Blending a family is not a cake walk. We can all agree. Within our home, it seems and feels quite rhythmic and routine. My husband, Donald and I have a developed system – absolutely still evolving – we have been committed to forming from the onset. It requires BOUNDARIES. The motivation genuinely comes from my memories growing up in blended homes. Yes, homes. Both of my parents remarried, and I was blessed (yes, cliché, but it’s truly fitting here) with two bonus parents. Their grace, respect, and unconditional love for us four kids are what I lean on as a Bonus Mom and a Mom.
Rather than go into the details of my upbringing and the history of my family (again), you can learn about the details by visiting my post from 15 May 2018, “Blending Quality Time,” here: https://blendstrong.com/2018/05/15/blending-quality-time/. My parents were not and are not perfect; they’re human, so it’s impossible. They did, however, formulate a bit of a coparenting masterpiece all the while stepcoupling with their spouses, my bonus parents. Us four kids were fortunate to have them all sit together with our siblings at our events. They discussed relevant topics concerning us kids and really presented a united front in most decision making (key word, most… yeah, not all).
Here I stand with all four of my parents as they joined together to celebrate my high school graduation at one home and one party.
Now, granted, it was not exactly easy for them. Since I have been bonus-momming for almost three years now, I have sought their advice over and over to the effect:
“Pops, how do I be a better wife & bonus mom in these situations?”
“Mom, how did you and Pappy handle these situations?”
“Pappy, what did you need from Mom during these situations?”
Through their wisdom, I have learned just how unattractive times had been for them as coparents. What I admire most is how they took each experience and – rather than make a public dirty laundry list of resentment – they chose to start learning how not to encounter clusters such as those again. More so, us kids rarely knew of the details back then. The epitome of graceful coparenting.
I have felt my own heartache and fumbling experiences as a bonus mom. I try to laugh at them now because they are in the past, and I have gained priceless insight. One genuine intention backfired on me tremendously last year. I had unknowingly (at the moment) crossed a boundary. I was all caught up in our fourth child being due to arrive in a month. It was the week of my baby shower coming that Saturday. With April – my late Bonus Mom’s birthday month – on the horizon, I was a bit emotional as I would have loved for her to have been here, to have met my husband, and all my children. And, we were due to have our family maternity photos Sunday. My oldest daughter was on Facebook now. I have no idea what led me to my Family section of Facebook, but there I was updating everyone in Donald’s family. I mean, I am an Antley and was about to birth one, so… When I came to my bonus kid, my heart sunk over the word “stepdaughter.” I was flooded with memories of being introduced as “daughter” sometimes and “stepdaughter” other times and recalled the various thoughts those different terms provoked within me. I also proudly remember when the difference dissipated, and I was and am referred to as “daughter” by all my parents. Today, I have four daughters, three I have birthed, and one I grew in my heart. Of the three I have birthed, two daughters are from my previous marriage, and one with my husband. I never want my bonus kid to feel less mine than the other three when she is with me (or away). So, I thought, “hell no” on “stepdaughter” and clicked “daughter.” And, I never thought of it again… We are talking a minute tops of my time. In my ignorant defense, none of my kids are on Facebook, yet, so it never crossed my mind how it would appear on her end; I only thought of what she would see on my end. Until I woke the morning of our maternity family photos session however many days later and learned it shows up on her page as me being her “mother.” I am sure you can imagine the rest…
Out of respect for her mother, she was changed that morning to “stepdaughter” after our family photos just before we stepped into church. My bonus kid in her adolescent levity insisted I leave it, but I explained to her she is her Momma’s only, so “mother” is a tough term to see from another woman about her child. My bonus kid knows with every fiber of her being how innocent that click was. Plus, she knows with absolute confidence my love for her, so nothing else really matters. I know I am not her mother. Her mother is her bond & her look-alike; I cannot nor do I want to try to replace their connection. I am a daughter, too, and I personally know how impossible it is. But, man, I felt like a chump. And, I wanted my bonus mom’s ear.
