Introducing my new son: Liam Galbraith. 6 lbs 12 oz. 21 inches. Happy and healthy.
I am 47 years old and have 4 sons aged 19, 16, 13 and just a few days old. Ten years ago, I could not have imagined how my family has changed. At that time, we were “mom, dad and three sons”. Now, we have new titles: ex-wife, ex-husband, step-son, half-brother, step-mother in addition to mom, dad, sons and brothers… oh and “step-grandmother”, “step-great grandmother” and more! The list of titles has become quite long.
I have mixed feelings about these titles.
After I separated, it was important that I be very clear that only two people could use the titles “Mom” and “Dad” in our family, regardless of any significant others that came into our lives. I guess I felt a bit insecure about some newcomer trying to usurp my role as a father. Now, I am not as concerned with these titles; I know that our boys know in their hearts who is their mom and dad regardless of any new partners. But, I guess I like the title and would not want to share it.
“Step-mom” is a loaded term. It seems to go along with the term “evil” as a result of some nursery rhymes. It is not a title we regularly use. My kids call my wife by her first name. But, if a teacher or someone just meets my wife and looks quizzically at her, wondering how such a tiny, young French-Canadian woman could have such huge, teenage boys, my son might say “oh… she’s my step-mom”. One teacher said in response “Oh. I see. Parents are getting younger and younger every year!” We had a chuckle.
The title “ex-husband” or “ex-wife” also has negative connotations. Perhaps it comes from the natural inclination to find blame with someone, or maybe it just feels so exclusionary – like we are just part of the past. We may not be married but we still parent three sons together so communicate regarding parenting decisions almost daily. In a way, she’s still part of my family. So, I usually introduce her as “the mother of my boys” – because that also describes our ongoing parenting relationship. (Hmmmm with the arrival of Liam, I may have to alter that introduction a wee bit!)
Liam has three “half-brothers”. I too have a half-sister but you would never know it. She’s “my sister”. To me, the term “half” suggests she is half-sister and half something else which begs the question “what’s the other half?” In fact, my sons did not know she is technically my “half-sister” until my father’s funeral this past May. To me, she has always been and will always be my sister. Period.
Titles help others understand the complicated nature of our family but they don’t tell you anything about the state of the relations. Sometimes “dad” means “source of all wisdom and humour” but lately I think it may mean “embarrassing old goof”. Either way, I know my boys love me deeply, even if they prefer I sit in another room occasionally! …. Whatever….