By: Lisa Regula Meyer
In keeping with the theme of additions started by the kittens, we’ve added another member to the family. Specifically, my mother in law has remarried a high school friend, and the man that introduced her to my father in law. I’m happy for them, the groom seems like a great guy (and Dwight asserts this is the case, and Dwight’s known the groom since he was young). They seem infinitely happy, and summer is a season in my life that needs additions to balance the subtractions, so it’s all good. I’m also optimistic that the groom’s longstanding friendship with the father in law might make for less strenuous holiday trips; only having to do one giant holiday bash for each holiday would be amazing.
The nice thing about blending of families for adult children is the limited functional changes that occur. In my experience, I enjoy not having to adjust too much to a new member of the family, and the limited potential for negative interactions that come with that. We get the benefit of a new addition and expanded family without the messiness of blending two families into one. At least that’s how it was with my second step father compared to my first. We’ll see what this new transition brings, but I’m positive about the situation.
My one concern is names and how to refer to people. Dwight’s dad is very happy with his title of “Grandpa,” a title that he doesn’t share with any living person, as my step dad is “Mr. Dusty” in Kenny’s eyes. I don’t want to take something as important a part of his identity away from Dwight’s dad by calling the groom “Grandpa” also. Dwight’s mom has already started that trend, but Dwight and I are leaning toward “Mr. David” instead. The groom has yet to express any preference, and seems comfortable with whatever (can I say that his laid-back temperament is a huge plus?). Kenny has enough problem with names that the groom will probably be “What’s your name again?” for a year or more.
I am, and will probably always remain, a staunch supporter of respecting self-identity, whether that’s in gender, name, career, whatever. You get to choose what other people call you, and the forms of address you respond to. I also tend to think of family less in terms of bloodlines and more as “chosen family,” be it chosen through adoption, friendship, foster care, or some other tie. It’s acting like a family that makes a family, not genetics, as far as I’m concerned.
At the same time, we’re constantly defining not just ourselves, but our relationships to one another. How many jokes and comedy skits have featured the scenario where a new couple are figuring out terms of endearment or relationship status? The awkward “So… are we boyfriend and girlfriend?” moment in high school comes to mind. It’s a human trait- we like to name and group things. If the person is has no preferred title or name, but others are identifying him/her in more way than one, what’s the “correct” term? Is there such as thing as “correct term”? Companies and individuals pay big money for naming rights to sports centers, stadiums, and other buildings; who has naming rights in a child’s relationship? Only time will tell. Besides, as The Bard once said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.”