Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Family Matters

My kids have read too many fairy tales; when they get angry at me they call me "STEPMOTHER!" Peaches and Rooster believe, understandably given the literature, that stepmother means badmother. I've been trying to explain to them the truth, dispel the notion that step-families want to ditch you in the dark with a crumbly scrap of bread. Sometimes the family you make, the family that happens after the genetics thing plays its hand, is the family you can count on to feed you through the famine.

I have the greatest stepdad ever. My only grievance with E is that he took so long to find my mother and show her how to love a good guy. I was in college when they met and married, and I have always wished I could've spent more time with E. While I was thousands of miles away, he did more than just make my mom happy - he became a true son to my grandparents, who adored him, and E did things for my grandparents as they reached the end of their lives that I wish I could have been there to do. Hard things. Generous things. Loving things. Family things.

My mom and I found our mother-daughter footing shortly before E came into the picture, and once they met, my relationship with her only grew and grew. He seemed to be the key to unlock the best aspects of my mom. My stepdad knows I love him and I know he loves me, though we can be somewhat awkward still in our expressions of it.

When I fell in love with my husband, I fell for the whole package, and for his whole family, too. Among the most exciting parts of marrying him, and making it official, were these momentous milestones: I gained a warm and close-knit family, and I got to use the word "Dad" again. My in-laws let me know I could choose to continue calling them by their first names if I wanted, but that they also felt comfortable being called "mom" and "dad," and as someone who didn't really grow up with a "dad," the temptation was irresistible.

As an adult, I really hit the jackpot when it comes to adding to my family, especially for a girl who had to be rescued by her (phenomenal) grandparents from a cast of MIAs, addicts, crooks, thugs and dysfunction.

First, E, then my in-laws. Having my in-laws means having solid support when we hit a crisis. It means we're not all alone here in this lonely state. It means a place in driving distance to have a real holiday meal. It means family I can talk to without worrying about the time difference. It means connectedness and compassion and backyard barbecues.

My inlaws have helped us move. THREE TIMES. Once without much help from us, as Jeremy took me to the ER for the day. They have come to help us through STOMACH FLU. They have watched our kids FOR THREE DAYS so we could get away. They have accompanied the Rooster clan to DISNEYLAND in 90 degree temps. My inlaws come to lend a hand when we try out new treatments with the roo so we don't get overwhelmed. They sleep on an air mattress in our playroom to help us do all this. And they don't do it just for J. Yes, they love him dearly. But they make it clear that they do it for me, too - that I matter, too. They are my family; I feel like the terms "in-laws" and "step-" need rewriting, they need better PR.

Looks like I'll be tossing out quite a few Disney books here soon... if anyone has any picture books to suggest that celebrate step parents, or in-laws for that matter, I'm in the market...


Niksmom said...

What a lovely tribute to your "acquired" family. :-) It's nice to know you have such loving people around you. xo

pixiemama said...

ooooh. your in-laws sound like a fairytale!

phenry said...

I'm so glad that you wrote this AFTER your MIL found your blog. I was going to suggest you send it to your inlaws, but after I read Freaky Monday, I realized she's probably seen it. I hope so. Having met your inlaws several times, I know how wonderful they are. I'm glad they've become your surrogate parents in combination with your Mom and E (who I also think is wonderful).