Updated: Mar 9, 2021
I admire motherhood. It's a lot of work, which is probably why I don't want to do it. That's a half joke, but for reals, I often have self doubts over whether I have the patience to do it. My mother was not a patient person and when I look back at my childhood, she was a domineering and controlling figure who often demanded perfection. I have no intentions of following in her footsteps, but on the positive side, she did instill a lot of discipline and a strong work ethic in me. She also gave me an invaluable gift of "adopted" grandparents. "Adopted" is in air quotes because there was nothing legal in this arrangement. My grandparents just behaved like grandparents to me. They are of a completely different race than I and whenever I was with them, we would always secretly laugh at how people were visibly confused at my presence in this white family. My grandmother was a good friend of my mother's. My parents dealt with fertility problems and my grandmother was a strong support system for my mom when she went through fertility treatments. These treatments were the 1980's version of IVF, where results were nowhere near guaranteed and pretty much a crap shoot. My grandmother would recount the many months my mother would cry when she got her period and how elated my mother was when she finally got a positive pregnancy test. Because of their relationship, my mother asked my grandmother and her husband to be my grandparents. My biological grandparents lived in other countries and I rarely saw them. Any time there was a "Grandparents Day" at school, a graduation or important event, they were there to represent. They were my grandparents. So I have an entire family that isn't related to me by blood, but I was mostly treated just like one of them. As a kid all you want to do is feel accepted, loved and that you belong. It would hurt every time someone said to my grandmother that I was not her "real" granddaughter. Unfortunately, we had extended family members that did not approve of my "adoption" and arguments would happen. My grandmother would just shrug them off and then reassure me that I was her grandchild, and I will forever be grateful for her generosity. I would say that this is the closest experience I have where I can relate to being a bonus child in a blended family. A child is not only an extension of their parent. In fact, where they're from does not define who they are. I think adults forget that they are an individual with their own thoughts and feelings because they can be easily influenced. I just wanted to be a part of my grandparents' family when I was around them. I would forget that I didn't look like any of them. So I treat my youngest bonus daughter the way my grandmother treated me: with love and acceptance.
So Rucka, as a kid, couldn't you tell that you guys were of different ethnicities? Couldn't you tell that you were different? Children don't see color. I certainly didn't until I was a teenager. Didn't other kids ask you why you all looked different? Yes. But our answer to that question was, "We look different, but we're a family." I am in an interracial relationship. My youngest bonus daughter is of a different race than me. The proof I have that she doesn't understand the concept of race and color is the day when she saw a picture of Disney's Princess Tiana. She pointed to Tiana and said, "You look like her!". I am Asian American. For those familiar with the story, Tiana is African American. So, no. We look nothing alike. Of course, I said, "I look nothing like her!" My 5 year old then pointed and said, "This part you do!". She was pointing to Tiana's boobs. Okay, fair, can't argue with that! My child saw boobs first, not color. Race was nowhere on her radar. She could have pointed to Mulan's boobs and said mine looked like her's, but she didn't! In fact, if you look at the cartoons, Tiana's bosom is quite flattering whereas Mulan's ... I'll take Tiana's boobs over Mulan's.
What if you love the man, but you're really struggling to feel love for his child? I totally get that. I did not and currently do not want to be a mother for my 5 year old. I would say that it's a natural feeling for a woman to not want to be a mother to any child she didn't give birth to. It's a little different with my 16 year old. With my 16 year old, she has her mom, already has a life, opinions and she doesn't necessarily need another mother figure. To her I'm more like the cool baby sitter with whom she can talk to about things she doesn't want to talk to her mom about. With my 16 year old, being a bonus mom is a lot of fun because I don't have to be disciplinarian at all! I get to have all the fun, her mom does all the hard work (and sometimes her dad does too, but he was more "Weekend Dad" for his older kids). With the 5 year old, there is a lot of anger and resentment on my part towards her mother. My 5 year old's mother seems to be checking out, so I've found myself in the position where I've had to step up and be that motherly figure. My boyfriend has also stepped up his paternal game because if the primary parent isn't raising her child, who else is going to? (More details on #3 in another post.) I'm angry that #3 is dipping out because A) she's essentially giving a soft F you to her daughter and B) her family network and my family network has been completely inconvenienced by her irresponsibility. We didn't give birth to this baby girl! Why is the responsibility of this little girl's welfare left to everyone else but her biological mother??? Yes, I hear the argument of, "Well then her father should be taking care of her!" which is what's happening. But the original agreement that everyone understood was that we'd all be sharing the responsibility of child rearing. Insert Philosophy #1 "There are always exceptions to the rule". So yes, we're doing what we're supposed to be doing: Dad is stepping up while Mom is checking out. Just because this is something that's "supposed" to happen, it doesn't mean that we can't be pissed off at the same time! There's also an inner dialogue that I have that screams at #3. Please note, reader, that what I'm about to say is strictly from an emotional place. Emotions are usually void of rational thinking. So please keep that in mind when you read what my inner dialogue rants:
"You immature b*tch!!! You couldn't get my boyfriend to commit to you so you had a baby to trap him. It didn't work so now you're going to check out because your child didn't do what she was "supposed" to do and get you the man?"