Regardless of maternal bonds or bonds formed through marriage with bonus moms, the bond is still special. They each serve their unique purpose in their respective homes. Our bonus mom had no children prior to us. We were her kids. She made such an impact on our lives my older brother named his daughter after her, six years after her passing. We are now in the 22nd year since her death, and here I am blogging about her. She was remarkable. To provide a glimpse of the impact she still has on me to this day, I am borrowing another vignette from my original FOUR-TY Days of Thanks from my Facebook posts last Spring. It was the very weekend I just mentioned above. I found myself knelt at her grave, literally bawling my eyes out, and talking to her. I have never done that before (or since), but I was so overcome with the negativity being catapulted at our home it was taking a toll on me. And, I was SO pregnant. To understand more of the strife my husband I endured, visit my post, “Forty Beckons & I Answer with FOUR-TY Days of Thanks” here: https://blendstrong.com/2018/05/22/forty-beckons-i-answer-with-four-ty-days-of-thanks/.
I would have given anything to have five minutes on a park bench with my bonus mom for her wisdom last Spring:
22 of 40 Days of Thanks
25 Mar 2017
Today, my thanks goes to the life we shared with my Bonus Mom, June, 20 1/2 years ago for 13 steady, consistent, loving years. On special days like today, I wish you were here to celebrate with all of us. It is apparent God orchestrated when our baby girl would join our blending family as we tried for 11 months to bring our dream to fruition. There is no better month for her to share her birth than with you for it symbolizes much about our lives today. I was pulled to this spot today, & I don’t stop by here often simply because it is just too hard for me. The last time I came by was when we had the pleasure of throwing our eldest’s 14th birthday party. She makes me think of you often & how well you Bonus Mommed; you were the best at it, graceful. In a world so cruel, confusing, selfish, & irrational, you maintained your composure, commitment, dedication & mostly selfless love. It is the latter that enables us all to believe in the beauty & miracle life brings. Our girls may not have gotten to personally know you, but they know you for the example you left behind. Thank you for making my Pops & his world your top priority. Thank you for loving us four kids & seamlessly making us your own. Thank you for never fearing the obstacles that came our way. Most of all, thank you for being a calming grace in our lives… your grace still has a way of solidifying our roots to the core foundation of our family today despite us all living strong, vibrant, independent lives that God intends for us to. You were a work of art.
#junebug #bonusmomwascoinedforyou #fourtydaysofthanks
Here is June with us four kids just after my high school graduation donning her wig. She had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor three months prior after brain surgery to remove the tumor. The diagnosis was terminal. The cancer began attacking her body and lymph nodes with melanoma. We had just another five months with her before the Lord called her home.
Here she is with her signature ability to be a kid with us. She jumped in to take a picture with Santa and her kids (us). I still can hear my Dad’s boisterous laughter. You can almost hear all of our laughing in this picture.
I loved her ability to be so easy going and lighthearted; a quality my husband maintains for our home today.
Yes, after stopping by her gravesite and strolling down memory lane, I was swollen faced at my baby shower for all the tears, but I felt a sense of understanding as a bonus mom, felt more secure as a mom, and was ready to give all three of our girls their sister. When the next day came and I learned I had made a fumbling mistake, I handled the situation more graceful than I had handled chaotic situations prior. Why I ended up at her gravesite the day before made absolute sense. I felt her hand upon my back as I went through that experience; that innocent experience. And, I literally have been considering writing Facebook a letter telling them to add Bonus terms to the Family list.
Many of you bonus moms probably have similar experiences where your intentions were misunderstood. Hopefully, you have learned to be more considerate of the mom. Many of you moms may have felt your child/children’s bonus mom has overstepped her boundaries. I challenge you to take a step outside of your box and see it from her perspective.
If you want to laugh, cry, and open your heart as a mom &/or bonus mom, I recommend you watch Mother’s Day (2016) with Jennifer Aniston and Stepmom (1998) with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. Both. So. Good!
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