This is the fifth article in Bill Delaney’s series about co-parenting. To read the first in the series, click here.
“I hate having four parents.”
I was with my 7-year-old, Mary, waiting for the bus that would take us to her mothers’ house across town. I had just explained that when they were older, this would be the bus that she and her sister would use to travel between their two homes. (My husband and I co-parent with our daughters' two moms.) I’d said it wouldn’t start for many more years, but she still had images of traveling alone and it scared her. For the first time she was faced with a not-so-great thing about having two sets of parents. I knew her reaction came from the fear of someday having to ride the bus alone, but it still caught me off guard since this was the first negative feeling she’d ever expressed about her co-parenting family.
Many times Mary has said she wants all her parents to live together. She’s had a taste of it on many occasions, since the whole family rents a single house when we travel together. With us currently driving the kids everywhere she hadn’t considered her two homes a hardship. She’s said she likes it, but just not as much as she’d like us in one house.
Other than that, she’s always enthusiastically declared that she loves having so many parents and a family that was different. She's now in the third grade, and she's been the envy of many of her classmates since nursery school. At school functions she’d introduce one of us and then proudly introduce her OTHER dad, and then introduce BOTH of her moms. The reactions are usually wide-eyed wonder.
The girls already know how their unique family came to be, and mostly because Mary has been asking freakishly incisive questions since first learning to speak. By the time she was three she was asking why we had her and even how we conceived her, and we’ve always answered honestly. The girls know which of us are their biological parents, and why, and even which of us suggested having kids in the first place. None of it has fazed them. Their Parental Entourage makes them feel sufficiently loved and secure, and that’s all they care about.
We realize things could change over the years. As contented as Mary is now, I’m sure the experience with the bus is just a hint of what’s to come during the tumultuous teen years. “I hate having four parents!” will probably take its place alongside the dreaded “I hate you!” in her lexicon of dramatic phrases.
As for 4-year-old Nora, well, she’s in her own world and quite happy there. She could have horses for parents and think nothing of it. Actually, considering her love of horses, she’d be in heaven!
As it turned out, once Mary and I reached the far end of the bus ride and she saw it was just a couple of blocks from both her school and her moms' house, she became excited by the prospect of someday walking those final blocks by herself. Suddenly the bus wasn’t so scary.