The Worst Part of My Blended Family Breakup Is Missing My Ex’s Children

Rebecca Eckler November 20, 2018
Step Family_newsletter

Eight months after my ex moved out, the realization hit hard that I had lost so much more than a partner in life. I also lost his two children—who came into my life when my ex did, and then exited my life along with him. For seven years, as he and I navigated blending families and households—he with his two daughters and me with my daughter—my ex’s children were a part of my life.

During that time, we also added another baby to the mix, a beautiful baby boy, thanks to a reverse vasectomy. So, my biological son has three sisters (technically half-sisters): two are my ex’s children, who aren’t related to me by blood, and the other is my biological daughter from a previous relationship.

Since my ex and I share custody of our son, his children can still see their baby brother on his days and weekends. But it’s been months since I’ve seen my—what?—ex–Bonus Daughters? Once my ex moved out, they never stepped in my house again.

I have closure with my ex, in the sense that I know that it was the right decision for us to separate. But what I didn’t get was closure with my Bonus Daughters, who I met when they were nine and 11. And I didn’t know how much that would sting. I didn’t even get to say some sort of goodbye.

In the immediate aftermath of getting over my ex, I was so preoccupied with the practicalities of refurnishing my house with items he took, dealing with lawyers, and getting used to being a single mother of two children by two different fathers that I didn’t really absorb the emotional impact of the change.

Maybe it didn’t occur to me that I would feel the impact as much, since I didn’t see them much toward the end of my relationship with their father. They are well into their teen years now and busy with school, work, and friends. Plus, I never really parented my Bonus Daughters. They already have a perfectly good mother, so I was more like a roommate to them.

But they were very much a part of my life. I attended numerous graduations, celebrated numerous birthdays, and milestones with them. We went on family vacations. I heard many stories of teenage breakup and makeup stories. I knew their friends’ and boyfriends’ names.

My ex and I talked about his children a lot. I knew what was going on in their lives. And I did, yes, watch them grow, over the years in our blended household, into beautiful, intelligent, young ladies.

But then, just like that—POOF!—they were out of my life.

Now, I have not a clue what they are doing, I am not invited to celebrations or graduations, and my only contact with them is through the occasional text message, which I initiate. Recently, I sent one of them a “happy birthday” text, with well wishes. I ended it with “xoxo” and added my daughter’s name. The response was quick, with a, ‘Thank you. I miss you guys!’

To be candid, it really was the first time I realized, gut-wrenchingly, that I missed my Bonus Daughters. It felt like I was going through a break-up all over again, but this time there was no manual on what to do. I wanted to cry, so I did. I texted her back, “We miss you too!” with a kissy-face emoji. That was the end of our exchange.

For the rest of the week, my heart was heavy. When you divorce a spouse and have biological children together, it would be unthinkable to not see your children. But when children come into your lives, fully formed, and who aren’t biologically yours to begin with, there’s nothing set in stone about keeping in touch, how often to keep in touch, and did they want me to keep in touch with them anyway, after their father and I broke up?

When my ex and I broke up, I wish we had discussed how or if we would keep in contact with each other’s children from our previous relationships.

I have encouraged my teenage daughter to keep in touch with my ex’s children, not only because they share a brother, but because they, too, were in each other’s lives for years. She hasn’t really, though, because they never became that close. She was seven  when they came into her life, and then was either away staying with her dad or busy with one of her insane amount of extracurricular activities when they were around. So, they never quite bonded as much as I hoped over the years. She doesn’t have any sort of relationship with my recent ex, the father of her brother.

I never bonded with my Bonus Daughters as much as I had once hoped, either. We had an amicable relationship, but it was never all that deep. It was mostly superficial talks about their social lives, and what we should eat for dinner. But I didn’t realize how much of a toll not seeing them would take. I miss how they spread out their homework on the kitchen table, their never-ending chatter and gossip, seeing what they are wearing. I miss seeing their overnight bags and shoes by the front door. Even those things that once annoyed me now makes me yearn for them.

It’s weird, to say the least, knowing there are two children out in the world who are related to my son, by blood, who I may never see again, or may see again, but have no idea when. Not only are they older and their lives chock full of friends, part-time jobs and homework, but my divorce wasn’t wrapped in a pretty little box with a bow. My ex and I only ever text about our son. It feels wrong, when we do speak, to ask him about his other children. But it also feels wrong not to ask him, because I do really want to know how they are and what’s new in their lives.

I do think, because they are related to my son, and they also share a brother with my daughter, that there should be some sort of contact, right? But what kind of contact, since the divorce continues to be contentious? We are not that family who “positively co-parent” and celebrate, for example, our son on his actual birthday, together at one of our houses.

So unless I attempt to make plans with my Bonus Daughters, like girlfriends, to go for coffee and shopping, I have no idea when I’ll see these two beautiful, kindhearted teenagers who came into my life when my ex did.

The break-up didn’t provide closure with my former Bonus Daughters, and wonder if we will ever have that. I often think I should text them to say that just because their dad and I didn’t work out, that that doesn’t mean I want them out of my life entirely. So what has stopped me? Truthfully? Divided loyalties.

I don’t want to put them in an awkward position by asking them to keep in touch regularly or even, “Let’s get together when you’re free for brunch,” for fear they’ll think they’ll hurt their dad…even though I am the mother of their brother.

And even if I want to be part of their lives, I have no clue if they want to be part of mine. Yes, it’s messed up.

I want to make things right with them. I want to ask for forgiveness. I want to tell them how very much they meant to me and still do, even if I could have shown them that more, when we were still a family.

Still, this morning, I sent a text to one of my Bonus Daughters, telling her I miss her and asking how she’s doing at university. I’m the adult, and they are, and will always, be the children. Maybe not mine, but not not mine either. More than anything, I want them to know that they do, indeed, still occupy a place in my heart and always will. Maybe, now that the dust is finally slowly settling, I will soon send them a text, letting them know that, no matter what, I am, and will be, always there for them.

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