You remember growing up in the 90s (and probably before then) having “play cousins” and your mother’s best friend was automatically your aunt/uncle? Those non-biological folk were some times more kind than blood kin.
That’s not the kind of fake family I wanna focus on though. Last week I overheard an 8 year-old telling his mom about his niece. She stopped him mid-story and asked “What niece?” Then she ran through a list of names asking after each “Does ____ have a baby?” until ultimately she questioned “When you were born, did your father have any other kids that you know about?” To which he answered, in classic 8-year-old fashion, “I didn’t know ANYTHING when I was born.”
Although his response made me chuckle, I was slightly bothered by mom’s questioning. As I stated in ‘Ties that Bind’ I didn’t know my sister existed until I was 10, because Buddha didn’t know either. (Her mother confirmed that a couple Christmases ago) This little boy’s mother tried to end their conversation with “I hate when people do that! All this fake family stuff!” It didn’t seem to matter to him. I could see in his face he already accepted this baby as his niece and it didn’t matter how fake his mother felt they were.
“Why does Daddy keep doing this? Always confusing people!”
Another reason it bothered me is because, I’m kind of part of that “fake family” category. This past Christmas, Step Dad #1 invited me for Christmas Brunch at his mother’s house. Almost all of his kids were there and one of his cousins happened ask “Who is the oldest?” To which my eldest stepsister replied “WE ARE” the rest of us chuckled, but this cousin was perplexed and wasn’t ready to let go. We all giggled as she continuously shouted “You ain’t $#!+” and “You’re a fuck up! You just fucked up” in astonishment as Step Dad #1 claimed the three of us, his 25-year-old non-triplets without explanation.
I guess it stopped being funny, because the second eldest and middle 25-year-old said “Why does Daddy keep doing this? Always confusing people!”
Those words stuck around and stung me. It was as if I was watching this Christmas scene with the ghost of Christmas Present, because for a moment I was no longer mentally there.
This wasn’t the first time one of my stepsisters made me feel like an outsider.
About 4 years ago, my eldest stepsister was babysitting the middle 25-year-old’s son. He has autism and was about 2 ⅟2 at the time. I was feeding him rice from some Chinese food I had. So naturally a two-year-old is giving his undivided attention to the food. Annoyed and not yet aware of his autism, she took his lack of eye contact personally & said “She’s not your real aunt anyway!”
I’m no fool. I understand how biology works. It didn’t make it hurt any less.
Last week I wanted to blame my mother. Not just Buddha, or his siblings, but all of the mothers involved for not keeping me united with my biological siblings.
On Christmas, I wanted to be angry with my stepsister for thinking Step Dad #1 was “confusing people” by claiming me as his kid. He was around for my first days of school & Kindergarten graduation and when I first learned to read. He didn’t even know she existed until we were fourteen, or at least that’s what he claimed.
But it’s not my place to be angry with any of them. I consider my stepsisters to be my real family. I’m proud of their accomplishments and disappointed in their down falls.
I guess maybe they aren’t as accepting as that 8-year-old boy I overheard last week.