For homework this past weekend, my preschooler, Jacob, was to make a “me cube,” a tissue box wrapped in colored paper and then covered with photos, drawings and information about him. One of the faces of the cube was supposed to feature a picture of “my family.”
I agonized, as I often do, over whether to show his family of three — just Jacob, his mom and me — or his family of five, which includes his much older half-brothers.
About a year ago, when the teachers in Jacob’s previous class asked for a family picture for the bulletin board, we gave them the family of five. But even at that time, it was a difficult choice.
For a while I had been sensing my wife’s need to identify just the three of us as a family in our own right. A couple of years ago during the holidays, I had been putting all five of our names on Christmas cards when my wife, Angela, observed me doing it and asked why I was including the two sons who weren’t under our roof. I hadn’t thought much about it till then; I had just put their names down because they were my kids. But it was kind of illogical to do that — I know I shouldn’t presume to act as my older sons’ representative for things like greeting cards.
Lately, it occurs to me that Jacob probably thinks of his family in similar terms. Mama and Daddy are with him in the house every day, so we are his ‘immediate’ family in the sense that we are the ones in his immediate reach.
Another observation: When people ask if Jacob has any siblings, I don’t just say ”Yes” or that he has two older brothers. Instead, I usually say that I have two (much older) sons from my first marriage. I’m saying, in so many words, ”Yes but not the same kinds of siblings most preschoolers have.” In a way, I am doing it to differentiate between our ‘conventional’ family of three and our less conventional family of five. This seems to give everyone proper recognition for where they are in life.
In any case, a photo of the family of three is now pasted to the cube.
I’d like to hear from others who struggle with which family to identify as the family.