Monday, March 28, 2011

The definition of family

This weekend, the young'un was at our house. She's with us every other weekend and a couple of evenings a week for her dance classes. This means that for that period of time, I'm the mother figure in the house. According to my mother-in-law, I play house for those times, but that's another post in itself.

The conversation came about while we were driving around on Saturday after her play rehearsal and before the evening performance for her dance school's spring ballet. Since P was helping his dad do some things, it was just her and I for most of the day. Since we had errands of our own to get done, we spent a significant amount of time in the car. This tends to be where most of our talking occurs now as she's 11 going on 30 and is in tears over some slight (real or imagined) a large portion of the time at home. This is not just at our house, but everywhere. This weekend, she was dwelling on my place in her life vs. her step-father's place in her life.

How does one explain the intricacies of step-parenting to a hormonal pre-teen who is looking for someone to make life nice and simple, but still treat her like a grown-up? It isn't something easy to explain. I had to somehow explain to her that she was the child of my heart, but that I understand that I'm not her mother. I'm her step-mom and I don't want to take her mother's place when she's with us. I'm her friend, one of her parents, and someone who loves her very much. But at the same time, I have to make her understand that I would love to have been her mom, lest I make her think I don't love her like a mom. She's a complicated child and it's a complicated subject.

This has now gotten me dwelling on family. How do you define family? Is it by genetic relationship? By law? By choice? Do you have friends who you feel like are your family and family you'd rather forget ever existed? As an infertile woman who wants to build her family, this subject nudges at that nice tender spot in my heart that's never completely healed each month. We all know the one. It's the one that gives us hope of a baby, of a miracle of our own in some way. But in some ways I have a miracle, but the miracle is only mine for brief moments at a time and then she flies back to her other home.


Michele said...

For me, it's always been by choice... Genetics play one factor, but it's a small one. My husband and I arent related and yet I love him more than my very life. I'm adopted, so for me, genetics has never been more than a tiny piece of the puzzle.

Heather said...

I really think family is a choice. I have friends closer than sisters. I have family I'd rather forget.

As an IF, you know...we adopted. That defines family. We allowed what we already believe in our hearts to grow outside our bodies. Jack is no less our son than if I could have birthed him.

And, that 11 going on 30 thing and the tears...OH LAWD, I totally get that! It's rough.


ReshmaK said...

Nice share

Peg said...

Wow. This post really made me think. We recently adopted my two nieces after the death of their parents and I've struggled to define what my role is for them. I'm not their mom, I'm their aunt but they are so traumatized that it's important for them to know that I love them and deal with them like I'm their mom. We have 3 kids of our own which complicates things. I'm hoping love is just enough and we'll figure everything out eventually, but I am seriously waiting for the "you're not my MOM!!" argument down the road.

myinfertilitywoes said...

I agree - nice post and very thought-provoking, especially so for me and ironically so because I just alluded to in my post today about questioning what family really means. And I had my best friend's toddler stay with us last night and I do have so much love in my heart for him, and for our nephews. I think special love is just special love and doesn't have to be defined by mom, stepmom, aunt, friend or whatever.

You sound like you have special love for this girl who is so blessed to have you in her life.

Here from the Friday Round-up

heartincharge said...

I agree with all the PPs. We each define family for ourselves.
i consider myself to be my stepdaughter's family. As a stepdaughter myself, I know that the relationship with her mother can never be replaced or surpassed, so I never feel like I have to hold back to intentionally not try to be her mom.

your stepdaughter is your miracle in a way that is unique to the two of you. it doesn't have to mirror any other relationship in her life or anyone else's.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on your blog from the Friday Blog Round-Up and it touched a spot in my heart. I am the child that grew up with the awesome step-mom you seem to be. Now that I am all grown up, my Step-mom actually asked if I would please rather consider her a sister as she never wants to replace my mom (who passed away last year). My step-mom always managed to get that balance of being a parent figure, without trying to take over from my Mom, she was a confidant who I could talk to about the things I couldn't talk to my parents about.

That old cliche that says that families grow in your heart is so true. Family has nothing to do with who are your blood relatives, but the people who love you, guide you, tell you the truth and who you feel the same way for.