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Possumhaw: The grab bag family

 

Shannon Bardwell

 

You don't get to choose your children. You can choose to have them or adopt them, but you don't get to choose who they are. They come pre-packaged with temperament, personality, intellect, a sense of humor ... or not ... and physical characteristics. Like a grab bag, you get everything in the bag, sight unseen, and all sales are final -- no returns. You are now the proud recipient of the bag and everything in it. 

 

The exception is stepchildren. I often refer to my stepdaughters. I cringe at the sound of the word "step." Cinderella gave step-relations a bad rap, like they are somehow second class, when the truth is they were chosen for who they are; they came with observable characteristics that you don't get to choose when children come to you by way of birth or adoption. These girls were chosen for who they are -- and they were completely potty-trained, I might add. 

 

Saying "step" is just a way to honor their mother, for I have had nothing to do with who they are either by nature or nurture. Studies show by the time a child is 5 years old, barring any traumatic or life-changing event, they are who they are. So these girls were well-entrenched with their individual characteristics by the time I arrived on the "stepmother" scene. 

 

At some point in building a relationship with a child's parent, you realize this child will become a big part of your life, hopefully a forever part. And at that point you can either decide that is what you want for yourself, your future spouse, and the child, or not. If not, you walk. If not, you better walk. 

 

If the parent is a good one -- and you don't want to choose a parent to be your spouse if they are not a good one -- then you understand that all the people-parcels come together, it's a package deal.  

 

Some call such families "blended," but I don't believe in "blended" families, any more than when a child comes home from the hospital and "blends" into the parent family. On the day the man and woman face each other and pledge, "All that I have and all that I am, I give to you," that includes the kids, honey. You are now a family. And like the moment that infant child comes home you begin the work of being a family. You've got the job.  

 

The good news is that no one has to be without a family. Anyone can make one: a birth family, extended family, neighbor family, friend family, church family, school family, work family, writer family, artists family, etc. Everybody can have family. There's no reason whatsoever for anyone who wants a family not to have one. You just open your heart and arms, and just like that pre-packaged grab bag, it is yours for the taking. What you do with it is up to you. 

 

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is msdeltachild@msn.com.

 

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.

 

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