Oddly enough, I was just going to write something in my journal about family. My uncle's niece was killed last week. She's not a blood relative, but we spent so much time with her growing up & shared Thanksgiving with her. I was so proud of my family to hear that my entire side went to her funeral-from young people up to my 84 year old grandfather. Blood or not, she was family.
My family doesn't have a rigid definition of who is or isn't family. My feelings got really hurt last summer by a friend tried to insist that my step-cousin wasn't really technically family b/c we're not related by blood. I've known her since she was 4 (she's 27 now). It blows my mind that people would consider her little sister my full fledged cousin because we share DNA, and not her sister. I love them both the same.
The DNA thing is only significant to prevent damaging intermarriage. Otherwise, it's a poor indicator. I'm certainly not related by blood to my husband or his family, but they are considered my family by tradition and legal rights. Why should that inclusion stop there?
My ex and I had a completely blended family (his, mine and ours which was oddly enough adopted) and yes the kids needed reassurance because my step-grandaughter was 4 months younger than my (adopted) son. It was especially confusing because my (then) husband was 10 years old then I, I was 10 years older than his daughter and she was 10 years older than my oldest son. We finally had to stop depending on titles meaning the traditional things and just focus on who we were in the family scheme of things.
Sometimes the kids' need comes out in defiance, sometimes they isolate themselves and sometimes you just don't know.
Good on you picking up on it instead of just assuming the kid was a brat.
I like kids and respect them, so I try to listen to them. Like all adults I sometimes get too busy and don't do as good of a job as I should, and I have very little tolerance for kids who won't communicate, which is at times a failing on my part since they are the ones who need the extra attention. But I do try.
Very good lesson, that :) Nice going!
In some ways I do better with kids than with adults.
Coming from a family of six kids in which none of them are full-blood siblings, this is something that's very dear to me. My dad had a younger half-brother and he always insisted that they weren't half of anything, and I felt that way about my sibs, too. (My stepbrother and I are not close because we're something like 20 years apart in age, but he's still my brother.)
With the pain of losing Bruce so recent, it would have been so easy to shush her and slap a bandaid over the pain of holding a family together when the center is gone (we've struggled with this since my mom died, and it's been 9 years now). Good on you for being able to talk to her and sort everything out - both for her sake and for the sake of everyone struggling to carry on when hearing words that cut so deep.
We flew back on the anniversary of Bruce's death. It was only spoken of briefly, but it was very much in the minds of all of us. So I was very glad to be able to reach out to Morgan in a way that helped her understand.
I'm sure that whatever was said that made her think last names were all that counted was something she took out of context - it happens all the time to kids. I'm just glad Pat asked the question that helped me figure it out.
Wow. I love how you get it right down to the bone. You rock and thanks for sharing this.
2010-08-03 01:24 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'm missing some tone of voice, or history of similar behavior, or maybe it's something to do with you knowing the result by the time you started writing, but when I read this I didn't hear "hurtful" (i.e., attempting to hurt another) in Morgan's declarations; if anything I heard "hurt."
But I suppose that's easy to say when you're not there, and it's not your recent bereavement.
In any case, good on ya for catching it.
I don't think any of us thought she was saying it to be purposely hurtful, but she is the kind of kid that will tell you that black is white and then stick with it past the point of humor and into real defiance - something she was doing with other topics in the midst of all this. So we were just hearing Morgan defiance at first and missing out on the confusion and worry. That it hurt us was a function of the proximity to Bruce's death - we flew back on the first anniversary of the day he died.
I'm glad I picked up on it, and that Pat asked the question that let me figure out how to explain it in terms concrete enough for her to grasp.
I agree that you were right in this instance that the niece was family. After all, once you get down to the niece/cousin level, the connections are fairly elastic.
I have, however been on the receiving end of a claimed family relationship and I still find it creepy. Without getting too deep into a nasty divorce story the 'connector family member'(my husband's dad) deliberately estranged himself from the family. He remarried but my husband had no relationship with his stepmom. After we had a child, this step-mom-in-law wants my daughter to call her grandma because she always wanted a girl. Um, no. Family is defined by more than blood, but it does need to be earned in some way.
That is a hard one, because it's close enough that her claim makes some sense, but demanding that kind of intimacy where there has been no relationship shows a total lack of sensitivity and the kind of pushy rudeness that would make me react the same way. Ick.
My daughter Amelia (age 6) asked that about my father - how were we family if we didn't have the same name. I think it's something that becomes a bit confusing around that time. I shared with her that I used to have my father's name as my last name, and I did still carry it as my (now) middle name. I also told her that families are changing things, and I had gained two brothers when my father and stepmother married when I was in my 20s. She had her mind properly blown with that one.
It may well be something to do with that age.
Well done. Conversing with small people is often the best way to help them.
(And sometimes it doesn't work. Two of my great-nieces have decided that I am weird because I "talk funny," meaning, pretty much, "like a white woman," and nothing I can do can convince them that no, I actually talk like some black people do, and it's not weird.)
Doesn't mean it's not working. Even resistance can be worn away by repetition.
When I was 3 or 4, my invisible friend was named "Angie Sherman".
Sherman is my siblings' last name. So yeah, I do think it's the age. You start noticing those things.
That's the thing about kids.. it's so easy to dismiss what they're saying as childish, but a lot of the time they're just trying to figure out the world around them.
I'm sure that once you explained everything it made BOTH of you feel better.
It is easy to ignore kids, and too many people do. We definitely felt better afterward.
So you explained it by saying, "I got all my sisters with me!"
God, that's awful. I'm so sorry.
2010-08-03 07:53 pm (UTC)
I'm mostly upset that I didn't think of it first.