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Here’s how I explain our blended family to my little one, who didn’t know anyone else

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Here’s how I explain our blended family to my little one, who didn’t know anyone else

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Growing up, my mom loved to tell stories about her dad, a family doctor who died in high school. I’ve heard of things like his dramatic wartime escapades, his subsequent habit of taking three packs a day, and his practice of trading in medical services for the dubious quality art that decorated my childhood home.

So when the youngest of my three children was born within a year of my mother’s death, I had an idea of ​​how to paint her picture for a child who would only know this grandmother through stories, and whose death, as early as it seemed to me, still followed the expected life cycle pattern.

This painting is easier to paint than the other I had to tackle. This is the father of my older children, who passed away suddenly at the age of 3 and 6.

Today it’s my youngest who is 3 years old, and it’s clear that we need to have conversations about the blended family she was born into. There are plenty of reasons for this. For one thing, I have to be prepared to answer some pretty basic questions she might have. These are questions of how we relate to a whole side of our close-knit family. Or on why her father is dad to her but Brian to his siblings. Or why the big kids are in our wedding photo, but not her. Or how come the five of us have three different last names.

“The last thing I want is for my daughter to be the only person in the room who doesn’t know about crucial information.”

On the other hand, the last thing I want is for my daughter to be the only person in the room who doesn’t know about crucial information. Or to grow up as a tragic hero in a Gothic novel where family secrets are revealed in such a way that the whole life of the protagonist is turned upside down.

It’s not that secrets or silence are my style. After the death of my late partner, I diligently followed the guidelines provided by various experts. These included making sure children knew it was okay to talk about their father and keeping in mind that children were more likely to be upset by parental fear (Where are we going to live? How am I going to support us alone?) than they were out of parental sadness. So I cried in front of them and worried about our future for others. I also made photo albums and memory boxes, and found a bereavement therapist for them.

In addition, I tried to follow the advice of this therapist on how to allay their new concerns. “Don’t promise them you’ll never die,” he warned. “It’s not a promise you can be sure to keep and if anything happens to you, realizing you’ve lied will make them feel even more in danger.”

Consequently, I never gave these assurances. Instead, when they raised the inevitable question of my mortality, I would say things like “My plan is to live to be an old, old lady” and then list the countless people we know who would always take care of her. ‘they. if something that was no longer unthinkable happened again.

“Even though I know better, these days it’s tempting to step out of the script when I explain our family building to my toddler.”

But even if I know better, these days it’s tempting to get out of the scenario when I explain our family building to my toddler. I noted the beginning of this explanation. I said to him: “Before you were born, older children had a different daddy. His name was Joe. He died and we were very sad. Then later I met your dad, and we got you, and now we’re all family together.

Yet after every conversation I want to add, “Don’t worry, your father will never die, and neither will I!” It seems so necessary to be reassured after letting go of this great reality check – that parents can die! on his knees.

Still, if this part of the conversation is difficult, it’s at least one part that I feel there is a script for. The place where I feel most detached, however, is trying to make sense of the impossible paradox of death that has allowed our current family to be.

This is something that I have been trying to figure out since I was pregnant the last time. I remember sitting in bed with the big kids and thinking about their little sister’s arrival. What would we call it? Would she be bald or would she have a lot of hair? Where would she sleep? That sort of thing. But in the midst of all our reveries, my 8 year old son changed course. “If Dad hadn’t died, we wouldn’t have Brian and the new baby.”

I had no way of reconciling that back then, and now that this baby is no longer an idea, but a very present little human, I still don’t have one.

I know that sometimes we have to accept that life is paradoxical, absurd and scary. There are plenty of unknowns and must-haves. When I accept that and I don’t hold on so much and if, I am better able to focus on making my three children feel safe and loved in the family we have; let the older ones know that they don’t have to pretend that their before life did not exist; and that my youngest knows that there is nothing in this life that is forbidden to her just because she came after. But it’s my logical self-thinking, and I don’t feel logical all the time.

Sometimes I still feel without a mooring and like the only thing that will melt us is if I hug all the kids and make promises to them that I can’t be sure I will keep.

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