I know plenty about the blended family culture.
Being a child of divorce at a young age–I cannot remember living with both of my parents under the same roof. Shortly after my parents formally separated, I was introduced to another woman who would ultimately become a major influence in my life….my stepmother. She would later bear (3) more children for my father–boys, who by blood would become my brothers. Tacking on my sister and me–we were one large, blended family.
During my childhood, I recall feeling misplaced every time I visited my father and his new family. I was his part time daughter, not quite content to be seen only when it was convenient for his schedule. In reaction to sharing this limited time, I was passive aggressive and angry. I fought to stay with my father as much as possible.
My sister however, took a different approach. For the most part, she chose to stay at home–with our mother. She did not have the same amount of time with our father that I had. She did not get to spend days at home with him potty training. She was never wrestled to sleep by firm, tree branch-like arms. She did not have to go to therapy in elementary school in an effort to get used to missing him.
Our experiences with both of our parents was unique.
For a long time, I admired my stepmother over my own. She was organized and focused, taking meticulous care of family. She made absolutely certain to give that extra attention to her children that I craved. This left me searching for comparisons in the relationship between my mother, my sister and me. They say parents do not partake in favoritism–but if you lived in my home you would know this was not true. Ultimately, my two examples of “a mother’s love” left me feeling like I could not be loved equally. I know now this was not done purposely to hurt me. Still, as a child trying to find my place in the world, it was an open wound.
I am not a stepparent. I do not know what it is like to combine lives with a spouse who has children from another family. I have never had to endure an unpleasant conversation with the person to which my significant other once pledged forever. I cannot fathom what it is like to deal with the emotions of a child who resents you for “breaking up their home”. I do not know how to look into a little girl’s eyes and tell her you consider her your daughter only to turn your back on her when it no longer fits your narrative.
I imagine it is difficult and uncomfortable.
From the perspective of the child who is now an adult, I realize I still have a flurry of unanswered questions. There are items of unwanted experience I had to forcefully check off through no fault of my own. The only constants in my life were my sometimes inconsistent parents who I now understand are not infallible. They are human beings who made mistakes but did everything within their capabilities to prepare me for the future ahead. I am convinced my parents love me unconditionally and support me in my actions. Even my stepmother had her part in helping me become the person I am, today.
But when a blended family begins to unravel there are desperate measures taken and harsh realities you cannot expect. Lines are drawn and sides are picked–children and (in some cases) grandchildren are thrown into the conflict. I am not the one to convince another to engage in a fair fight. I do not care who was wrong more often or who stonewalled when they should have been trying to cooperate.
No one can soothe a broken connection from the outside.
It is not my place to parent my parents or make peace for their sake. After all, I am a product of an ugly ending and bitter separation. I know from experience there is a purpose for this breaking–although, when it is said and done nothing will ever be the same.
But all I want is for everyone to be okay.