I always thought at the age of 42 I would be married, have children, own a house, have a few pets … “be living the life”. I had so many ideals as to how life was going to look. Of course after the first separation (from Shahni’s dad) I knew I’d ruined it. After my divorce (from the younger three’s dad) I was ashamed, felt guilty – I’d cheated my children out of a “family”. At least that was what I thought.
I had a recent experience where my son’s friend was having trouble at home. Typical teenage boy stuff – nothing too worrying. It turned out that he wanted to spend some time with us, just for a break and I was happy with that. I spoke to Mum, who was most upset, and promised I would tell him how loved he was and how much she missed him. I also thought I would add some of my own thoughts in there. I tried to explain to him how lucky he was. I got a blank stare. I pointed out that he lived with both of his parents, under the same roof! How many of his friends did he know that still had that? He thought for a while but came back with that blank stare. So I needed to explain further …
My children, all 4 of them, do not know what it is like to live with both their parents under the same roof. They never will. They will only ever have memories of packing bags and going in between houses. Different rules, awkward dinners, different rules in each house and the feeling that one house is just a house, the other is home (the difference is huge!). Not to mention the moods that start to drop, knowing they have to stay away for the weekend, go to school from one house and go home after school to another. All things that children with both of their parents in the same house don’t ever have to think about. Having to have two birthday celebrations, two Christmases, two Easters … can sound like bliss for those that don’t live it. But is exhausting for those that do. Then there is the step parents, the step siblings – this can be really challenging for some children. And no child ever likes the family court process. No child ever says later in life “hey Mum, hey Dad, thanks very much for that. I really loved that court hearing, the counsellors, the lawyer for child. Thanks heaps!” That is something you will never hear. I can guarantee that.
So while this young teen came to stay I had a discussion with my oldest daughter Shahni about him, his situation and how “lucky” he was to have both his parents in the same house, loving him, caring for him, wanting to be there for him. At which point, Shahni started to cry. And it broke my heart. Like the many times I have witnessed the sadness from all my children … why? Because they will never have that. They will never know the collective, wrap around love of a mum and dad. And it hurts me, because I know I am the cause of their hurt. I hate making my children cry … I can only hope that when/if they decide to be parents that they make the very best go of it. I hope that they all find someone that they genuinely love and care about. Someone that genuinely loves and cares about them. Someone they know shares their same values, dreams and aspirations. Someone that will go on that “parenting journey” with them. At least then I know my grandchildren have a better chance at a family lifestyle than my own children did.
I’ve read many an article about the NZ whanau and what that looks like nowadays. Families are no longer mum, dad, 2 kids and the family dog. Families can have 1 mum, no dad. 1 dad, no mum. Two mums. Two dads. Nanny and Papa. Aunty and Uncle. There can be up to 4 generations of one family living in the same house. There is no rule. In our house we are a blended family. Also quite common. We have between us, 6 children ranging in age from 27 to 14. A grandchild on the way. The blending wasn’t necessarily easy, though all children have survived. Fortunately we have great kids that have open minds.
I’ve always said it takes a village to raise a child. I will never take all the credit for how great my kids are. They have been so lucky to have a lot of kind, caring and influential people in their lives. I was lucky to have had so many people around us all to support us. Especially through the tough times. And there were tough times.
There are a number of luxuries available to everyone in 2018, whanau being the most important.