During the divorce proceedings I was adamant that my children have a Home Base and not be shuffled around like nomads. We came to an agreement that the house the children and I lived in would be Home Base. Oz visited them here in the place they lived. He would take them for awhile and return them here.
I lived here with them. But, it didn't feel like HOME to me. It was a place in which we each parented people on our days. It was a place for the children and I to eat and sleep. The routines stayed the same and the children had stability. Life moved along with days turning to months and eventually years.
At one point, I woke up and realized we needed to make the house into a home again. I had to start feeling like I lived there with my family even though that image had now changed from what I had thought my life would be. I always pictured Home to have a mother and a father living together in it. I had to revision!
So, I started clearing out junk. Then, I decorated a bit more. Repainted, reorganized. Eventually, it started to feel like I was Home. We had dinners at the table, we had family and friends over. We stopped just existing in the house we slept in. We started to live in a Home again.
During this process, Oz set up his new home. His Emerald Palace was a city apartment. Different than our tiny house. New and shiny to the kids. They liked to go visit "Daddy's house." They had a tent set up for a long time that they shared when they slept there. They thought it was so cool! The blinds are floor to ceiling and a remote controls them. Very cool!
For a long while, this worked. The children and I continued developing a sense of Home in the house we lived in. Oz visited. The children visited Oz's "place" as they would often call it.
Over time, Oz met Dorothy. Slowly, she was introduced to the children. Introduced to me.
She would stop in to see the kids and Oz at his place or they might meet out for part of his days with the kids. After a long while, she started to spend days with all of them on most of their visits. Then days turned into a night here or there. Then a short vacation for all of them together. Eventually, she moved in to Oz's place. She visited the Home the children and I live in more often. She spent time here with them.
Dorothy became part of Oz's life, part of my children's lives and part of my life over the past 3 years.
This Spring, Oz and Dorothy got engaged and my children started referring to Oz's place as "our Home with Daddy and Dorothy" or they would say "we are going to our home with Daddy now."
The language began changing. The idea of HOME began to evolve.
I credit Dorothy with this seamless transition into my children's lives and hearts. She stood back and let them get to know her. She earned their respect. She earned mine. She didn't force any of us to like her. She didn't try to convince us. She just lived as who she is and soon we all realized how impossible it would be to NOT like her (even when I might have tried.)
She slowly got to know the kids, what they like, what they are interested in and what they care about.
She shares in their love of legos and quickly became the boys Go To Person for Lego projects. She set up a cool lego building station at their house. She sifted through the zillions of lego pieces thrown around our play room and the organized them into bags and matched them with instructions and helped them build.
She shows joy for my daughter's love of American Girl Dolls. She dug out her own AG doll, Molly from her childhood days and enthusiastically plays with Isabella. They make necklaces and bracelets from beads and pasta, they sew pillows, they created their own line of lip balm.
The children enjoy their time at their Home with Daddy and Dorothy largely in part because Dorothy goes out of her way to make them feel special. FEELing at Home is an important part of BEing at home.
One afternoon, they came back from Oz's place, grumbling because Dorothy had gone out for an hour without them. Isabella was very grumpy about it. When I asked her why, she told me that Dorothy said she was going to the mall to return something and would be right back. But it took AN HOUR! I reminded the children that the mall was a 20 minute drive in each direction. Which means Dorothy had to be RUNNING through the Mall to make it back to them as quickly as she did and they should give her a break. Bella was not convinced.
One of my sons (Vincenzo) told me that Bella sat by her dollhouse waiting for Dorothy for nearly the entire time, but finally gave up and took a nap. Apparently, when Dorothy returned she offered to play dolls with Bella. But, Bella told her no. She wasn't going to play with her because she was angry still. (OMG I was horrified to hear the bratty tale!)
I asked him why they were so upset about her going out. He said it just wasn't fun without her. He said they needed her there because she always comes up with great things to do.
I reminded all 3 of the children that once in a while adults need a break too. And it was ONE HOUR!!! Seriously people!!
This summer, they all went on a long vacation together. When Oz and Dorothy returned the kids after 9 days and several hours stuck in traffic- I asked if they were tired. Dorothy looked exhausted. They all did. But, she very graciously said no and that they'd had a fantastic vacation. She told me all of the great behaviors the kids showed to each other and to her family. I was so proud and so relieved.
To hear her talk proudly about the children made an incredible impact on me.
It had been my worst nightmare when I got divorced, to think that another woman would come into my children's lives and be the abusive and scary, EVIL Stepmother that Disney spends millions of dollars to create stories about. I feared they would never feel like a family again and that they would be pushed out of their father's life by a faceless, nameless person.
To my great joy, I have discovered how blessed our family is to have Dorothy in it.
HOME has a new meaning for my children now. Instead of being pushed out, they were brought in.
They are creating new traditions, setting up an additional Home Base and enjoying being cared for by their now larger village of loving and supportive people.
When they returned from vacation they told me that they have new grandparents now, Dorothy's parents. They were so well cared for and loved by her family. The felt at Home. This was their second summer trip with them and they made traditions that they are already looking forward to for next year!
This week I was thinking about how it takes a village to create a sense of Home...
The children and I have been cleaning rooms and closets and organizing etc.
I finished Isabella's room, but the boys told me not to worry about doing their room because Dorothy would do it. They said she likes to organize and donate things!
That really made me realize that HOME is about the people in our lives. My children are comfortable in our Home and they know that Oz and Dorothy are comfortable here too. They know that we all help each other out. They thought nothing of the fact Dorothy would come over and clean their room. They were right too! She did come over and organized the closet and drawers neater than ever before. So maybe that comfort and acceptance and inclusion is what makes it FEEL like Home?
Five years ago I NEVER would have pictured feeling thankful that my children have another woman in their lives in a parenting role. I also would not have believed that I would have that woman visit my house on a regular basis and feel comfortable with her doing dishes and helping with laundry and cleaning out the boys' closet and drawers.
With anyone else I would have felt self-conscious or judged because I can't always keep up with the messes and chores and organizing. I would have worried that someone thought I was not capable or not a good mom. But, with Dorothy she has become part of the family. She has created an extension of Home for my children. So I have realized it is ok to accept help and to let someone with the energy and enthusiasm and love for my children to give a hand when it is needed.
Maybe Home doesn't have to be a certain person, place or feeling? Maybe it's what you make it?