This week our eldest daughter celebrated a birthday. (I just typed that simple sentence several times. Figuring out how to honor step-kids is fraught; I don’t always want to differentiate them from the children I birthed myself, but I also don’t want to take anything from the mother who did birth them. Jon’s daughter is my daughter, but she is also not my daughter. Jon thinks simply calling them all our children is solid ground. But I’m ever aware these kids all— including my three— are loved by three parents. Not easy ground if you’re trying to be mindful of the feelings of others.)
Anyway. Birthday. Daughter. Wonderful, kind, thoughtful, bright, adorable daughter:
We had a celebration at our house the day before her actual birthday. She’s a devoted user of Pinterest, and sends me pins constantly of things she loves, so it’s really easy to be on top of her happiness. This cake was one such attempt; while it’s probably not as perfect at the pin she sent me, she didn’t seem to notice and totally loved it. It was a very good night.
Then, something unexpected and miraculous occurred: Her mother invited us to meet for dinner the next night, to celebrate her actual birthday. We weren’t sure we would even get to see her on her birthday- it fell on a day that isn’t usually ours, and the invitation was…a departure from previous experience and very much a pleasant surprise.
We met at a restaurant halfway between our homes. While my three kids are comfortable and used to joint ventures with all of their parents together and cooperating, this was a first for Jon and his kids.
Divorce is hard. Learning to step-parent, to blend families, and come to terms with the new parameters of a new life can be hard. It can also be a place to find unexpected opportunity and even happiness. I don’t imagine Jon’s ex will ever wish to be my friend, and that’s fine, but the fact we were all able to set aside our differences and celebrate our daughter? Absolutely a positive step in the right direction.
I’ve said it many times: kids can not only survive but thrive in reformed families. There will be many occasions to celebrate in our children’s combined furture— graduations, proms, awards, recitals, mission calls, college and eventually even weddings. Last night demonstrated to all of us that making happy memories is possible.