Also, this: (Which is also super irrational)
"Why did you have to have this baby? It would be so much easier to handle my boyfriend's family life if you had just left him alone with his two older children. Let me, the one who he wants to commit to and have a future with, have the baby! You just f*cking made this all messy!!!"
Yep, angry. Angry, angry, angry, angry, angry. And if anyone is ready to leave a comment that says, "Well your boyfriend is also responsible for bringing the baby into the world and he should've done blah blah blah blah blah..." I'll know that you did not thoroughly read what's written here. I'll repeat, just in case the people in the back didn't hear it the first time, these rants are coming from a purely emotional place that's devoid of fairness and logic! My boyfriend bears a lot of responsibility in this and there isn't a day that goes by where he isn't reminded of this. There's a lot of resentment that I'm working through and I know that it will take time. I believe that if you acknowledge a feeling, regardless of how petty and unreasonable it is, sit with it and allow yourself the kindness to feel the feeling, it will pass. Note: Allowing yourself to recognize your feelings doesn't mean you'll act upon it. Like I said in my earlier posts, I like #3's personality. Her immaturity is what's causing my feelings about her to be complex. I don't think she's a bad person and I believe that I can find redeeming qualities about her while raging about negative behaviors at the same time.
One of the major challenges I had to wrap my mind around was the concept that my youngest bonus daughter was not necessarily an extension of #3. For my first year of being around my youngest, it was difficult for me to mentally separate her from her mother when she wasn't with me. It made me dread her visits every other weekend. When she would finally arrive for her weekend with us, her personality would remind me that she was her own person. I had to really make the effort to remind myself that she was not an upgraded version of #3. My bonus daughter was a unique individual who was innocent of all adult manipulations and games. My 5 year old was a little girl who through no fault of her own, was put in this blended family and expected to adapt. Remembering that she only wanted love and acceptance allowed me to put my resentment aside. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my maternal instincts were still able to kick in and allow me to mother this little girl, despite my feelings of rage against her mother. The two feelings were able to co-exist in my mental motherboard and my negative feelings have not hindered my ability to love this girl and treat her with the kindness that she deserves. I would say that venting to a friend out loud about how angry I was helped. I called #3 every name in the book out loud. As a result, I would say that a majority of my anger has subsided. I will say that if you are a new bonus parent and you're inwardly struggling to completely embrace your bonus child, give yourself time. Be kind to yourself and surrender to the process of opening your heart. Children are essentially baby adults and if you remember that they are people who will grow up, it's easier to love them. I recognize the impulse to secretly cut your bonus child out of family pictures because you want to build "your" family, but keep in mind that this is wrong and hurtful behavior. Your bonus child is part of the family that you married into and know that they want you to like them. Put yourself in that child's shoes. If you got cut out by your new bonus parent, how would you feel? When I think about this, it reminds me of those family members who would lecture my grandmother about how I wasn't her grandchild. I don't know why their opinions were so important over an issue that didn't really affect them. I wanted to be a part of my grandmother's family and she wanted me to there. I wasn't taking anything from their family and these extended family members seemed oblivious as to how I felt when I heard them. Is your bonus child really taking anything from the family that you're building around them? Remember that children will grow up and have their own opinions. They'll eventually understand and see the truth of the situation. If you hang tight in the uncomfortable moments, your bonus child will eventually recognize how selfless and generous you were to accept them. I believe in this because I'm witnessing my hostility diminishing. The more love I pour into my bonus daughters, the more I'm getting back in return.