Recently, I have had some serious conversations with friends of mine whose marriages are ending. These women have so much guilt about what their children are experiencing and what it might mean for them to grow up being children of divorced parents. I know that this is a hard situation and there are so many aspects to take into consideration. I feel for these women and their families. It’s a really, really hard situation for everyone involved.
But as the adult child of divorced parents, I tell you that it does get easier.
In fact, I’ve even experienced some benefits as a result of my parents’ divorce and subsequent second chances at true love. Blending families is intense and emotional. During the awkward introductions, arguments, and meltdowns of the early days, I never guessed that even though being part of a blended family is complicated, it is also beautiful. Now things are very different. I wouldn’t trade my big, unique family for any other because the thing is: having a step-family is amazing! Even as I type the word “step-family” the computer tries to correct me, like step-family is not a word, not a real, valuable thing. But it is. It is real. And it is awesome.
1. More relatives means more fun.
Here’s to all the awesome step-siblings out there, the step-mothers and step-fathers. The step-cousins, step-aunties, step-grandparents, and step-uncles. I love you guys! You enrich our lives and we are lucky to have you.
2. Step-relatives offer a new perspective.
I am super close with my biological sister, but sometimes we are just way too similar. We think the same way and fight the same way and wear the same shirts. Having step-sisters let’s me see how it might be if we communicated differently, had more boundaries, and handled our parents differently.
3. Step-family can teach you a lot.
Doubling or tripling the size of your family gives you a whole group of talented folks to ask for advice on parenting, they give you new recipes, and teach you tricks to use in your garden. The other day, a hummingbird got stuck in the house and just when it flew out, I was dialing my step-mother calling to ask her what to do.
4. Step-family are a little more relaxed about the rules.
Confession time: A bunch of years ago, I took my little step-cousin for his first driving lesson when he was thirteen. Yes, it wasn’t legal, but it was on a private road far from other cars and if I didn’t take him, who would? Flash forward to today: he spoils my three year old son with chocolate every time they hang out. If it was my sister doing it, I would probably get mad at her but it’s my little step-cousin so he pretty much gets away with anything he wants. There’s something amazing in the boundaries we maintain with our step-family. It allows us to be close enough to be affectionate, but not close enough to fight. It causes us shrug our shoulders and just let things slide a little more when we’re all together.
5. Holidays are more festive.
These are the times when having a step-family really makes our biological family a whole lot better. Our family spends all of December in a whirlwind, rushing between Chanukah parties, goofy gift exchanges, and Christmas dinners. It’s overwhelming but it’s amazing. When I was growing up, we lived far away from our parents’ families and sometimes holidays felt a little lonely and forced. Not now. Now the table is a raucous celebration of laughter and stories, with people coming together from New York to San Francisco, from Boston to rural Vermont. My kids are growing up with the close, giant, loving extended family that my sister and I could only have dreamed of. There’s always an open pair of arms to hold the baby, to chase the little kids, to open another bottle of wine.
6. Step-family are there during the most important times.
There’s nothing better than having a step-family to share in the happy milestones of life like births and weddings, and they’re there to lean on during hard times and funerals. My little step-brother was the only sibling who was available to visit in the hospital when my first child was born. And both of my step-parents walked down the aisle during my wedding ceremony.
7. Step-relatives are the perfect blend of family and friendship.
Unlike many biological relationships in which you are sort of forced to be together all the time, with step-family you get to choose how close you want to be. When you end up bonding with your step-family, you are doing it on your own terms and purely because you like these people. In my adult years, I find myself much closer to my step-siblings than I was when I was growing up. Having children has brought us even closer. I love the idea that my kids get to grow up surrounded with so much extra love.
So here’s to the blended families, the nontraditional ones. Here’s to full tables and full hearts. We came into each others lives due to some very difficult situations but we made it through. We’ve risen above it and we are better for it. We may not look alike or even share any of the same DNA but we are family all the same and we are certainly very lucky because of it!