Growing up, I sometimes wondered what it would be like to have a simple little family. Everything seemed so much easier when there was only one set of parents to consider, and maybe a sibling or two from those same parents, thrown in with a dog and a goldfish that would eventually die and be flushed down the toilet, or buried in the backyard with a little cross made of matchsticks over its little grave (even goldfish deserve proper burial rites).
I never experienced that side of things, but here’s what I did grow up with…
I have siblings, who have siblings that are not my siblings (say whaaaaat?). I have a step mom and a step dad, who have kids that are not my siblings, but one is a sister to my sister. I have a brother from a different dad, and a sister from a different mom. And they both have brothers and sisters that are not related to me.
Christmas and New Year’s were always split between two different places, sometimes with the families of my sibling’s other siblings (say that three times fast!), that were not at all related to me. To top everything off, I live in the US, both my parents live in different continents, my brother’s dad lives in Africa, and my step dad has a thing for spending months at sea.
Also, we all have different last names even though we are related. “Family surname? What’s that? You mean to tell me some families have just ONE surname?!”
Looks about right.
It’s so incredibly hard to explain to someone how we make things work, unless they’re in a similar situation. So many conversations go like this:
“You’re going home for Christmas to see your parents?”
“To see my dad, then I’m spending new year’s with my mom”
“That’s neat that you get to spend New Year’s with your little sister!”
“No, I get to spend that with my brother, but I get to spend Christmas with her”
“Oh, are they not related to you?”
“No, they are. Just not to each other”
“So they’re related to your mother but now your father?”
“One to my mother and one to my– you know what, never mind”
I have to admit sometimes I just don’t have the patience to go into it, even though I know it’s unfair of me to expect people to understand right off the bat.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my family, it’s that more people, while it may be more confusing, just means you get that much more love. There are no half-brothers or half-sisters, everyone is related in their own way. We may never find a time when we’re all in the same country at once, but on the few occasions that we do, it’s just that much more meaningful.
Right now, we are spread out all over the world. We cover the United States, Africa, South America, and Europe. And I have no doubt there will be someone off to Asia eventually.
Hey look, I managed to locate everybody!
So yes, it may be confusing and sometimes even annoying, but I would not trade my family for anything. I would not trade my sibling’s siblings, or my step parents’ kids, for anyone else in the world. I would not change a single thing, except that it would be nice to see everyone more often. That being said, I’ll leave you with a little wisdom:
“The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.” Pearl S. Buck