We look really happy right? Like the perfect little family, cute cuddles and kisses.
Well what if I told you that I cried after this session. And not out of joy or happiness. I cried. HARD. Ugly, red faced, snot coming out of my nose cried. Because this was the last chance we would have for family photos until next summer.
You see, we’re a blended family. Kali, my beautiful little preschooler lives with us part time due to a poorly devised parenting plan I established in an attempt to finalize my divorce with my ex husband. This means that the baby I raised as a single mother now goes to her dads house for school because of the state we got divorced in.
Being a military family we travel and home isn’t always the same place year after year. This makes custody a huge headache and is heart breaking when it comes to trying to raise a healthy happy (blended) family.
I used to be so afraid to talk about it, the fear of being judged, of being divorced in my 20s, of seeking counseling to recover from such a damaging relationship. I could never stand the questions or people giving my husband the side eye because she didn’t look like him.
People would notice Kali’s warm skin and brown eyes and press us on “where she’s from” or “where does she get her skin/eyes from” after noticing my husband, myself and youngest all have blue eyes and lighter skin. It’s not an unreasonable thing to wonder about but it’s not ok for a stranger to ask such a loaded question.
Firstly, trying to tear apart a family based on visible differences makes my head spin. (I don’t recall the last time I asked for someone’s 23 and Me results) yes she looks different. She has beautiful tan skin and warm brown eyes that make your heart melt. She has long, curly brown hair that is a mix of Colombian and Irish-German genetics. But that doesn’t seem like anyone’s business unless I’m volunteering the information.
What isn’t visible to the naked eye is that my husband stepped in as her dad when she was 8 months old. You don’t see the heartbreak we experience every time it’s her fathers turn to have her or when we found out that she wouldn’t be going to school with us. You don’t see the 10k that we’ve spent fighting for our family to be whole again.
There are so many obstacles we have to face but one thing that gives me hope is the love I know she receives. She is deeply loved from both her father’s side, mine and my husband’s family. If she has anything in the world it is love. Being blended is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face. Having your heart living across an ocean is a kind of pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone. You learn to cope and make things work. You FaceTime and send care packages and take cheap flights when you can afford it. But most importantly is you love. You love them so much and so often that they never feel your pain. You don’t confuse them or use them to get what you want. You do your best to keep the wreckage away and to only show them your smiles when in reality you want to break down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on the floor in the shower and cried into my knees.
You do your best to preserve every magical speck in their lives before they learn that not everyone has two daddies. That the girl next to her has parents that have been together for 15 years and never experienced divorce. You hype up the time with their dad and push down every snide comment that runs across your mind. You do this because no child should feel the burden of arguments and lawyers or custody and time sharing. I do my best to keep it as far away as possible so she can stay little and feel nothing but the love we all have for her.
Kali bug is one of our greatest joys. Her laughter and crazy personality is sorely missed when she is away. For now we settle for reading books over facetime and the kisses the girls share over the phone. If I could go back in time I would, it’s something that has haunted me for the past 3 years. All we have is right now and the future so for now, we will love her from afar.
Thanks so much for reading this tiny piece of our journey. If this story spoke to you, please comment and tell me of your experience or share with another family who shares a similar burdan. Subscribe by simply filling out the contact form below with “Blog” in the session details box!
*All photos were taken by the talented Cathryn DeLine