Mine is not the typical family – but I think it is a special one in that we have chosen to be a family.
First there was me – the oldest of six/seven (including my sister through marriage) with a large extended family around me. Then I moved to Chicago and my brothers moved to different places and everyone was scattered.
Then I had my son – who resides with me now while he completes college. He moved back up here to help us after all of my close family had moved away. Chris was born in Chicago and then we moved back home when he was three years old. Mom and Gram were here and so were my sisters.
Chip entered the family in 2001, and I lost Gram in 2002. By that time my brothers lived in western New York, Georgia and California. My sisters lived in Georgia, Massachusetts and the youngest lived over an hour away from me. (She is still my closest blood relative to me in terms of distance.) Mom lived near my sister in New York. All of Chip’s family lives in New Jersey.
In 2005 we got our three nephews – who we consider to be our children as they have been with us most of their lives. Chris lived in Texas at the time. My Mom moved to Florida three months later. That left Chip and I and the kids pretty much alone here until Chris returned in 2006.
Our boys lost their parents through abandonment, which has affected each of them differently. Because they lost that family, we wanted to make sure that they grew up with a sense of family – of belonging and of being wanted.
We have done that in a number of ways. One, we started to bring them to church. This gave them an entire community of folks of all ages that cared about them and watched out for them. As each one makes their First Communion they get a Parish Friend who becomes involved in their lives. Markus got Nancy – who adores all three boys and never forgets them on the holidays. Jesse has Sharon and Jerry, who have CHICKENS!!! How cool is that. They got Mary through both church and the dog rescue – she is godmother to the two youngest. Mary is there every Christmas morning when they wake up to share that excitement with them and picks them up for playdates at her house where they hike and make cool things and play on her Wii with her.
They met Bob and Dot, neighbors of ours, through there. Dot makes gingerbread houses with them and takes them to the free movies at our public library. And Micki, who runs the Sunday School program, is their nurse at their pediatrician’s office. They are welcomed each Sunday with hugs and kisses and a feeling of love. They have a church family.
They also have Auntie Elaine – one of my best friends who adores them and who they adore. She brings them camping and showers them with presents and cards and goodies and is the oldest’s godmother. She is my chosen sister and their chosen aunt.
They have their extended family in New Jersey – who is their blood family, but who chose them over their mother after the mother abandoned them. They – as a group – said these boys are our family and we won’t walk out on them. And our boys adore them all.
And they have us. We did not bear them. Chip always says that the one good thing is that no one can say that we were crazy enought to have three children right in a row – because it is crazy to do that. We feel like we are going non-stop and the issues with raising three boys with such close ages are constant. How to be at two-three different ball fields at the same time when their games are held in parks 20 minutes apart.
How to make it to 3 cub scout meetings on the same evening. Finding hotel rooms when traveling where everyone can fit in one room.
Keeping up with everyone’s homework. Keeping the oldest from being a bully because he is bigger and stronger than his brothers. Keeping the youngest from being a bully because he thinks he won’t get in trouble for smacking his brothers because they are bigger than him. Holding a sobbing child on your lap as he works out the pain of why doesn’t his Mom even call him.
Sometimes it feels so overwhelming. But we wouldn’t do anything different.
When I married my husband I already had an adult son. We went into this knowing we weren’t going to have children – HAH!!
So life doesn’t always happen the way you think it is going to happen. And there are times when we still think about where we would be in our lives if we had not chosen to be a family with our boys – but we don’t think about it long because we would never have chosen differently.