Family is What You Make It

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Yesterday evening I took my oldest, Alexiana driving. When I was 15 years old my dad used to take me driving on country backroads, so when Alexiana called me and asked me to take her, I knew that’s what I was going to do. Dominique and I picked her up about 6:15 and started off on our journey of 16 year old driving!

For the most part Alexiana did a great job!!! There were a few moments that were a little scary lol but she will get better and better the more she practices!

Ever since I met Alexiana about 8 years ago she’s been a super quiet child. However, from my conversations with her mom she can get a bit of an attitude (which of course! so does Dominique with me). You see Alexiana is not really “my” oldest, but at the same time she is! When my daughter’s dad married her mom about 7 years ago, and even before, I made a decision in my life that I would treat all of my daughter’s siblings with every bit of love in me. And so I did and so I have and so I always will.

My daughter has a total of 5 siblings (2 brothers & 3 sisters) Ok, so now that the background is there let me get to the MEAT of this post! Ten years ago when I was 25, I turned my life & will over to the care of God as I understand Him. I chose back then to forgive any wrong-doing in my relationship with my daughter’s father. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make and still to this day I continue to work on frustrations. But this life is way bigger than my own. As adults we make decisions that affect us and those around us, and when we choose to harbor anger and ill will, it reflects on our children. I’m not perfect, but I try to live life with compassion and love. That doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me human.

For the past 4 years I, with the help of the mothers of Dominique’s brothers and sisters have created traditions for our new family. Twice a year I get all the kids! And, actually I do things with the kids throughout the year, but twice a year we have traditions! On December 23 of each year all the kids come to my house and we make Christmas cookies and Christmas crafts and watch movies. They can’t stand “Christmas Vacation” but I make them watch it anyway because it’s my favorite! lol All the kids stay the night and we wake up Christmas Eve morning and open up presents together! Then, I take them back to their mom & dad’s house where they enjoy Christmas with Mom & Dad.

On the last day of school, I either pick the kids up from school or the house and we all go to the movies.IMG_6912 IMG_6913 IMG_6914

These are just a few of the pics over the past few years – oh see how they’ve grown <3 Cousin Niyah started coming with us after the first year <3

I had no idea when I chose to love these kids and their mom’s, how much my life would change. I had no idea how emotional I would get helping plan Alexiana’s Sweet 16 Party. I had no idea how sad I would get seeing her go to high school. I had no idea that I would be choking back tears when Tyla and Thad graduated from the 5th Grade. I had no idea how much love I could have for other kiddos that aren’t “mine.” I had no idea how much more I would love their mom’s for letting them be a part of my life (Thank you, Laniece & Rissa). I had no idea that I would have the pleasure of taking Rissa to the hospital when she went into labor with the youngest. I had no idea that I would get to pick up Bray from his first day of Kindergarten, or take Alexiana driving!

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You see, God teaches us about love in moments of our deepest adversities. When my daughter’s dad and I broke up two weeks before our wedding in 2005, I had no idea what actual blessings would come from that. I didn’t get married. I haven’t physically had any more kids – BUT – I gained a great new family.

Family is no longer determined like “Leave it to Beaver” – families are often no longer Mom, Dad & 2.7 children. The family dynamic has changed! My daughter has multiple Nanas & Grandma’s, step mom, mom, and 5 siblings! Ain’t she blessed tho!?!?!??! While many people may think “oh that’s too much” I refute this with “how can THAT MUCH LOVE, be TOO much????” Ya’ll trippin! lol

We live in such an evil world. There is so much hate in our Country, our World and down to our very homes….And that’s not the kids fault! So why subject them to hate in their own family when they are going to be introduced to it anyway!?!?!

I’m so passionate about this topic. I was raised with LOVE. I was taught how to love by the women in my family. I was taught how to be loved by the men in my family as well as therapy (oh yes, daddy issues baby, daddy issues lol). I’m not even sure at this point, at 35 years old that I really know how to be loved by a man. Shit, I’m just now learning how to love myself real good and be loved by God. So, I have a feeling how to be loved by a man will come next.

Sharing love to me is the greatest form of living in God’s purpose. 

I can not as one person fill any voids in another human beings life, but what I can do through love, is share with them the ability to seek and find fulfillment within self. I can help encourage and empower. I can encourage the strength we all have within ourselves to love beyond limitations. I can teach acceptance and forgiveness through my actions. I can love unconditionally and teach unconditional love!

Life is hard. We don’t need to make it harder on the babies. We need to encourage them to keep going, to hang on. We need to love them through their hardest moments and talk to them and support them.

