Puzzle Pieces

Life Lessons from a One-Year-Old, Motherhood, Step by Step, We Are In This Together


My little boy, Hank, has three heroes: his three big brothers. When they are with us, they throw balls with him and dive onto pillow piles and build endless towers to knock down. They make him laugh like neither their daddy or I ever can. He idolizes them; he wants to be just like them.

There is an electric charge in the air on the days when daddy arrives with Hank’s three big brothers in tow. He can sense when they are coming, and he can hardly contain his excitement. The door barely clicks open and he is running to the top of the stairs, squealing; racing to get to them. 

His puzzle is complete on the days we have the boys; all the pieces of our family are in place and his world looks as it should.

But three days later the puzzle falls apart; three major pieces of it suddenly go missing, and he has to try to make sense of it in a one-and-a-half year-old brain which knows nothing of parenting plans or shared custody. Nothing of divorce, or of real mamas and step-mamas. I am sure he thinks I am his brothers’ mama too—why wouldn’t I be?

“We”—our six-pack—is all he has ever known. I do not look forward to the day I have to explain things like divorce to my precious boy. Explain why his brothers have another mama; how it’s not me. Why they have another home, too, on the other side of town, or why he will go to a different school than they do.

I don’t know how to explain why some mamas and daddies don’t speak to each other, even though they share the same children.

And most of all, I worry about explaining why his big brothers have to leave us for half of every week. Because before he can truly understand, he won’t understand, and I know there will be tears.

I don’t want him to be heartbroken half of every week, his best friends in the world lost to him again. I know it is coming. I can already see the gears turning in that precious little head, wondering; the start of the dissonance.

Lately on the days without his brothers around, his little lip trembles when he sees their pictures. He runs into their rooms, just to check.

We will see them soon, sweetheart, I tell him, soon.

Hank’s big brothers have huge hearts buried under their tough exteriors. They play and wrestle and high-five and cuddle and pick up and carry and comfort their little brother. I know they miss him, too, when they are away.

They don’t treat him any differently because I am not their mama, too. They love him just like they love each other, even though they don’t say it.

Hank has no place in one of their two worlds, but they live for him in our world. They amaze me every day with their maturity and compassion. Their resilience as they bounce between lives; their acceptance of their new family.

When daddy loads them up to take them back to their mama’s house, Hank stands in the doorway waving his special wave. He opens and closes his little fist to each of them, saying I Love You, even though the words don’t come out yet.

His big brothers answer him with the same wave, their code, their secret send-off. The words don’t come out of their mouths, either.

But they don’t have to. He knows.


Originally posted on Tribe Magazine at: http://thetribemagazine.com/puzzle-pieces/#ixzz4OodjbHiL

Best Buds


9 thoughts on “Puzzle Pieces

  1. That kind of heartache and how to teach them to deal with it is one of the hardest challenges of parenting. I have a six year old girl whose father I’m suing for possible abuse and I totally get what you mean. Not looking forward to explaining to her the things he put her through before she was old enough to understand what was going on or that her hero is actually a monster. But we have to be strong and trust they’ll get over whatever life throws their way… with our help. Your boy is adorable by the way.

    1. Oh my goodness that sounds awful and so hard 😦 I am so sorry you are having to go through all of that. But yes I agree we can help them get through anything if we have faith it will all work out and keep loving them to pieces! And thank you! Thanks for reading 🙂

      1. Thanks and, well, these things make us stronger. It’s the challenges that brings us closer as a family. What matters is today, this moment right now. Let’s count our blessings and keep hoping for the best. Your little boy has brothers who love him rather than resent him and that’s a priceless gift he’ll grow up with, even if they don’t see each other every single day. Those precious moments together are what counts and what he’ll be left with in the end =)

      2. Absolutely! I am with you! And yes, that is a really good way to look at it, thanks so much for your insight, I appreciate it!

  2. I hear you mama and know your dilemma well. My step-daughter is with us every-other week (one week on, one week off). My daughter LOVES her big sister. It is a mutual affection for sure! My LO knows that we drop her sister off at “her mommy’s house” and we will see sissy “next Sunday”. Sometimes my daughter cries but she always seems to understand that Sissy comes back in one week. I have also been very upfront and have said that her and her sister have the same dad but different Mommies. I am sure she will have questions about this when she is older, but she does seem to understand who everyone is and what roles we play.

    1. Oh that is so good to hear! I am glad it makes sense to her and that just talking about it has worked. I need to start talking about it with my little guy too, I suppose it’s never too soon, and hopefully he will grow up just ‘getting it’ too. I am going to have a really hard time with the tears though, too, lol!! Thanks for reading and commenting, it makes me feel so much better hearing from other stepmamas who have gone through it!

      1. Yes!! It totally is! I didn’t realize that until I had my own, but you are exactly right. Mom is automatic. Stepmom takes a conscious effort every single day. 🙂

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