In our blended family it is seven-year-old Miles who’s the glue. I think he belongs equally to the rest of us—or rather, we all belong to him.
Our little house in the woods is home to my husband Derek, Jalen, Miles and me. Together we navigate school and work and living in a small town in rural Ontario. We are ingrained in our local community and love living up north. Every few weeks, 16-year-old Jalen takes the bus to Toronto to see his dad, Dave, who lives in the city core. The bus ride is long, but it takes him almost door to door. At 6ft and 215 lbs, I’m okay with him navigating Queen Street on his own.
Every day we talk to my daughter D’nea, age 20. She is living with my mom (Grammie) in Markham while she goes to University. Sometimes we all go there to visit and sometimes they both come here. This group—Derek, Jalen, Miles, Mom and D’nea—makes up my thanksgiving dinner table every year, and really is our core family.
To D’nea and Jalen, Dave is also immediate family. When Dave and I first separated, the kids lived with us each for half the week. We set up equal time with each parent, following the new trend in joint custody at the time. It was Jalen’s kindergarten teacher that informed us the arrangement wasn’t working for our four-year-old. He was demonstrating a need for more structure and less change at home in order to be more settled at school. We switched to full time at mom’s house, with dad getting every other weekend. This was a hard transition at first for us adults; for Dave there was a sense of loss, for me there was an increased feeling of single parenthood. Over the years we have worked it out, only because Dave, Derek and I have been able to put the kids first, keep the conflict mostly in the world of adults, and treat each other with respect.
Not to be left out, Miles has decided that Dave is his immediate family too, and Dave has reciprocated that affection. This summer, Miles was able to visit Dave at his apartment and swim in his pool. Last Christmas, Dave joined the rest of us for Xmas Eve which made it pretty magical for all the kids.
It’s only in the last couple of years that we have been able to blend the important celebrations—D’nea’s high school grad, Jalen’s 16th birthday, football game championships, etc.—as the children challenge us to come together and the issues of the past fade further away.
Miles was born into this blended world, and so to him it is normal and secure. He was “our” baby. He softened “step-dad” into “dad.” He demands equal love and attention all around. He will call D’nea himself and ask when he can sleep over. He will demand of Jalen “When are you going to spend some time with me?” He will run up to any of us sitting side by side and yell “nudge” as he squeezes himself into the middle. He has somehow equalized all the other family dynamics because at the end of the day, from his perspective, he is at the centre and we are his family.