The family portrait becoming a bit of a gray area

Posted in stepfamilies
by Lorain County Moms

By Florinda Pendley Vasquez, Los Angeles Moms Blog

Not long ago, my stepson brought a flyer home from school. It informed parents that on the evening of picture day, the photographers would be back at the school to take family portraits for those who were interested. Of course, the flyer came home the night before this was supposed to happen, so there wasn’t much time to plan. Besides, he and his sister would be at their mom’s house the night of the photo event, but the notice came to his dad and me, since it was sent home on one of his days with us.

Families like ours aren’t unusual anymore, but they can — literally — be a bit tough to picture.

We didn’t go to portrait night, but I think there’s a good chance that if this event had been scheduled on one of my husband’s nights with the kids (and we’d had a little more notice), we might have tried to have pictures taken — and I honestly would have felt a little weird about it. We have snapshots of the four of us, but formal portraits have a certain significance, and that’s what makes me unsure. When my husband and I got married, we did get a few photos done of the two of us together with all three of our respective children — his two, and my one. In my thinking, that’s our little family: his and mine, all evened out.

I’ve been a stepmom for almost three years, and it’s not a question of my love for my stepchildren; it’s more about the fact that, simply, I’m not their mom, and I don’t ever want it to feel — or look — like I’m stepping on her toes. (I’m a supplement, not a replacement.) A family portrait of her children with their father and me could be misread that way; every picture tells a story, and it’s open to (mis)interpretation.

In our case, a true “family portrait” needs to make room for a lot of people; I was reminded about that at my stepdaughter’s recent 15th-birthday party. The party was held at her mom’s house. Her younger brother was there, and so were her dad and me. Both of her grandmothers were there — one widowed, one accompanied by her fiance. There were an uncle, aunt, and cousin from her mom’s side, but the ones on her dad’s side live on the East Coast and didn’t attend. Her stepbrother also lives across the country and wasn’t there either, but some other step-family members — aunt, uncle, and two younger cousins — were able to come. We were also joined, for the first time, by her mother’s boyfriend and his two young children — future step-family, other side, perhaps?

So many families don’t fit the traditional picture these days, but it doesn’t always seem like the rest of the world has caught on. Our hyper-extended family doesn’t convene all that often — kids’ birthdays and some holidays — and the full extent of it is rarely captured in pictures when it does happen. Family portraits tell stories, but sometimes they tell far less than the whole story.

This is an original post from the Los Angeles Moms Blog ( Mother and stepmother Florinda Pendley Vasquez blogs mostly true stories at The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness.

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