different story and this story is not about him.
My mom met someone who we lived with for 20 years. I never really looked to him as a father and he never tried to be one. My mom made it perfectly clear that she was the boss of me, not him, and I think these are the struggles and disciplinary boundaries that stepparents face. He had two boys as well and it was just all so confusing for all of us.
Years later, my mom remarried. I was ecstatic as she had been alone for several years and I could tell she was struggling with the loneliness. I was living in Toronto and tried to come home as often as I could, but I was also dealing with my own life issues and struggles.
When my mom met Vern, it was an adaptation for all of us, but mostly I believe the hardest on his daughter. His wife had passed away of cancer, his son lived out west and here he was marrying this new woman and in tow came her daughter and family. I was single at the time and we all spent our first Thanksgiving together before they were married at Vern's family cottage. I was in heaven. I finally had the sister I never had. We were all cooking together and spending time at a beautiful cottage. I guess I never realized that 32 years of tradition in a family must be hard on someone who is thrown into a new family and new customs and traditions.
Years have passed and we've been together as a family for 7 years. It has had it's trying moments. I had to adapt to a strong and opinionated man who also had to adapt to someone with a mind of her own. He came into a brand new family, much different than his own. Michael came into the picture and tried to smooth over family issues. My mom was trying to make everyone happy and Vern's daughter was just trying to accept all these changes. It's been difficult. Michael too has a blended family with a stepdad who has been in the picture for years. There was no doubt in our minds when we asked our parents, because that's what they are whether blood or not, to stand up for us at our wedding in Mexico.
When my aunt passed away last year, something hit me like a thud. My entire life changed and I vowed for it to change. Too many wasted and bitter years arguing about nonsense and I realized that I may only have limited time with my own mother and family. My life has changed for the better this past year, but only because I took hold of it and discarded the bullshit, took accountability for my own actions and surged onward and upward to greater things.
This Christmas morning, the five of us sat in my mom's living room. We always exchange cards, stockings and then gifts, followed by a breakfast and then a dinner. Every year has been different with traditions. Sometimes we've gone to different churches, we've gone to Vern's side of the family, which was awkward for my mom and I since it was his deceased wife's family.....but they opened their arms, hearts and home and welcomed my mom and I in, even more so than some of our blood family. When Michael came into the picture, we had to alternate Christmas Eve and day with his mom and mine....as only children we have to be fair and take turns.
My step sister Christine opened the card I gave her and started to cry. I put pen to paper and let her know that it has been an absolute pleasure to spend the past years with her, and during the holidays especially. I let her know that I know all these changes must have been the hardest on her. After all, I had everything to gain from this new family, but she had lost so much.
She let us all know, that this was the first time she had looked forward to Christmas. We all started to choke up and I think this was the first time we were all in the same room at the same time, on the same page, with the very same feelings. My mom announced to us all that it has been hard on everyone, but that we are a family and this was our family. My mom had made Christine a memory album of her and her mom and there were more tears.
It hasn't been easy for any of us. Family dynamics are so complex as is, but when you add people into the mix who are not related but forced to behave like a family, it can sometimes be overwhelmingly difficult. I truly am thankful for everyone.....for my husband, for my mom, her family, her husband and his family, Michael's family, our friends, colleagues and neighbours. It's been a hell of a ride this year and let's face it, every year has it's challenges, but as the new year rings in and we are at the dawn of new beginnings, it's important to take stock of those that you love and whether related or not, we must always make time for our family.
Without family, what's the point really? We're all we've got.
Happy new year to all of you, and from my family to yours, make this year count.