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Get out the blender!

September 19, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
Like many of today's families, my family is as blended as a fruit smoothie. Each ingredient is vital, adding to the diversity, complexity and overall flavor.

Today is my stepson's 18th birthday. Emma's big brother, Chris, has been living in a Columbus suburb for several years with his mother and two half-sisters. While he enjoyed the benefits of a well-funded school system while there, we didn't see very much of him. Now, he's back in Martins Ferry for his senior year, and although he's not so thrilled about it (who is thrilled about having to move schools for their senior year?), my husband and I are delighted to have him living close by again.

It's hard to believe the little towhead with the squinty smile and Lego fascination whom I first met 11 years ago is now of voting age. He has his own car, a longtime girlfriend, and is a diehard fan of the Dave Matthews Band and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

I applaud his mother, father, grandparents and first stepfather for the excellent job they have done in raising Chris under some of the most difficult of circumstances. And while I can take no credit, I still feel very proud of the young man he has become. His intelligence and athleticism astound me, and I pray he will continue to make the good choices that will ensure him a bright future and success in every facet of life.

Emma is smitten with her brother. Every time he is around, she goes into manic mode, prancing and dancing around for him and showing off in every way she can. She has only smiles and squeals to offer him and his girlfriend, and she offers them freely! While the 15-year age difference makes him an unlikely playmate, she doesn't see it that way. I hope they will grow closer over the years despite the gap.

Chris's other little sisters are closer in age to Emma, and they have great fun playing together. Their relationship is a little harder to explain. While playing one day this summer, a neighbor asked the younger one if she was Emma's cousin. "No, I don't think so," she said. "Then what are you?" the neighbor asked. "I don't know. Betsy! Am I Emma's cousin?" I answered that she and Emma had the same big brother. "Then Emma's my sister! I didn't even know I had another sister!" She was pretty excited. I said that wasn't exactly the case but then decided not to burst her bubble.

Yes, family relationships can get confusing. My brother has two teenage stepchildren and two young boys of his own. I call his stepkids my niece and nephew. But when we get together with their biological dad, should Emma call him "uncle"? And is their grandmother -- who is also my young nephews' grandmother -- Emma's great-aunt? I guess not, but they are ... sort of.

Then adding to the "blend" are the close friends we call "aunt" and "uncle" even if they're not.

Confusing? Yes. Wonderful? Yes, most of the time.

On the down side, sometimes all these diverse "ingredients" make for a sour smoothie. Jealousy, painful memories, new challenges and personality conflicts are all become part of the mix.

But at best, having a big family means having support in times of need, plenty of shoulders to cry on and lots of people to fill the house for special celebrations. The more people we can count as "family" the better.

And when it comes down to it, we're ALL family, right?

Fruit smoothies for everyone!

P.S. Sleep update: Emma still is having trouble at night, not wanting me to leave her room. Last night, I was so tired and she put up such a fuss, I let her sleep with me. She has ended up in our bed every night this week. I'm hoping this is just a phase!


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