A whole new generation

Last Sunday hubby and I headed over to Worcester to my Dad’s house. We always look forward to a trip to Worcester, but this weekend was destined to be even more special because we were going to meet the newest addition to our clan. My youngest brother and my sister-in-law have become parents! How exciting!

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Isn’t she beautiful? This is the first time my hubby has held a baby for seventeen years, and hence the first time I’ve seen the phenomenon! If I was troubled by the ticking of my biological clock this probably would’ve advanced it a few hours (I’m not – someone forgot to wind it up!) He did a pretty good job of it, she slept like, well, a baby, perfectly happy in his arms.

I chartered my ship in quite the opposite direction, and it was the right navigation for me, but there is something so special about welcoming a new little life into the family, and I did so enjoy little baby cuddles.

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My hair looks weird! No idea what happened there (I’m going to the hairdressers tomorrow, all will be rectified). I’m sure I don’t normally look this old either, I blame the comparison with the youngest recruit! Anyhow, I’m not the important one in the picture.

Also meeting baby E for the first time was my oldest (but still younger than me, as most people are these days!) brother, my other sister-in-law and their little girl, my other niece, V. V is absolutely delightful! Like, really, heart-miss-a-beat amazing! I’m annoyed that I left without taking any photos of her, so I’ve pinched one that someone else took.

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There were lots of giggles caused by some of the completely innocent things that little V said (very eloquently I must add because she’s a very bright little girl – must run in the family 😉) but by far my favourite was when she addressed hubby as Aunty Colin. Brilliant!

I’m so glad that my Dad and C are Grandparents twice over because to see them with their two Granddaughters is really special, and they are so obviously relishing their new roles. Just look at how Dad’s looking at V above. Makes me feel really nostalgic because I can remember him looking at me just like that (not that he doesn’t still, but, you know, I’m a bit too big to hang out with him in a den these days!)

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Again, this isn’t my photo (hope it’s ok that I’ve used it) but I just love it. I almost feel like I can remember being held like this in those very arms. My earliest memory is at eighteen months old so I think what I’m probably half remembering is one of my brothers being held like this, or maybe one of my younger cousins.

I’m aware that I’ve used the word ‘special’ a few times in this post, and normally I’d go back and replace some instances with synonyms to avoid repetition, but I’m not going to on this occasion because special is the right word in every case. I know the weekend was very special for everyone, and I’m so glad we could be there. I’m a very proud Aunty (as is my hubby!)

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It’s a family thing

I’ve mentioned this topic a couple of times in previous posts, but I promise I haven’t been trying to tease you. It’s a very important topic which is absolutely integral to who and how I am, and I so want to do the topic justice and I also want to make sure that I don’t cause any upset to the characters of my tale so for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking really hard about how to write it.

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Always a Pooh Bear moment for everything!

I want to explain, but without making light of anything that may have happened or anyone’s feelings. I don’t recall ever speaking in any great detail about this with any of those involved, so this will be the first time they’ve been aware of things from my point of view. Hopefully this will be a good thing!

I am completely a product of my parents. All four of them. Yep, you read that right, four of them. So, you don’t have to be Einstein to work out that there is at least one parental divorce (conscious decoupling to the Gwyneth Palthrows of the world) in my background. There are in fact two of them.

The first was when I was tiny. Really tiny, without a hope of reaching the grasshopper’s knee in fact. I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened, and I don’t need to. I suspect I was far too engrossed in the very important business of growing teeth and figuring out how to climb out of my cot to analyse what was going on around me at the time. I don’t have any recollection of it.

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The second was twenty years later. By this time I was in possession of a full set of teeth (minus four I grew that were surplus to requirements) but actually still hadn’t mastered getting out of bed in an effective way. I guess I understood a bit more of what was going on this time, but with hindsight I don’t think I had enough life experience to fully appreciate the heartache and how difficult the decisions were that were being made.

Both biological parents were remarried by the time I was five, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have four parents, other than the odd snippet here and there.

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For me this is a perfectly normal situation and it actually seems really odd to me that I have peers whose parents are still together. I guess they might consider me the unlucky one, but for me I feel that they’ve missed out on things that I’ve had in abundance. I’ve always had the love of four parents, been able to ask the advice of four parents, had four sets of eyes looking out for me.

I hate the phrase broken family. I don’t come from a broken family, there is nothing broken about my family. Broken means faulty, and my family isn’t faulty, it just had to go through a couple of changes to find its optimum format.

