Unexpected Normal: How My Stepparents Taught Me The Meaning Of Family

By

Dear Hillary and Larry,

I should have written you a letter like this long ago.

I think the more I go through and the more I experience in life and love, the more I realize how special of a relationship we have as a family.

Not many people can go shopping with their mom and stepmom for a prom dress, or have their dad and stepdad go fishing together.

There aren't many families out there like ours.

Unfortunately, it seems like divorces are more and more common.

The word divorce comes with so many feelings and associations that as a 24-year-old, I can't even quite comprehend them yet.

There is sadness, desperation, brokenness and betrayal.

For me, divorce has been a tricky word.

When people learn my parents are divorced, they tend to err on the side of pitying me, saying, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."

No one ever wants to see his or her parents separated, or more importantly, no one ever wants to see his to her parents hurt.

But I am lucky.

The word divorce doesn't signify sadness to me. Instead, this cruel word has led to a blessing in disguise: four parents instead of two.

I want you to know that without both of you in my life, I would not be the person I am today.

You've taught me how to be patient (still working on it), how to be selfless (still working on it) and how to love without holding back.

I didn't realize how lucky I was growing up.

Sometimes, we focus on what's difficult, like being the kid who always had two or three bags taking up the coatroom in elementary school because I had to switch houses every week; like being the girl who had to drive from house to house when homework was left at one place; like splitting Christmas Day; and like having to decide whose house to keep my clothes at when I left for college.

But those are trifles in life.

Because what was key then (and is so important to me now) is that no matter what little difficulties have come up in the strange family we are a part of, you always make it work.

You drove me back to my mom's when I left a soccer cleat there.

You both helped me draw out schedules of when I was at either parent's house, when I had practice or a when I had playdate, so I could stay organized.

You taught me how to how to trace my steps when I couldn't find something I needed.

You both have always taken the time to teach me and to guide me. You  have sacrificed again and again to make sure those around you are happy.

You play this awesome role in my life that sits somewhere between a parent and a best friend.

Thank you for all of the little things you've done for me, like dragging me around on a blanket when I was younger because it made me feel like I was on a magic carpet.

Thank you for setting up lemonade stands with me and sitting at the end of the driveway for hours and hours.

You are the most thoughtful people.

You're always listening to others, providing advice and paying attention to the details most people overlook.

Thank you for encouraging me to chase my goals and dreams, and for being there when not all of my ambitions took the course I wanted them to.

From proofreading my papers all the way through college to sending me texts of encouragement as I traveled abroad, you always find a way to make me feel like I am headed in the right direction, even if I don't know where that leads.

Thank you for giving me a compass necklace when I had surgery and felt like I had lost my identity.

You showed me if I follow my heart, I will never be lost.

Thank you for helping me brainstorm new ideas for my first job in an industry I knew nothing about, even if some of the ideas were not helpful at all.

Thank you for using our company's app to make Triller videos and sending them to me. You are Triller's biggest fans, and the support means more than you know.

I tried to create a list of all of the things I wanted to thank you for in this note, but I couldn't type fast enough.

Thank you for helping me pick out my outfit for my first day of work.

Thank you for convincing me being an honest person is better than hiding behind text messages.

Thank you for teaching me to be true to myself and to pour my heart out to others, even when it doesn't go well.

Thank you for giving me a selfie stick; that thing is hilarious.

Thank you for surprising me with flowers on my birthday.

I cannot count or even remember all of the things I want to tell you I appreciate.

I guess what I really want to say is thank you for being you.

I can only hope one day I can affect someone the way you both have affected me.

I aspire to be more patient and kind because you both are.

I want to remember to slow each day down a little bit and do something silly, like we do when we are together.

Most importantly, I can only hope to be as selfless as you both one day.

I don't say this enough: Thank you for everything.

I love you,

Charlee