MCs Are For The Young—A Six-year-old From A Broken Home Tells The Story
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Number of families: 10
Total number of children: 15
Number of adults: 20
Total number of individuals: 35
a. 37m, 35f, 12f, 10f, 8m
b. 36m, 34f Sam's ex-wife, 9m Patrick, 6m John
c. 33m Sam, 32f Mom, 6m Timmy, 4f Patty, 1m Alan
d. 29m Dad, 29f Stephanie, 6m Joey, 4f Abby
e. 44m David, 43f Carol, 10m, 8f
f. 39m Carol's ex-husband, 36f, 9f, 6m
g. 37m, 38f , 4f
h. 36m, 36f
i. 64m, 62f
j. 59m, 60f
Economic factors: middle class
I am six. My name is Timmy. I live with my mom and her new husband, Sam, and my real sister, Patty, and my real brother Alan on weekdays. On the weekend, me and Patty and Alan live with my real dad and his new wife, Stephanie and sometimes her kids Abby and Joey. But sometimes Abby and Joey are visiting their dad, David and his new wife, Carol, for the weekend. When we're gone on the weekends from my mom's house, Sam's kids, Patrick and John, visit. Carol also has two kids that live with her and David (except on weekends). My dad's new wife Stephanie is pregnant, so pretty soon I'll have an actual stepbrother or stepsister. I'm not sure what to call all the other kids—except by their names. Sam's ex-wife also has a new husband, so I know those kids, too.
You must think I'm pretty smart being able to figure all that stuff out. It still gets confusing, especially when different things happen on the weekends or during vacations and holidays. In fact, some of the holidays are the worst times of the year because everyone says they want the kids, but we can't be everywhere at once, and it's a drag to get shuffled around so much. At least we get a lot of presents on Christmas for all the hassle we go through.
I'm in first grade now and I started a new school this year. That's because when my mom married Sam, we all moved to a new house in a new neighborhood. I like the house. It's bigger than our last house. It had to be big because if Sam's kids visit on the weekend and we aren't away seeing Dad, we need to have room for everyone.
I guess we've all gotten used to the new arrangements, except that my dad isn't there and Sam is. I talk to Dad on the phone sometimes, but he's pretty busy with his new family and work and stuff. I don't like Sam very much. I feel like he doesn't know how to talk to or act with me or Patty and Alan. He's not my dad, but he acts like he wants to take Dad's place. And he's real different from my dad. I like Dad better. Sam is real strict with us, always ordering us around, telling us what to do. He even spanks us and hits us sometimes. He thinks he has all the answers. He is smart about a lot of stuff, but he doesn't help me learn—he just tells me what to do. And if I don't do it right, he gets real mad. He's never any fun. He's even meaner to Patrick and John when they visit on the weekends. I think they're glad they aren't with Sam all week long. I wish grown-ups were smarter about kids, or something. My real dad is more easygoing and he likes to joke around and play with us. He's real nice to all of the kids. We have all kinds of neat projects that we do at his house on weekends. But Mom says he's irresponsible. Anyway, I wish I lived with him and Mom, too. But they say it can't be that way again. Oh well.
I like having lots of "siblings." That's what Sam told me to call all those kids that are sort-of related. Sometimes, usually on some holiday, we'll have big parties and everyone gets together—well, just about everyone. Mom says that so many people connected to our family are on their second marriages that we might end up with a thousand people if we keep inviting all the connections! So we end up with something like fifty people, all somehow related. I like those parties. They're fun because there are lots of kids to play with and I can be with my dad and my mom, but they don't have to be together. And at those times Sam is more interested in John and Patrick, so he doesn't bother us too much, unless the party's at our house—then we have to help more.
Even though it's confusing, all the grown-ups are pretty good friends. And us kids like each other, too. Sometimes when me and Dad are talking about how I feel about stuff (usually I want Dad and Mom to get back together so things could be "normal" again), my dad tells me how he thinks all these divorces have a positive side to them as well as a negative side—because they make a larger family like in the old days when relatives lived closer, and everyone had more choices and more people to be with. He says that before they were divorced, he and Mom didn't really have any very close friends. And even though Dad's not crazy about Sam, he still gets along with Mom, and Mom and Stephanie like each other. And Dad likes Stephanie's ex-husband David and his wife Carol, too. So Dad has more people that he likes now than he did when he was married to Mom. I guess it's okay. I like having more kids around my age when it happens. I only wish that I could be around Dad more than I get to, and it would be easier to see him. They live too far away; I can't even ride my bike there.
That's how my life was after Mom and Dad got divorced. It was that way for two years. Then we all went to this movie, and I was sure MCs were the right way to live. I knew right away it would be perfect for our weird families. I figured that our MC should consist of Mom and Sam and us kids in one house, Dad and Stephanie plus her kids in another house. Stephanie's ex-husband David and Carol with Carol's kids—you know—all the different groups that I talked about before. But in an MC, us kids wouldn't have to be like ping-pong balls being sent from house to house, and I could see Dad more, and the other kids could see their real parents every day, too. And the projects wouldn't have to wait for weekends; we could work on them every day, even if Dad wasn't there!
