Saturday, January 19, 2013

Defining family

I come from what would be considered a "non-traditional" family.  My mother is half Mexican, haCaucasian. My father is about as Caucasian as they come. My mom got pregnant with me in high school and dropped out to get married and take care of me at the age of 17. Fortunately, they had lots of love and support from both sides of the family, most especially my Gaga and Papa. I didn't grow up with a lot of material things, but I never knew that :) I was always with family, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. I was always surrounded by love. My parents divorced when I was 8 and my mom worked her ass off to take care of me since my dad really wasn't very involved. I always felt like she and I were a team; the two of us took care of each other. I remember getting up early with her and ironing her clothes for work while she cooked breakfast. I remember her leaving me a list of chores for the day that had BETTER be done by the time she got home. I remember her being at every. single. one. of my school activities and events, usually with snacks and treats for me and my team mates, and usually with at least one or two other family members. Everyone always knew when my family got there because my mom has the most ear-piercing whistle you have ever heard :) Cheerleading, basketball, tennis, softball, Honor Society- whatever it was, she was there. I am really thankful that my father and I have re-established our relationship since I became a parent, but for most of my life it was me and my mom taking on the world. Divorce is never easy, but it was my reality and I never felt as though I had less than someone who had their parents still together. Every family is different and I have always felt blessed to be so totally surrounded by love and support my entire life. A huge part of who I am is due to my family.
One of the coolest aspects of this journey has been how my children have handled it. People ask all the time what Stella and Roy think of this adventure. My answer is always the same: they are handling it like pros. See, the thing is, kids don't know that a situation like ours is unusual or not the norm unless someone tells them that. It isn't unusual for them because they are loving, innocent, accepting little creatures. It isn't strange that mommy is helping someone else become a mommy and daddy. It isn't weird for them that there are babies in my tummy, because that is one of the things mommies do: grow babies in their belly. It isn't odd for them that the parents of these babies are Nigerian; why would that make a difference? They have plenty of friends who don't look like them, who are a different color or who speak a different language. In their minds, love is love, a good person is a good person. They have friends who have two mommies or who only have one parent. None of that is a big deal to them. That has been one of the goals Russell and I have had throughout this process: to teach them that families come in all shapes and sizes and are made in lots of different ways. In a world that is full of hate and violence and intolerance, I want them to know that there are some things more powerful than all of the negative they will encounter: love and family. If Russell and I can instill in them the confidence and self-awareness that will allow them to make good solid choices in life, the kindness to treat others fairly and the knowledge that family, biological or chosen, will always be there for them, then I will feel like a successful mother. How each person defines family may be different; I do not believe in only one approved version of what that word means. I have felt more love and support from my single mother than a lot of people who have both parents could even dream of. My wish for my children and the children I am carrying is that they always know the love of family.

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