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Published November 05, 2012, 11:35 PM

Parenting Perspectives: Family doesn’t need to be complicated

“And how many brothers and sisters do you have?” the doctor asked Garrett during a recent trip to the clinic. “Four,” he answered nonchalantly, “a brother and three sisters.” “Four?” the doctor asked quizzically looking at me with a raised eyebrow.

By: Devlyn Brooks, INFORUM

“And how many brothers and sisters do you have?” the doctor asked Garrett during a recent trip to the clinic.

“Four,” he answered nonchalantly, “a brother and three sisters.”

“Four?” the doctor asked quizzically looking at me with a raised eyebrow, a result, I imagine, of living in a day when even three or four kids sounds like a big family, let alone five.

And, admittedly, the answer caught me by surprise too.

“Well … er … it’s complicated,” I managed to stammer out, seemingly confusing the doctor even more.

“Well, Garrett’s mom and I are divorced, and he’s got a step-sister on her side, and my significant other has two girls, giving him two step-sisters on my side,” I said, wondering if in my haste I had explained it correctly.

“Oh,” the doctor answered, satisfied.

And Garrett, my oldest son, just smiled at his goofy dad as if to say, “What’s so complicated about it?”

What is so complicated about it indeed?

Or more correctly, why do I, or any of us, for that matter, feel the need to make it complicated?

I have a dozen or more recent stories of times when questions have arisen about the number of children I have. And each time I seemed to have stumbled through a complicated explanation.

Then soon enough, the kids, either my sons, or Shelley’s daughters, will say something that makes our family situation sound so simple.

It is that youthful clarity of which I am envious, a clarity that allows the kids to strip away all of the societal expectations and the emotional ramifications of titles such as dad, mom, sister, brother or step-anything, to describe the relationships of those who love them.

I know I’m not the first parent to do the “how-many-kids-do-you-have” dance. It’s just new to me, and I hope to soon adjust without feeling like I owe everyone an explanation. Because the truth is that I don’t. None of us do; we just like to believe we do.

I don’t owe an apology to anyone that my boys and Shelley’s girls each have extra adults on both sides who love them, care for them and want them to be happy, something the kids just seem to inherently understand without much of a fuss.

So if the kids understand they just have more adults loving them and caring for them and don’t seem to get caught up in the trappings of parent lineage, why then do we as adults want to make it so complicated?

I suppose the answer is as easy as the question: We are adults. And as adults, we clutter our minds with the very societal expectations and emotional ramifications that kids don’t worry about. We make a very easy question very difficult, because that is what we do far too often.

However, thanks to Garrett, Ava, Carter and Siri, I like to believe I am learning by example.

And I hope that soon it becomes as natural for me to answer “four” when asked how many kids I have, as it is for Garrett to say “four” when he’s asked how many siblings he has.

Devlyn Brooks works for Forum Communications Co. He and his significant other, Shelley, both live in Moorhead and are raising four wonderful kids, Ava, Siri, Garrett and Carter.

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