Growing up, I came from what would probably be considered at least a slightly untraditional blended family.
I was the product of my father’s second marriage and by the time I came along, his daughter and two sons from his previous marriage were for the most part grown-up.My half siblings, two of whom lived in a different state than me, were busy creating their own new lives and families.
They didn’t have to accept me, or my younger brother who came along four years later, and few people would have faulted them if they had made that choice.However, they put aside whatever baggage and hard feelings they may have had from their parents divorce, and made every effort to be a part of our lives.
I believe they made this conscious choice because they realized as children, we had not caused the situation and didn’t deserve to suffer the fall-out. Also, I think they knew if they refused to play a part in our upbringing that we would all lose out in the end.
The benefits to my brother and I that resulted from our three older half-sibling being there for us cannot be emphasized enough. We have childhoods full of happy memories with a big sister and two big brothers we adored, as well as nieces and nephews that were our playmates and friends.
One of my favorite stories to this day is about how I tried explaining to my oldest niece’s friends at her pool club one summer that I was in fact her aunt, even though I was only four years older. “You can’t be her aunt,” one of her friends protested. “You are way too young to have an Uncle.”
As an adult, I know now the stories to be told from other families
in the same circumstances are not nearly as rosy.
I’ve also seen as we are heading into the holidays, how this time of year can bring more pain to families that are struggling and can tear them apart even further.
It can be all too easy for adults to let simmering bad feelings turn into petty actions like withholding gifts or making unreasonable demands about how and where the holidays should be celebrated. Unfortunately, those who are hurt most when this happens are those innocent children caught in the middle.
Today, children need as many people in their corner who are there for them
and love them as they can get.
As adults, sometimes that means letting go of our own issues and anger for their benefit. That is what it means to be a part of a family, even if that family no longer looks the way we had planned.
This year, why not let the holiday spirit move you in a way that truly allows you to act selflessly and to give others in your family the same unconditional gift of love my sister and brothers gave me.
Yes, they may have been my half siblings, but their love for me was never anything less than whole. I understand now how precious a gift that was for them to give me, but I also know that in giving it, they got something equally precious in return.
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