It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s certainly not easy either.
I have no memory of my biological parents ever being together. I know that they were at one point because I have two older siblings, but even their memories of a nuclear family unit stop at a young age. I’ve always found it so difficult to talk about because I never want to come across as ungrateful for what I have. I love both of my step-parents just as much as my biological mum and dad, and I was quite lucky to have them come into my life when I was still so young. But it’s the unknown – something I’ve never experienced and something that I know I won’t ever stop craving.
There’s still so much I don’t understand about my parents’ relationship, but I’m ok with that because it’s not mine to know. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realise that sometimes staying in a relationship can have the potential to be more destructive than the process of ending it. Again, I count myself lucky, because I wasn’t put through the torture of watching my parents rip shreds out of each other – I don’t even know if that’s the sort of break up they went through. My older brother and sister might tell you a different story, but this is my version.
Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you how much I idolise my dad. He’s strong, inspirational and honest. He encourages me to always do my best (and exercise, but I usually ignore that bit) and constantly reminds me that I’m capable of so much more than I believe. No, he didn’t make it to every parents evening – but then neither did I. He’s been there for me when it’s mattered and that’s all I could’ve ever asked for. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a pushover and has never tried to overcompensate for not being able to see me every day. He’s told me off and punished me just like every other parent does, I was nervous to introduce my first boyfriend to him just like any other daughter is and he’s pulled me aside when I’ve become too lazy just like every parent should. I guess what I mean is that my dad is no less or more of a dad to me than my mum is a mum.
And well, my mum is one hell of a woman. For six years, it was just Mum, Danielle, Christopher and me. She raised the three of us, kept a roof over our heads and worked a normal job. She took us to Disney Land, Legoland, Marwell Zoo, paid for our school trips, packed our school lunches, bathed us, ironed our uniforms and honestly I don’t know how she managed to keep it together. I go out of my mind even thinking about what to have for lunch and it takes me a good 45 minutes to move from my bedroom to the shower (it’s literally one step away). If there was ever a problem, she’s dealt with it. She’s taught me that you have to make the best of the cards that you’re given and that you can’t rely on someone else to play the game for you.
Just like any other kid, I love my parents unreal amounts – they have built the foundations for my life and I will forever be in their debt. They also do my head in, but their support will always outweigh the number of times that they make me want to scream.
They’re amazing people, but they’re also human and so I don’t blame them for anything; I’ll never hold any of it against them. I had a great childhood, and I hate to think that some people might read this and think I’m ungrateful because they have no idea how privileged I feel to have grown up the way I did.
But the truth is, sometimes it sucked. It really sucked. They spoke through us, “tell your mum this”, “tell your dad that” and then got mad when we got the message wrong. It sucks having to tell all the bad news twice, and it’s exhausting having to phone up every family member individually to talk about the achievements. It can be tiring to travel between houses at Christmas and to make sure I have enough time for mum, dad and myself on my birthday. It’s hard to find a bag big enough to pack all my stuff into when I stay over, compensating for every possible situation. I don’t write big paragraphs on Facebook for Mother’s and Father’s day because of how awful it might be for my step-parents to see. It’s frustrating to try and make sure I call to catch up at a convenient time for everyone. And it’s sad, because no matter how hard we all try, there’s always something we miss out on, something we don’t know about each other. Weekly ‘how was your week?’ conversations become repetitive. I want the mirror from my room at dad’s house in my room at mum’s house. It all sounds so selfish but do you know how crazy it gets to have to make sure you tell all of your parents every time you get a good grade, or to feel bad for calling one before the other on New Years Eve. Every decision you make you have to make twice, sometimes even four times over to ensure that no one is left out.
I get mad because maybe I wouldn’t have had to go through all the things I have if I had lived with my dad. I wouldn’t know the same people, I wouldn’t be the same person.
I’m happy. And there’s no proof to say that if my parents had stayed together, that they wouldn’t be having those same problems now. Everything could be so much worse. I get double the presents, double the holidays, double the support. I have four parental figures to go to for advice; four wonderful people who have raised me to be the person I am today. My dad lets me cry it out and my mum forces me to face the harsh reality of life. I’ve got the best of both worlds and so do you know what? Bring on the crazy, the exhaustion, the effort. Spending a little extra on presents, phoning them to talk about nothing, it’s the least they all deserve. I won’t pretend that they get it right 100% of the time, but they don’t do that for me either. At the end of the day, they’ve all done their best to make sure that I’ve been given the best start in life, and that’s all I could’ve ever asked for.
You don’t get to choose your family, and I think that’s one of the greatest things about life.