Being Not Your Average Family
Becoming a special guardianship family hasn’t been without it’s challenging situations which we’ve had to try and overcome. Many of you may have seen our recent Instagram story in which we ranted about a swimming instructor asking the children to “find their mummies and daddies”. We obviously understand that not every single person in the whole wide world will understand, or even consider, that not every child is part of an “average family”. BUT. That doesn’t mean that these situations aren’t difficult for us.
From day one, we have tried to appropriately explain to our niece and nephew that their family is more than likely going to be different to many of their friend’s families. That all families are different and we aren’t the only ones. This is generally easy for them to understand and from what we can tell, the don’t seem to compare themselves to others too much. However, they have definitely found it difficult when their school decides to include ‘My Family’ as a topic. Twice they have had to complete a family tree for homework. Nephew being set it a week after his mummy died! Yes, this gives us an opportunity to talk to them about how they feel about their family structure, but it can also be something that makes them very emotional. Especially when their family tree looks so obviously different to everyone else’s. We try to approach this as honestly and openly as possible. Stereotypically, children who lose a parent tend to have another parent there to care for and support them. Some of you may have picked up on the fact that a “daddy” has never been mentioned. Let’s just say that he has chosen not to be in their lives. This just adds another layer into our situation and is something that, in the future, we are sure will pose a new set of challenges.
We frequently ask our niece and nephew how they feel about having a different family. It’s actually pretty impressive how many films provide us with this opportunity: Finding Nemo, Harry Potter and Despicable Me to name a few. They usually respond by saying that they feel okay but that they miss their mummy. As always, we talk with them about how these emotions are normal and that we miss their mummy every single day too. Once, niece actually responded by saying “but we are lucky because one day we will get to live with our cousin and no one else gets to do that”. You could actually hear our hearts shatter. Yet again another example of how children can find positivity out of anything.
Another situation that can be challenging is when other people refer to us as “mummy” and “daddy”. It’s an easy mistake to make. Uncle and nephew could be twins! We look like your average nuclear family. But we aren’t. In the beginning, we just ignored these instances as we thought this was the easier option. It wasn’t long before we realised that this was not the best way forward. For some reason we thought that we would have to give a total stranger our whole life story, instead of simply saying “oh no, we are their aunt and uncle”. So easy! Because of this, niece and nephew now have the confidence to respond in this way too. They understand that not everyone knows about our unique little family, and it’s okay to just say “that’s my uncle” without getting into a deep and meaningful conversation about it.
People have also asked us to clarify what names we get our niece and nephew to call us. They know that we are their aunty and uncle but tend to call us by our first names. Let’s get this straight: we will never, ever be their mummy and daddy. It’s pretty surprising the amount of people that think that would be the case. You can also see the confusion cross people’s faces when they hear niece and nephew call us by our first names. You can actually hear the cogs in their brains trying to work out who on earth we are to these children. One thing we’ve learnt over the past two years is that we don’t have to explain ourselves or our situation unless it is absolutely necessary.
We will obviously have to consider how “not so average” our family will continue to be in the future. Yes, niece thinks it is absolutely fabulous that she will get to live with her cousin one day. But how will that effect us? What new questions will they ask? More importantly… what will the teenager years bring?! We just like to take each day one at a time a deal with any challenges with face straight on.