Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day Sixteen: Thankful for an AMAZING Extended Family


A few months ago, I shared that Peanut had finally made contact with her biological father (known as 'C' on here).  She hadn't met nor spoken to her father up until that time.  And for any person raising a child with an absent parent, you will know how excruciatingly nerve-wracking it is to finally allow the absent parent to make contact.

After fourteen years of absolutely no contact, it was both exciting and painful for Peanut.  She had known all of her life that she had a different father, but it had been a decision between her father and I that he leave her alone until she was ready to meet him.  And that moment happened this past summer.  He lives in Tennessee, so it was very hard for her to speak to a person via texts and Facebook.  She was ready to meet him, right then, but she knew that it would be a while before that could happen.  In hindsight, I probably would have waited until they could meet before allowing them to speak, but what happened in the interim made it all worth it.

What I didn't really think about, was that it wasn't just her father that she'd be making contact with, but his family who had not known about her.  At all.  Within a few days, Peanut and I received an overwhelming outpouring of messages and friend requests on Facebook from Peanut's father's family all wanting to find out about the great-granddaughter, granddaughter, and niece that they'd never known about and wanted to get to know.

The first person that Peanut met was her Uncle Kyle.  That's her father's brother.  She and I met up with Kyle, his wife, Mel, and their adorable daughter one evening for dinner.  From that moment, Peanut has had a very special connection with her uncle and aunt.  Peanut has gone over there to stay with them, and speaks to them quite a bit via text and Facebook.

Shortly after Peanut met Kyle and Mel, she was able to meet her great-grandmother, grandfather and great-uncle on C's dad's side of the family at a birthday party.  They welcomed her with open arms.  It was a little overwhelming for Peanut, but she hung in like a champ.

A couple of weeks later, Peanut, then, got the opportunity to meet her great-grandma, great-grandpa, her aunts, and several other family members on C's mom's side of the family at another birthday party.  I didn't attend that gathering, because Kyle had offered to take Peanut and I didn't want to interfere with her meeting her family members.  They were all very excited to meet her, and it was another good experience for Peanut.

However, with meeting all of these family members, there was one person Peanut had yet to meet:  Her father.  Not only that, but C's mom and step-dad live in Tennessee, so they hadn't gotten to meet her either.  So, Peanut and I took a road trip to Tennessee so she could meet her grandparents and her father.

The trip was amazing and heartbreaking all at the same time.  Peanut got to meet her father, and that was OK and good for her, but the special bond really came between Peanut and her grandparents.  I have NEVER in MY LIFE seen that girl curl up on the couch with anyone but me.  And there she was, just a few hours after we got there, curled up on the couch with her Grandpa.

Since that trip, I have spoken on the phone and through Facebook to Melissa and Danny, Peanut's grandparents in Tennessee. several times.  Her grandma calls to check in on Peanut a couple times a week, and her grandpa will text or call when he wants to see how Peanut is doing.  They care about her so much, and Peanut sure does know it.

Yesterday, Melissa and Danny came to Arkansas for Melissa's parent's 50th wedding anniversary.  I was invited to that celebration.  It could have just been Peanut that was invited, but it wasn't.  Which brings me to the point of this entire post.

Ever since C's family has found out about Peanut, not a single one of them has treated me as "Peanut's mom".  I'm not just the person that brought her in to this world.  I have been treated as a part of the family.  I've had great conversations with Peanut's Aunt Kim, I've spent hours on the phone with Melissa and Danny, I've taken the kids over for visits to Kyle and Mel's house, and not a single one of them have ever, EVER, treated me as anything less than family.

Yesterday was another situation that proved how amazingly awesome these people are.  We were invited to a 50th wedding anniversary, with many people I'd never met in my life.  I was introduced to several family members as Peanut's mom, and the minute they found out who I was, I was hugged and welcomed in to the family.  Peanut's great-grandmother, Melissa's mom, gave me a big hug and thanked me for coming.  Peanut's aunts, that I hadn't met up until that point, all gave me big hugs and told me how thankful they were that I reached out and allowed Peanut to meet them all.  Not a single minute I was there did I feel out of place, awkward, or anything less than another member of the family.

During this whole experience, I have expected to feel out-of-place, awkward, and just weird.  I have expected C's family to be a little weird with me, not really sure how to treat me and the long-lost family member they never knew about.  What I didn't expect is to have so many amazing people go out of their way to make me feel comfortable and to open themselves up so much for Peanut.

It's sad for me to admit that Peanut has had moments where she's regretted making contact with her father.  It just hasn't gone the way she thought it would.  They've spoken a few times on Facebook, he's met her once, and the contact has been very sparse.  That has been extremely hard on Peanut.  However, one thing she has told me is that she does NOT regret getting the chance to meet all of her family members and building relationships with them.  And, I couldn't agree with her more.  I was extremely nervous and unsure about the whole thing, but all of these amazing people that you see in that photo have made this time so easy for Peanut and I both.

Last night, we got to hang out some more with Danny, Melissa, Kyle, and Mel and Peanut was so relaxed and comfortable with them all.  She loved being curled up on the couch with her grandma, answering all of the questions that her grandma had for her.  Peanut and I had discussed going to Tennessee for Christmas, but up until yesterday Peanut wasn't so sure about it.  She had told me that Christmas is her favorite time of the year, and she wasn't so sure she wanted to be upset about a short visit with her father.  Well, after yesterday, she's told me that she DEFINITELY wants to go for Christmas, just so she can spend some time with her grandparents.  It was hard for Peanut to say goodbye to them both, last night, and now she's excited to see them again in a little over a month.

So, today, I'm so thankful for this extension to our family.  Peanut has been so blessed with some amazing people in her life, and I'm honored and thankful that they have accepted me in that "package".  Not just that, but it absolutely amazes me how quickly they have accepted Butter and Jelly in as family, too.  Jelly has declared that her favorite cousin is Kyle and Mel's daughter.  They play so well together, and act as though they've been family their whole lives.  Butter has soaked up the "manly" relationships he's built with Danny and Kyle.  Kyle has promised to take Butter hunting for the first time in his life, and Butter just couldn't be happier.

It just goes to show how wonderful all of these people are.  The relationships I have built, and continue to build, with these awesome people is something to be very thankful for.  Not everyday do you find out that you have a long-lost great-granddaughter, granddaughter, or niece.  Yet, their only complaint is that they've had to wait fourteen years to know.  Which is understandable.  Had I known that none of them knew about her, things would have been a lot different over the past fourteen years.  But, I can't turn back time.  What I can do is be thankful that they are all so excited to get to know her now, and that they have done such an amazing job of showing Peanut and me how much of an awesome family they are and how blessed we are to have them in our lives now.  And that is something to be truly thankful for.

Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!


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