Until a bomb drops.
Let me first remind you that little guy is 11. He's not 5 or 15, he's ELEVEN. Oh, and he's my genetics so naïveté just happens to be synonymous with his name.
We rolled south this weekend for my first born nieces wedding. It was so amazing it deserves its own blog so I'll give it that.
As we visited with my nieces family Friday night, little guy began to ask a few questions. I could see it was going to be the start of a very long weekend!
He started with a fairly simple one, although quite telling.
"Mom.. Woody is my Uncle, right?"
To clarify, my sister in law married Woody 20 years ago after her marriage to my brother.
"Um, no buddy. He's not related to you."
I could see the wheels spinning. Little guy has always been one to strive for understanding- a true Libra in every sense. He wants to completely comprehend things around him but just like his momma, he struggles with the gray aspects of life.
"Well, Aunt Lori is my Aunt, right?"
Ugh. I could see his disappointment mounting in his question.
"Not exactly, honey. Lori is your Aunt's sister but that doesn't make her related to you."
My guilt began to set in. My family tree is more like a willow- multiple branches, intertwining moments on occasion... In short, confusing for even an adult to follow.
So I did the only thing I could think of... I drew a flow chart.
Yes, you need a flow chart to follow my family. It's awesome.
He sat silent, perplexed. There were people on the list he doesn't recall ever meeting. I immediately began to think of the 7 or so brothers and sisters of my father that I have never even met (not to mention the multiple cousins I'm sure I have). I didn't feel guilty, just to clarify. I own every single decision I have ever made in my life, whole heartily. But I did feel sad for him.
Wait a minute. Hold up. Sad would imply that any of those people on the list above would have celebrated his talents and successes, hugged him through his pain and disappointments, been there if he ever needed advice or a helping hand. My family doesn't exactly work that way. It's far more obligatory than vulnerable and giving. Well... towards me, anyway. So I certainly wouldn't expect it to be different for him.
My family is complex, like many that I know. It's as if once my parents divorced, the flood gates opened to my siblings and I to try out marriage and dissolve the first ones if it didn't work, which we all did. I'm not totally proud of that, by the way. I had assumed in my childhood that you meet your sweetheart, you marry for life and die together old and gray. Apparently not, in our case.
As I found myself struggling to make sure little guy understood our family dynamics, I realized something very important in the journey. It is what it is. He doesn't need to know every detail of every relationship and the dynamics within it. He doesn't need to know anything about hurts, words or actions of any of these people.
What he needs to know is this: family is what you MAKE it. Relationships are what you nurture, work on and continue to develop into a very mature, safe place. Most importantly... he doesn't have to FIX anything. He doesn't have to change who he is. It just is what it is.
We spent the weekend laughing, dancing, loving and feeling loved by a family. Little guy has new cousins, new Aunts and Uncles and even new Grandparents that have embraced him. As we drove home yesterday I couldn't help but notice how quiet the car was. It's as if he was soaking it all in, revisiting the new memories we had just made in his mind. As his sleepiness started to get the best of him, he asked a single question:
"Mommy, now that Jess is married to Bradley, does that make him my cousin?"
"Yes, buddy. He is now your cousin for the rest of your life. Isn't family awesome? It comes together in some of the most unique ways. God is really good to us."
"Yes mom. He really is. I love my new family."
Out like a light, smiling in his sleep.
Sometimes life doesn't come together the way you think it should. Some people aren't exactly what you think they should be. Family is important, for sure. It just sometimes manifests itself in a way you could never, ever imagine if you allow yourself the opportunity.
Have a great week, friends.