My parents divorced when I was seventeen. Not that there’s ever an easy time to go through something like that, but seventeen is a rough time for your folks to spit. You’re on the verge of adulthood, so many things hang in the balance, you’re still a kid in so many ways, but you’re also figuring out how to transition into making some pretty important decisions about life. While that part of my life had the imagined turbulence, there’s one thing my parents did right, and for which I still commend them to this day—My parents never made their issues part of my or my siblings’ lives.
I’ve written a little about this before, but I’m reminded again of how vital this has been to the longterm health and happiness of me and my siblings. We are on vacation in California right now, at a lake near Yosemite. My entire family has come together- my mom and step-dad, my dad and step-mom, my siblings and half-sibling, all the wives and children. My mom and step-dad welcome my dad and my step-mom and their daughter into their home as openly and warmly as they welcome everyone. My dad rents a cabin down the lane from my mom. My aunt and cousins come up from the Bay Area, and there are scads of children, communal means, and summer birthdays to celebrate.
The thing is? It’s always been this way.
I’m absolutely certain, when I look back with adult-eyes, that there was tension and sorrow between my parents. However, both parents always celebrated our milestones together, my dad and step-dad coached my brothers in Little-League together, we share holidays, and it’s not at all unusual for my dad to walk into my mom’s place and just hang out, maybe have a beer with my step-dad, and shoot the breeze. This is the only model I know. This has made all the difference to me and my siblings. It’s the model I assumed and tried to follow when Jon and I combined our families.
Alas, it takes two people to row the boat in the right direction. If only one person is will to row, the boat just goes in a circle. It’s really sad, because I know what’s possible and what a gift it is to the children for the parents to set aside their differences and get along. But we can’t do it alone. I do know it’s not only possible, but is a beautiful thing with long-reaching ripples in everyone’s lives when forgiveness is practiced, and the children are truly put first. I’ve seen it in my own family, and I’ve seen it in my husband’s family. Love, without reservation.
At the lake the other day, there were more than twenty people in our family group. There are new marriages, old marriages, second marriages, adopted children, step-children, natural children, original families, and blended families. As far as the children are concerned, there is no difference. My kids have three grandpas. My children have two dads, and three grandmas. They have more aunts and uncles than I can count- and it doesn’t matter where they came from; I do not rank family. My children loving another person takes nothing away anyone else. The heart is not a limited resource. Family is family, and as far as I can see, no matter which way I look at it, having more people love my children is absolutely a net good. That love isn’t about me, or about my preferences or about me forcing my will on the world. That love is about me getting out of the way and allowing the goodness in others to grow between my children in their relationships with those who love them. And there is no such thing as too much love for a child— or for a family.
Also, here is a shot of Bean paddle surfing. He rocked it. Straight up. Even when he fell off and lost the paddle. My cousin and Jon were down at the shore, coaching him on how to get back up, and he did it. Abby took a turn, too- though she ended up riding the current into a mud bar and getting rescued by a kayaker. So she got a kayak ride, too. Always an upside…