I know…today is supposed to be my writing update…but I’m making an exception because today is our family day. Living in a blended family brings with it lots of stresses that bio-families don’t deal with. But it also brings joys that greatly outweigh those problems.
Five years ago on a cold day in early January, we traveled to Guatemala to pick up two little boys. Our life has not been the same since! For the baby (kinderboy#2), the transition has been easy. Partly that’s because he really is just a laid-back, easy going guy. For the toddler, (Kinderboy#1) the transition wasn’t an easy one. The first 18 months were hell for me and for him. He’d been abducted by aliens that didn’t speak his language and expected to him live by all these “rules”. It also didn’t help that in his 17 short months prior to coming with us, he’d had three disruptions (birth mother, foster family #1, foster family #2). We were his fourth family and there wasn’t much trust on his part that we were “it”. We’re seeing that even five years later… So, we’ve signed up for counseling to help him deal with some of his issues and help bond him to us. But, for the most part, he’s now a happy little guy who loves school and just doing boy things (riding his bike, playing in the dirt, video games, etc.)
But adopting the boys isn’t the ONLY reason today is Family Day.
Two years ago, Drama Teen got her nickname simply by all the drama she induced in the family. Part of it was teenage angst, part was caused by her brain aneurysm being located in one of the emotion regions of her brain, and a large part of it was having to come face to face with her own mortality. Needless to say, we had a couple of rough, rough months. Like most children with an absent bio parent, she nursed fantasies about how wonderful it would be to live with her bio-father and the step-mother she adored. When her behavior escalated into some unsafe and illegal acts, I punished her. She called and complained to him. Granted, he and his wife are practically strangers to her…he’s a Disneyland dad and although his wife has kids, it’s “different” when it’s a teenager you barely know. Drama Teen considered step-mom more of a friend than a mother. Bio-father had NEVER had to deal with day-to-day parenting– he left when Drama Teen was a toddler and married his new wife after her kids were raised and gone. Over the phone, he undermined my authority, downplayed the seriousness of everything, told her I was over-reacting, and then played the “come live with me and step-mom and life with be rosy” card. So, she went for two weeks at Christmas on a trial basis. If she decided to live with him, I told her I wouldn’t object (it would have broken my heart, but in all fairness, I knew I had to let go if that’s what she wanted.) My biggest fear when she left was that she wouldn’t want to go back. I, the worst case scenerio aficionado, had never envisioned/planned for what really happened.
One week into the visit, I’d had three panicked phone calls from her and a request to come home early, which bio-father nixed (although up until then, he’d told her she could come home whenever she wanted to). All was not rosy… There had been no honeymoon period. She’d stepped off the plane and into the embrace of a man determined to “set her straight” and undo all the “bad parenting” I had inflicted upon my daughter. Well, needless to say, fantasy and reality collided when she continued to act out there the way she had been at home. Bio-father and step-mom came down much harder and with much less understanding than they’d led her to believe they would. In fact, the entire visit became abusive…with bio-father hiding the abuse from the step-mom who wouldn’t have believed my daughter anyway. It was a nightmare and all I could do was count the minutes until the visit ended. In retrospect, CPS should have been called and she should have been removed from the home. We were concerned that removing her to a foster/group home we knew nothing about and probably filled with juvenile delinquints until we could get across the country to pick her up would do more harm than good. We figured it would be three days to get flights and all the details worked out (babysitting for the boys, etc) and she would be home in four. Next time, we’ll call CPS first and think later.
Drama Teen came “home” after that visit, crying and sobbing her heart out. When she turned to my husband, the man who has been in her life since she was seven, who’s loved and supported her, who has been her “daddy” in every way except DNA, and called him “Dad” and meant it, that sealed Family Day on the calendar forever.