Our family not only survived our first Thanksgiving without a divorce decree, we managed to do it with a lot of fun and humor along the way. Over the past thirteen years we have done a pretty good job of avoiding the two families splitting the actual holiday, opting instead to rotate between families.
This year, Jax asked that we change the schedule mainly because of logistics; he was home FIVE short days with a very long list of people he wanted to spend time with including the respective extended families. To squeeze everyone in it meant splitting the holiday.
Jax and Little Hart joined our family for an early dinner which included my brother's families and my parents. Then a late dinner with his other family. Our dinner was loud, filled with chaos and laughter! An atmosphere that both Jax and Little Hart had a hard time breaking away from to head to the other household. Always a good sign!
As we were seated around the table - you would have never guessed that this was a melting pot of families. We fit together like a glove and in a lot of ways better than many traditional families.
Thirteen years ago, Raylan and I made a conscious decision to raise our three youngest as siblings. Both of our extended families treated the kids as our three kids, their grandkids, their nieces and nephews from day one. I don't remember ever asking them to do so, they just opened their hearts to the kids. The kids immersed themselves in their love and freely loved them back.
All three kids call my parents Grandma and Grandpa, my brothers and sister-in-laws - Aunt and Uncle and everyone's kids their cousins. No step involved! The same applies to Raylan's Mom when she was alive and his sister and her children. When my Mother-in-law passed away she left all of her grandkids the same inheritance, specifically INCLUDING Elle as one of her grandkids. Something I never expected her to do. Mary's gesture sent a beautiful message to Elle and the other kids - she was her granddaughter.
I know a number of friends due to the age of the kids, parent objection or just personal preference have chosen to maintain boundaries between the extended family of the step parent and their blended family. Age and parental objection created boundaries with our three oldest and my extended family - the separation continues to permeate everything fabric of our relationship. It's like getting together with the cousins twice removed......
Having seen the positives of our extended family involvement - I know it was the right decision for our Family of Five. Our extended families love and support gave us a support system that allowed us to be a family - rather than a family with a mile long disclaimer clause.
Our extended families will always be apart of our three kids life whether Raylan and I are around. They have emotionally connected with the kids and they have connected back.
As we sat around eating, laughing, enjoying each other's company - I was extremely thankful for the crazy ride we took to get to this moment - our entire family together for the Holidays. It doesn't get any better than that!