In January of 2012, I chose to become a single mother. I packed what I could fit into our minivan and left my fiancé of five years, my “son” whom I had raised since he was six-months-old, and an unhealthy partnership. I parked in a parking lot, only blocks from our house, and cried. My two sons slept quietly in their car seats.
What had I done? Where would we go? We had no family to stay with. I hardly had any friends. The closest people we had were the boys’ godparents who lived eighty miles south of us. Sobbing, I called them. Without hesitation, they loaded their two boys (ages two and fourteen months) and themselves into their car and made the eighty mile journey to meet me.
Tomahawk, Blondee, and I had been friends since we were 15. They were always the ones I could call on when I needed help. They had loved my boys like family, and I had loved theirs like my own. I often referred to my best friends as my brother or sister, and my sons referred to them as auntie and uncle. There was no blood relation, but they were the closest thing to family I had.
They came and picked us up — Tomahawk driving my van, while Blondee followed us back. We drove in silence, no questions, no comments. At home, we situated the kids and made up the couch for me. Little did I know that their house would become home for us for the next nine months.
In total, nine of us occupied the two-bedroom, one-bathroom house. Five adults and four children: Tomahawk, Blondee, Shorty (a mutual friend renting a room), Giant (my sort of, kind of love interest), and I. The garage had been divided and converted into two more rooms for living.
The house was always busy with activity. Work schedules overlapped, people came and went, and one of the kids were always getting into something. We divided the chores and bills between the adults but never thought to establish rules for non-parents and kids.
Parenting styles differed. Having two males in the house that had no relation to the children occupying the house became problematic. Both Giant and Shorty didn’t want to step on toes or go against principles set down. We often butted heads about bed times, desserts, temper-tantrums, and liquids before bed. One set of parents would allow their boys to have or do something, while the others said no. All four boys tried their hardest to pit the adults against one another, in hopes of turning a “no” into a “yes.” It was frustrating.
But after a few months, we all settled into a rhythm. We took turns watching the boys and established a base of rules and disciplinary actions. Compromise became our biggest task. We learned to stand our ground. If one set of kids received something, we made sure to do it away from the others, or include them as well.
Family outings included all nine in the household. We took trips to the zoo, the aquarium, the movie theater. Questions were often asked about relation and who belonged to who. We simply always said the boys were cousins and we were brothers and sisters. And we had become a family — dysfunctional and crazy, but we belonged with each other.
In my darkest hour, my family came to my aid. They took the boys under their wing and loved them like no other had. We taught them how to play catch and kick a soccer ball. We made messes and finger painted. Our parenting styles changed; we became better role models for these four young boys. We found ourselves and created a home.
Above all else, we learned that love is thicker than blood. Relation had nothing to do with family, and for the first time in years, I stood on my own two feet and felt more love than I had felt in a lifetime.