Last night as Alexiana drove on old country backroads, the sun was setting in the trees. Dominique was giving her commentary from the back seat. We laughed, we talked…and I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because I was filled with such a sense of gratitude. Kids are AMAZING human beings. As Alexiana shared some frustrations about what was going in her life, Dominique spoke up with her advice. It was a beautiful moment. I got to witness so much in an hour and half. I got to witness an older sister open up about school, dance, family. And, I got to witness Dominique tell her how much she looked up to her. I got to witness Dominique growing into big girl conversations. I got to witness two girls becoming young women, with thoughts of their own.

I got the opportunity to be their friend. Being a single mom is a blessing to me. Is it hard? Yes, of course, but I don’t know what being a non-single mom is like, so this is my life. And, I don’t regret one moment of it.

I woke up this morning thinking about what a blessing it is to share in these moments with these girls. I woke up this morning grateful that God’s plan for my life is greater than one I could ever have imagined for myself. I woke up with an attitude of gratitude that I can share my struggles with beautiful young women in hopes that they can see the strength within themselves.

I didn’t come to these moments alone in my life. God set me up for this! 

My father passed away 10 Years ago this November….but he didn’t leave this earth until he knew that my mom & I would be ok (another blog post for another day lol). My mom married my step dad David, June 1, 2002 – right before Dominique was born. With David came 3 kids, David J, McKenna & Kyleigh. McKenna, who was 4 I think when I met her just turned 21 on Friday.

I have found myself trying to veer away from using the term “step-dad” and “step sister” and “step-brother” because even though they are technically “step” whatever, that simply does not do justice for who these people really are in my life. <3 Being in a family full of steps (from cousins and more) it has truly helped me see that Family is What You Make It!

I now refer to my Mom & Dad when talking about my mom and her husband. It’s not to discredit my Dad. It’s not to say that David is more of a dad than my dad was. My dad was everything to me, and I miss him every single day. But David came into my life and through loving my mom accepted me and ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL my bullshit. I sincerely have to emphasize all my bullshit, because David has gone through my drug addiction and recovery with my mom and that was a tough road.

David has stepped in and loved me like his own, when I didn’t deserve it and when I didn’t love myself. He is who I call when I need something done around the house, he’s who I call when I need to know if a snake is poisonous. He is who I call when I need clarification on politics. He is who taught me that your soulmate can come in your life at 40 years old. He and my mom both have taught me about loving children unconditionally that aren’t yours, through their actions. My mom accepted David’s kids and David accepted us! David is my daughter’s Papa – she remembers Grandpa Bill (he passed when she was 4), but Papa is the one she really knows.

You see we don’t choose family, sometimes family chooses us. That’s a God-thing.

When I was 10 years old I met my brother Nigel. I had spent 10 years of my life thinking I only had one brother, Ryan. But at 10, I met Nigel. A year or two after my dad passed I met my oldest brother Aaron. By this time, I had 2 brothers, a step brother, 2 step sisters, three nieces and a daughter. So my family is all kinds of blended!!!

Having such an awesome blended family has allowed me to see the importance of working together to raise beautiful and well-rounded children. My mom and dad, after their divorce were very cordial to one another. My dad still came to family Christmas at my grandparents house. My Dad & David liked each other so much!!! They had such a respect for one another! And seeing that respect between the two of them set me up to respect and love the mothers of my daughter’s siblings.

Don’t deny the children love.

Although we live in such a hateful world, we ourselves do not have to be hateful. If I weren’t to get along with my daughter’s siblings moms, the ones who would be hurt would be the kids! And for what??? What did they do? Nothing.

Life is not peachy keen all the time. It’s not always happy, it’s not always easy. Hell, it’s horribly hard sometimes. But we have to set up our kids for success by giving them examples of how beautiful life can be even when given situations that aren’t “ideal.”

I know that sometimes Dominique gets frustrated when I let Alexiana do things that she doesn’t get to do yet. Like drive. And she gets mad when I get on to her about how she acts or behaves in certain situations. But, my hope is that when she gets older she realizes that love comes in many forms and from many different places. My hope is that she grows up to be a compassionate young woman, who loves beyond what she thinks she’s able. And, I pray and I hope that all her siblings grow up feeling loved by us all. That they realize one day that we raised them like this because we love them. I hope that they realize their mom’s had so much love for them, that we loved them and each other beyond our pasts to give them the love they deserve.

Family is what you make it….it’s not always what you are given. When all the babies graduate, I will be RIGHT THERE. Sobbing with their moms. When they have babies, I will be RIGHT THERE…When they play basketball or dance, I WILL BE THERE. I will be there. When life is so complicated and so complex for adults, we don’t need to complicate it further for our children. They didn’t ask to be brought into this world, but we can make it full of love for them. We can support them, encourage them and empower them. There is not enough love being shared in the world…and I promise you, I will not be a part of that problem. God blessed me with an infinite amount of love to share with the world and I’m going to continue sharing it with these amazing little humans we brought into this world. We didn’t bring them into the world together, but God sure put us together for a reason!