I’m attending my eldest daughter’s wedding. As a mom, she will add wife and stepmother to her list of titles. Today is a reminder that familial status is a diversity dimension that I live personally and experience professionally in my legal career on a daily basis. Here are a few observations.
1. Children in Blended Families. For the children, it doesn’t matter who they are related to by blood. They just need to know there are loving, supportive adults present in their lives.
2. Adults in Blended Families. The adults have to really act like adults and sometimes it isn’t easy. You have to put the children’s need center stage. Biological parents have legal rights and responsibilities. Stepparents, not so much. When adults use their words, remained focused on the outcome of raising well adjusted kids, make commitments that align with that, and keep those commitments, they can solve most issues.
3. Explaining Family Ties to Others. It may be complicated and sometimes awkward explaining the family ties in introductions. Mike Brady did you adopt Marsha, Jan, and Cindy or are they your stepdaughters? I don’t know how they became the Brady Brunch. Making introductions without explaining the family history works for me. I know it may leave a perplexed look on the face of others. But really do they need to know who actually fathered whom. If so, why?
4. Court systems were not designed with families in mind. Judges can rule based on precedents and statutes, but families need mire than decisions that determine who’s right or wrong or who owes whom something to function on an ongoing basis. Court do not have the expertise or resources to govern the ongoing relationships in a family unit. The blended family is even more complex and beyond the court’s design. Mediation, family counseling, and other systems are able to help each family address circumstances with their unique needs and interests when the adults involved need help. For me, Imago with Jesse and Melva were right on time. (See https://www.yourtango.com/experts/jesse-and-melva-johnson.)
Families are not a monolith and the images of what family means continue to expand. The common threads are love and commitment.
Of course, there are many more lessons I’ve learned and with the wedding there are certainly more to follow.