Family Dynamics in REDUCED and REUSED*


*SPOILER ALERT
Some paragraphs may contain clues and outright statements of scenes in either REDUCED or REUSED!

In my novels, family plays a rather integral part of the storyline. To begin, Abby is a self-sufficient woman who seems, in some ways, locked into her own internal dialogue. Her best friend, Emmy, is perceived by Abby to need a sort of mothering, as though Emmy is less competent and in need of sheltering. As a reader can see, however, Emmy is quite capable in nearly every situation with which she is faced.

When Jules arrives, an adoptive motherhood of sorts is placed upon Abby, in spite of her wariness. Thankfully, the four-year-old doesn’t seem to notice her apprehension and, as the book plays out, Jules and Abby become a team unto themselves.

All of this is based on hints throughout REDUCED of Abby’s childhood: a mother who, in spite of her faults and seeming disdain for her daughter, is lost to Abby from an early age; a doting father who likewise is removed from her life. Her aunt, with whom she lived for many years, was an uncaring tyrant.

Classic.

The entire group, at the camp, is also a pseudo-family for Abby – all of them have shared a closeness that many people never experience, with family or with friends, based on their history during their coming-of-age years.

A traditional nuclear family is barely recognized in REDUCED: Abby, Noah, and Jules for a short time, and then EJ. But again, Abby is a “single mom” with two daughters. Until REUSED.

In REUSED, again, the traditional family is hinted at, nothing more, barely alluded to in only a few sentences. Brad, Alison, Jules – even so, Brad as a stepfather. Much like the real world, that of the future – distant or not – seems to correspond with today’s families.

I say all this to yes, point out similarities, but also to touch upon another area: co-parenting. You can see, at the end of REUSED, that Brad is playing the role of “dad” and working with Alison as she deals with what she believes is her daughter’s desertion. He can see both points of view, but is clearly allied with Jules’ mother, presenting a united front in spite of his own feelings about the situation.

What becomes less clear, however, is how Alison and Abby work together when parenting Jules.

Jules isn’t sure, after her initial hesitation regarding her relationship to Alison, exactly to whom she should be deferring: the woman who gave birth to her and, she believed for a long time, abandoned her, or the woman who raised her.

Many of today’s real-world kids have this same issue. On the other hand, they aren’t usually living with both women at the same time.

Abby and Alison have an easy-going relationship – in their world, one can’t be overly particular about with whom one associates. There’s a pretty clear line between good guys and bad guys. Fortunately, the two have a lot in common, including the most important one: Jules.

Many of today’s parents also have a child, or children, in common, but can’t quite seem to effectively co-parent. Granted, the situation today is typically not one of overarching survivalism, but is certainly comparable when one considers the basics of lifestyle. Kids today attend school, need and deserve a loving, safe place upon which to return, and interact with parents both present and in another household.

Ideally, the two adults in either home should be parenting the child – how confusing for one adult to abdicate all responsibility; equally confusing to a child, of course, is the biological parent’s unwillingness to work with a stepparent and actually, well, be a parent and present a united front.

Often, the stepparent throws up her hands in disgust and vows not to “be a parent.” This is wrong. Yes, it can make the stepparent’s life easier, in the short term, but if one is adult enough to be married, one should be the adult in the family as well, regardless of participation of the bio parent. Yes, I’ll say it: when you married him, you knew he had kids. Deal with it. Like a grown-up.

Dad’s not stepping up? Deal with him. Don’t take it out on the  kids because yes, if you stop caring, stop being the parent, those kids have no one. In spite of their possible behavior, or disrespect, or whatever the issue seems to be, they are kids. You are not. Adults don’t get to be selfish. Well, of course they do, but they shouldn’t. They should rise above that. Maybe Dad needs help with that. You can still be the adult, the bigger person, there for the kids who didn’t ask for any of this.

Abby didn’t shrug off her responsibilities when Alison showed up. She didn’t shove Jules in Alison’s face and say here, I’m done, you’re back, you handle it. They disagreed a few times, but they talked and – based on shared values, shared commonality – dealt with the small things. A stepmom and her spouse surely have some degree of commonality – they married, after all – and so, too, should be able to work together. Even if one has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into adulthood.

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