I talk a lot about our kids. My two sons are from a previous marriage and my husband’s son is also from a previous marriage. And for those wondering, obviously I recognize that my step-son is not “my son” but that doesn’t make me immune to protective and mothering instincts.
I’ve been lucky enough to watch “J” grow, albeit from a distance, over the last eight years, and I confess that I’m completely smitten with him. His quick mind and generous heart are a wonder to behold. I am utterly grateful to have found Chooch, and that we were able to make a path to each other through painful broken marriages. The greatest gift beyond Chooch’s love has been J.
Being 9 when my sister was born, the mothering instinct was nurtured in me as I helped my busy parents care for her and keep the house running while they both worked full-time and went to college. It’s impossible to keep my heart from melting against the uber-cuteness of children with their wide eyes and even wider hearts. I’m sure I appear rude to friends that I tend to greet the kids before the adults, but I just can’t help myself.
All that aside, there is a very special place in my heart for my brother’s kids. While his two sons are his biologically, his daughters are actually step-daughters that have been in our lives since they were about 2 and 4 years old. Fast forward 18 or so years, and it’s just family as we know it. In fact, after his marriage to the girls’ mother ended he didn’t even question whether or not to continue supporting them in his home for a long time before they moved out on their own.
I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve always lived very close to my family, so we’ve always shared holidays with my brother’s family and children. Until recently, this included Easter and Thanksgiving but now primarily means Christmas as relationships and circumstances have evolved over recent years.
This Christmas will be a tough one, as it is the first that I won’t see my beloved nieces. One moved to Montana with her husband and child (Baby J) and is expecting their second child. My other niece moved to Nebraska, where her mother and mother’s family lives. Neither have plans to return to Virginia for Christmas.
I’ve been in denial about not having these two darling spirits at the family dinner, snacking on giant olives or fussing to get huge slices of my cheesecake as they fill me in on the new things in their lives. Yes, I took special time with them before they moved away to teach them to bake the secret family cheesecake recipe for themselves, but it’s not the same. It will be the first Christmas that I can remember in about 18 years that we’ll be apart from them and their crazy ways.
I remain selfishly grateful that it appears as if my oldest nephew will not be starting his military career until after Christmas. I just want one more with him before he goes off into the too-dangerous world. My younger nephew is only six months older than LT so we expect many more family Christmas parties with him. *crosses fingers*
But seeing the boys is complicated now, as they will also visit their mother for a portion of the school break. Coordination is underway for my two boys to be in Virginia before my nephews leave to visit their mother, but it’s not a definite. These four boys have been best friends since birth, and I hate that they will likely only see other other twice a year rather than every other weekend or so.
And, yes. I know these are natural changes. Children grow to adulthood, if you’re lucky, and they go off in the world to make their own lives. I just didn’t expect two of them to do so within a month. But life is about change, and I either have to adapt or wallow in sadness. And I refuse to wallow. Life is far too short for such foolishness.
In trying to embrace the changes, I’m laying plans with a family friend for a spring road trip to visit my nieces, sometime between their birthdays and the birth of my great-niece. I get teary eyed just thinking of having another beautiful girl in the family and can’t wait to meet her. And once the semester ends, I’m going to have the time to take my nephews to lunch or movies or whatever other bribery is necessary to carve some time out of their lives. They are boys, after all.
So I raise my glass of decaf iced tea and toast all the wondrous children that I’ve been lucky enough to watch grow over the years. They are each a constant delight and shocking surprise as they evolve from wee little ones. They may not be mine, but I carry them in my heart just the same.