In the early days of hip hop, one of the defining characteristics of the music consisted of a production technique called sampling. The instrumental or “beat” was actually a collage of sounds taken from various pieces of music, television, movies, or any media that contained audio. This collection of previously existing sounds would then be skillfully arranged and weaved together to create a fluid, rhythmic, original piece of music. Think of the saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
I relate to this art form when I think of the family I’ve created for myself. My name is Matt Ferreira, 25, from New Bedford, MA. When my wife Leah and I started dating in November 07, she had two children from previous relationships—Xavier (then 3, now 6) and Nancie (then 2 now 5). To make a long story short, Nancie went to live with her father for what was supposed to be a temporary stay that ended up turning into a three year custody battle to get her back and I ended up adopting Xavier who had never known his biological father much like I had never known mine. In March 2009, my son Matthew Jr. was born and my daughter Azaria came soon after in August 2010. A few months ago, Leah’s custody battle finally came to an end and Nancie now lives with us—all the sibs together full time at last. And since she hasn’t seen or talked to her dad at all after that last court date, I’ve become more of a stepFATHER than a STEPfather.
So, to re-cap—I have an adopted kid, a step kid, and two biological kids all under the same roof with my wife and I. Potentially, it could be a disastrous, life-scarring scenario for these kids, with some feeling less loved than others. But through truly knowing our children and what they need to feel stable, Leah and I are able to make all the elements of our family weave together seamlessly like a DJ Premiere beat. And I don’t mean that we’re the perfect family where everyone gets along all the time and there are no problems. What I mean is that our problems do not include our kids feeling like they’re part of the family to greater or lesser degrees than one another.
The key ingredient to making this work is of course sincerity. For all our children to feel equally accepted they must actually be equally accepted by both adults in the house. Seeing that Leah is the biological mother of all of our children, our family structure mostly depended on my degree of acceptance of the two children she brought into my life in the beginning. It’s funny, but I remember being really little and hearing my adoptive parents arguing with some lady, I don’t remember who, about whether or not a child is really yours if it’s not your flesh and blood. Now that I’m an adult with both children I made and some that I didn’t, I can finally say with confidence that the lady was wrong. The fact that you made a child is only one reason to love them, and while it’s a good one, there’s still plenty of others which could apply to any child—it’s all about whether or not you choose to do so.
Another thing that I feel helps is that there are no step or half brothers and sisters in our home. Our children are taught that they are brothers and sisters, period. They live in the same house, follow the same rules, and sit at the same table to eat the same dinner at the same time, so I can think of no good reason to distinguish their sibling-ship to one another with prefixes. My wife and I treating them all with equality as parents only holds so much weight if they don’t follow suit in the way they view each other. Plus, we can’t go one dinner without someone saying with a mouth full of food “Look, I’m beating you guys at eating!” so I can imagine what a daily “I’m More Mom and Dad’s Kid Than You Are” competition would be like. Yeah, no thanks.
So, that’s my family—four children, two parents, mad love. There’s some families out there in similar circumstances who are different than mine in that they have boundaries and separations, and if that’s what works for them, that’s great. My wife and I on the other hand have always felt it was best for our household to exist as a whole. We want to live, grow, and function as a full-fledged family rather than six people who are associated solely by the fact that two of those people are in a relationship. You won’t ever hear me say “Honey, can you tell your kid to stop leaving the bathroom light on?” I’m the dad in our house—I’ll handle it.