I have a stepson. Or, that is, my husband has a son from his first marriage is the way I usually say it, when I do say it. And he is visiting us from Japan next month. Maybe half my friends know. As Fred gets older, I need to come to terms with the presence of my husband’s past in my family.
It’s been almost nine years, so I’ve had alot of time to evolve and think about things. I didn’t initially like Tak, but not because of anything he had done. I resented him simply because of what he represented. I suppose one could choose whom to marry, but I couldn’t chose whom to fall in love with. And I fell in love with someone who had already had a full family life long before I heard my first “I love you,” long before I wore my first wedding dress and long before I took my first pregnancy test.
My attitude completely shifted when I became a mother. Who would’ve guessed that children would become different people to me after I had one of my own? How is it that I never saw them? How is it that I never really saw Tak, never saw that he had lost his father, never saw that I was the threat, and not the other way around?
Now that I am back in the States I am back in close touch with a number of friends, many of who don’t know that my husband has a son, that I have a stepson, that my son has a brother. The family in which I grew up disapproves of divorce. I was made to swear to not tell a soul about Tak or about Max’s past. There is also a part of me that has a hard time rolling “stepson” off my tongue because that small part of me still believes I don’t have “that” kind of family. And yet I do. Between my side and Max’s side of the family, there are at least 4 divorces that we can count right off the bat. And yet I’m the one who always said, “Just because people aren’t divorced doesn’t mean they’re happy.”
Fred’s early love for his half-brother was touching to the point of eerie. We had a number of friends over to our place when Fred was an infant and toddler, but he gravitated toward Tak with inexplicable attachment, as if he knew. While I keep our story quiet (don’t ask, don’t tell), Fred will tell anyone who’s willing to listen that he has a brother, and several times I have had to respond to teachers and other parents about whether it was really true.
The times that I have finally broken the news to my friends about Tak, that is what I have done: break the news, as if I were reporting a mishap with my car or other misfortune. It was something to prepare them for, unexpected news that begged my apology and their understanding and forgiveness. But a child doesn’t need to be forgiven for simply being. I know that. And I hope that when he comes to visit later next month, I will be able to simply introduce Tak to my friends as Fred’s older brother, with equal pride for both my boys.