Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Ruminating on What NOT to Say..

This post started out as a response to a cousin's Facebook post this morning.  Where many times I'll come across something and think -- ooh there's a blog post in there somewhere -- time has been pretty short lately, so often those pearls get cast aside and forgotten about until the next time.  This one resonated on a soft-spot though, and I thought I'd jump right in. 

The initial post was about 5 Things NOT to Say When Someone Shares: "We're Adopting!" and my cousin had shared her thoughts on the post along with sharing the link. Right smack dab in the middle of her post were four neon words that most step parents I know loves to hate.. "kids of your own".. *cringe*.  I started to respond and then along came a blog post..  

Those four words are an instant red light..   our crew lived with us full time from the time I moved in with them at the ripe old age of 2, 4 and 5.. and in January, our family will celebrate it's 18th birthday ~ affectionately dubbed our "Brockville Birthday," since I moved from Vancouver to Brockville that day...not adoption in the formal sense, but an adoption of sorts just the same. 

I swear, If I had a dollar for every time someone felt the need to remind me that I hadn't "done the work" of bringing them into the world, or used some other wording to discount my contribution to keeping them here..  it's enough to turn a cheery gal into a vengeance seeking whirlwind! While I wasn't their "real" mother, at this point I'd gladly argue to the death that although I didn't actually bring them into this world, I've certainly done my fair share of keeping them fed, clothed, housed and loved on their way to the future.  They all survived, by the way, and we celebrated the addition of our first grandson this year. 

My other "favourite" was the term "non-family" which just blows my mind. If you get together with a partner or spouse (male or female) and raise children, whether naturally born, adopted (either officially, or by remarriage), are you not a family?  Perhaps not the Ward and June cleaver variety of our past.. but certainly a family nevertheless.  Who the hell is anyone to say who is or is not part of the family --YOUR family? 

Our kids have almost always called me Mom (or Teemy when they were young), and in my heart of hearts I couldn't love them any more if I'd baked them myself. I have long-time friends that regard us as sisters, and a few good friends that have a certain maternal or paternal feel. 

Growing up as a member of a huge extended family, but living as one of 3 in a single-parent family, certainly gives you a different view of family.  We had a few long-time friends of my parents that we called Aunt or Uncle, that we saw with far more regularity than our actual relatives.  We all have our own support networks ~ a family ~ if you will, that travel with us as we venture along. 

I think in some ways it's a generation thing, I remember the conversation with my own Dad, several years ago and while the genealogy nut in me understands the words, my heart and mind do not fall into line.  I will never forget the day that I'd referred to the kids, our kidsas his grandkids and he told me they were not in fact his grandchildren, because I didn't drop them. 

I'd never before been so thoroughly dissapointed in my Dad. I remember getting off the phone and then I had an epiphany.  I called the kids in, and lined them up..  one by one I'd picked each of them up and said "Okay.. ready?" and one by one I let them go and as they dropped the few short feet to land, they looked at me like I'd just fallen off the edge of the world.

I remember their giggles like it was just yesterday, when I dialed the phone and said Okay.. now let's call Grandpa and tell him that Mommy dropped you all! 

Dad laughed at me and told me I was a nutcase, but it did open the door to a very frank discussion in which I told my Dad that he ought to be very grateful that I'd found myself a man to share my heart and life with, the fact that he had 3 happy and healthy children that he was willing to share with me, that loved me and allowed me to love them back - a blessing I never dreamed I would ever have.  I told him that I was the lucky one who got to give 3 little kids a second chance to have a Mom and a Dad at home with them, something that we not had the luxury of as kids, and that I hoped in some small way they would never have to feel like I had growing up. I remember telling him so sternly that he'd better get with the program and be grateful for what he had because these would likely be the only grandchildren he'd ever have. Ovarian cancer had taken that idea off the table many years before..  I told him that if I could make their lives better, and spare them some of the hardships of divorce that we'd endured that at the end of it all, my life would finally mean something.  The phone was silent. 

I remember feeling anxious and worried, waiting his response. I didn't often talk back to my Dad. When he finally opened his mouth to speak he simply said, You're right kid, You're right! I didn't know it until then, but Dad had never really connected the dots and was still hoping for news of an upcoming bundle of joy. He was so happy that I'd found a good man, and that we'd made a life for ourselves. I joked with him that he ought to know better ~ I've never done anything in the "proper" order. I got the teddybear and the kids, then the van, then the house, and grandkids, but still haven't had the wedding procession. All the right elements, just not in the order everyone usually expects it. 

Isn't that the way life goes though?  We never know what rollercoaster that life has in store for us until we're crowning the top of the hill and waiting for the next plunge, the best that we can hope for is that when the next one comes along we'll be a little further ahead than we were when the last wave we hit.

I guess the real take away is that life is full of unexpected perks and perils, so many living in a world that says that someone owes them a living -- a life.  We all need to be a lot more grateful for the blessings we have - so many basic day to day things we take for granted that others will never get to enjoy and yet here we are peeking in our neighbor's windows and telling them how it should be.  

Life is short, in an instant the power flickers, or the lights go out and life as we know it, is done.  Is *this* (whatever *this* is) really worth the focus you're giving it?  Perhaps. Perhaps not -- only you can decide.  

As for me, I'll be out tickling my grandbabies, and being grateful for this life I have been given. I know all too well how many times life has spared me. I know better than to forget to be grateful. 

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