I was really excited about all this. But the adults started acting dumber and dumber. I think they were all scared. I'd keep talking about it, and how neat it would be; and Sam would really slug me sometimes; he didn't want to hear about it. Mom was scared, too. I kept trying to convince her we should have an MC. She didn't like to see Sam so upset, so she'd tell me to keep quiet, and leave well-enough alone—whatever that means. But I kept talking about it. And Sam would keep being upset with me. I talked to Dad and Stephanie about it, too. I also told him about Sam slugging me. When Dad heard about that, he called Mom and had some loud words with her that I didn't understand, and he said I was going to stay with him and Stephanie for a while.
I didn't want to leave Patty and Alan behind because I was scared Sam would start hitting them even though I was sure I was the only one who got beat on. Sam called me a troublemaker. Anyway, Dad was pretty upset and worried for a while. And pretty soon Patty and Alan were with us too. I liked this family a lot better except I really missed Mom. She'd come and visit us sometimes and she always seemed nervous and upset. But with Dad and Patty and Alan and Abby and Joey, it was great—for a while. I liked Stephanie, but then after a while she got real unhappy. She worked every day, and had to take care of all of us the rest of the time. Dad was great for us to be with for the fun stuff. But Stephanie did everything else. I heard her getting upset one night. I didn't understand exactly what she said, but something about it being too much for her to handle five kids.
I felt so bad. I started packing my things and Patty's and Alan's. Dad came in. He knew I'd heard something. I said no one really wants us. And if they'd just do an MC, everything would work. Dad said that an MC wouldn't solve our problems. They were too complicated. And I said that the main thing that was wrong now was that the kids couldn't be with their right parents. And Sam should stay away from kids. And there should be a child-care center so the kids would always have someone to take care of them. And everything else would take care of itself. I told him he was too dumb to see it. And even I could see it. And I was only six.
He looked a tiny bit thoughtful for a minute. Then he told me to put my things away because he and Stephanie had figured out some things to make things less tough on her. So I shouldn't worry, and he wasn't letting me go anywhere. I begged him, please, couldn't we just talk to other people who had set up MCs, or go to one of the presentations that were starting to happen here and there. All the kids were talking about them at school. Some of the kids had already moved into MCs and they really liked it. Registering and filling out the Questionniare couldn't be such a big deal. He said that awful "we'll see." That usually means forget it. And I went to sleep.
I don't know what happened, but the next week something started happening. Someone must have Registered and filled out the Questionnaire because we went to a picnic that one of the local MCs hosted for others who hadn’t gotten serious about setting up an MC but wanted to learn more from people who were already doing it. So it was actually half meeting, half picnic. There were people there who were already in MCs, others who had part of their MC picked out and were still searching for more groups; others were actively looking for people to get into an MC with, and those like us who didn't know what they were doing. I guess Dad had convinced Sam and Mom to come because they were there, and some of the others of our "extended family" came too.
During the meeting, when they were asking for questions, Dad asked if anyone else had a crazy extended family situation like ours because of divorces and remarriages, and how they had handled it. And if MCs had helped. A lot of people laughed when he asked the question, and then someone suggested that everyone who was involved in some kind of extended family because of divorce and remarriage stand up. Almost everyone stood up! Then someone else explained that part of the reason that we had been invited to this particular meeting was because we were all in that same confusing boat. She then asked for several of the people who were already living in their MCs, to describe how they were working for them.
I guess the adults liked what they heard, because we started exploring the website, refining the answers to our group questionnaire and planning how we might do an MC with all of our extended families. And before too long, although we were still living apart, we started using a PSB to coordinate everything. I still didn't like it very much because I had to get someone to take me if I wanted to go somewhere or be with someone else because everyone lived all over town. Most of the people in our PSB-MC were our extended family plus some of our grandparents, and one other couple who didn't want to have kids, but wanted to be around lots of kids and do the child-care thing.
Eventually everyone moved. We didn't need such a big house this time because each kid had a room that was his or her own. But we could go to any house in the MC to visit, or sometimes our dads would come to our houses. We moved back in with Mom and Sam; and Dad explained to me that Sam wouldn't be doing any caregiving and wouldn't be with any kids alone without another adult around until he got better and didn't want to hit kids any more. Dad said Sam was getting a lot of help about it. And since I could always go and be with Dad when I wanted to, I didn't mind living with Mom and Sam.
I spend most of my time when I'm not in school in the big dome we built for the caregiving center. I like playing with all the kids. Dad and I have a space for the projects we're doing together, and there's lots of room for all the kids. Some people have a business they do from the dome, and they have a big room for that. It's kind of separate from the rest of the dome. They have a different door.
We have a great big playground outside, and there are lots of fruit trees and vegetable gardens. I see Mom and Dad whenever I want to (as long as they're not busy with someone else or needing to be alone). And all the other kids can see their parents, too. I like playing with the kids. There are four that are my same age.
I knew this would work. I don't know why Mom and Dad didn't know right after seeing the movie. I knew even before it was over!