We have four kids that make up a rowdy combination of his, hers and ours. In our blended family each one of them is loved and adored equally. But here is the uncomfortable truth, the last kid – the ours – changed everything.
Until Valentines Day 2012, we were two families. We had come together and decided to stay together. We were two (his), plus three (hers), equals five.
During our courtship, Steve and I did the responsible thing and discussed our hopes and dreams around having more children. It turned out we were roughly on the same page. We were both grateful for the three gorgeous, healthy kids we had. Our home and hearts were full. We were done.
There was also an element of selfishness in our decision. Blended families sometimes have the perk of kid-free weekends. Our family falls into this category – the three eldest children spend every second weekend at their co-parents. As a couple that met and fell in love with three kids in tow – the kid-free weekends were an important opportunity to invest in our relationship (code for hang out with each other, eat good food and sleep).
So it was decided. We were content and fulfilled just the way we were, the five of us.
But the universe had other ideas.
February 15 2012, our baby girl Jedda arrived, and our family changed forever.
I never envisaged the huge impact the our child would have. We had considered all the practical aspects…like losing our kid-free weekends, the strain of a new baby, dirty nappies, time off work, no sleep…all those kinds of things.
But I never really comprehended the emotional impact.
You see, pre-Jedda, we knew we were a family. We didn’t care what other people thought about blended families – we knew it in our hearts. But the head – the head is a different can of worms. Your brain always knows there are no physical ties threading you all together.
The saying blood is thicker than water applies here.
A few years back I was eating my breaky when one of the kids asked, “If you and Steve get a divorce will we see him and Xan any more?”
I almost choked on my muesli. Trying to cover up the horrified expression on my face I asked, “Are you worried Steve and I are going to get a divorce?”
“No,” he answered. “But that doesn’t mean you won’t.”
Although Steve is technically his stepdad and Xan his stepbrother, we have been a family for a long time – since he was three. I am not discounting the relationship he has with his biological father, however Steve is the man who is here, day-in, day-out. The man who picks him up from guitar lessons, takes him to the dentist, gives him his lunch money, washes his school uniform – you get the picture.
I forget what it must be like for a kid of divorce. His brain is hard-wired differently to mine. In his mind, everyone gets divorced, because that’s what he knows. It is only natural he would be concerned about losing Steve and Xan from his life.
When I tried to answer his question I realised I couldn’t give him a definitive answer. In the eyes of the law I suppose the answer would be no. That, even though Steve is the person who has filled that space for almost nine years, if we were to split, or even worse, I were to kick the bucket, he would relinquish all rights.
So here’s what I think. The privileges, obligations and responsibilities of stepparents are too grey. I am not talking in a legal sense here – I am talking about what we value as a society. It is screwed up that the importance of family relationships is often measured by the amount of blood we share.
And this is why Jedda’s presence in our family is huge.
She is the insurance policy. We never knew it. We never planned it. I wish we didn’t need it. But that’s exactly what she is.
Jedda is the thread that pulls all of us together. It doesn’t matter what may come in the future, because we are all connected for the rest of lives by biology. In her beautiful little body there is shared DNA with me, with Steve and with all three of our other children. This is not grey. No one can take this away from us.
Kid number four, Jedda, is our anchor – even the dog thinks she’s awesome.
I would like to think Steve and I are wearing down the kids perception that marriage ends in divorce. I would like to think we will never need to cash in our insurance policy. I would like to think that if something were to happen to me, to Steve, or to our marriage, that the co-parents would value the contribution of the stepparent and honor that.
But if not, we have our insurance policy…and she may just be the most beautiful, crazy, well-loved insurance policy I’ve ever come across.
Blend it your way,
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