Sunday, June 7, 2009

"My" Andy

It's always a bit tricky when we're first meeting a new family. Most children Jake's age have no idea what a stepfather is. "Is that like a grandfather?" one kid asked. Not exactly.

When I first started meeting new people at Jake's school, I overcompensated and over explained. Jake's dad lives in Montclair, I'd say. My husband is a teacher, I'd say. "We're a perfectly blended family," I'd say. As if I needed to defend our family. Of course, I didn't. But there's this underlying need to let people know that just because you're divorced, doesn't mean you come along with chaos. (And for those of you still in the middle of divorce chaos, trust me, I was IN the chaos. I know, I really do. And my heart goes out to you. And though I'm not ever going to go into my breakup with Cason --gotta respect the boundaries -- I promise you it was mach 10 chaos.)

So after a few weeks of my detailed family backgrounds, I realized I was the only schmuck giving a family history before a playdate. There was nothing to be ashamed of. We weren't criminals. We were just divorced! So I decided to stop with the 20-minute introductions. Look, there are no rules to a blended family. You have to make it up as you go along.

Needless to say, Jake went on a playdate with a new boy. At pick up, the mother, a very sweet woman, wanted to chat. Here's how it went.

HER: Are you remarried to someone else that's not Jake's dad?

ME: [Laughing] Yes. Did Jake tell you?

HER: Well, he told us he went to see "Kung Foo Panda" with his Andy.

ME: [Laughing, again, now more] And did you know who his Andy was?

HER: [Laughing too] First, I thought his Andy was a grandfather. But then Jake started talking about light saber fights with his Andy... and I thought, wow, this grandfather must have a lot of energy. So I asked him, "Jake who's your Andy?" He said, "My stepdad."

Of course, the other child needed a bit of an explanation. Jake helped him out by saying, "I have two dads. One real dad, and one stepdad." Jake took on Andy as a possession, just all children do with their parents. My mom. My dad. My Andy. It was an incredibly loving gesture, and Jake's way of fitting Andy into his life without replacing either of his parents -- but especially his own father.

And I love this mother. To this day, she still refers to Andy as "Jake's Andy" -- even when she's just talking to me.

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