I know it doesn’t always end well for the children of divorced parents, but I was lucky in that all four of my parents are sensible, intelligent and reasoned people, and even though there must have been incredibly difficult times for them, not once can I ever remember any negative effect on me. As a child, obviously I lived with one set of parents, but I regularly saw the other set. I will forever be grateful that I grew up before the technological age. These days we can so easily keep in touch electronically, but my Dad and I used to write to each other when we were apart. Actual letters written on tangible paper, with thought put into them. I can still remember the excitement of receiving a letter and knowing it was from my Dad. So much more special than an email.

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From standing here in my boots, I can only see the positive outcomes, by which I don’t mean to belittle the pain that must have been endured to get to this position. As well as two extra parents, I have two brothers, two sisters-in-law, a niece and another on the way, aunts and uncles, cousins, a goddaughter, grandparents, all of whom would have been someone else’s relatives if life hadn’t happened this way. Not having all these wonderful people in my life doesn’t bear thinking about. I have so many happy memories involving these people filling my head with joy, and the very notion that these could never have existed is just horrendous.

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When I say I have two brothers, strictly, of course, they are half brothers since we only share one biological parent, which leads me on to probably my only issue with the whole situation; nomenclature.

I never ever call them half brothers, I don’t call either of my non-biological parents ‘step parents’. I realise that sometimes it’s necessary for reasons of distinction, but to me they are simply my brothers and my parents. I don’t want to qualify that with any kind of prologue or preamble. This does, however, often lead to people not having a clue which Dad I’m talking about! Some people ask me, do you mean your real Dad? Nope, don’t like that! What’s the alternative to that? My fake Dad? No no no! Others give them a number – Dad number one or Dad number two? Again, no! Is it one or two in chronological order, height order, order of greatness? I have found that the mode of distinction that fits most comfortably with me is to define them geographically. I will mention the city in which they live.

Luckily I don’t have this issue with my female parents. My Mum is my Mum and I have always called my step mum (see, sometimes it’s necessary for distinction, however much I don’t like it) by her Christian name, C. Don’t know why this is. Maybe because we didn’t live together or maybe because I was that little bit older when she and my Dad married.

I think I’d make a great study of the impact of nature and nurture. I haven’t lived with my biological Dad since I was tiny, but I’m so so like him, even down to the kind of music we like. That’s got to come from sharing genes. I’m confident in a quietly assured way just like he is, I enjoy playing with words like he does. I’ve found an aptitude for DIY that comes from him (although I have to point out that I have absolutely nowhere near his level of skill). I often make a conscious decision to remain in the background and watch and appreciate my life happening in front of me and I’ve seen him do the same thing on many an occasion.

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I can be stubbornly determined and that’s my Mum coming out in me. I look like my Mum, although she sees Dad in me (incidentally so does my hubby). One of my major joys in life is making and creating, whether it be with yarn, paper or fabric and that’s my mother in me. I am never without a book and neither is she. I was once described by my managing director as stoic and that’s her through and through, as well, actually, as my Granny on Mum’s side.

I’m a natural introvert, that comes from both biological parents, but I have learnt how to be more socially outgoing and engaging by watching my step Dad (eugh, again necessary for distinction) interact with people over the years. This has been vitally important for success in my career. He has always guided by example but never forced an opinion on me and that taught me to think for myself, but to realise that just sometimes other people might know better because although they aren’t in your shoes, they have walked in very similar ones, and did so a long time before you even grew into your shoes.

From C, I have learnt caregiving. When you are in her company you just feel nurtured, and although we don’t have children to look after, I try to emulate that in my relationships with the important people in my life. She makes sure that her house is ship shape and Bristol fashion and that it contains everything you could possibly need, from Diet Coke and crumpets, to comfort and love. She manages to be thoughtful at the exact moment that you need it. She is also supremely organised and I like to think that some of my organisation skills have come from her example.

I really REALLY hope that I haven’t said anything to trivialise any events as others experienced them. I’m aware that a lot of what I remember, I’m remembering through the rose tinted brain of an uncomplicated child, because that’s what I was. This is testament to a happy childhood. That is what I had.

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These events happened around me, not to me. I guess what I mean is, I’m very happy with how life has turned out, and while I wouldn’t wish hurt on any of my parents, I wouldn’t change the present for the world. It’s just perfect!