To My Moms on Mother’s Day

by | May 8, 2024

When my parents got divorced, I was four and my sister was two. Neither of us remember much from that time, but we do remember when our dad and stepmom got married two years later. She also had two kids, and though it would be many years until the four kids lived together full time, that marked the start of our journey as a blended family: a motley crew aged 4, 6, 6, and 8. My dad and stepmom joke now that if they had known what they were in for they would have called the whole thing off and run for the hills. I wouldn’t blame them if they meant it, but I know they don’t. Despite the hardships – and there have been a lot of them – I’m happy to say their marriage is still going strong 48 years later. My mom has also been remarried for more than 20 years.

During those early years our three parents gave us an amazing gift – one that we wouldn’t be able to understand or appreciate until many years later, but that benefitted us every day. In terms that I use today – they chose the high road. It was a different time and to my knowledge there wasn’t a lot of information about healthy coparenting out there, my mom had much more parenting time than my dad did, but still they made the decision to work together, and now that means all of us: parents, grown kids and grandkids continue to benefit today from the choices they made more than 45 years ago.

What did it look like?
One of the most significant things I remember was that my parents supported each other. Sometimes it was subtle (i.e. randomly complimenting a recipe or something small the other parent did) and other times they had obviously worked together to determine consequences for poor choices or jointly celebrate an accomplishment. As a kid, I was always looking for daylight between parents that I could take advantage of. They never gave us anything to work with.

They also talked to us about the other parents in a respectful and kind way. They would ask about them and it felt (and was) genuine. We never felt uncomfortable talking about our other home in either place.

I’m not oversimplifying, it was hardly easy, but they presented as a team, navigating together everything that comes with parenting and coparenting a large, blended family. They didn’t do it perfectly either – we weren’t The Brady Bunch. We were simultaneously a normal, totally unusual, supportive, competitive, dedicated-to-each-other, out for ourselves, petty, loving, confused, and committed family making our way. There were certainly times when we did better than others, and times that are painful to recall. But now, as a divorced parent and a stepmom myself, I can better appreciate the nuances and significant challenges all our parents faced as they raised us. And I owe them so much for taking a chance on doing divorce differently in those early days.

I realize now that each parent actively reinforced the relationship with the others. Whether they were intentional about it or not, it freed us up to worry about normal kid things, of which there were plenty, and not about protecting our parents.

Of course, as a kid I thought all of this was normal. I was in college before I realized how blessed I was to have a family that could be together for holidays and didn’t badmouth each other. I thought that was the best possible take-away from my experience, until I got divorced myself and ultimately became a stepparent. Now I’m so thankful to my mom and stepmom (and my dad, too, but this is a Mother’s Day post 😍) for sticking with their unique vision of a blended family, even though there weren’t many role models and I’m sure we challenged them at every opportunity.

Today I am so grateful and pleasantly surprised by the improbable and wonderful reality that is my life, including two amazing stepchildren (and their Dad!). And while I would never have known it, it turns out I was training for this role all along – and that I had the very best teachers imaginable.