Four of the last five weekends our oldest granddaughter Katie has stayed with us. She has an open invitation and Paul and I always enjoy having her here. At 17 she drives herself to our house but before she had her license she would call and Paul would pick her up. Her sister Madeleine has come along a couple times but even at 15 she is more of a homebody and likes to have her mother close by.
We never do anything all that special. We usually eat at home, have gone to the movies a couple times, and one Saturday she came along with me to show a few houses but mostly she's just here. She's helpful, more than she is at home I venture to say, without being asked.
I remember spending time with my grandparents when I was a kid. I have great memories of the special time when my grandmother would fuss over me a little but mostly I was just there, too. I hope we are making memories like that for Katie. She'll be starting college this fall so I know these visits will be over soon.
Katie is the oldest of our five grandchildren. Five that Paul and I are Grandpa Duck and Grama Sandy to. Katie and Madeleine belong to my stepdaughter Pam and her husband Geoff. My stepson Paul and his wife Martha have three; Travis, 14, Julia, 12 and Alex, 8. They all live close by which is great. Travis has stayed once but no regular sleepovers. That seems like more of a girl thing anyway.
Paul and I have what I call a blended family, and I am so proud of us. I love to talk about how the family has evolved and grown and how well everyone gets along and enjoy each other's company.
When we got together his son was 20 and still living at home. Pam was 22 and had just finished college. The summer after college she spent working and living on Cape Cod. Within 6 months of starting our relationship Paul and I were under contract to buy our own home and were each selling our individual houses.
When we moved, Paul came with us. Within a couple months, Pam came to live with us, too, and stayed a few months until she got married. So I went from being single, living in my own house with my cat and dog to an instant family of four, and I had only met the kids a couple times before the move. I'm sure it was a big adjustment for them, too, although I don't ever remember any difficult moments.
In nearly 25 years we have gone on to become a family that includes great-grandparents, grandparents, and in-laws of all variations. Notice I don't attach 'step' to any of the grandparents, you can never have too many grandparents. I do say stepmother when it comes to Pam and Paul, Jr. because they have a mother, and you only get one of those, but we have special bonds and relationships.
They have always been wonderful about sharing their kids with my parents, and the grandkids have been a bright spot in my parents', especially my Mom's, lives. Pam and Paul's mother lives nearby, and she has always been very gracious about sharing her children with me and my parents as well. I have always given her the respect her role deserves, never tried to 'mother' her children and I think that is key.
Here is the crux of my thoughts about our family. You can do it if you want to. I love to talk about us and how well we all get along. There was that day when my husband came home and there at his kitchen table sat his daughter, wife, ex-wife and ex-mother-in-law. I remember he just made a funny noise, shook his head and kept walking. How many families could have such a moment?
When the kids both got married, everyone was involved. There was never any question of who sits where, keep that one away from that one, who doesn't speak to whom, etc. Holidays are fine, too. Christmas Eve is usually the immediate family at our house with the kids, grandkids and my mother. Pam and Geoff traditionally host Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day dinners which works well because she can have both of her parents there along with Geoff's parents, siblings and their families. It becomes one big very well blended and noisy group. We all genuinely enjoy each other's company.
When I hear people talk about how fractured their families have become after divorce I feel badly and love to tell our story as an inspiration of what you can do if you try. I know every family is different and every divorce is different. But the fact that children need their family, all of it, doesn't vary. When you share children you have a bond for life, like it or not; do it well or not. But if you don't find a way to get along, the kids will suffer and you may miss some wonderful moments.