My extended Family

Thanksgiving brings home the reality of my current family situation. It is a litmus test of whether I feel warm and connected to the world or whether something is missing and needs to be addressed. For me, at this time, this year, I can reaffirm to myself that my current family configuration is in fact quite a happy one. Perhaps this surprises some people because I am a divorced mother of four grown children and my Thanksgiving meal included, among others, my former husband, his current wife and their two year old daughter. I am currently unattached.

So, why am I happy?

The simple reason is that I like what I have and I have what I like. My children, though grown, are a frequent presence in my home and on Thanksgiving, they come home and occupy their former bedrooms and the house is full of life and fun. The Thanksgiving meal itself is only a small part of the pleasures of the weekend, which center around the cooking, the planning, the rejoicing in our reunion, and the cleaning up. The shared purpose makes these activities glorious, even if some of them seem like (and are) chores.

This year was the first that my former husband and his new family came for Thanksgiving. He proposed that we spend Thanksgiving altogether and I immediately agreed. Since I have a more extended family group each year, I wanted to continue the tradition, and suggested they join us at my place. My former husband’s suggestion to do Thanksgiving together followed upon his suggestion and the very successful execution of our spending two weekends all together at his (really his new wife’s) summer house. Those weekends told us that we were on to something. We had not had such a fully satisfying and connected family feeling since we were an intact family. And in fact, I’m not sure we had ever had it to this extent. Because as an intact family there were squabbles and disagreements and below the surface dissatisfactions between him and myself. But on these two weekends, there was no cause for unhappiness among the group. We were thrilled with the pleasure of the shared company.

In addition to the pleasure I derive from my children, there is also a pleasure in seeing my former husband. Perhaps it is not universally true or perhaps it is not universally acknowledged, but former husbands and wives continue to have many of the feelings they always shared. There was a reason they initially married, and part of that reason inevitably continues. So, perhaps there is no longer romance, but there is still the appreciation of the other’s wit, shared experience, quick mind, unique perspective, and the like. In addition, when one has spent 25 years with another person, that person is not only a family member, but one of the main family members. The pain of divorce is that this is no longer always acknowledged. But why should it not be?

Then there is the new child. Children can be a wonderful glue. There is little we all agree on so readily among the larger family as that my former husband’s and his new wife’s daughter is a treasure. We all dote on her. How I am related to her is not important. She is the child of my former husband and the half sister of my children, and in my world, that makes me connected to her.

Aside from my connections to my children, my former husband and his new wife and child, there are other aspects of my life which satisfy me. I am independent, make my own decisions, follow my own schedule, develop my own interests and make my social life the way I want it. I am free to pursue any relationships I want to pursue and have the independence to do so. I believe that those are the things I want, and I have them. And when one has what one wants there is no need for anger, resentment, dissatisfaction or any of the other things that stand in the way of happiness and that foster acrimony.

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