I am the first of the family, but the last mentioned…I am the unknown, unless reminded…of the least importance…no matter what is said in reassurance…I am the step the half, though I was the first…and it does not matter that I am not known..I am not included in the family portraits or the family gatherings…not until the end…or the after thought…I am the first but I lack the importance…and I am far from naive as much as I would like to believe…but I am still family no matter where I hover…no matter where I land…no matter what I have been or will be left out of…I am the first…
A short time ago, I posted the above on Facebook. Since I am a first born, people interpreted it as being about the first born. The reality is less about being the first born, but being the first family. We are the family left behind. We were the first ones born and the last ones thought of…or considered. I hold nothing against my father or my step-mother, this is how things once were. My parents divorced in the seventies and my father reconnected with another woman. The other woman is my step-mother, and I love her. Life is different though. Intentional or not.
All of my parents came from marriages that lasted until death. None of them ever felt the stigma, or difference, of divorce. My father, love him as I do, tries to impress upon me that everything is normal. He insists that everyone, in his business, friends, etc., realize that he has children prior to the children in his current marriage. I would love to believe this, but I realize this isn’t true. There have been many times I have shown up at his business and had to explain who I am. This is sometimes difficult, knowing that I was the first. Not just the first born, but the first family.
My husband is the first born, but his family is intact. There is no divorce in the generation prior to him. However, this is the second marriage for each of us. We are fortunate, or not, that we did not have any children prior to our marriage. Truth is, if I had a child with my first husband I am not sure I could have divorced him. I harbor no judgement to those who could divorce with children. I am a child of divorce. There are times it is needed. I get that. I don’t wish it, but I understand it’s need.
I have friends who are from the families before the divorce. Their fathers, or mothers, leave and start a new family. It is difficult to be left behind, to be the last children even when they are the first. Decisions are made, plans decided, and they come to realize, that their birth holds little importance. At least it seems to.
Being the oldest, and first born, I realize I know little of my father’s plans. I do not know anything about his death wishes. My mother, who ended up raising my sister and I, told me everything about her wishes. I was her first born. My father has shared his wishes with his second family. He has children in that family. I understand. Speaking with friends who are in similar situations, I realize that I am not alone.
When I was a youngster, my father and his siblings had pictures taken with their families, for his parents, my grandparents. The picture my father chose was of his current family. My sister and I were not a part of this collaboration. Perhaps they thought I would not notice or care. I did. I did notice the separation. As much as my father wanted to believe we were all united, I realized we weren’t.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t love my step family, because I did. Or that they didn’t love me, I felt that they did. I recently, after the death of my mother, came across an art project I made when I was eight. In it, it asked of family members, and I included my step/half siblings. I did not differentiate between half/step or whole siblings. According to the eight year old I was, we were all siblings, there wasn’t anything that separated us.
My parent’s divorce wasn’t unique. I am positive that it was similar to divorces of the time. In fact, I have a younger friend whose parents divorced much later then my parents, but whose life, was similar to mine. Her parent’s remarried. She is the floating child. Unlike me, both of her parent’s had children in their new marriages. She lived with her mother. However, she lives somewhere in between. Much like me.
I may be the first born, of the first family, but my voice is not the first heard. I am a daughter, not a son. I am, also, not of the present family. This I am quite aware of. Despite the assurances I have received over the years, that my life is important, that I am family, I realize I am not the first choice.
Being the oldest, I harbor no beliefs that my parents should have stayed married. In my dreams and or nightmares, I hear the fighting that occurred over the years prior to the divorce, and after. My mother could not move on, though she tried. I do believe that my step mother and father love each other, even when they are not sure. I never expected, nor wanted them to separate. I only wanted to be important.
As much as they declare my importance, my mother, father, and stepmother, I realize where my importance lies. I am in the family photo that only exists because thirty years later I requested it’s existence. I am the daughter who is important when the need arises…in the reunions, or when the need exists. But I can not feel that my importance is much more then the moment at hand. I want to. I desperately want to. But I know the truth.
I remember being left behind. I know when my father wanted to buy a water ski for me, but my step mother told me that she did not want the other children to feel left out because he did not buy one for them. Truth is, whether she knew it at the time or not, had I been her first child, the ski would have been bought and the younger children would have used it after me. When I lived with my father and his family, and told I had to leave, I was told it was because of my stepmother’s request. This does not help a teen’s frame of mind. Whether it was her request or some other motive, I felt left out.
Friends that I have who are also part of a divorced family, and the “first” family, have experienced being second guessed(on motives) or being treated as the second choice. I don’t understand the second choice deal. We are all children. We are all of the same family regardless of different mother’s or father’s.
I believe our families meant well. I know people, including my sister, who are in the position of the “second” family, who try to include the “first” children without discrepancies. It is unfortunate that, despite the best intentions, discrepancies do arise. Often, it is not because of the children but of the current mates. Perhaps I would understand this better if my life followed suit. If my children were the second.
Instead, I am the second wife without second children. Both my husband and I remarried, but we did not have children until we married. My children are first children of a second marriage. They have no one who comes before them or no one who comes after them. They do not have to worry about their place in line of importance…unless, of course, they worry about being “second grandchildren” of first born parent’s.
At this time, I feel I am fortunate enough to think they do not feel the separation of the previous generation. They look at their grandparent’s, all five of them, as their original grandparents. There is no separation, no difference. I hope they will always feel this way. I hope they will never feel the separation. If so, they will be the fortunate ones. It will not matter that they were not the first. This is something I can only hope for. Something I wish for. The anonymity of being any family. In my heart, this is what I pray for.