– “Doctor…Choosing ice cream flavors can be a real challenge—takes a lot of negotiation.”
Maria X. is a nice middle-aged lady that has been married twice already and has offspring from both relationships. She has two teenage daughters for her first marriage and Victor, her present husband, has two teenage sons from a previous bonding; they both had had a small daughter. Nowadays the family relationships cannot be solely explained by the traditional tree as there are more crossed relationships from remarried partners, homosexual marriages and adopted children.
The typical image of the stepmother as “a witch bent on mischief on her adopted children” is far from the reality sur le champ where young kids get oftentimes more attached to a close mother figure that their more distant biological one. Similarly, young children often revere more a father figure that helps them with their homework or plays baseball with them than their biological one. Sometimes the breakup of relationships entails the forced adaptation of children to another hearth and to another company without having much say in their parents’ sexual and amorous choices.
The assembly of these composite groupings occurs rather spontaneously as there is not a rational pre-planification of “who will be who”; the gregarious nature of humans makes us seek company. Everything is not always rosy as there are power disputes as in any large human grouping, eventually creating internal cliques and sub-groups; their genetic similarities will not guarantee that Maria’s two teenage daughters will see eye to eye in all their daily choices and dilemmas. She told me that one of them is much closer to the eldest son of Victor and supports him passionately.
Planning their daily chores, their weekend leisure activities, their yearly vacations and something as mundane as who gets to enter the bathroom first in the morning must be negotiated carefully. The members of the group must develop varying grades of tolerance for each other all the time. First of all, the parents must learn to love and show their sincere affection for children who are not biologically related to them but share the same hearth besides present and future family objectives. The siblings must learn how to be equitable in their dealings with each other, avoiding clannish attitudes that might damage the overall trust that young people demand from those close to them.
According to Maria and Victor, sometimes they have rough moments but so far, they have been able to avoid intractable situations that would poison their daily interactions; the fact that they are both professionals earning good income and with extensive social connections made a difference. They claim that their extended family is just a microcosmos of the much more problematic and larger inter-ethnic and multi-cultural environment of South Florida where we all live at present.
We wholeheartedly agree that this family constitutes a great example of how people from different backgrounds can eventually learn how to coexist in a closed environment for the common good. It is only natural that we tend to seek the company of people who are similar to us in the private sphere, especially when we are seeking a steady couple relationship. Things run much smoother. However, we should take a more open and tolerant attitude when we enter into the public sphere.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.