The love of family

Nicole Daughhetee

Nicole Daughhetee

Life As I Know It

By Nicole Daughhetee

When I was a kid, my immediate family consisted of my mom and I. Often my grandparents made us a family of four, but either way, it was a small nuclear family unit.

I had (have) aunts, uncles and cousins in Colorado and even closer by in Miami, where I spent my childhood; my dad, step-mom and half-sister are out in Montana. There was never an occasion when we all came together as one large family unit.

There were many times when I would imagine how exciting it would be to have a huge family Christmas — all of us coming together from different places in the country — to celebrate en masse. Because I never had this experience as a child, I have created them in my adulthood.

Throughout the last 10 years, we’ve never had less than 20 people at our Thanksgiving dinner — these are close friends that I consider family — people who have been there to see my children born and grow up (and vice-versa) — people who I’ve counted on and who have counted on me in times of need.

In my home, family isn’t defined by blood; it is defined by the deeply loving relationships and bonds people develop through time and experiences.

Loyal readers know that my immediate family situation is unique: I have not one, but two ex-husbands (the second one to become official July 26th) who are active in their daughters’ lives. I cannot change the circumstances, so we have all made the best out of the unorthodox nature of triangular co-parenting.

My recent foray into the world of dating has been a bit disheartening. It seems that my family structure is too complex, too complicated, too weird — in short, too much to handle. Certainly, however, I have a very easy time weeding out the possible keepers.

I dislike the idea of being judged because of my past. The truth is, we all have them. Sure, I wish I had made sounder choices when it came to selecting marriage partners, but I didn’t. Prior to this point in my life, I made choices based in fear — specifically the fear of being alone. Rather than allowing God to guide my choices through prayer and devotion, I did what I wanted when I wanted.

Thankfully, my life and my perspective have changed greatly over the last year. The one thing that hasn’t changed, nor do I doubt it ever will, is that as odd as my situation might seem to most, I count it as a blessing and could not be more thankful for the relationships I share with my ex-husbands.

The parenting system we have established for our girls is incredibly healthy. Previous professional experiences in domestic violence shelters and substance abuse facilities have shown me so many children who lack the love of adult figures in their lives.

Girls and boys alike suffer an enormous void of absentee fathers or moms who have other priorities. I grew up without an active father in my life, so I know first-hand how devastating that can be to a girl’s growth and development. To say it hurt — that at times it still aches — would be a gross understatement.

One of the things about which I am most proud is that my ex-husbands and I are able to work together as adults and parents, putting the best interests of our girls above petty nonsense and bickering. More often than not, we are a united front and we communicate and compromise because, at the end of the day, we are all in agreement that our daughters should not suffer as a result of adult choices or mistakes that were out of their control.

My girls have never, will never, experience a shortage of love — a truth that I happen to find remarkable and amazing. I find it unfortunate that some people find it difficult to understand or feel at ease with my circumstances. Ultimately, however, I know the loss is not mine.