My sense of Family has changed in the last half year, and in more than one way. I'm still wrapping my head around it. I'm still working out what this new paradigm means for me and my children and all the other people who now trail out in increasingly complex connections to the core.
I used to consider my core "family" to include everyone connected directly by blood, with no remove. My parents, my sister, my brother, my sons. The Ex teetered on the edge; he was connected by marriage, but not by blood. We were family...but not completely. Many times I chose my parents and siblings over him. I didn't fully realize that this is what I was doing, but somewhere in my subconscious I recognized that I had never completely cleaved to him, in that biblical sense that is not so much sex as it is transference of priority and loyalty. Yes, we are to honor our parents. But we are also to LEAVE them and become one with our partners instead.
I never really did that, not completely. I was torn between the two. Looking back, I realize now how many problems that caused in that relationship, how it prevented a fundamental connection from forming.
With MTL, that foundation was formed. Sadly, it's even challenged a bit. My parents and sister don't approve of our unmarried cohabitation, and it has already become a silent barrier rising between me and them. I found myself telling my mother that as much as I love her, she and my father and my siblings are my extended family. MTL and the family we are forming? That's my Family. If I were forced to choose--and God forbid it happens, but there it is--I would choose MTL.
But...it's not as simple as that. Because we aren't a simple nuclear family unit, MTL and our children and me. We come with pasts and Exes and family connections that stretch the links. My boys are with us half the time. His son is with us most of the time, except for every other weekend. His daughters are only with us every other weekend, although with the current tension between MTL and The Dark One we're not sure when she'll be back in our home.
And then on his side there's his Ex, with her husband and the daughter she has with him. On my side there's The Ex, and he also has his girlfriend. Whom I know, as she has been his friend since high school and I used to be quite friendly with her, in the Long Ago.
This weekend brought a good bit of this new reality home--ironic, considering it was a weekend without kids, a weekend when MTL and I could be Us Together for long lovely hours and days.
Saturday was my goddaughter's fourth birthday. Her parents are one of my closest friends and the closest thing to a best friend The Ex has. So MTL and I attended, and before we could leave gracefully, The Ex showed up with DramaBoy and The Widget. And his girlfriend.
So I found myself in a slightly awkward group of four adults, greeting each other, with The Ex eying MTL uncomfortably (they've only met once before, very briefly) and his girlfriend chatting quite comfortably with me and MTL.
I had to hold back the giggles.
Later, MTL and I were discussing Halloween plans in the car (we're planners, peoples) and decided that we may very well end up inviting everyone to just come do Halloween at our complex. It's big, it's child-friendly, and we're the couple at the core of this all. So if everyone agrees...it would be MTL and me, The Ex (and possibly his girlfriend), MTL's Ex and her husband, my boys, MTL's three children, and their half-sister.
That is, if you were counting, potentially twelve people. And that doesn't even include extended family like grandparents and aunts and uncles and whatnot.
A Portrait of the Modern Family.
At this rate, I may need a flowchart just to keep track of everyone.