By Ashley Begley
I’m not gonna lie—it’s hard for me to write this. I think, in part, because I’ve spent so much time protecting myself and my family from the notorious sideways glances and unmistakable whispers about us. Why, you ask, would anyone side-eye such a gorgeous family? Good question. You see, my family is not considered normal. Well, to me we’re normal. Wait, what is a normal family?!
Anyway, let me get to the point. I have a mom. And I have a dad. But they’re not together, haven’t been since before I was born. Instead Dad married Kim, and I have two beautiful little sisters. And Mom married Jan. Now, just so we’re all on the same page, Jan is a woman. So yes, I have a dad and a stepmother (though I don’t call her “stepmom” because Disney ruined that forever—Kim is lovely and sweet and makes a mean mint iced tea) and two moms.
OK, I don’t actually have two moms. I have my mom and my Janney. And that’s just one thing I love about my family. We’re already different, so we don’t need to stick with the normal labels. Dad is my dad. Mom is my mom. And Jan is my Janney, who chooses to love me. And I choose to love her back, especially after I broke all her CDs and she still loved me. She is my parent. In fact, I don’t remember a time before Jan. It’s always been us “three musketeers”—me, Mom, and Jan.
Photo credit: whatever-you-want.wikia.com
That’s not to say it was always a peachy slice of sunshine cake. Since I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and went to Catholic school, predictably, not everyone accepted my family. And that’s OK. That’s one of the greatest things about free speech—we have the duty to think and decide for ourselves. Though, honestly, at first, I didn’t understand why people didn’t accept us. Or I didn’t care—I can’t remember. I thought it was silly that people perceived us as different. Their moms and dads loved them, so I figured they were jealous because my dad and Kim and my mom and Jan loved me.
I also remember feeling scared sometimes. When I came to realize a family is “supposed” to have a mom and dad, I was scared something might happen to my mom or that someone would take me away from Jan so I couldn’t see her. Thankfully, that never happened. But having this fear made me realize that sometimes people don’t accept you, or they judge, or they make fun of you behind your back. And it sucks, it really does. But having a family—blood-related or not—that has your back make it a bit easier. For me, I knew I could go home to Mom and Jan and everything would be OK. I knew they accepted me for me, all my quirks included, and loved me unconditionally…even when I spilled ketchup all over Mom’s new suede jacket.
And this love has truly shaped the person I am, a person who makes mistakes but always has someplace to call home. I don’t know who I would have become had my parents’ relationships unfolded differently, but to tell the truth, I don’t really care…because the person I am becoming is pretty cool. I love to sleep in late, like Kim; I love bonfires, like my dad; I love action movies, like my mom; and I can make the best egg sandwiches you’ll ever eat, like Jan.
I grew up with Mom and Jan — and we are, lovingly, the “three musketeers.” We cry together, laugh together, hug a lot, and have one another’s backs. I love that Mom and Jan taught me to question what is considered normal so that I can be open to all this love and have this awesome family. Most of all, I love that I can love anyone and everyone because, to quote the magnificent Beatles, “all you need is love,” and the rest will fall into place.
Tell us about your ohana in the comments! We love to hear about love!
Photos courtesy of Ashley Begley unless otherwise noted.