Saturday, November 17, 2012

How do you define family?

My wife and I are usually on the same page.  .  .  except when we most spectacularly are not!  A few days ago she explained to me that she was not comfortable with sending out a holiday picture including Fiona. That Fiona was "not our daughter" and although she was family, because she is Rob's bio sister, I was not facing up to the facts.  Well that is sort of the cliff notes version.  It was a pretty long and extended discussion.  I responded that for me, Fiona is my daughter and I am committed to her and in relationship with her in that manner.  I could not dictate how my wife saw their relationship but neither could she dictate mine. I feel strongly--all right more than strongly--that you hang in there with kids for the long haul.  I also see family as defined in a wider array of situations these days.  It is absolutely true that Fi is not legally my daughter and it is true I have not raised her in the traditional sense of the word.  But it is also true that she looks to me as a mom, asks counsel of me that is typical of kids from parents and craves the support and acceptance of me as a parent. The fact that she lives at school in the Big City is very superfluous and does not make me not a parent. There are other kids at the school who also don't live at home.  There are other kids that are day students.  Again, that does not define the role of parents in the lives of the children. I also pointed out that ALL the kids view Fiona as a sister, not just Robbie.  The littles are as excited as anyone that she is coming on Christmas Eve.

I was pretty hurt by the conversation but we ended it all civilly and she went up to bed.  I was too restless to continue work so I went up as well and lost myself in a good book for a few hours.  The next morning she said she owed me an apology.  She had chatted on line with several friends who are also foster or adoptive parents and overwhelmingly, the concensus supported my view that Fiona is our daughter and that there is nothing amiss about a holiday snapshot with her in the photo. K said that further reflection on her part made her decide that her feelings stem from unresolved guilt on her part that Fiona had to be removed from our house.  In her mind, saying she could not parent Fiona in our home made her not a parent, and she had not really spent time thinking on this or thinking how to redefine their relationship.  In her defense she is typically working when we visit or call so her opportunities to deepen a connection are more limited than mine have been.

It all wound up so much more positively than I could ever have expected a mere 24 hours before.  I am sorry that K is still feeling pain over the disruption in ways that I have come to terms with over the years.  But I am glad that we had a chance to talk things through.  And I am still glad that Fiona is in our family photo and coming on Christmas Eve!


Sunday Taylor said...

well, i guess it is in the long run that you guys had a chance to get it out in the open and i am glad that it ended the way it did...guilt can have a really profound affect on people.

Lee said...

Guilt is really corrosive. I felt that way for years and have come to realize that I can still be there for Fiona without her being in our home. They are not mutually exclusive. I think K has some work to do, or we have work to do together, concerning how she feels. But at least now I know that.