They say it takes a village to raise a child and somewhat naively I imagined this blended family thing to be akin to raising children in a village. Rather than your two parent household these children were blessed with more people to love them with a village of loving caregivers and extended family to raise them.
Not my bloody village.
My village is more like a circus than a village.
I’m going to explain it as a settlement with some yurts (for no other reason than I am mildly obsessed with yurts after staying at The Round Tent). This is not because that’s how we live (although sometimes I wonder if it might be a bit better if we did) but because it softens some of the harshness and for some strange reason helps me to puzzle it all out a bit better.
It’s about here that I should point out that history/geography was never my strong subject at school so the analogy may be a little inaccurate but you’ll get the point….
Let’s start with the village I dreamed off…
A whole bunch of yurts with a big old campfire in the middle where we can all get together over a meal, the kids run laughing back and forwards, we discuss the kids and the best way to solve problems and get together for a wine at the end of the day after a long day commuting on horseback (we’ve slipped back in time here also) to our jobs in the city.
Now the reality…
We have a great yurt (OK, house but stick with me on the yurt thing okay) which James and I share with my two daughters and his one daughter. It’s a 4 bedroom style yurt in a good area of the plains with good schools and easy motorway access. The girls are with us most of the time and spend most of their time running around the outside of the yurt – alternating between (mostly) laughing and giggling and trying to kill each other. It frequently looks like a massacre is taking place in our garden.
The yurt over the hill has my ex-husband. Unlike our yurt it is very tidy and the coach over the hill only runs on a set and very regimented timetable. So punctual is this service that when my coach is running late (which happens a lot when in the business of getting lost) there is a complimentary smoke signal sent out at 1 minute past the hour I should have been there to enquire about my whereabouts. Once the errant mother arrives there is a courteous and perfunctory hand over at each end before he rides off in the coach (of the Nissan variety) without a backward glance.
He recently moved in with his first partner and while I admit I am still a tiny bit jealous that the girls think she is so awesome the bigger (and better) part of me wants to ask her out for a wine and genuinely get to know her a little bit better given she is going to be spending time with my girls. But the awkward first encounter didn’t exactly see the invite leaping off my tongue.
Further down the way is my step daughters Aunts yurt where she meets her mum once a fortnight. It’s older than our yurts and I know it’s hard for her to fill it with the food and things she needs for the family inside but it’s filled with a lot of love and the shelter that she needs when her Mum is off galloping through the plains and the like and can’t seem to get those smoke signals to work for weeks on end. It’s a little yurt so sometimes she sleeps on the floor when she visits her Mum there and sometimes she comes back crying if her Mum is not there at all. I wish I could build her a whole new yurt.
In between the yurts are the glue that keeps us all sane. The grandparents who have now doubled and have taken on both sets of children as if they were their own flesh and blood and the aunts and uncles who have done the same. The sets of friends, his and mine who have grown and merged.
And then in the middle is me and James. James who I think half the time wishes the village would just bugger off, and me who wants to have a wine and a chat with them all at the end of the day.