Families now-a-days have so many descriptions and shapes and sizes that it hard to define "family" for any one group of people.
I used to be very rigid and hard-core fundamentalist about "family". The only "good" family was a married mom and dad, with kids. Every other family must have screwed up somehow and their families were just wrong. They were failures.
Seeing as most learning moments spring from failure, I learned my lesson when my marriage fell apart and I became one of those failures that I used to rant about. I was a failure. A screw up. Me.
However, as time went on, I learned at God's knee that family is whatever family becomes for you. Families come in many shapes and sizes, and are not defined by DNA, but by relationships and caring for each other.
So, having learned that, I think my kids, their mom, and I have had a fairly good "family", as families go, since she and I broke up. (Sounds weird, right?)
Yes, we failed at the marriage thing, and I freely admit the kids went through a hard time with that. But I think, after a time, we succeeded pretty good at the "family" thing. This came about because we all finally agreed, my x-wife and I, and even the newcomers to the "family", that we all cared for each other and were important to each other, so therefore we should stick together and create good things instead of bad. Family peace and happiness was much preferable to family strife, and after all, there's not that much in life that's so important to go to war over all the time.
(To be clear, we never had any one conversation about such things, but after some trial and error and time spent together, an understanding just evolved amongst us all. Uncertainty and anger became peace and acceptance.)
Now, having met Alene, she and I are beginning the process of building a life together, and integrating families. My x-wife and her fiance have already done the family integration thing with the girls. Now it's my turn to do it with Alene and her family.
Big deep breath.
Thanksgiving was a big test, which I think was passed. At least I think we did; others may have their opinions, but since this is my journal, you get my opinion.
I had to work Thanksgiving night, so here was the first challenge. Normally, I would get together with the girls and their mom and step-dad at their mom's house for dinner. This year I had to work Thanksgiving night, so I was unable to go to dinner with the girls. Also, this being the first Thanksgiving with Alene, I wanted to spend time with her her and her family as well.
What to do, what to do.
Hey, how about two Thanksgivings?
So, we made a compromise, which worked out pretty well. The girls went to their mom's on Thanksgiving day, and had a big meal up in the mountains. Alene and I, along with Liz and Alene's dad, went to "grandma's" down in Lodi, to have a meal at her assisted-living home. We visited for a bit, then I headed off to work.
Friday, Alene and Liz got up at 3:30am or so to do the Black Friday shopping thing. I slept till they got home, after which we started the process of cooking for Thanksgiving Friday. The girls all came over to our place in the afternoon, and we had Thanksgiving Day Part II. Alene's daughter Liz, Trevor, Alene's dad, and a few assorted good friends joined in the celebration. We had about 12 or 13 people all total. Cooking went on from morning till afternoon, and friends hung around until late, laughing and talking.
As a first effort, I think it went well. There were, of course, the inevitable rough patches, and we'll tweak those as we go, but I think those will also smooth over as time goes on and families get to know and accept each other. Alene and I couldn't have been happier, and I was overjoyed to have all the kids together for the meal.
I've never been fond of the saying "blood is thicker than water". Shared DNA means little to me, if that DNA is shared with crappy people. I don't have time or energy anymore for crappy people, be they blood related or not.
There truly is no "right" family shape. Family, good family, is the shape of love, whatever shape that is. I think its different for everyone. But I do know this: family is about caring for each other, and being kind and uplifting to each other. Family supports each other, is polite and selfless and looks out for each other. Family is defined by the relationships between each other, and the bonds we make with each other, as we go through life.
That was a hard lesson learned for me. I'm glad God took the time to teach me.