I grew up in Canada – a country known as a cultural mosaic. We bring the diverse aspects of our individual culture, tradition, heritage and language and co-exist together. Now I live in the USA which is a melting pot, rather than a mosaic. The aim here is to assimilate people into the American culture. I can see the merit in both perspectives. Let’s just leave it at that.
When it comes to my family, however, I come out strongly on the side of mosaics rather than blends. Here’s why. When you attempt to blend the new family together, aspects of the individual gets lost in the whole. A mosaic, on the other hand, is made up of fragmented pieces of material, such as glass, tile, stone, pebbles, that are placed on a bed of cement to form a picture or design. On their own, each piece is unremarkable, but together they make a beautiful picture. You might need to squint to see it, but it is still there and intact.
As I’ve said in other posts, stepfamilies are usually precipitated by some kind of loss. These are the broken pieces of the mosaic. We are “broken” because of failed relationships, abandonment or even death. This is not to say that people in these families are flawed, but in many cases, they have experienced a painful event that has led them to where they are now.
When people see the inner-workings of any family up-close, things can look messy. We lose our tempers, yell and take each other for granted. If you take a step back, however, you will see a beautiful picture emerge. Sometimes it all depends on your perspective. Even though a loss had to occur, the new family is formed out of love. This is the cement that holds all the pieces together in the mosaic.
I remember a time when I had to fly internationally with the kids without my husband. It was early on in our marriage and I was still adjusting to being a stepmother as well as the mother to a newborn. Thankfully it was a short flight from Bermuda to New York. As I was getting off the plane, a woman approached me and said “You have a wonderful way with your children. You’re an amazing mother.” I cried when I heard those words. They seemed so implausible to me. Looking back, I don’t see why I was so nervous. Both of the girls were amazing on that trip. I created a lot of undue stress at that point in my life because I didn’t know how to handle the self-imposed expectations of being a stepmother. Sure, other people can place expectations on you, but it’s the ones you place on yourself that are often the hardest to live up to.
Up to this point, all I could see was the brokenness, frustration, and confusion. This stranger allowed me to see our family through her perspective. Here we were, a family of four adjusting to our reality. Far from perfect, but established in love. Our picture is still being created. I hear that artwork grows in value over time. I believe it.