My child's father and I are divorced and we have each re-married. That means my child has four parents: a mother, a father, a step-mother, and a step-father (we often use the term bonus dad, too). That means there are a whole lot of people who love this 11 year-old, who want the best for her, and who have a very vested interest in her development and progress through pretty much everything.
We tell her that having four parents just means more love, more support, and more homework help.
How we divide up responsibilities varies by topic, but we all contribute financially, drive her to various activities, encourage her to practice her instrument, talk about what books she's reading. You know - we all parent.
That means that yes, we are all going to go to the initial orthodontist appointment because we're all going to need to know and agree to the (crazy expensive) treatment plan, the financial info and about turning the expander daily. If only one parent goes, sharing the information can turn into a game of telephone.
Communication is tricky, so why not take out the middlemen and have all of us get the information at the same time, straight from the horse's mouth? Yes, that may mean all four of us in one place, but then we're literally on the same page. That's the goal here.
The same goes for school conferences. All four of her parents want to know how she's doing. We all want to know what she needs to work on and how we can help.
All of us want to see the dance performance, even the little Halloween one dance done at the end of class.
Another reason she often has four parents at various events is that we want to send her a message that we are all interested, involved, and very committed to her success. One sure fire way to convey that message to her is showing up. So, that's what all four of us do. We show up.
What's concerning is the reaction to use when we all show up.
Some people handle a kid showing up with four parents without batting an eye. I am exceptionally grateful to them because their reaction is rare. More often, the responses range from mild surprise to visible and clearly articulated shock and awe. What really irks me is the numerous inappropriate comments made in front of my child.
I wish we could get to the point where teachers, medical staff and others whom we encounter in positions requiring regular work with kids don't respond with "Whoa!" and act like having four parents is bizarre.
Such reactions send my child the message that she is different. She's already well aware of that fact; you don't need to reinforce it. Instead, consider offering us, and especially her, some support. Isn't having four caring parents better than the alternative?
Given the divorce rates in this country and the subsequent high rates of remarriage, there are a lot of kids in a similar position. Our family dynamic is not unheard of, and it would help a lot if people who interact with our family could handle it in the normal course of their business.
I know that dealing with numerous parents may make some uncomfortable. But all the people who have had the strongest, more negative reactions to our quartet are people who deal with parents on a regular basis as part of their jobs. I'm confident that they can handle us, all of us. People need not telegraph their discomfort. We do not have horns, no need to look at us as if we do.
We are there to support our child. We can do that best when you keep your personal reaction to yourself and instead seem comfortable with, and perhaps even positive about, us doing our job as parents. I'm not asking you to do that for me, I'm asking you to do it for my daughter.
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