Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stepdads and stepmoms

My parents have been divorced for 16 years now. I am not an advocate for divorce but it was the best thing for them and for us as a family to do. My parents never fought, at least not in front of us so when they told my brother and I that they were going to get separated it came as a real surprise. But on the other hand both my brother and I could always feel the tension between them and watch our Mum get sicker and sicker (she was suffering from severe panic attacks at that point and had had nervous breakdowns.)

They got divorced in October and in December my Mum started dating Mayo and they have been together ever since. Mayo had just gotten divorced himself and was a single father to his son Simon, who is the same age as my brother (and therefore three years younger than I).

Mum and Mayo have been together ever since, for the longest time they did not live together, first because both of them still had to take care of their children and once both boys had left to live by themselves they continued to live alone. They had also always said that they would never get married. This all changed in April 2005 when Mayo asked Mum to move in with him and marry him (out of the blue for all of us) and they got married in October of the same year.

I have known my Stepdad for 16 years now and my relationship with him has changed from a "you are my Mum's new boyfriend, I don't know if I can trust you" relationship to a "you are my Stepdad and I love you for that and I honor your advice" relationship.
About 8 years ago - when I was still living in Canada - I had flown home for a surprise Christmas visit, I had a dream. It was the night before I had to fly back to Canada and I had to get up at 4 Am to be at the airport in time for my 6.30 flight. I dreamt that I called Mayo "Papa" (German for Dad). I guess that's when I realized that even though he was only my Mum's boyfriend he had really started to become a father figure to me.

Don't get me wrong - I love my biological father and I have a good relationship with him, but he is remarried with a little daughter and I understand that it is very important for his wife to be a family - just the three of them. I know that he loves me and that I will always remain his firstborn daughter, but still, sometimes I miss having a "place" in his life.

It must be hard for children with divorced parents when both parents get remarried and have children together and want to be a family. I guess I would feel really lost if I did not have a place to come home to and to call a home. While my Dad still lives in the same house we lived in until my parents got divorced it does not feel like home to me anymore. Instead coming home for me means coming home to my Mum's and Stepdad's condo - always having a place to stay in their guest room and always feeling welcome. Even though Mayo is not my biological father it feels like coming home to see my parents.

When I call my Mum to ask if M and I can come home for the weekend - she usually says, of course you can but I do want to ask your father as well - and by that she means my Stepdad.
Having my Mum refer to Mayo as my father sometimes gives me the feeling that I still do have "parents". It used to be really hard for me that I could never speak of my parents as an entity - but now I can. I can say - my parents went to Namibia last year or I am visiting my parents this weekend or my parents are coming for a visit - and I feel completely normal, I feel like marriages can work out, people can be happily married all their life and I feel like I do have a positive role model of how to make a relationship work.

And then there are those Freudian slips - sometimes it happens that I call Mayo "Papa" and last evening I realized that I am not the only one cherishing the fact that he has one set of parents that he can always count on. My Stepbrother Simon's Mum took off to Hawaii after divorcing Mayo and got married there, divorced again, moved to Germany then to India ..... She did not take care of Simon whatsoever and I guess my Mum was the only female role model he had. Yesterday evening M and I met up with Simon for a couple drinks and I asked him how his kitchen planning came along (he and his girlfriend are about to move in together) and he said to me: "We have just been to see the same kitchen dealer that Mum and Dad used for their kitchen." He then realized what he had just said and corrected himself, but I smiled at him and he smiled at me.

So yes, I am happy to have two Dads. They both offer me different perspectives and I can learn different things from both of them and they both love me unconditionally. When M and I have children I want them both to be Granddads and I know our children will be loved by both of them equally. I know my Stepdad will think of my future children as his grandchildren the same way my Mum will think of Simon's future children as her grandchildren.

Even though divorce never is easy on anyone - it really has opened up a lot for this family and made me end up with two fathers.

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